By Wang Fengjuan
The Chinese Enterprise Global Image Summit 2018, under the theme “Reform and Opening-up for 40 Years, New Journey for Chinese Enterprises Global Image Building,” convened in Beijing on December 12, 2018, aiming to explore how Chinese companies can establish a sound global image in today’s complex international environment.
40 Years On
The Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held on December 18-22, 1978, decided to implement economic reform and opening-up. Forty years later, on December 18, 2018, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee and Chinese President Xi Jinping attended a grand gathering to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the country’s reform and opening-up and delivered an important speech. President Xi quoted the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to emphasize “Poverty is not socialism” and “We need to catch up with the times, which is the objective of the reform.”
So far, China is the second largest economy in the world and ranks top in terms of manufacturing and trade in goods. China’s foreign exchange reserves have also ranked first in the world for many consecutive years. The country is the second largest consumer of goods and the world’s second largest destination for foreign capital inflow.
Chinese enterprises have unswervingly forged ahead in the process of reform and opening-up. They have adapted to the growing trend of economic globalization, fully integrated into the international division of labor system, played an important role in global manufacturing and continuously conducted independent research and development as well as tapping into the international market on their own. Companies are important participants, witnesses, contributors and beneficiaries of China’s reform and opening-up, of which “going global” Chinese enterprises have been increasingly serving as a window for the international community to observe and gain a better understanding of China.
Jiang Jianguo, vice minister of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, recognized the overseas achievements made by Chinese companies in his speech at the summit. Jiang said, “‘Made in China’ has transformed from low-end processing and manufacturing to high value-added industries. Chinese-built bridges, roads, ports, network of pipes, and power grids enjoy a good reputation overseas. Chinese mobile phones, drones, vehicles and high-speed rails have all been well received globally. Chinese enterprises are trailblazers just to have amassed this impressive resume.”
Why are Chinese companies paying more and more attention to their global images? China has complete industries, and Chinese enterprises are powerful, but their soft power is insufficient, and there is a shortage of well-known brands. Today, Chinese companies going global, especially large state-owned enterprises (SOEs), have become important windows for the international community to learn about China.
Weng Jieming, deputy head of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC), expects companies to improve economic hard power and cultural soft power concurrently, excel at using overseas social media platforms and become familiar with philosophies and cultural customs of the target overseas audience to achieve better communication between different cultures.
Establishing a sound image of Chinese enterprises overseas requires not only Chinese companies to fulfill social responsibilities in the target country, but also all parties to broadcast how Chinese enterprises are jointly developing with their target countries, noted by Fang Zhenghui, vice president of China International Publishing Group (CIPG).
Focus on Soft Power
Over the past 40 years of reform and opening-up, Chinese enterprises have been growing, developing and making progress. In recent years, they have actively established strong global images through construction of the Belt and Road and its impressive results.
The awards for outstanding examples of SOE global image building were unveiled for the first time, one of the highlights of this year’s summit. The contest, jointly organized and conducted by China Report Press and SASAC News Center, presented a total of three awards: “Best Examples of SOE Global Image Building 2018,” “Best News of SOE Overseas Communication 2018” and “People of the Year for SOE Global Image Building 2018.” Nominees were solicited from emerging stories of companies doing business in various fields in foreign countries. The contest aims to provide good references for Chinese enterprises in terms of keeping updated with international communication trends, improving overseas communication capabilities and enhancing image building capabilities.
The second highlight of the summit was pristine examples sharing. Representatives from State Grid Corporation of China, CRRC Corporation Limited (CRRC), China Railway Construction Cooperation Limited and China National Petroleum Corporation shared experiences, stories and practices with participants, which was well received by attendees and offered inspiration for other Chinese companies’ overseas endeavors. At the summit, experts provided in-depth analysis of good examples and practices and used multiple indices to evaluate the capabilities of Chinese enterprises in global image building.
The Chinese Enterprise Global Image Survey Report, issued annually at the summit, was the third highlight of this year. The survey report has provided more targeted reference for companies’ international operations and wields a wide range of influence in the industry through evaluating the overall global image of Chinese enterprises in a scientific, accurate and objective way. Since 2014, the survey has been successively conducted in the Asia-Pacific region, 12 countries along the Belt and Road, Central and Eastern Europe, ASEAN and Africa.
The Chinese Enterprise Global Image Survey Report (Africa Edition) was issued at the summit, marking the fifth consecutive year of its compilation. In November 2017, the Chinese Enterprise Global Image Survey Report (ASEAN Edition) was published at the 5th Chinese Enterprise Global Image Summit.
Economic and Trade Development Anticipated by Africans
The Chinese Enterprise Global Image Survey Report (Africa Edition) selected 2,000 residents from Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. According to the survey report, respondents from these four African countries positively evaluated China’s image and expressed optimism about the future development of China’s economy. They also recognized the influence of China’s economy on global development, Africa and their respective countries. Respondents also showed positive feelings about Belt and Road construction promoting investment and trade cooperation in countries along the Belt and Road and the region as a whole, and they expected the Belt and Road to propel economic and trade development between China and African countries.
The African respondents were generally optimistic about the development of the Chinese economy over the next 10 years. More than 90 percent of them indicated that the Chinese economy in the next 10 years will continue to keep growth momentum, of which 55 percent believed China’s economy would “maintain a high growth rate.” Respondents from Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt were inclined to think that China’s economy in the future would “continue to grow at a high speed.” About 50 percent of respondents from South Africa believed China’s economy would “continue to grow at a high speed,” and the rest indicated they believed China’s economy would maintain a “stable growth rate.”
Respondents responded positively on the impact of the Chinese economy on global and regional economic development. Some 82 percent of the interviewees believed China’s economic development has made a positive influence on global economic development, and 80 percent of respondents thought China’s economic development has had a positive impact on African countries. About 78 percent of the interviewees thought China’s economic development has promoted their respective domestic economic development.
Respondents from the four African countries showed that they highly value the cooperation in various fields between China and Africa. More than 75 percent of respondents considered bilateral cooperation effective in terms of investing in and constructing economic and trade cooperation zones, railways, ports, pipe networks and power grids, signing cooperation agreements between governments, technical research and production cooperation.
Overall, some 76 percent of respondents held a positive attitude about the role of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in promoting China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. By country, the FOCAC was more recognized by the respondents from Kenya and Nigeria than respondents from South Africa and Egypt. More than 85 percent of respondents from Kenya and Nigeria believed FOCAC has promoted China-Africa economic and trade cooperation. The role of FOCAC in advancing China-Africa economic and trade cooperation was recognized by the respondents from the four African countries.
In terms of future development, some 54 percent of the respondents expected construction of the Belt and Road to promote economic and trade development between China and African countries, and 50 percent of the respondents anticipated increased infrastructure construction in Africa including railways, ports and pipelines. And 48 percent of the respondents hoped that construction of the Belt and Road would create more opportunities for people from China and African countries to conduct extensive and in-depth exchange.