As we celebrate the 20th birthday of the European Chamber, it seems appropriate to reflect on our two decades of triumphs and tribulations.

We began with a mere 51 members in 2000. From those humble beginnings that I’m proud to say I was a part of, we have steadily grown in every meaning of the word. We recruited hundreds of members, expanded into new cities, and extended our reach into every level of government across this continent of a country.

Our engagement with the government has produced a strong track record, and the input provided by our working groups is widely respected by the authorities. While we’ve added plenty of prominent trophies to our collection, the most impactful results we have secured have instead been in the far less glitzy minutiae at the working level.

We have also become thought leaders over the years. Our media footprint is substantial, and our messaging finds its way into Beijing, Brussels, and Washington alike. Our annual Position Paper and Business Confidence Survey are eagerly awaited across the world, and they help set the agenda wherever they are read. The Chamber has also provided unique insight through our local position papers put together by each chapter – something that no other foreign organisation. We have also made waves with our thematic reports, which have brought unprecedented awareness and top-class analysis on issues as diverse as China Manufacturing 2025, the Corporate Social Credit System, and most recently the Belt and Road Initiative.

We did these things because we believe in this market, and are ready to take responsibility for making it better. We are a product of the Asian Financial crisis, which Premier Zhu Rongji used to push through his economic reforms and eventually bring China into the WTO. Our organisation was borne out of these reforms so that we could track them and support their implementation.

We are once again facing a great crisis with the COVID-19 outbreak. The term ‘crisis’ comes from the Greek language, and it meant that a moment had arrived in a sickness at which point a decision had to be made that would determine whether the patient would recover or not. China made the right decisions in response to the Asian Financial Crisis – It decided to open up and to pursue real reform. I believe it is in the leaderships DNA to answer a crisis with economic liberalisation, and the Chamber has an important role to help advance the case to do so once more.

Joerg Wuttke

President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China

Categories: Interview

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