British Business in China | Position Paper 2020


The British Business in China: Position Paper is a report created by the British chambers of commerce in China to provide advocacy and representation on behalf of British businesses operating in China. In these unprecedented times, there is more need than ever for British businesses to be able to speak with a strong, unified voice.

British businesses across a range of sectors in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, and Southwest China come together to raise the regulatory barriers that they face, areas of opportunity for bilateral cooperation, and recommendations for market access reform.

The Position Paper is directly presented to the UK and China governments in order to directly inform trade policy and negotiations.

Key Recommendations

 1.  Strengthen the implementation of market reforms at all levels

 2. Address longstanding and continuing concerns around cybersecurity and IT restrictions

3. Promote greater liberalisation of the capital account

4. Reduce the direct presence of state-owned enterprises in the market

5. Keep conversations on bilateral trade frequent and open

Executive Summary

The past year since our last Position Paper was published has been one of two halves. The first half was one of cautious optimism among British business in China, and the second of considerable uncertainty for businesses both in China and around the world. Encouragingly, numerous reforms and market openings have come into effect, with the potential to improve the business environment for foreign companies and create new opportunities for British businesses and the Chinese economy.

However, 2020 has brought fresh challenges in the form of the COVID-19 outbreak. COVID-19 does not undo the long-term benefits of these reform and opening-up measures, but the road to recovery is far from certain. This makes delivering on these reforms even more critical in order to unleash the full potential of all businesses, regardless of origin, to support economic recovery.

Economic and Policy Overview

China entered 2020 grappling with a structural economic slowdown, a trade war with the United States and inflationary pressures owing to the spread of African swine fever that caused pork prices to soar. Nevertheless, the economy was able to grow by 6.1% in 2019, consistent with recent growth trends that would suggest China remains the world’s largest contributor to global GDP growth.

Since then, the near-term outlook has dramatically changed, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus having brought the Chinese economy to a temporary standstill and progress towards full economic resumption remaining slow. As the government imposed draconian lockdown measures in Hubei from 23rd January to 8th April to contain the virus and as people across the country stayed home, the economy contracted by 6.8% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, marking the first drop in more than four decades. The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) now forecasts 2020 annual GDP growth of just 1%. China’s aim of doubling its GDP in 2020 from levels in 2010 so as to achieve the political goal of establishing a “moderately prosperous society”, for which it would need to reach 5.6% growth this year, now looks unattainable.

Industries covered in the Position Paper

Get Involved

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Position Paper 2019

Last year the Position Paper ‘door knock’ outreach presented to the UK and China governments, including Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua, Permanent Secretary Mark Sedwill, HM Ambassador Barbara Woodward, Madame Bao Ling and Trade Commissioner to China Richard Burn.

Download our previous reports