Developing Your Digital Marketing Strategy for China

 
 Dandan Cheng, presenting at the ACSME Roundtable, 29 May 2018

Dandan Cheng, presenting at the ACSME Roundtable, 29 May 2018

Guest Speaker: Dandan Cheng

  • COO from Sinorbis (a digital marketing agency based in Sydney)

  • Lives in Shanghai

  • Focuses on cross-border business and trade, especially e-commerce

  • Facilitates international teams and clients to tap into China (build websites, WeChat accounts, SEO optimisation)

  • Sinorbis has mainly B2C clients, including: UNSW, TAFE, Nature’s Way, MOELIS, Sydney Airport, Galaxy, UTS,...

Developing Your Digital Marketing Strategy for China

China’s Digital Landscape

  • Due to China’s Great Firewall, most Western websites are completely locked out

  • 20% of the world’s Internet population lives in China

  • 40% of the online shopping volume (A$ 940 billion) -> China is the biggest e-commerce market in the world

  • 722 million Internet users -> 35 times more than in Australia

  • 65% Internet penetration rate -> Tremendous potential to grow

  • 98% access the Internet via mobile phone -> China is mobile-centered

Contribution to the Australian Economy

  • Contribution of $7.3 billion in the education sector

  • 1.3 million Chinese tourists

  • 122% increase of the search volume for Australian health supplements

Perception of Australia and Australian Brands

  • Australia itself is a very strong brand

  • Association with blue sky, healthy people and clean air

  • Natural, nutritious, safe

Comparison of the Australian and Chinese Ecosystem

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*Each of them has a substantial user base, so don’t just focus on one

-> All different companies to what we use in the West

-> It’s important to adapt to the Chinese ecosystem - from your website being searchable to leveraging it on Social Media; if it is not visible for Chinese, all your efforts are in vain

WeChat

  • 1.1 billion individual users (772 million in Mainland China)

  • Great majority are Mandarin speakers

  • Users are very active and spend 30% of their time on their mobile (35% spend more than four hours on WeChat)

  • Functions: Wallet & M-commerce, social interaction, location based sharing, communication, games and tickets

  • Number 1 mobile payment platform in China at the moment

  • Also widely adopted in business

Decision Making Journey

  • Awareness

    • Search vertical portals, forums

    • Browse WeChat posts, ads

    • Friends’ referrals

  • Consideration

    • Search and visit official website

    • Follow official Social Media accounts

    • Search and check reviews in portals and search engines

  • Action

    • Transact at official website or send enquiry

  • Advocate

    • Share their experience on Social Media

    • Refer friends

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Dandan’s Recommendations

  1. Be on the digital channels your Chinese consumers use

  2. Build your Chinese website - visible, adaptive, responsive

  • 94% of Australian websites built for China are invisible

  • 98% have poor or no localisation in China

  • 89% are not optimised for Chinese search engines so they can’t be found

  1. Leverage the power of search

  • 90% of Internet users are influenced by search

  • Search terms are usually life necessities and problem solving

  1. Promote your brand on WeChat

  • Link your Official Account to the official website

  • Publish content, acquire followers

 

David’s Insights from his China Visit

 
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China 2018: the view from ground level

I have just concluded a short visit to Guangzhou in China to meet with our local business partners and ....[CONTINUE READING]

 

The next ACSME Roundtable topic will be on the China International Imports Expo (‘CIIE’) on Tuesday 26th June 2018, and how SMEs can profit from this game changing event. Register now via the button below.

You can also sign up for ACSME Membership to receive priority tickets for future monthly Roundtables.

 

All Things WeChat

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Guest Speaker: Dr Matthew McDougall

  • Lived in Beijing for 14 years

  • Social Media agency based in China since 9 years

  • Daigou Sales, automated retail: www.daigousales.com.au

  • An advanced WeChat user

“All Things WeChat” event

  • Not a lecture, more a facilitation - Matt inspired a fun and interactive discussion

  • To explain the many functionalities and how they work in business

  • The room was divided into thirds, with an equal number of beginners, intermediate and advanced users

General facts about WeChat

  • 700-900 million monthly WeChat users - compared to only 700 million Chinese Internet users

  • Chinese people don’t respond to their emails but usually answer immediately on WeChat

→ A WeChat account is essential when communicating with the Chinese

Personal account functions

  • Chat:

    • Translate button

    • Reminder button (= alarm to remind you of tasks)

  • Connect with others:

    • Scan QR code: Scan their QR code; they then have to accept your request

    • Friend Radar: Search for people nearby and then easily add them

    • Shake function: Find people by shaking your phones at the same time

→ Mostly used in promotional campaigns (The audience loved this, all shaking away!)

