It was 8:40 in the morning, and Jeff Astle, Executive Director China of China-Britain Business Council (CBBC), hurried into the conference hall on time, with the wheels of his suitcase behind turning furiously.
Before his acceptance of this exclusive interview with Newsgd.com, Astle double-checked his schedule and reaffirmed that he could only leave 30 minutes to us. “Let’s start now!” after sitting in front of the camera he said determinedly.
As a matter of fact, Astle was the right person to talk about China-UK cooperation in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As the head of CBBC in China, he has witnessed how China-UK cooperation has developed prosperously since China-Britain bilateral relations entered a “Golden Era” in 2015.
To explore how enterprises of two countries could seize this opportunity and cooperate with each other, CBBC developed a report with China’s Minister of Commerce this year, focusing on BRI. Astle indicated that UK was “looking for Chinese investment to match British investment in a third country or a new joint venture in innovation sectors or new sectors where we can match up competences on an equal footing”.
While mentioning Guangdong, Astle became pretty sentimental as he was accredited in Guangdong for several years before and admitted Guangdong was quite “unusual” for him. He thought “Guangdong business partners have been extremely international minded already with a lot of international experiences”, and it has been be a new opportunity for Britain to come to Guangdong to find ways to work in partnership along Belt and Road countries.
New model of Sino-UK cooperation under B&R framework
In terms of how British enterprises could join in the B&R opportunities, Astle considered British enterprises have two major strengths—one is expertise while the other is the international resources that Britain has.
Astle said there have been many good examples of China-UK cooperation, and Huawei’s R&D center in UK is one of them. “It’s a win-win. British experts are feeding in the supply chain, academia working, and innovative working while Huawei is developing new opportunities for both sides.”
“The cooperation model between China and Britain is changing dramatically in recent years,” said Jeff Astle, “in the past, it was simply transactions or agreements between two parties for products or services.”
“But now with the BRI, it’s more about matching Chinese and British investment in a third country or in a new sectors on an equal footing,” he added, “It’s more complicated and maybe takes more time to develop, but it will be more valuable for both sides.”
Astle explained furthermore that Britain has world leading skills in civil engineering, architecture, master planning, designing and so on, which all could be involved in China’s BRI projects.
Moreover, he pointed out that UK has a long history in launching business in B&R countries, and “we understand the local technical standards, legal environment”.
“We are helping those Chinese business going into countries that they may not so familiar with.” Astle summed up.