“If you want to get rich, build a road first!” With this ancient Chinese proverb, moderator Hussein Askary opened the 2nd China-Sweden Business Forum on Sept. 28, 2018 at the Grand Hotel Winter Garden in Stockholm. The event was hosted by China-Sweden Business Council (CSBC) and the newly created association called the Belt & Road Executive Group in Sweden (BRIX), around the theme of Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
In his opening address, H.E. the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Gui Congyou, received spontaneous applause when he announced that the first New Silk Road cargo shipment from Sweden to China had been sent off the week before. A train with containers had left the community Insjön in the county Dalarna for the long route via Gothenburg and Hamburg to Ganzhou International Port bringing high-quality wood for a furniture producer in the Jiangxi province in Southern China.
While Swedish authorities and media have largely ignored the BRI so far, this Forum provided the insights necessary to change that attitude. The BRIX association, chaired by Ulf Sandmark, was launched at the Forum to promote an open dialogue and greater awareness of the BRI and its benefits for Sweden in particular, and the world community in general.
A key aspect of the initiative is that it is not only about links to China, but promotes global connectivity, as was shown by Stephen Brawer, BRIX vice Chairman, in his presentation. All continents should eventually be connected, including with links to the Americas and Australia.
The BRI should not be seen only as a “practical” transport system for trade, Ms. Kitty Smyth underlined in the next presentation. Ms. Smyth, a U.K. strategy and PR senior adviser for Sino-European public relations, underlined that the initiative also has a philosophical dimension of creating harmony, “to foster a new type of international relations”, and “forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance”.
Typical misunderstandings of the BRI among Swedish business circles were dissected by Ali Farmandeh, chairman of the China-Sweden Business Council. He stressed that among the 70 nations that have joined the BRI, there are also neighbors in Europe, that offer opportunities for Sweden.
Working with China is sometimes challenging to the old world due to cultural differences, as Ying Wu, a former Student of Royal Technical School (KTH) in Stockholm and now CEO of SinceUs, explained to the over 100 participants. She brought up many insightful and humorous examples of problems she has met in assisting Swedish clients to enter and expand in the Chinese market of 437 million e-commerce shoppers.