  • Set up a group chat:

    • ACSME April 2018 private group; join by typing in the 4 digit code

    • Mute notifications so you won’t be interrupted by irrelevant messages in the group chat

    • Sticky on top: important people appear at the top - even if they don’t message you

  • Send a Red Packet (红包): Last Chinese New Year: $16 billion transferred this way

→ Used by marketing companies (“Share something and receive RMB 2“)

→ It’s now possible to link foreign credit cards in your Wechat wallet (very new function)

  • Mini Apps → Everything is in WeChat - no need to close it - the Chinese don’t!

    • VIP.com Mini App was released a few days ago

    • McDonald’s, Mobike, etc. all have their own Apps/programs

  • Moments = personal news feed

  • Search function: Similar to Google Trends; search for competitors or certain topics (in Chinese)

  • WeChat Wallet: In China, you don’t need cash anymore, you can pay via WeChat everywhere

    • Pay for taxis, gas bills, train tickets, etc.

→ Add a Chinese bank card or now a foreign credit card

→ Limited security

→ You have to pay a fee if transferring money of a certain amount

WeChat as a business tool

Account management

  • Types of accounts

    • Service Accounts: App-based experience, WeChat websites, post 4 times a month

    • Subscription Accounts: appears in Subscription folder, post 1 time a day, used by KOLs/bloggers

    • Domestic accounts

    • Overseas accounts: can’t be seen by Mainland Chinese

     → Know your purpose and get an agency to verify you, so you are seen by the Chinese

  • What is required for a Verification by Tencent?

    • Valid passport

    • Account Operator (This person cannot later be changed)

  • Content platform

    • Content creation is critical

    • Know who you are writing for - so know your niche

  • KOLs = Key Opinion Leaders (= online influencers)

    • Create visibility and get followers by sharing your content

    • More influential than influencers on other channels

    • They’re critical to WeChat success

    • Get KOLs through agencies; it’s important to know who they are, why you need them and how to measure the effect

    • WeChat KOLs are much more authentic than Weibo KOLs

    • Get a KOL who’s specialised in your industry (e.g. B2B)

    • Grassroot KOLs on average cost $5,000 per post (absolute minimum is $1,000) + a performance bonus

→ It’s important to keep the balance, don’t focus just on sales (e.g. “buy this house, it’s only $1.5 million”)

  • New trend: WeChat-based sites - like websites but on WeChat

  • You can’t promote Taobao or TMall strategies on WeChat, because of a firewall

The next ACSME Roundtable topic will be ‘Developing Your Digital Marketing Strategy for China’ and will be held on Tuesday 29th May 2018. Register now via this link.

You can also sign up for ACSME Membership to receive priority tickets for future monthly Roundtables.

How Austrade helps SMEs in China

 
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Due to wide interest amongst ACSME members in Austrade’s China operations, we needed a larger venue for our ACSME Roundtable in March. We therefore partnered with Sydney University to host this event in the beautiful old Quadrangle Building.

ACSME members and guests were given the opportunity to meet and hear from the Asia lead for Austrade, Ms Bing Liu, who shared her insights on the many ways Austrade can help SMEs in China.

In summary, Austrade acts as a ‘bridge’ between Australian SMEs and the China market and provides support in navigating the complex Chinese business environment. The services offered by Austrade are:

  1. Research on your target market(s) including providing advice, introductions and support on the ground from their 11 local offices, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. For a full list of Austrade offices in China, including local addresses and contact details, click here: www.austrade.gov.au/contact/offices/china

  2. Connecting your business to the right customers, suppliers and partners for your products and services

  3. Supporting you through the process of opening and closing a deal, with the Australian Government behind you (can be particularly valuable in China)

  4. Helping you understand and navigate the cross-cultural differences and learn how to conduct business in China from local trade experts.

