Chinese discover Belgium

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Since discovering Belgium as an investment destination in the ‘80s, Chinese companies have invested about 100 million dollars in the country. The figures are the results of a large-scale survey conducted by a team from the Antwerp Management School. The survey puts Belgium at number sixteen in the ranking of Chinese investment countries. Despite its impressive score, however, the country is still way below the Netherlands with its 486 million dollars in Chinese investments. But the situation is set to improve. In 2010 the number of Chinese investments in Belgium doubled from 24 million to 45 million dollars. According to Professor Haiyan Zhang, who led the survey, Belgium is favourably positioned to attract Chinese investments. He refers to the central location of the country within Europe and the fact that Chinese banks have branches in Brussels as major trump cards for Chinese investments in the country. The presence of Chinese logistics businesses in the port of Antwerp further strengthens its position. To fully harness these opportunies, Belgium should avoid presenting itself as an isolated island. Zhang maintains that the Chinese do not view Europe as one market with a free flow of goods and services between the countries, but that investors seek out individual countries with large markets, like Germany. To this end he feels Belgium should highlight its role as gateway to Europe. The country should also take advantage from the large Chinese community in Antwerp, as a significant Chinese presence in a European region attracts even more Chinese investments. “Small Chinese family businesses prospect the market within local communities,” says Zhang, stating that larger concerns rather opt for takeovers and joint ventures, like the partnership between the Louvain technology business Option and the Chinese telecoms concern Huawei.

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