June 07th 2021

China & Europe. Global Partnership or Competition?

Jörg Wuttke, CEO of BASF China and President of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China as Distinguished Guest Online at the Entrepreneurial School®.

 

Jörg Wuttke, CEO of BASF China at the MCI Livetalk. Foto: MCI
Jörg Wuttke, CEO of BASF China at the MCI Livetalk. Foto: MCI

 

As current president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China and local Chief Representative of BASF, Jörg Wuttke is a designated expert on Chinese international market & trade relations. In addition to these outstanding positions, he is also a member of of the Advisory Board of Germany’s foremost Think Tank on China, Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and Vice Chairman of the CPCIF International Cooperation Committee, a group representing Multinational Companies in China’s Chemical Association.

Having lived in Beijing for more than 30 years, Wuttke relies on a wealth of experience when it comes to matters of business and diplomacy and emphasizes the huge upside potential of China.

But are Europeans aware of China’s importance? Have European companies realized the rapid change the country is currently undergoing? Jörg Wuttke is convinced that within the next ten years China will stand for 30% of the global growth. Within the chemical industry, he even assumes that two-thirds of the world market demand will be met by China. That is why Wuttke recommends being at the scene of action and competing directly in China despite its negative perception in Europe. According to him, the question of competition or global partnership rests on the fact that political leaders also look at their poll ratings. With a quite negative public opinion, he states “it will be difficult to engage in positive ways with China.”

Nevertheless, Wuttke emphasizes that a European-Chinese partnership in trade relations will be most important - but this is the EU government’s choice. Given the very regrettable downwards spiral it is even more interesting that Europe and China could recently manage an international agreement on product origins, while there is yet not even such agreement between Europe and the United States. However, launching sanctions over sanctions on both sides has given the relationships a turn. Therefore, Jörg Wuttke underlines the importance to set an end to rigid communication and lead the discussions to common grounds about topics such as climate change, biodiversity and terrorism - China and Europe share the same interests and “there has been a most dramatic change in Chinese policy, which is an incredible success.”

Wuttke is sure that the right communication will be the key and “both ends definitely have a lot of homework to do to understand each other better.” Criticism from afar will not suffice repairing the damage, which the Trump administration left on those relationships. Instead of being confrontational, both parties have to respect the system of the other party, even if there are different approaches to democracy for example. China might have more diversity than it might look from far away, that is why “we have to rebuild trust in order to make this relationship happen.” The right level of communication, which could help open space for innovation and collaboration, according to Jörg Wuttke, could be easily described by citing the Chinese saying “listen better and talk less”.

The event was organized jointly with the MCI's China Center. Dr. Wei Manske-Wang moderated the event with MCI Rector Dr. Andreas Altmann.

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