A significant even took place in Beijing at the end of April. The first Russian-Chinese “Great Possibilities of Small and Medium Business” forum was held in the “Diaoyutai” (the residence of the Head of the Chinese State). From the Russian side, the forum was run by our agency, and from the Chinese side by the Association for the Planning and Development of Enterprises Abroad. The organizers included the Russian-Chinese Friendship, Peace and Development Committee and the Russian-Chinese Business Council. The event was officially supported by the RF Ministry of Economic Development and the PRC State Committee for Development and Reform.
The forum has a history. In Beijing last year our agency, as instructed by theAsian-Pacific Economic Council, presented a business platform for the advancement of the products of small and medium enterprises in the countries of the Pacific region. It was then that the Chinese leadership had the idea of holding the forum, which was to become a continuously operating platform for effective communication between the small and medium enterprises of Russia and China.
Crude self-interest – buying cheap in China and selling dear in Russia – has long ago faded into the background. According to travel agencies, the number of Chinese coming to Russia has increased by 150%. But paradoxical as it may seem, in spite of recent “people’s” links in this field, small and medium business relations between our two countries have stillnot been systematically regularized. Yet the problems arising were based on one simple thing! Small and medium businesses always have difficulties with their marketing and advertising budgets. And they cannot allow themselves to have external economic relations departments in their structure to travel round cities and everywhere else to advertise their products. In some countries, these functions are undertaken by the state: it examines the products, then presents and publicizes them in external markets. Medium and small businesses are thus relieved of overhead expenses, and can go on to find their niches and partners to implement their contracts to great advantage. We have come close to this business model too.
The announced agenda was popular. Interest in the forum exceeded all expectations. From the Russian side, more than 320 people took part, including about 200 representatives of 145 companies and 120 members of official and regional delegations. There were 38 of these altogether from the RF, 11 of which represented their regions as ideal areas for various kinds of investment. From the Chinese side, over 40 different investment companies were represented at the event.
The very fact that the forum was held in the main residence of the head of state means a lot. For a Chinese businessman to be able to come here is a sign of the highest respect and recognition for his services. The PRC leadership was represented at the forum by Zhang Gaoli, Deputy Premier of the PRC State Council and one of the seven most powerful politicians in China, and the Russian delegation by Arkady Dvorkovich, Deputy Chairman of the Government. It is curious that the moderator of some of the forum platforms was Deng Rong, the daughter of the former leader Deng Xiaoping.
It was said more than once in the corridors of the forum that the new format had been given the green light. This was confirmed by the first results. The signing of an agreement on cooperation between the “Skolkovo” fund and the Cybernaut investment group took place at the opening ceremony. The contract provides for creating joint Russian-Chinese business incubators, a robot technology centre and a venture fund.
An agreement was also signed on cooperation between the Chinese Association for the Planning and Development of Enterprises Abroad and the Russian Small and Medium Business Support Agency.
In the course of the forum, understandings were also reached on the joint implementation of several business projects. In particular, the Chinese company MSS agreed to invest in the construction of infrastructure projects in Vologda and Novgorod oblasts, and the company ZTE agreed to finance the creation of an electronic platform for the sale of agricultural produce from China in the RF.
Both sides supported the idea of holding such forums on an annual basis; the next one is due to be held in Russia. At the closing ceremony, Boris Titov, Chairman of the Russian part of the Russian-Chinese Friendship Committee and the RF President’s authorized representative on the rights of entrepreneurs, announced that the next forum is planned for April 2016 in Sochi.
We understood with complete clarity: Russia and China have colossal potential in this sector, as well as mutual interests and capabilities. The products of Russian small and medium enterprises are truly competitive in the Chinese market. This particularly applies to the foodstuffs group of goods. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, in connection with the change in the rouble rate, from an import niche, we have gone over to a price niche of Chinese production. Secondly, the high quality and ecology-friendly nature of our products has turned out to make them in high demand in the Chinese market. The Chinese are also prepared to invest not only in major infrastructure projects, but also in joint ventures on Russian territory.
To sum up: at this forum Russia made itself known as a serious producer, ready to assimilate considerable investments. The Chinese leadership, by all its actions, gave it to be understood that the necessary conditions for Russian small and medium enterprises to enter the Chinese market have been created.
The fact that twenty per cent of the forum participants concluded specific agreements and contracts is a clear confirmation of this.