Big wins for British businesses as Vice Premier Hu Chunhua visits



Deals between British and Chinese companies worth more than £500 million were announced today, during a visit to the UK by Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua.


New business deals representing commercial signings, future contract commitments and MoUs, were agreed by British and Chinese companies as part of the 10th UK China Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) taking place in London this week.

The announcements were welcomed by the International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP. In total, the deals are expected to deliver 175 new jobs in the UK, and deliver significant wins for the financial services, education, creative, food and agriculture and technology sectors.

Also announced today was a landmark market access agreement for British farmers, supported by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which could put UK producers on track to export British beef to China by the end of 2019.

The agreement is expected to be worth an estimated £230 million in the first 5 years.

Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox MP, said:

Britain is a key partner for Chinese trade and investment, and is one of China’s most important trading partners in Europe.

Today’s announcements show the breadth and depth of our trading relationship, the success UK firms are having in China, and the huge opportunity the Chinese market holds for British companies, particularly with regards to market access.

As an international economic department, DIT will continue to support UK businesses to increase their share in this growing market and build on our substantial export figures, as we progress towards leaving the EU.

The deals were signed and agreed at a ceremony at Mansion House, witnessed by Minister for Trade Policy, George Hollingbery MP.

An MoU was also signed between DIT and the National Development and Reform Commission of the People’s Republic of China on infrastructure cooperation in third countries.

This is a technical agreement that focusses on facilitating practical cooperation between UK and Chinese firms on projects overseas - ensuring that projects are delivered in line with the highest economic, environmental, social and financial standards in order to deliver sustainable, and inclusive development outcomes and deliver real opportunities for UK and international businesses.

Further information on commercial deals and MoUs:

Deals valued at £503 million have been agreed, creating 175 new jobs.

Financial Services

  • A new UK-China Fund, targeting £1 billion delivered in partnership by Charterhouse Capital, China Investment Corporation and HSBC to invest in UK SMEs with growth plans linked to China.

  • China Industrial Bank announced plans for a new representative office in London. The London Representative Office is expected to become an important base for the global initiatives of Industrial Bank.

  • MultiPass International and UnionPay International concluded an MoU to develop a digital payment platform to further expand issuance and acceptance of UnionPay branded cards outside mainland China. The new partnership is expected to create 105 new jobs over the next 3 years.

  • Redington’s Chinese subsidiary, Yuyuan Technology has signed commercial agreements with Taikang Life and Aviva-Cofco Life to provide interactive asset liability management tools.

  • OakNorth, Baillie Gifford and VCP Advisors have announced that they will set up a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise (WFOE) in China.

  • China Banking Association, Shanghai Stock Exchange, China Investment Corporation (CIC), The Industrial Bank and CITIC Bank have announced they will be upgrading existing branches, opening representative offices or opening new branches in the UK.

  • Establishment of Heng’An Standard Life’s (HASL) pension insurance business, the first awarded to a foreign- invested business in China.

  • Schroders have been awarded Qualified Foreign Limited Partner (QFLP) licences and quotas.

  • XTX markets will become the first foreign non-bank market maker on the CFETS’s G10 market.


  • BBC Studios announced a wide-ranging partnership with Promotional Partners Worldwide (PPW), to bring British children’s cartoon ‘Hey Duggee’ to China . The agreement will see PPW act as the agent and licensee for Hey Duggee for Greater China – including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

  • Cornwall’s The Lost Gardens of Heligan, one of the UK’s most well-known gardens, has announced a collaboration with Sheng lu Manor in Beijing to create a “Beijing Shenglu Heligan Garden’, to showcase the UK’s cultural, agronomic and horticulture expertise.

Energy and Built Environment

  • UK engineering consultancy company Arup and Shanghai Urban Construction Design & Research Institute (SUCDRI) have signed and MoU to cooperate on future infrastructure projects. The MoU follows a recently successful joint bid by the two organisations for the Shanghai Central Urban Area Drainage Masterplan project from Shanghai’s municipal government.