 
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Bing also brought our attention to a major event that is a world first. The China International Import Expo www.ciie.org which will be held in Shanghai from 5 - 10 November 2018.

Personally endorsed by President Xi Jinping, the Expo will have 150,000 Exhibitors, making it over 7 times bigger than any previous Expo. However, what makes it a real game changer is the total focus on importing, so the exhibitors will be buying FROM you, not selling TO you

As the Expo is not industry specific, it will be a challenge to identify and attract the right buyers and stand out amongst the thousands of other businesses who will be there to sell. But fear not, ACSME and the China Australia Events Association (CAEA) are offering assistance to ensure you find the right customers and get the most out of this incredible opportunity. We will be sharing more information with you about how you can participate and profit from this Expo.

Austrade will also be providing assistance in November and can be contacted by:

Email: info@austrade.gov.au         Phone: 13 28 78

The next ACSME Roundtable will be back at our normal venue at 1 Bligh Street and will be on ‘All Things Wechat’ on Monday 23rd April 2018. It’s almost full with just four seats left so register now via this link.

You can also sign up for ACSME Membership to receive priority tickets for future monthly Roundtables

Recruitment in China

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At the February Roundtable, David Parker of Geddes Parker & Partners shared his experience and insights on recruitment and HR management in China.

The key takeaway? Although everything on the surface seems different in China, some of the HR issues are actually remarkably similar to those in Australia!

The main points David made..

  1. In the past, it was possible for some foreigners to secure jobs in China without the language skills. However, in just the last 5 years, it became mandatory for all candidates to speak fluent Mandarin. No exceptions.

  2. The employment rules, regulations and practices in China are very similar to Australia. You can only employ locals directly if you operate a ‘Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise’ (WFOE) where you have sole legal responsibility. If you participate in a Joint Venture, your local partners are likely to take care of recruitment and HR.

  3. The process of identifying candidates in China is straightforward with online job seeking sites, advertising in local media and referrals, etc. However, it can be challenging to reference check due to cultural differences and it is usual to seek references from people other than former employers.

  4. Turnover of white-collar staff in China is around 19% per annum, which is only slightly worse than the average turnover in Australia (16%).

  5. Employment Contracts should be prepared in both English and Chinese with both parties signing the two versions to ensure no misunderstandings.

  6. Annual leave is based on total years in the workforce, not years of work under one employer. For the first 10 years of working, Chinese employees are entitled to annual leave of just one week. This extends to two weeks after 10 years, three weeks after 20 years, and so on.

  7. It is customary for Chinese employees to receive a one month bonus on Chinese New Year.

  8. The most desirable employee benefits identified by Chinese employees in 2017 (in order of priority) were:

    • Health benefits

    • Flexible work arrangements

    • Training benefits

    • Increased annual leave

    • Travel allowance

    • Child care benefits

    • Car allowance

    • Gym membership

  9. The Top 5 HR Challenges identified by foreign companies in China are:

  • Finding and attracting top executive talent (two-thirds of companies have difficulties finding the necessary skills and talent)
  • Increasing labour costs (real wages have increased 12% per annum in the past decade)
  • High employee turnover (19% per annum)
  • Lack of suitable qualifications (only 10% of Chinese candidates are qualified to work for a foreign company)
  • False Resume data (20% of candidates have discrepancies in their resumes and applications)

10.The primary motivation for most employees to change jobs is to climb the next step in their career ladder. It’s not always about the money.

To attend the next ACSME Roundtable on Tuesday 27th March discussing "How Austrade Works with SMEs in China Roundtable", please click here.

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Managing Relationships in China

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At the recent ACSME Roundtable on 30th January 2018, Vanessa Xing of Think Global Consulting outlined her ideas on how to build and manage long term sustainable relationships with Chinese clients, partners and investors.

1. Take your time

Having lived and worked in Australia for the past 20 years, Vanessa believes that despite growing up in China, she has adopted a "Western approach" to communicating. This means she gets to the point quickly, asks direct and probing questions, moves the conversation quickly to the business objectives, and doesn't waste time on frivolous conversations.

