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Whether selling, trading, investing or franchising, China offers huge opportunities for Scottish firms, large or small. And we can help fast-track you to success.

Construction engineers
Construction engineers in China

China's economy

Meet Huishan Chapman, our China market specialist
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China’s economic transformation over the past three decades is one of the greatest success stories the world has seen to date. As the country’s economy continues to grow, so does its demand for foreign products. 

Although the geography and demographics of the two countries may not have much in common, Scotland’s creativity and innovation has scope for success in the Chinese market. 

China’s diversity and consumer-orientated economy make the country an attractive export location for Scottish businesses. In fact, since 2007 Scotland’s exports to China have more than doubled, and are currently worth £530 million.   

Chinese government initiatives

The Chinese government's Made in China 2025 plan highlights four key initiatives to continue reforming the economy.

  • 10-year action plan to elevate China's manufacturing strength – backed by State Council fund of £4.3 billion to support emerging industries
  • Industry shift to quality over quantity – specialist and innovative tech expertise will be in high demand
  • Measures in place to support foreign direct investment by accelerating RMB exchange conversions
  • Key high value opportunities in healthcare, energy, transportation, ecommerce and sustainable urban development

Key sector opportunities

  • Renewable energy
  • Food and drink 
  • Financial and professional services
  • Textiles
  • Creative industries
  • Electronics and technology
  • Life sciences and pharma

Cultural connections

Links between Scotland and China lie primarily in education and employment.

Eighteen of our Scottish Higher Education institutions have academic and research links with Chinese HE institutions, and many are working in China on student recruitment. 

There are currently 10 major Chinese investors with a presence in Scotland - double the number recorded in the previous year.

Scottish Development International occupies five offices across China – in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taipei. We have an excellent team of local experts who work together across sectors and geographies to connect Scottish businesses to different markets.  

Scotland's strengths in demand

Cultural tips

  • Build relationships  - The Chinese value building personal relationships before entering into business partnerships, so make sure to be polite, friendly and modest when meeting prospective business partners.
  • Business cards - Should be printed in English on one side and Chinese on the other and formally exchanged using both hands at the beginning of meetings. 
  • Socialise Always accept the invitation to socialise in China. Work and pleasure are often intertwined, with some three quarters of business deals being reached in restaurants, tea houses or karaoke bars.
  • WeChat - This all encompassing app has 650 million users worldwide and is an essential platform to be on to collaborate and connect your business in China.

The diversity of China’s marketplace means there are more opportunities than ever for Scottish companies preparing to export. In particular, Scotland's engineering expertise is well sought after in China.

Key sectors 

Scottish food and drink

Scottish food and drink exports to China totalled £85 million in 2015. Demand for whisky remains high. Last December, six whisky companies took part in a three-day online whisky promotion organised by our team in China, with leading Chinese ecommerce company Alibaba. Alibaba reported an 86% increase in sales of whisky for the three days in which the promotion took place. 

Oil and gas 

China’s three main oil and petrochemicals companies now control 25% of the world’s oil and gas production. China is now the biggest oil operator in the North Sea, giving scope for Scottish energy companies to share their industry knowledge.

Technology and engineering

Scotland has particular strengths in software, digital health, big data and gaming. It’s a sector which continues to grow its international reputation, and China has already begun tapping into the sector. 

Companies like internet tech giant Tencent used the Scottish mapping solution Sensewhere in Tencent Maps. 

Advice and guidance

Doing business in China can seem rather daunting for those new to the market. It’s essential that you get an understanding of the culture of the country and the values of its people before investing in it. 

And through the Department of International Trade's E-Exporting Programme, the ability to reach potential customers in the Chinese market could be easier than you might think. 

Local connections

If you'd like to explore opportunities for your business in mainland China and Hong Kong or beyond then get in touch with our High Growth Markets Unit.

We can:

  • Connect you with influential business leaders 
  • Provide one-to-one market advice
  • Arrange support to visit the market
  • Make introductions to our contacts at Department for International Trade and the China-Britain Business Council for additional support