BritCham Position Paper

British Chamber of Commerce British Business in China: Position Paper 2021

26 May 2021

The British Business in China: Position Paper is a report created by the British chambers of commerce in China to provide advocacy and representation on behalf of British businesses operating in China. In these unprecedented times, there is more need than ever for British businesses to be able to speak with a strong, unified voice.

British businesses across a range of sectors in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Southwest China come together to raise the regulatory barriers that they face, areas of opportunity for bilateral cooperation and recommendations for market access reform.

The Position Paper is directly presented to the UK and China governments in order to directly inform trade policy and negotiations.

Key Recommendations

1. Enact clear, consistent, safe and practical travel processes between the UK and China.

2. Encourage the development of an attractive environment for global talent

3. Enable the uniform implementation of beneficial market reform policies

4. Ensure that the final iteration of cybersecurity legislation provides sufficient clarity and supports international R&D

5. Expand pilot programmes to liberalise cross-border capital flows

6. Establish a level playing field between private and state-owned enterprises


Executive Summary

China’s GDP expanded by 2.3% in 2020, making it the only G20 economy that experienced growth last year. For many, business activity has returned to 2019 levels. Market confidence has grown. However, the majority of British businesses have stated that they have yet to feel any significant improvement in the business environment over the past year. Core challenges faced by British companies operating in the market remain. At the same time, ripple effects from tensions in the bilateral relationship could create further difficulties.

UK-China relations are at a pivotal point. Amongst UK politicians, support for objective, constructive dialogue with China is waning and public opinion in the UK has hardened against China. COVID-19 and restricted travel has blocked crucial cultural exchanges that underpin mutual trust and understanding, driving a wedge between China and the UK. This is detrimental both to finding solutions for global problems and to finding pathways to addressing our differences. The resumption of travel and openness to foreign trade cannot resolve all challenges but they can build common ground and enhance intercultural understanding. Both are vital to counterbalance narratives of disengagement.


Climate Action

Beyond regulatory challenges, we’ve also looked at what actions British businesses are taking to improve the sustainability of their operations in China and areas for UK-China cooperation. While there are challenges in the current political landscape, cooperation on environmental protection is more important than ever, and presents a unique set of opportunities for businesses in China. Success in the fight against climate change cannot occur without the largest economies and the largest companies agreeing targets, aligning on green standards and sharing best practice. The hosting of the COP 26 climate talks in Glasgow and COP 15 conference on biodiversity in Kunming provide timely opportunities for the UK and China to take leading roles in setting the agenda for change.

The two COP sessions nevertheless build on years of UK-China cooperation on climate action across governments, academia and businesses, from workshops on low-carbon innovation held in Hangzhou to alignments of standards for environmental protection information disclosure, green bonds and ESG data. British and Chinese companies have participated in the United Nations’ ‘Race to Zero’. British businesses in China have significant involvement in clean power generation, green transport, green industry standards, green manufacturing, and ESG investing and reporting. If political will is sufficient and private enterprises are provided clear opportunities to contribute, cooperation can bring dividends in terms of coordinated, rigorous and effective global climate action.


Industries covered in the Position Paper:

  • Accountancy
  • Automotive
  • Built Environment Services
  • Energy
  • Education
  • Food, Beverage, Retail & Consumer Goods
  • Financial Services
  • Healthcare
  • Legal Services

To register your interest in contributing to the next Position Paper or for further queries, please contact

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