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In the last 5 years she has spent more time working in China and now adopts a more "Chinese" approach to relationship building. This involves long conversations about "non-business" issues, including the weather, the food, families (particularly the hopes and dreams for their children) and the differences between China and other countries. Often business is not discussed at all, or at the very end of a dinner, after all other conversations are exhausted.
It's important to remember that as a foreigner (whether you have a Chinese or western face) you are building familiarity, confidence and more importantly, trust with your Chinese counterparts. This takes time and patience. Build relationships first and the business will follow.

2. Respect Hierarchy

Unlike our egalitarian society, where everyone is treated equally and our organisation structures are “flat”, Chinese people are totally comfortable with a "hierarchical culture". Decisions are made by leaders at the top (whether Government, Business or Family leaders) and are then implemented by senior, middle and junior managers depending on their level of seniority. It's important that you understand this and also respect and recognise everyone's role in the process; particularly the juniors who often get forgotten and are rarely praised for their contribution to a successful outcome. Vanessa always makes a point of singling out the important role played by the implementation team on her visits to China.

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It's also important for Australian organisations to mirror the Chinese hierarchy by lining up the same way. That is. Chairman to Chairman, CEO to CEO and deputies and middle managers with their counterparts. This is critical to getting a deal done because whilst the seniors will make high level decisions, they will only happen if the juniors do the implementation work.

It also requires smaller companies to be creative about how they line up in China, for example, engaging a Non Executive Chairman to be present when the Chinese Chairman is in the room; and to ensure your lower level staff are available to work with the implementation team and to answer their detailed questions.They see their role as protecting their bosses from making decisions without all the facts, so you need to be fully prepared for exhaustive questioning.

3. Be willing to put on a Show

The Chinese are often impressed by the size of your office, the view out of your window, the strength of your team and your brand of car. Don't hide your success from them (as you are likely to do amongst your fellow Australians) but be willing to flaunt it! The Chinese want to deal with successful and influential people, so be a lot more willing to play up your connections and success rather than be humble.

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Of course, you mustn't tell lies or fake your success as this will likely backfire on you. But play to your strengths and Australia's strengths. The Chinese are envious of our lifestyle in Australia, our clean and safe environment and our friendly and open culture. Invite them to come here, show them what we have and repay their hospitality in your home town. Take photographs and share them on WeChat to give ‘face’ and you'll be surprised at how quickly this leads to a successful business outcome!

To attend the next ACSME Roundtable on Tuesday 27th February discussing "Recruitment and Human Resource Management in China", please click here

投资澳大利亚——对中国投资者的8项建议

2014年,投资澳大利亚的中国投资者的类型以及他们所感兴趣的领域,发生了极大地改变。这一戏剧性的转变表现为投资不再仅限于国有企业和机构投资者投资矿产和其他资源资产。现在注重的是私人投资者、高净值个人和企业投资于新的领域,特别是粮食与农业、医疗、教育、旅游、房地产和金融服务。在过去的两年中,我们已经看到了许多在这些领域中进行的交易,但并非所有都取得了成功。

在过去的25年中,特别是近5年,我有机会近距离观察中国投资者投资澳大利亚的方式。我见证了许多成功与失败,并且我个人也多少参与了一些案例。通过我的中国合伙人邢洁与中国投资者的沟通,我掌握了对于关系双方存在巨大文化差异的第一手经验,我一直试图作为一个推动者或“桥梁”来尝试和简化这一过程。然而这并不容易,为了试图提供一个成功的结果,我发现我自己指导、引诱和说服澳大利亚人改变他们的方式,使得他们更容易接受他们的中国同行。感谢我的中国朋友,现在我有机会向中国投资者发表我的个人建议,希望能够帮助他们在澳大利亚取得更好的成果,并实现中澳关系双方急需的双赢结果。

下面是我在3个方面的8项建议:

1. 成功的关键因素

设立战略方针、明确自身目标

投资是困难的。没有人说这很容易。并且,选择越多,困惑越多。我曾遇到过许多这样的案例:一个中国投资者起初是寻找一个房地产资产,最终却购买了一个葡萄园!这让我认识到他们并没有从一个明确的战略开始,因而被热切的销售商、代理或中介所提供的各种令人兴奋的机会所诱惑!

