South East Asia is Growing Together

On Thursday, 28 February, Andrew Methven, Vice President and Head of Strategic Consultancy of Hampton Group, was invited to deliver a keynote speech at the 2019 South & Southeast Asia Commodity Expo and Investment Fair (SSACEIF). The conference was held under the theme of exploring global collaboration opportunities with Yunnan Province.

The SSACEIF was attended by senior government officials, international business leaders, and foreign dignitaries. ZHANG Guohua, Deputy Governor of Yunnan Province, also attended the conference. Representatives from over 86 countries including Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan attended the conference. The exhibition attracted over 4,000 enterprises of which over 40% came from outside China.

“The atmosphere was so refreshing. While in the West all we talk about is getting divorced, all the attendees here were talking about getting married and growing together,” commented Andrew Methven. South East Asia is one of the least connected areas in the world. Building connections throughout the area to increase economic development and improve people’s living conditions was a key aspect of the conference. As such building economic partnerships through the Belt and Road Initiative, the “Bangladesh China Indian Myanmar economical corridor” and the “China and Indo-China Peninsula economical corridor” were major discussion areas.

Yunnan is not only the door to South East Asia it also has curious connections to the UK. The earliest reference of Yunnan in the UK can be traced back to a British novel in the 1930s called “Lost Horizon.” This book describes a place called “Shangri-La”, which is a harmonious and peaceful valley far from the mountains of the East. In the novel, the people who live at Shangri-La are almost immortal, living hundreds of years beyond the normal lifespan and only very slowly ageing in appearance.

The second curious connection is a man named George Forrest. George Forrest was one of the first explorers of Yunnan Province, which is generally regarded as the most biodiverse province in all of China. During his first expedition to Yunnan in 1904 he helped with the inoculation of thousands of locals against smallpox. In his lifetime he brought back perhaps 31,000 plant specimens, amassing hundreds of species of rhododendron.

Have you travelled to Yunnan before? Are you going to now? Let us know in the comment section on LinkedIn.

3 Lessons I Learned from Studying Chinese

I am a final year student at the School of Oriental and African Studies graduating this July with a BA Chinese (Modern and Classical) degree.

I grew up in a small town close to Florence with a Chinese mother and an Italian father. But I only began to study Chinese when I finished high school. I was 19 and hadn’t made up my mind about what to study at university. So, I decided to take a year off and went to China.

A couple of months after I finished my final exams, I was on a plane to China to study Chinese language at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou. My experience there completely changed my view of China. I fell so in love with the local language and culture that I decided to pursue this interest at university.

West Lake, Hangzhou

For anyone who is thinking about taking Chinese studies at university, I can think of 3 reasons why the answer should be yes.

1) It helps you to understand centuries of Chinese culture

China boasts more than 5,000 years of history that underpin the culture and the way of life of the Chinese people.

Learning Chinese is the first step to fully understand the Chinese people and their millennial culture. The Chinese language contains words and expressions that reflect their traditions and values.

Take the character for home and family家 (pronounced jiā). It if formed by the roof radical 宀 (pronounced mián) and the character 豕 (pronounced shǐ) which means pig. But how can a pig under a roof contribute to a home or family? Interestingly, in ancient China families would keep their pigs (most likely the earliest domesticated animals) in their home; thus, having a pig under the roof indicated that this was a place where people lived.

This example demonstrates how language and culture are deeply intertwined. Learning Chinese opens up your door to one of the world’s oldest civilizations.

2) It benefits your brain

Studies have demonstrated that learning a foreign language can have cognitive benefits. It helps to build multitasking and decision-making skills, and it improves memory.

Learning Chinese is a further exercise for the brain. Unlike English, Chinese is a tonal language and its writing system is not based on an alphabet of 26 letters but on characters each of them holding a specific pronunciation and meaning. It is estimated that 3,000 characters are required to be able to read a newspaper.

Mastering thousands of characters can be daunting especially for people whose first language is alphabetic, but research suggests that it has noticeable benefits on the brain. Why? Because learning Chinese utilizes areas of the brain that other languages do not. Compared to many European speakers who use only the left temporal lobe, Chinese speakers use both.

Therefore, challenging your brain with all these characters may indeed have positive effects and makes you smarter.

