“The similarities between German and Chinese Greenfield investors often outweigh the differences” – that’s the conclusion drawn by Dennis Wilkens, Germany Trade & Invest’s China director. And that’s why lots of Chinese companies are setting up shop in Germany.
You’ve lived in Beijing for quite some time. What’s your impression of it?
Dennis Wilkens: Beijing offers a unique combination of tradition and modernity and is home to many top Chinese cultural sites such as the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. But I’m also fascinated by the lightning-quick, high-tech developments, for example in the Zhongguancun district. In the past four years, USD 131 billion has been invested in Beijing tech start-ups. That’s impressive even when compared with Silicon Valley. China now leads the world in unicorns. The development since 1999, when I first came here, has been overwhelming.
In your experience, are Chinese investors different from German or other international ones?
Wilkens: Actually, the similarities between German and Chinese Greenfield investors often outweigh the differences. Both value stable business environments, in order to make long-term investments. And another commonality is both believe that a good professional network on the ground is important for successful long-term business development.
How do Chinese firms use the services offered by Germany Trade & Invest?
Wilkens: Businesspeople in China appreciate that they can contact our investment team in Beijing and get quality information in Chinese about how to make a greenfield investment in Germany. That’s reflected, we believe, in the large number of projects we’ve been involved in. We direct our clients to local economic assistance in Germany, help them find the right location and even introduce them to strategic partners if necessary, for example local suppliers for setting up manufacturing in Germany.
Beijing central business district © GettyImages
What are the main business opportunities right now and in the near future?
Wilkens: Chinese companies have achieved global success in future markets such as life sciences, digital infrastructure, new forms of mobility and renewable energies. These are also dynamic markets in Germany, and so there are many opportunities for crossover. In 2020, for example, there were more than 5,400 companies of Chinese origin in Germany with more than 100,000 employees.
We expect Chinese companies’ interest in greenfield investment in Germany to continue. The good business environment in Germany generates promising Greenfield investment opportunities. The industrial sectors that are particularly attractive are in the areas of innovative, climate-friendly mobility and energy storage solutions. There are also excellent opportunities for Greenfield investments in automation technology, digital infrastructure and robotics because there are so many industrial customers in Germany.
Germany is open to Greenfield investments from China, particularly at the moment in the area of life sciences. With that in mind, we’re planning to increase our focus and activities in e-health, pharma, biotech and medtech, and are planning a roadshow with our Chinese partners and trade associations. We warmly extend an invitation to make contact with us to any companies in the life sciences area who are considering expanding to Germany.
Dennis Wilkens 朱德威 Your contact in Beijing: Before becoming GTAI’s China director, Dennis Wilkens helped German and Chinese medical technology companies expand in both directions. Previously, he was the head of the Industry and Technology department at the AHK Greater China (German Chambers of Commerce Worldwide Network).