China represents a huge export opportunity for Northern Ireland businesses. The current annual value of exports has recently increased very significantly to more than £110m but the potential value is much greater.
Policy announcements from China's 12th National Peoples Congress earlier this year evidence the opportunities in many sectors being focussed on for growth and improvement including aviation, food, IT creative, healthcare and professional services. China's urbanisation and growing middle class is fuelling demand.
Like China's famous Yellow Mountain, successfully negotiating the market can be challenging requiring care, a cool head, flexibility , stamina, patience and a good guide. The scale of China with vast cities like Beijing , Shanghai, Chongqing and many others and a population of 1.2 billion can intimidate. Combining this with an alien business culture and a still developing infrastructure can make it difficult to know where to begin.
Focus is therefore required and for many this has been China's east coast including Beijing and Shanghai. But increasingly some are looking at the less developed markets represented by China's second and third tier cities in central and western China.
China is making progress in streamlining its procedures but there is significant bureaucracy and a maze of sometimes conflicting or ambiguous regulations.
Market entrants must carefully plan how they will protect their brands and police and enforce their rights.
If disputes arise, including failure to pay debts, enforcement in local courts and subsequent recovery can be very difficult and expensive so carefully checking out business partners is essential.
As with Yellow Mountain though, for those who make it to the top the results can be very worthwhile.