“Opportunities in China for Australian SMEs” by Business First Magasine


At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: success. You are thinking of trading in China, but as a small business you don’t know what important to consider before making a decision? Here are several things you need to consider whislt thinking about whether or not expand your business in China. This article was published in the Business First Magazine (BFM), and points out the numerous steps that you should consider whilst doing such a move.

Identify the opportunities  

China is Australia’s largest export market and now buys almost a third of Australia’s exports. Australia exported A$90 billion of goods and $8 billion in services to China in 2014, a huge volume that was met by Australian businesses in a wide range of industries. While China’s economy has slowed over the last 18 months, the outlook for private consumption remains solid, with the country’s growing middle class continuing to offer significant new export opportunities for Australian businesses.

Mining, agriculture and services are three of our most important export markets to China. With a growing population and strong demand from the manufacturing and construction sectors, China cannot meet its growing domestic demands for energy. Iron ore and concentrates, coal and gold are our biggest exports to China, and Australia is also one of China’s largest suppliers for bauxite. China is the largest importer of Australian agricultural produce, a relationship that was worth $8.5 billion to our agricultural sector in 2014. Strong population growth and rising per capita incomes will mean demand for agricultural products will likely continue.

Dairy in particular is expected to become an increasingly important market segment, offering high returns to Australian farmers. In the services sector, a burgeoning Chinese middle class means a growing demand for services such as education, for which Australia is in a strong position to deliver. An ageing population is also creating an attractive market for aged care services.

Assess the risks

As with any foreign market, there are some unique challenges to doing business in China. Australia’s International Business Survey 2015, sponsored by Efic, asked over 1200 Australian international businesses what they believe are the most difficult barriers to doing business in China. One of the key challenges identified was the local language, which can be an inhibiting factor for Australian businesses seeking to establish relationships. Employing the services of a local translator can be a huge help for Australian SMEs looking to do business in China.

Understanding local regulations was also identified as a challenge when entering the Chinese market. The World Bank’s ease of doing business gauge – which attempts to measure local regulation relevant to SMEs – ranks China 96th out of 189 economies around the world. China ranks the lowest on ease of registering property and enforcing contracts, so these are important considerations for any SME entering into a contract or commercial operation in China.

 Plan and Prepare

For these and any other potential risks identified in the Chinese market, there are steps SMEs can take to prepare and set themselves up for success. Establishing strong networks is crucial for all SME exporters – when exporting to China, they are a particularly important method of accessing valuable information and support. One great way to do this is through established forums and networking groups. The Australia China Business Council provides information, programs and opportunities for the Australian business community to network on China business activities, as well as hosting events with senior contacts within the Chinese government.

Another important step is taking the time to understand the local business culture in China. For example, establishing strong relationships and trust is crucial before closing any deal – often this takes place over a series of lunches and dinners. Another tip SMEs often overlook is that it is really useful to have business cards printed in Chinese.

Finally, seek advice. As with any business venture, receiving good quality legal, tax and professional advice is critical before making important decisions; use a legal firm with a local presence to ensure you comply with local regulations and laws. They can also highlight any contract issues and be able to help if you are concerned about protecting your intellectual property.

No doubt, there is a big opportunity for SME to expand in China, yet there are some severe challenges that may discourage more than one. Take it easy. If you are convinced that you have what it takes to expand, and if you see this has a great opportunity, then go for it! Before you go, note down these questions somewhere and try answer them. If you have a good answer at this, you are on the right track. If not, keep working on it. Good luck!

-Is there a demand for my business in China? 

-Does your company has what it takes to adapt in China?

-Is there any local regulations that I should be aware of?

-You need to establish strong contacts in the region you want to do business. How are you going to do that? 

-Do I know enough about the local business culture? Why is this important at all? 

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