从我的经验来讲,只有一种方式来进行投资,那就是从一开始就要明确你的战略、你想要实现的结果、你如何衡量成功(收益?回报?资本利得?时间表?)和你最了解的领域。当你明确了这一点以后,制定一个“选择标准”,然后客观地衡量每一个机会。这也使得那些帮助你寻找和评估你想要的资产的人们更加容易。从事了25年的投资业务(经历了一些失败与成功),这是我所知道的能做到这一点的唯一方式。这需要纪律、有系统的流程并排除所有的情感!

理解“投资”和“门面资产”的区别

中国投资者对此感到困惑。对于投资被低估和“潜在的明日之星”资产,澳大利亚是一个充满了这些令人兴奋的诱人机会的大国。

“投资”是一种资产,在获取其公允价值并长期增值的基础上,随着时间的推移为投资者产生回报(收益或资本利得)。在一些案例中(例如矿山或农场),中国投资者可以通过确保“产品”出售到市场获利(例如煤炭、铁矿石、牛肉或水果)来提高收益。

“投资”的例子有商业或住宅房地产、营业性农场或矿山、上市公司或私人公司股份、以及如果位置选择正确将会随时间显著增值的土地。

“门面资产”是出于其他原因而购买的资产。比如为了证明你的权力、影响力、财富或者面子。它可以产生回报,但这并不是获取它的主要目的。“门面资产”的例子有葡萄园、高尔夫球场、艺术品、私人飞机、游艇甚至岛屿。

购买“门面资产”并没有什么错,而且澳大利亚有很多这些类型的资产。只是要清楚,“门面资产”不等同于“投资”,如果它们产生了回报,也只是一点好运气!

2. 文化差异

不要把太多的重点放在拉拢地方政府官员上

澳大利亚政府官员的职位很不稳定。他们每3年或4年需要进行重选,受政治势力的影响很大,并且他们要对公众舆论负责,而这些舆论通常又是由极具影响力的媒体所决定的。因此,他们很难帮助和支持中国投资者,因为他们担心会被指责偏袒、官商勾结甚至腐败。许多有前途的政府官员的政治生涯由于被指控腐败而突然结束,进而导致公众查询、媒体监督和有罪推定。

而中国政府官员与此形成了鲜明的对比。他们拥有较大的权力和影响力,不受地方选举的制约,并且能够真真切切地为拥有良好“关系”的人提供区别待遇,向其商业伙伴、投资者和外国人表明他们的密切关系。

我看到许多中国企业和投资商花费大量的资金和时间试图说服澳大利亚政府官员,和他们共进午餐、晚餐和促销活动。花这些时间是不值得的。这些人真的不能帮助到你,如果你问他们,他们也会承认这一点,虽然这能提供一个你与他们合照的机会,但是他们无法左右明年是否还能帮到你。你也许可以找到那些能真正帮助你的人,例如当地商业协会、顾问团体、四大会计事务所和咨询机构。

价格不可协商是正常情况

澳大利亚人不喜欢讨价还价。这是一种文化差异。当他们向你报价时,要么(a)人为提价50%用来跟你讨价还价,要么(b)这是他们最优惠的价格。在大多数情况下,他们认为(b)更合适。

我目睹了很多交易最终变得令人不快,因为澳大利亚人不愿意讨价还价,甚至觉得被冒犯,因为中国人试图挑战他们最优惠的价格。而同时,中国人则觉得被剥夺了他们讨价还价来得到更好价格的权利,也感觉被冒犯、沮丧甚至愤怒。

目前没有解决这个问题的简单办法。我认为你可以试图谈判得到一个更好的价格,但不应该过于频繁。如果澳大利亚人说,他们已经给了你最优惠的价格,就意味着真的是这样。如果你不认为这是你所能接受的合理价格,那么离开就好,但不要觉得被冒犯或者生气。

 建立信任

在一个陌生的环境进行海外投资是复杂的、是具有挑战性的也是有难度的。即使是许多经验丰富的澳大利亚投资者,在熟悉的本地环境中经营,也同样会因为决策不佳或不良建议而遭受重大损失。因此,外国人在澳大利亚投资企业感到更加难以成功也就不足为奇了,特别是当他们语言不通、不了解环境、没有获得可靠的建议、知识和人际关系的时候。