  • China National Petroleum Cooperation (CNPC), along with its joint venture partner INEOS, will invest in a New Energy Project in steam and electric power, at the Grangemouth facility. The plant will operational by 2022.

  • Hayward Tylor (HT) have signed an MoU agreement with Shinhoo Canned Motor Pumps (SH) to supply pumps for the energy and chemical industry.

  • Innovative Physics Limited (IPL) and CNNC Environmental Protection Co. (CEPC) have signed a collaboration framework agreement.


  • Wonderbly a UK publishing and education technology company, has signed an MoU for strategic cooperation with China’s biggest publishing group – Phoenix Publishing and Media Group to bring innovative personalised reading and learning to the Chinese market

  • Cranleigh School and Cogdel Education Group signed an MoU lasting 25 years denoting a partnership to set up Cranleigh’s bilingual school in China.

  • Thames Holdings Ltd and Shenzhen Fuzhida Management Ltd, signed a contract to form a joint venture to establish 50 nurseries across China in next 5 years.

  • Repton and Kingold have signed an MOU to set up Repton’s billingual schools initially in the Greater Bay Areas.


  • Micro Focus, one of the UK’s largest listed technology companies, announced a series of partnership deals with Chinese company H3C, marking its continued expansion into the Chinese market.

Food and Drink

  • Export wins for Hayman’s range of Gins; London Distillery; McCann Apples; Rooney Fish; Newby Tea and Baijiu Society.

Bilateral trade between the UK and China is worth a record £68.5 billion a year, the UK’s fifth-largest trading relationship.

Over the past decade UK exports to China have tripled, making China the UK’s sixth largest market globally with more than 10,000 UK businesses now selling goods and services to China.



What Is Boris Johnson's Brother Up To In China?

Maximilian (Max) Johnson always knew he had to jump on the China wave.

He speaks to me from Hong Kong, where he works at the crux of UK-China business. Max has that same Johnson twang; charming, jovial, and purposeful. Politics, he says, is something he has in mind for the future.

At 34, he’s the youngest of the six children of his father, Stanley (pictured below), and 22 years younger than his half-brother Boris Johnson, named yesterday as the UK’s new prime minister.

Like Boris, Max started his adult life at Oxford University, studying Russian and Polish. He became the first UK citizen to join the MBA program at Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management (SEM), one of China’s most respected schools. He was also the first Brit to run the Pyongyang Marathon in North Korea.

Max backs Boris, despite his own ambiguous views on Brexit. But what of Max Johnson himself?  At the core of his story, he says, is his MBA.

Listen to the full interview with Max Johnson, Boris Johnson's brotheron our podcast:


Who is Max Johnson?

Today, Max runs his own investment and advisory firm, MJ Capital, which invests in companies looking to sell products or services in China.

These include: Platinum Fitness, a high-end gym chain; Intrigue Pictures, a movie investment company he started after a brief appearance as an extra in the popular Transformers: Age of Extinction; and Wonderbly, a children’s books company which has secured a multimillion dollar deal to print and distribute books in China.

But as a young Oxford graduate, Max says his experience of the Far East was limited to Chinatown in London.

He knew he wanted to pursue a graduate degree, learn a language, and learn about business at the same time. While travelling in Russia during his final year at university, he took a train across to Beijing and visited universities there, drawn by China’s fast rate of growth. “China was the topic of conversation,” he says.


Age 22, he had limited work experience for an MBA candidate. He deemed most United States business schools out of reach. But he was accepted into the Tsinghua-MIT Global MBA Program, a partnership between Tsinghua SEM and MIT Sloan in the US.

“I think the fact I was the first non-Chinese from the UK and an Oxford grad helped,” he says. “They asked me challenging questions about my lack of work experience, but in the end it didn’t count against me.

“Doing an MBA would come with an opportunity cost later in life. I thought if I could do it at 22, I would turbocharge my career.”


