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Debate on the digital revolution of China

Challenges and Opportunities for European Companies

September 6th, Brussels – Sun Liang, CEO of Generate Ltd., was invited by the Belgian Chinese Chamber of Commerce (BCECC) and BNP Paribas Fortis to debate about the challenges and opportunities of the digital revolution in China.

The other panel members consisted of Pascale Deseure, Co-founder of HoloViewLab, Pascal Coppens, CEO of Tweedle and Keynote Speaker at Nexxworks, and Tom Vandendooren, Chief Business Development Officer Asia at Sentiance. The panel moderator in question was Chief Economist of BNP Paribas Fortis, Koen de Leus.

As a major worldwide investor in digital technologies and one of the world’s leading adopters in the field of technology, China is shaping the global digital landscape and supporting and inspiring entrepreneurship far beyond its own borders.

More specific, with 42.4% of the global retail e-commerce transaction value in 2016 and $790 billion in mobile payments, it is hard to deny China has become a leader in the digital revolution. With “Made in China 2025” the country is focusing even more on industries closely related to digitalization, such as high tech, green tech and new generation information technology. This brings a lot of opportunities to Western companies, but also a lot of challenges.

Has China really become a leading player in the digital economy? What are the challenges for the European Union and EU companies coming from digital leadership in China? And what are the opportunities for them doing business in China? To discuss about this, the BCECC organized a debate on “Challenges & Opportunities of the Digital Revolution in China”.

Some of the topics the four panel members talked about to answer these questions included the dominance of BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) and their respective ecosystem of apps, the different credit score system China knows and the added value Chinese firms give in order to perform on a global level. Not only this, but concerns of the audience, such as the need to share intellectual property with Chinese firms, were also discussed.

Overall, some consensuses were formed. For instance, while China is rapidly becoming the world leader in digitalisation, it still is not quite there yet. And while it is often necessary to share IP with Chinese partners, firms should not be worried of copycats, since they would still have a first-mover advantage. Lastly, important for firms to remember in this digital landscape, is that when setting up operations in China, it is important to do so either alone with the right guidance, or with a trustworthy local partner.

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