作为在澳大利亚寻求投资机会的中国投资者,你会受到大家的欢迎,至少开始是这样的。澳大利亚的开放、友好的人民和平等的社会是闻名世界的,但是,对于不遵守透明度和可靠性规则的人是不可原谅的。因此,花时间与当地的销售商、供应商和顾问建立信任关系并始终维持和依赖这一关系是十分重要的。不要总是改变你的计划、日期和时间,因为这可能会发出错误的信号、导致混淆并对于你是否认真对待投资产生质疑。在某些情况下,甚至会导致人们拒绝和你交易,因为这是原则问题。

澳大利亚会原谅你改变想法或寻求新的机会。他们会原谅你暂时不确定、谨慎或缓慢的做出决定。但他们不会原谅任何人欺骗、谎言和“说大话”。最好是说出全部真相,只是真相,虽然会感觉尴尬或不舒服。但你会发现他们也会同样地对待你。

3. 思维与行为方式的不同

任命当地人作为你的当地“面孔”

我印象非常深刻的是,华为——中国大型全球性技术公司,有远见地任命了三位著名的澳大利亚人(两位前政要和一位受尊敬的前海军军官)来作为其澳大利亚子公司的董事会。这表明他们在澳大利亚严肃认真的态度,并为他们提供了一个独立的、友好的和客观获取当地建议、意见、影响力和关系的来源。这也使得当地监管机构、商业伙伴和政府官员从各个方面而言,都更容易与100%中国人的公司合作,否则将存在语言跨文化障碍。

任命你自己的人作为你的当地“面孔”仅仅是合乎常理的,无论是中国公民还是居住在澳大利亚的澳籍中国人,但这阻止了你被当地人完全接受和信任的机会。我曾考虑建立一个由著名澳大利亚人组成的关系网,他们了解和欣赏中国企业文化和基于此目的汇聚当地专业知识的方法论,这可能是一个很好的长期项目。在此期间,请找一个或多个当地人(“老外”)来作为你的当地“面孔”,雇佣他们来照看你的当地利益。

愿意付费寻求建议

对于真正尽全力帮助和指导中国投资者在澳大利亚投资的那些人而言,当地挫折之一是,他们将永远不会因咨询和指导意见而得到报酬,特别是有任何他们无法找到投资者所要寻找的投资机会的风险存在时。因此,造成了简单的错误,他们往往付出了太多,他们没有考虑当地的法规和惯例,并在某些时候他们被严重误导。在大多数情况下,他们要么最终要为使不良决策好转而付出远超出必要的花费,要么他们撤退回中国,再也不会看到!

在西方国家付费给律师、顾问、会计、评估师和中介机构来获得专业的咨询和建议是很普遍的,在澳大利亚一些最成功的中国人士现已理解和欣赏雇佣专业人员提供建议和支持他们的价值。当然,并不是所有的建议都是好的建议,当选择顾问时,你应该调查他们的资格,从以往的客户中获取建议,并对所提供的建议支付一个合理的价格。但不要偷工减料急于求成。当在一个陌生的、国外的、遥远的环境中经营时,你需要激励和鼓励当地人帮助你。不要只有成功了才支付费用,这将导致他们偷工减料,随意完成交易而赚取佣金。支付给他们一个合理的费用,使他们坚定地站在你这一边。

不要夸大其词

我们看到很多中国投资者来澳大利亚谈论他们要投资数百万、甚至数十亿,而实际投资却低得多。在最好的情况下,这会造成困惑,而在最坏的情况下,则给中国投资者一个坏名声,并给未来带来很多问题。我见过许多这样的例子,它不必要的破坏了关系和友谊。

澳大利亚人倾向于相信你所说的话,直到你证明了你所做并非你所言,所以,如果你是认真对待的而且想要得到一个好的结果,确切的告诉他们你想要投资多少,或者至少是一个现实可行的范围,他们会努力地帮助你。澳大利亚缺乏资本和投资,即使很小的资金也会有很大的不同。如果你只是想从一个小数目开始,也不要假设你不会认真对待,否则将无法达到你的目标。每个人都明白,投资是困难的,但你若想要跑,定要先学会走!

