Covid-19: CBBC’s Support For Your Business Through The Crisis

We are living through remarkable times. I hope that you and your loved ones are all safe and well.
Covid-19 is presenting unprecedented challenges for businesses in the UK and China alike. At CBBC we have a unique perspective as an organisation with a footprint across both countries. Since the middle of January we have been working hard to maintain service to you while discharging our duty of care to all concerned.
We hope now more than ever that the advice, knowledge and experience which we share with you is adding value and helping your businesses to weather the Covid-19 storm. Much of that information is distilled in our Covid-19 Guide for British Business which we continue to update regularly.
As the UK braces itself for the peak of its outbreak, China is tentatively emerging from the other side. After two months of severe economic disruption, analysts estimate that Chinese output is back at around three quarters of its normal level. The Purchasing Managers Index for manufacturing in March jumped to 52 after falling to 35.7 last month. The authorities are encouraging consumers to get back out spending and service providers to issue incentive coupons for locations such as restaurants and gyms.  
China’s nascent recovery is an opportunity for British businesses to offset economic impacts in our home market and around the world. As you would expect, at CBBC we warmly encourage all our Members to seize this opportunity.
Over the weekend however we saw a number of commentaries in the UK media arguing for disengagement from China in the wake of Covid-19. CBBC roundly rejects such an approach. If we walk away from the UK’s third largest market, our competitors will happily move in, pocketing the gains in trade and in soft power. We will lose out not only economically but in global influence.
As in politics, so too in business: now is not the time to lose focus on China. Companies who do so risk sacrificing hard-won gains in the competition of our age, the race for a foothold in the world’s fastest expanding market.
But we know that this is not easy; and that this is a painfully difficult time for many of you.
Putting aside the strict controls now in place within the UK itself, the Government continues to advise against all travel to China. And on 26 March the Chinese Government announced a temporary suspension of entry by foreign nationals into China. The announcement also stated that visits “for necessary economic, trade, scientific or technological activities” might continue to be allowed. The Chinese Embassy have told us that visa applications will be accepted only in limited special circumstances and cases of very urgent need. They are not encouraging these. We are clearly very far from business as usual, and will be for an extended period of time.
I therefore want to let you know what CBBC is doing to help Members maintain engagement in these troubled circumstances.
First, while CBBC staff in the UK are now working from home, from this week 12 of our 13 China offices are back up and running. (The exception is Wuhan, where we hope to re-open in the coming weeks). Some external restrictions remain in place, but our teams are at their posts and raring to carry out work on your behalf. The pace of activity is picking up quickly. We are supporting British businesses to land deals, resume production and reconnect supply chains.
Second, to help locked down businesses to grasp this moment, CBBC is introducing a new retainer service. This is a chargeable service designed to sustain and grow Members’ interaction with the Chinese market through the current travel restrictions. The idea is that if Covid-19 is preventing you or your representative from travelling, a CBBC team member who is an expert in your sector will be deployed on your behalf, maintaining necessary business activity during this period of unprecedented disruption. For more information and to register your interest, please get in touch with Kiran Patel, Senior Director for Business Development (kiran.patel@cbbc.org.cn).
Third, we are re-doubling our China advocacy work on behalf of British businesses facing challenges in communicating with government at all levels. China’s leadership is stressing the importance of international cooperation to get the world economy back on its feet. We must use this moment to create openings for the future.
Fourth, we have adapted our programme of business education and networking events for online delivery. For the duration of Covid-19 restrictions, our events will be “digital by default”. Our online meet-the-buyer series is already underway. Please take a look at the programme, sign up for anything of interest, and let us have your feedback.
Last but by no means least, we know that Covid-19 is putting many businesses under severe financial stress, and that in these circumstances finding funds to cover membership subscriptions may be challenging. As a small not-for-profit business ourselves, CBBC is not immune to such pressures so we understand how tough choices may need to be made. To that end, we have decided to follow the example set by the UK and Devolved Governments by providing support to SME Members in the sectors most acutely hit by Covid-19: retail, hospitality and leisure. Specifically we will defer Membership renewal dates by three months for all Enterprise tier full members in these sectors, thereby providing an additional calendar quarter of complimentary service to help tide loyal and hard-hit SME Members through these difficult times. This concession will be applied automatically to eligible Member accounts, but if you would like to confirm your status please get in touch with our Member Services team (membership@cbbc.org).
Taken together, I hope you will agree that these measures are a powerful package of support.
Once again, I urge you to maintain your engagement with China and to use your CBBC Membership actively at this time. Your CBBC Business Advisor will be happy to work with you to determine how you can best do this, and to discuss any other challenges you may face.

China demands a long term approach. Tackled the right way, it can pay huge dividends.  In order to emerge in good economic health from the Covid-19 crisis, it is more important than ever to ensure you get the best advice.

Stay safe, and please do make CBBC part of your recovery planning.

With very best wishes,

Matthew Rous

Chief Executive
China-Britain Business Council