Chairman's Blog - Geldards Does Shanghai

8th November 2017

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David Williams has arrived in Shanghai as part of a delegation of civic delegates and local businesses who have travelled to China to promote Derby and build on the relationship between the two cities. Below is David's first blog post of the trip.

After an incident free flight with British Airways from Heathrow to Shanghai on Monday, I landed at Shanghai Pudong Airport at 9am China time on Tuesday. We plunged straight into the Shanghai smog to get to the Intercontinental Hotel next to the Conference and Exhibition Centre. We checked in, got suited and booted and went straight into business development mode.

The Shanghai Conference and Exhibition Centre is the second largest free standing building in the world, it is truly enormous. I would say that it could quite easily take in the whole of Derby City Centre.

The UK stand at the exhibition is almost dwarfed by the size and quality of the exhibitions surrounding it, mostly of Chinese motor manufacturers. I would have to say that UK Plc needs to be putting a much stronger foot forward than this in a world where, post Brexit, we need friends. In my view the UK area is neither of a scale nor of a quality which is sufficient to impress. It occurred to me looking at it that, in fact, UK Plc needs probably to have half a dozen substantial promotional displays touring the world at any one time if we are to have any real impact.

Whilst I am on the subject that troubles me, there is a distinct shortage of UK businesses accompanying this mission who are genuinely looking to export. There are a good number of UK businesses who are looking to attract Chinese investment to the UK but not a sufficient number who are trying to create new markets in China.

Of course, I am particularly interested in Chinese businesses who are looking to invest and grow in the UK. I attended a Midlands Engine dinner organised by the Department of Investment and Trade and chaired by Sir John Peace at the Langham Hotel this evening. I was very pleased that I met there three Chinese businesses, including two major automotive manufacturers, who indicated that they would be looking to procure legal services for their ventures in the UK and that they would be keen to talk further.

I am also reminded that in the two years since the Chinese and British Governments mutually declared this to be a Golden Era of Sino/British relations, no senior UK politicians have visited China and certainly not the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer or Foreign Secretary. I believe this is being noticed here, particularly when visits have been made to Japan. Given that China is such an important trading partner for the UK now and in the future, it seems remarkable to me that this is the current state of play.

As a conclusion, this evening, I am again amazed by the pace of life, the pace of change and the sheer urgency of everything here. That said, the drive-through leafy Derbyshire countryside which I had on my way to the office on Monday morning does take some beating!




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David Williams


Chairman, Derby

+44 (0)115 983 3757