澳大利亚为中国投资者提供了巨大的机会,遵循这8项建议,带着进一步深化双方关系的动力,没有理由不成功!

 

 

Think global, act local

Walking around Sydney’s CBD, it is hard not to notice the ever-growing Chinese population. Whether they are students, tourists or migrants, the numbers of Chinese arrivals in Australia have been growing exponentially over the past decade. Whilst there has been some progress and focus on opening up China to Australian exporters through the various tariff reductions introduced by the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement, China’s inbound activity into Australia is expected to provide even more opportunities in the short-term for Australian businesses of all sizes. However, we believe there is still a long way to go for Australian businesses to fully realise this opportunity.

The numbers

At the end of 2014, there were 859,500 visitors to Australia from China, but in just 5 months, this number shot up to 921,800 visitors. Three years ago, it was predicted that there would be 1 million Chinese visitors to Australia by 2020, however, with the current trajectory; we may actually reach that number by the end of 2016! Chinese tourists are also spending more than before. By May 2015, Chinese tourists generated A$6.4 billion in revenue, up from A$5.7 billion at the end of 2014.

The Chinese community in Australia has also experienced similar growth. The number of Chinese-born Australians has doubled over the past 10 years to reach 450,000 and is still growing. And last year, our Australian universities recorded over 150,000 enrolled Chinese international students. 

The opportunities

With this kind of growth, Australian businesses are in a unique position to engage in the ‘China opportunity’ without actually leaving Australia. As an example, luxury hotels, retailers and high-end food and beverage providers can expect a boom in business since Australia overtook France as the number 1 international luxury destination for Chinese tourists at the end of 2014. The Chinese community also provide an effective testing ground for Australian products before exporting to China. And businesses may not need actually need to export their products as tourists and international students are sending more and more Australian products back home to friends and family. As you may have read in the news, many local Chinese people are purchasing infant formula from Australian supermarkets and bringing it into China with them to give to their family and friends. In the services space, small and micro businesses can develop tailor-made services targeting the wealthy Chinese in Australia. I recently met with the owner of a small family-run beautician in Sydney which was providing specific skin treatments to the wealthy Chinese living in the local area. Similarly, I also came across a small restaurant in Sydney which had developed a website hosted in China to advertise their business after they saw a rise in Chinese customers.

There is still some way to go…

Despite the opportunities in exporting and selling Australian products and services, the local Chinese community are not fully engaged by Australian businesses. In 2014 the Diversity Council of Australia released a report in which found that whilst the Australian labour force is 9.3% Asian born, only 4.9% make it to senior executive level. In ASX 200 companies, only 1.9% of executives have Asian heritage. These percentages would be even smaller if we just looked at those with Chinese heritage. Australian companies are also very reluctant to hire Chinese international students as interns and to recruit and sponsor them after graduating.

We predict that the Chinese community in Australia will eventually become the bridge for Australian businesses wanting to engage fully with the Chinese market. However, businesses need to realise that China’s inbound activities in Australia do not only present an opportunity for selling and exporting products and services. By hiring a Chinese intern or full-time employee, the worst thing that can happen is that you will have a hard-working, diligent and talented person working for you in your office. The best thing that can happen, however, is that they could use their connections through family, friends and colleagues to open the door to invaluable business opportunities with China.

Is Australia overbought?

With the well-publicised growth of Chinese investment into Australian commercial and residential real estate; and the surge in property prices, many have been asking if Australian property is becoming ‘overbought’.  

Despite an easing in the overall amount of Chinese investment into Australia in 2014, for the first time, investment into commercial real estate and infrastructure accounted for over half of the total transactions and was dominated by investments made by high net worth individuals and private enterprises. Also in 2015, Melbourne and Sydney overtook London as the second most popular destination for Chinese investment (Manhattan in New York is currently number one). With numbers like this, it is easy to understand why so many are concerned about the sustainability of Chinese investment into Australia and are worried that it may grind to a halt. However, I believe that the wave of Chinese investment is only just beginning and we still have a long way before Australia could be regarded as ‘overbought’. 