Why Tsinghua?

When Max arrived at Beijing airport to start his MBA experience, he had a feeling of helplessness. He was met by one of his Chinese classmates, but left alone he says there were few people he could communicate with.

"Here I was with a one-way ticket to China! Unlike now, back in 2007 very few Chinese people could communicate in English. Just getting things done—like opening a bank account, setting up a mobile phone, or paying an electricity bill—was difficult."

Max knuckled down and started learning Mandarin. At Tsinghua, he took up the role of lead presenter on group projects, working alongside his Chinese classmates on financial modelling, analytics, and preparatory work.

Max chose Tsinghua for the chance to mingle with China’s elite. Tsinghua SEM’s founding dean, Zhu Rongji, was the fifth premier of the State Council of China (a role often referred to as China’s prime minister). 

Tsinghua has a reputation in China comparable to that of Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. Both current Chinese president Xi Jinping and former Chinese president Hu Jintao graduated from Tsinghua University. The current mayor of Beijing, Chen Jining, is the university's former president.


While Max wanted to work in finance after his MBA, few banks were hiring in 2009. His post-MBA job, working for British trading company Wogen Resources in China, came of out contacts he made during his time at business school.

By 2012, financial markets had picked up and Max joined Goldman Sachs in Hong Kong. After six months as an analyst, he was promoted to associate, working on mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

“I wanted to come to Hong Kong and I wouldn’t have been able to get that job without the China experience,” he says.

Max on securing his post-MBA job:

In a bar I met a few Wogen employees on a business trip to China. When it became apparent I knew Mongolia well and could speak Russian, one of them suggested I go to Mongolia and write a report on mining. 

A year later, as I was approaching graduation, I did the same in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Both reports were judged to prove my worth and I was offered the job in China.

Excerpt from the Financial Times


UK-China business

Max’s time at Goldman Sachs came to an end in late 2016. The Times called him the victim of a ‘cost-cutting purge.’

“I prefer to think of myself as a beneficiary!” Max laughs. His exit from Goldman, he says, was a “liberation.”

He decided to use contacts he’d made up during the past years—Chinese contacts interested in doing business with the UK and UK contacts interested in doing business in China—and started up MJ Capital.

Although not directly affecting his work, Max admits that the uncertainty around Brexit is damaging to UK-China business.

Britain needs to act, but Brexit, he suggests, will have little positive impact. “If Brexit was not happening at all, I think Chinese interest in the UK would be just as strong as it’s going to be after Brexit,” he says.

Max’s 3 tips to doing business in China


1. Don’t let your counterparty lose face

Even if you’ve negotiated down to a price where your counterparty is taking something away from it, if you’ve done it in a way that’s too aggressive, arrogant or condescending you may have inadvertently caused them to lose face in which case they won’t feel happy about the deal. You can be strong-minded, but you have to negotiate in a charming way.


2. Back-channel communication

Because everybody is so worried about making the other party lose face, a lot of the negotiation points will be pre-agreed in the back-channels by the working teams. So, when you go to a face-to-face meeting, there’s not going to be anything that’s going to take anyone by surprise. You need to establish a route-in that’s not the public route to actually negotiate.


3. Find the decision-maker

Quite often you’ll go into a room with Chinese businesspeople across from you and it’s not obvious at all who the decision maker is. First, establish who that really is so you don’t waste too much time talking to the wrong person.


Today, Max looks back on his MBA experience with fondness. His MBA lay the groundwork for how to conduct business in China and he still taps into his business school network and name.

“In meetings, when I say that I was at Tsinghua, there’s a recognition there,” he says.

Max just about made the four hour cut-off for the North Korean marathon. He crossed the line in front of a crowd of 50,000 well-rehearsed spectators in Kim Il Sung Stadium (pictured), where the race starts and ends. Those who didn’t finish were closed out.

Max remembers how the cheering crowds spurred him on. If he does enter the political realm, there could be more of that to come.