3) You will make new friends

When I was in China, I noticed that speaking the local language made a great difference compared to using English. Although younger generations in urban areas usually can speak English, I realized that using Chinese made communication much easier (some people were even too shy to use their English language skills).

Speaking the local language means that you are putting in an extra effort to understand the culture and it impresses the person in front of you. I have found that Chinese people are very curious, especially when it comes to foreign cultures, and friendly, meaning that it is easy to make new friends. During my year in Hangzhou I met people whom I am still in contact with. New friends but also new connections.

So, don’t be afraid to speak Chinese outside of the classroom: it’s good practice (we learn from our mistakes) and it will be fun!

Now I would like to ask you: Have you started studying Chinese yet? What do you like about it? And, what are the biggest challenges you have encountered so far?

This article was written by our guest writer and intern Elena Yumin Paci.

How China is changing the global wine market

On average, Chinese drink very little wine. But for a bottle, connoisseurs pay up to 22,000 pounds.

Shanghai The small booklet has over 125 pages. Listed inside are over 865 wines, ranging from 40 to almost 22,000 pounds. This is not the sales list of a medium-sized wine producer; it is the wine list or rather wine menu of Napa Wine Bar & Kitchen in Shanghai, one of the hip gourmet restaurants in the Chinese metropolis.

Its lower floor resembles more a museum than a restaurant, with around 14,000 bottles on display. Expensive bottles are stored in temperature-controlled wooden containers, which are opened and closed with large turnstiles like a bank vault.

However the true size of the restaurant is signaled by a 15-liter wine bottle, also known as a Nebuchadnezzar. The bottle was imported from the French Bordeaux winery Cos d’Estournel and is a 2016 vintage. It can be uncorked for approximately 10,000 pounds. Customers can even rent a small lockable mini cellar for around 27,000 pounds. Of course, only for bottles that were previously purchased in the restaurant.

No other country in the world currently has more influence over the wine industry than China – although there is currently little wine consumption per capita. However, China’s influence has become clear at the Prowine Expo in Shanghai.

“China is at the forefront of new developing wine markets” says Robert Joseph, a British wine consultant with tremendous international experience.

Sales in China are rapidly growing, as can be seen by the Chinese branch of “1919” sales. Founded in 2010, “1919” now sells wine and spirits in over 1200 branches worldwide. In 2017, “1919” revenue reached 420 million pounds. The company reached a net profit of over 45 million pounds. However a different figure is far more interesting. While in Europe same day delivery is celebrated as a miraculous achievement of modern technology, in China the company’s name is understood literally: A bottle of wine is delivered within 19 minutes.

Unlike in Europe the division between the production and sale of wine is not as prominent in China. For example, the Great Wall Group, who claims to be Chinese market leader, has opened 400 stores within four years while also maintaining various wineries. In the wine cellar of the Chateau Huaxia of the Great Wall alone over 20,000 oak barrels are stored.

Based on this strong domestic market presence, an obvious question arises for foreign wine producers: Is it still worthwhile to enter the market?

Experts say yes. Because even small players can receive great attention in China.

How much wine do Chinese consume on average?

On average Chinese drink 1.3 liters of wine a year, of which almost 90 percent is red wine. While compared with European countries this is a relatively low consumption, given China’s population of over 1.3 billion people the overall consumption rate is enormous. With an overall consumption of 1.86 billion bottles, China became the world’s largest market for red wine in 2013.

The industry’s enthusiasm for the China is greater than ever. “China is currently and for the next three years, the most attractive market,” says Professor Simone Loosen of the University of Geisenheim, the central training for wine in Germany. Other new markets include South Korea and Poland, followed by Russia, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.

What are Europe’s biggest challenges in the Chinese market?

In the opinion of Simone Loosen, the biggest challenge European wine producers are facing over the next few years will be to overcome geographical and cultural differences with the Asian markets. His findings are based on an international survey commissioned by the Prowein expo, surveying 2,300 experts from 46 countries on international wine markets, marketing trends, the development of online sales of wine and the economic situation. It is considered one of the most authoritative sources on the international wine market.

Messe Düsseldorf, which hosts the world’s leading trade fair Prowein, is also represented in Asia and reports significantly higher numbers of exhibitors and visitors. In addition to the Prowein Shanghai, the company now also alternately organises a trade fair in Hong Kong and Singapore. Exhibition Director Marius Berlemann toured for a year in China’s different regions to promote the fair.