Over the past decade, China has accumulated large reserves of foreign capital due to the disparity between its outbound FDI and inbound FDI. However, since 2008, outbound FDI has started to increase dramatically and in 2014, it was almost equal to inbound FDI for the first time. And it is expected to grow even more – by approximately 10% year on year according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). This is driven not only by the Government’s ‘Going Out’ Strategy and the new ‘One Belt, One Road’ Initiative (China’s new foreign policy encouraging infrastructure investments and developments across Asia and Europe), but also by encouraging private individuals and enterprises to invest overseas through a number of well publicised initiatives, including the Qualified Domestic Individual Investor (QDII) scheme, the internationalisation of the RMB and the push for greater diversification of assets overseas. With such a large wave of outbound foreign capital and a national priority to invest overseas, this indicates to me that the wave of investment from China has only just begun, and is likely to continue well into the future.

2014 was a significant year for Chinese investment into Australia. Even though overall investment decreased slightly from 2013, it was the first year that Chinese private sector investment exceeded state-owned enterprise investment. And also the first time that investment was diversified away from the mining and resources sector into new sectors, such as commercial real estate, infrastructure projects and the tourism and leisure industry. Also, Australia represented around 6% of China’s outbound FDI in 2014 indicating that there is still plenty more room for this number to grow. As China increases its outbound FDI by 10% each year, and with the growing interest in overseas property and infrastructure, we can expect to see new Chinese private enterprises, individuals and property development companies entering the Australian property market.

Chinese investment into global commercial real estate

Chinese investment into Australian commercial real estate

According to Knight Frank, for the first time ever in 2015, Chinese outbound investment into global commercial real estate reached USD$30 billion, double that of 2014. But what was particularly notable was that Australia received nearly 15 percent of this amount. I believe this is extremely significant because it demonstrates China’s commitment and interest in Australia’s property market. From travelling around China, particularly to the second and third tier cities, and my discussions with lesser-known but comparatively large property development groups, many are developing their own ‘Going Out’ Strategies and are drawn to Australia because of the well-established bilateral relationship, our well-regulated and relatively stable market government and our ‘clean, green and safe’ credentials.

 Source: Knight Frank Research

Source: Knight Frank Research

So who can we expect to invest into Australian property? Besides wealthy Chinese individuals and private companies investing into off-the-plan properties or new property developments, research from Knight Frank indicates that Chinese insurance companies are also expected to participate in the next wave of investment. Currently, only Sunshine Insurance has invested in Australia (they purchased Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park Hotel and ‘The Vintage’ resort in the Hunter Valley) but the table above indicates that more than half of the major insurance companies have expressed interest to invest offshore. Of course there is no certainty that they will invest in Australia but the growing trend is evident. Taking into account the growth trajectories, the bilateral relationship and Chinese Government policies working in our favour, it is reasonable to assume that these companies may begin to start making significant investments across Australia, only adding to the ‘demand side’ of the equation.

Interestingly, it is not only ultra-rich Chinese individuals who are investing in Australian luxury properties; ultra-rich Indians are also becoming increasingly interested in the market. According to Agent Ken Jacobs, the head of Christie’s International Real Estate in Sydney, more ultra-rich Indians are embarking on ‘due diligence’ checks. Whilst these have not yet translated into sales, he expects this to happen in the next few years. In addition, ultra-wealthy investors from other Asian countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, are also expected to follow Chinese investors and become much more active in the Australian property market (residential and commercial).

To answer the question, no, I don’t believe Australia is overbought. There is every indication that Chinese investment into Australian property will continue to grow and we can also expect new players to emerge from other parts of Asia, including India, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. The bigger question is whether Australia will be able to meet this demand. With Sydney and Melbourne’s CBDs becoming increasingly overcrowded; Governments, town planners, businesses and entrepreneurs have a once in a generation opportunity to capitalise on future inbound investment to design and build new residential, commercial and infrastructure projects to contribute to the growth of the outer suburban and even regional areas across Australia. This process of “nation building”, which is now so prevalent in other Asian countries, could be transformational for Australia as we grapple with the challenges and opportunities of living in the Asian Century.