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Panelists talk about U.S. entry strategies for Chinese companies at the 2011 Greater China Business Conference. From left: Richard Block, Warren L. Clark, John Luther Rogers ’01 and Kevin Wei Wang.

China Business Conference

2011 Greater China Business Conference

Experts take a closer look at the strategies Chinese firms are using to expand beyond the Great Wall

By Cheryl SooHoo

6/1/2011 - What’s on the other side of China’s Great Wall? A world of opportunity for Chinese companies looking to go global.

Emerging from the recent recession relatively unscathed, China, second only to the U.S. in economic clout, has the financial means to expand outside its borders, McKinsey & Company partner Kevin Wei Wang observed in his keynote address at the May 18 Greater China Business Conference.

Some 230 students, alumni, and business community members attended the sold-out event, which focused on the strategies Chinese entities are employing to stretch their footprint much further and wider than ever before.

“China is just on the verge of the next big wave of globalization,” remarked the Shanghai-based Wang. “The timing is right.” He pointed to government incentives and the sheer allure of post-recession business opportunities as reasons enough for many Chinese companies to grow outside China, if not Asia.

Outbound mergers and acquisitions remain a key avenue for global expansion, said Wang. While Chinese companies continue to focus on international M&A deals in energy, mining, and utilities, they are also venturing into consumer-based sectors such as electronics, retail, and automotive. Wang described Chinese auto manufacturer Geely’s acquisition of Swedish auto brand Volvo as a good example of a firm that has leveraged a strong home market in China and picked up a ready-made platform for entering other markets.

Wang, who guides Chinese and multinational companies on their global journey, noted that the entities that are most likely to succeed on a worldwide scale have first flourished at home — 90 percent, he said, have already been the dominant player in their local markets.

To build a recognized global brand in the international arena, Wang said, Chinese enterprises seek first to educate investors and consumers about the company and its product. Global leadership talent is also desired, because it helps Chinese companies not only to bridge the cultural divide but also to overcome perceptions of inferior Chinese product quality, especially among U.S. consumers.

Later in the day-long conference, Jerred A. Pauwels, factory manager of JD Tianjin Construction Works for John Deere, delivered a keynote talk on the opportunities and challenges of doing business in China. Siva Yam, president of the U.S.-China Chamber of Commerce, also discussed “the next rush” for U.S. companies and professionals.

Panel discussions focused on the challenges of marketing to Chinese consumers, U.S. entry strategies for Chinese companies, and investment and financing strategies for Chinese entities.

Panel discussions focused on the challenges of marketing to Chinese consumers, U.S. entry strategies for Chinese companies, and investment and financing strategies for Chinese entities. Alumni panelists were Min Guo '01, vice president of Hina Group, John Luther Rogers ’01, president of Transforming Asia—North America, and Anita Tang ’99, managing director of Royal Roots Global Inc.

“In the future, China will play a major role in any economy,” said conference attendee Frank Wittkampf ’12. “Gaining insight into the strategies of Chinese businesses and how they work is quite valuable.”