The European industry’s hope for increasing sales in China is based on two main aspects: One of them is the younger generation. “We see an increasing demand from younger wine lovers,” confirms Castle Li of Great Wall. “More women than men want to drink wine and they especially demand premium wines.”

Chinese wine consumers have different preferences for premium products compared to their European counterparts. While in Europe mostly older wine lovers consume these wines, in China 20- to 30-year-olds order bottles of wine or champagne, which also cost well over 100 pounds. Chinese consumers primarily order European wine, with French wines topping the list. At Ruby Red, one of China’s leading premium wine merchants, French wines have a market share of 40 percent.

The second aspect: the growing European influence on China. “This gives European producers great market opportunities,” says Giorgio Vinciguerra, CEO of Beijing Guala Closures. The Italian lives in China and sells bottle caps.

How can European companies advertise their products in China effectively?

Wine sales in China rely on a different communication strategy: independent reporting, an essential feature of press coverage in Europe, is less important in China. XU Wei is one of China’s most important wine influencers. On his WeChat account “Xiapi” he keeps his 1.5 million followers updated about the latest wine trends.

Many of Xu’s videos feature products from manufacturers such as the US group Mondavi or Bordeaux icon Rothschild Lafite. Xu has marketing agreements with them. Xu also retails the wines of his sponsors. “But I do not earn as much with selling wine,” says the influencers. He earns significantly more through his sponsorship agreements. Recently Xu won the award for the best online story of the Australian Winery Association.

If you are interested in exploring opportunities in the Chinese wine market, get in touch with us today.

5 Things to look out for at the 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference

On 1 November the 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference will open in Nanjing Jiangsu Grand Theatre. This will be Tencent’s first industry conference after having gone through restructuring earlier this year. This will also mark the first event ahead of Tencent’s 20th anniversary this year. There are 5 things we are particularly looking forward to at the conference.

1. The release of Tencent’s 20th anniversary film “River”

Tencent’s 20th anniversary film is called “River” and will footage from the foundation of the company, developments over the past 20 years as well as the company’s vision. According to a company spokesperson the film has been named “River” to show the continuous forward movement of the Tencent. The film is said to be centred on Tencent’s mission to jointly build a “Digital China”. The film has sparked wide excitement amongst industry experts as it is expected to set the tone for the company’s future development.

2. Internet driven development

On 30 September Tencent announced the third group restructuring which many industry experts saw as Tencent’s attempt to focus on internet driven development.

The 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference will see the attendance of China’s leading smart technology and artificial intelligence companies. Industry experts will be paying close attention during the conference at Tencent’s strategy for internet driven development and future goals.

3. Science and Culture Show

Over 125 companies will be presenting their project around one of the three themes at the conference: Innovation Block, Cultural Garden and Science and Technology Forest.

The Science and Technology forest will see projects like “sister” robots, and vehicles equipped with Tencent’s automatic driving system. Projects in the Culture Garden will include a DreamWorks art show. The Innovation Block features the latest innovations of the smart industries from everyday routines to an augmented reality mobile phone tour of Yunnan.

4. The Future of Speech

This session of the conference is especially focused about how speech and language will be used in the future across industries. It will look at how speech will affect the creative industries as well as how new technologies will use speech as a direct communication tool. The session aims to connect researchers, entrepreneurs and artists to explore the use of speech and its future application.

5. New Wenchuang Open Day

The conference will host the two-day open day at the 6th National Theatre of the Jiangsu Grand Threatre. China’s leading cultural and creative industry representatives have confirmed their attendance and the opening will simultaneous screen popular film and television programs. The open day will also host a creative exchange where guests can share short videos, vlogs, movies, TV series and etc.

Are you planning to attend the 2018 Tencent Conference? These are the 5 things we are most looking forward to. What are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

At Mid-Autumn Festival we celebrate the coming together of friends and family, take some time out of our day to be grateful of the achievements of the past year, and reflect on our hopes and wishes for the coming year. We wish all of our clients, friends, and staff a Happy Mid-Autumn Festival. Today we’ll be sharing traditional Chinese mooncake. What’s your favourite filling?