Speech by Luigi Gambardella at ChinaEU 1st Anniversary: “China-EU Partnerships in the Digital Industry”

Chinese companies taking over the prominence of US companies in Europe: threat or opportunity?

IMG_3869Luigi Gambardella, President of ChinaEU

ChinaEU was launched in the year of the Sheep. Chinese friends told me that this would bring us success.

Success.  Who does not want to be successful? Our ambition at ChinaEU is to help you being successful.

When I say you, I think firstly about you Mrs Ambassador Yang. Politics is often a “zero sum game”: the winner succeeds at the expense of the loser.  What I appreciate so much about you is that your approach is to stress that Chinese EU cooperation is not about winners and losers: it is about making both sides better off.  But even the best diplomats can sometime not convince everyone. The vote of the European Parliament of two weeks ago on the Market Economy Status constitute not more than a step backwards in order to make a great jump forward. The EU and China have nothing to win from trade disputes and retaliation.  As an African statesman once said ‘when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers’. Business are the grass. In particular startups will suffer a lot, because of missed opportunities.

When I say you, I also think about the Chinese vendors who have now become key partners of the European Telecom operators. I do not see how EU mobile operators could continue improving network coverage and quality without their Chinese partners. Let me greet in particular the presence among us of Xiao Ming, President of ZTE Europe, and remind that when on 22 March Belgian mobile networks crashed due to saturation, the mobile network deployed by ZTE remained operational throughout this dramatic day. ChinaEU is proud to have ZTE as one of its leading business members.

When I say you, I also refer to the companies which are preparing our future and bringing new ideas and talents to the industry. You will have understood me: I mean the startups.

Ambassador Yang attaches rightly a great importance to Sino-European cooperation to increase the chances of success of young creative entrepreneurs by ensuring them access to the global market. This is one of the main aims of ChinaEU.

It was a difficult task for me to pick among the Chinese startups that ChinaEU supports, the one which could best represent them tonight. Their Ambassador tonight will be Stuart Oda, Co Founder of Alesca Life, coming straight from Beijing to tell you all you wanted to know but never dared to ask about Chinese start-ups.

But ChinaEU does not only support Chinese startups. EU startups are also at the heart of our activities. The best example of Chinese support for startups in Europe is the high-tech incubation center established in Belgium by United Investment (UI) and Wuhan International Business Incubator Co (WHIBI); an investment of 200 million. You will hear the full story about this ambitious project by Dr. Song Zhiwei, himself.

Cooperation between Chinese and European companies creates business and employment opportunities. However, ChinaEU aims to achieve more than just business opportunities by bringing together Chinese and Europeans leaders and future digital leaders. ChinaEU wants to bring about cross-insemination of Chinese and European business values. We have so much to learn from each other.

We have among us Professor Peggy Valke from the University of Leuven, one of the most prominent, if not the most prominent Belgian expert in Digital law. She has kindly accepted to chair the academic board of our ChinaEU Digital Research Center. This cooperation will further extend the reach of the reputation of the 600 years old University of Leuven to the Chinese silicon valley.

A priority area for comparative research and assessment of the respective EU and Chinese digital policies is e-commerce. E-commerce is the trade of the future. Generations who grew up with their iPhone or ZTE Axon will never more shop the same way as we and our parents did and do. But regulation can be a huge hurdle. Both the EU Commission and China are now reviewing their rules and eliminate requirements that stifle e-commerce. The digital single market is a priority of the Juncker Commission. I am therefore particularly glad that Luc Tholoniat, the economic advisor of president Juncker, is with us tonight.

I believe that everyone has noticed the wonderful music surrounding us. Thanks to our friend Spotify, the leading European music streaming provider, we have a nice selection of all kinds of Chinese and Western music, luring us to appreciate the beauty of the two cultures. Music is the common language that brings people closer, so is digital. Let’s enjoy tonight and hope you will all go back home with new friends, or eventually new business partners.

ChinaEU is only one year young. The future of Chinese European business cooperation is in front of us. Business cooperation is about ‘win-win’ relationships. You all heard about the announced takeover by Midea, the Chinese home appliance maker, of the promising German robotic company Kuka. This is only the beginning.

Over less than ten years, leading Chinese digital companies will have replaced the current American digital giants in the world and have prominent representation offices in the European quarter. I am ready to bet on it.

This will happen in any case. Let us, Europeans, not see this as a threat. On the contrary, this is a unique opportunity. ChinaEU is here to help you to benefit from this opportunity by bringing business leaders and startups from both continents together and foster synergies and cooperation.

Are you ready to join?

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