China: Collecting China

A kind reader recently told me how much they've enjoyed my latest columns on art and yachts. Encouraged, I ventured: "Well I hope you'll enjoy the next one too – it's about China". "Ah, china," he said. "Does that mean the government is dropping import tax on porcelain too?"

You couldn't make it up. But no, dear reader, I will not expounding on the market in Meissen, the rally in Royal Worcester or the capital gains in Capodimonte – although coincidentally a week off in Naples beckons in October. Instead I will offer you some thoughts on China, the country.

In August 2012, under the title "BRIC and back", I wrote about the phenomena of the so-called "BRIC" grouping of countries – namely Brazil, Russia, India and, of course, China – which then became "BRICS" with the inclusion of South Africa in 2010.

Since that time, there have been some considerable changes in the world order. Russia has of course been on our front pages for some time as its foreign policy leaves it increasingly isolated politically and economically from the West. Brazil has been on our back pages, after staging a football World Cup and is soon to host the Olympics, but is also having its fair share of difficulties – not least the eye-watering costs and the shocking semi-final loss to Germany. India and South Africa are both facing challenges, which I will save for another day. For now, I want to focus on China – and with good reason.

Why? Well simply because "it's the place to be". Let's start by considering some astonishing numbers. At the beginning of September, the Chinese population was estimated at 1.37 billion people – or 19% of the world total. Think of it this way. If we were spread equally round the world one out of every five people would be Chinese. If you think someone is "one in million" there are a thousand Chinese just like them.

OK maybe I made that last bit up, but China remains the world's most populous country. India is not far behind at 1.25 billion but the United States, in third place, can only muster 319 million people. Of course it is not just the quantity but the quality that counts. China's middle class is expanding rapidly and consumer spending is expected to grow at an annual rate of 7.7% over the next decade to hit around $11 trillion by 2024. That explains the Western demand for Chinese ecommerce platform Alibaba, which has just announced plans to raise US$20 billion in a public offering in the US. No wonder so many parents around the world are encouraging their children to learn Mandarin.

The sheer numbers alone demand that any international firm must consider and develop a China strategy. This is true not just for the US, the UK and the rest of the EU countries, but for many smaller nations around the world. Smaller states that can offer real expertise and high quality can achieve good market penetration. The Scandinavian countries are fine examples and, to localise this trend, we can reasonably include Gibraltar too. This is because the Gibraltar government is not just talking about its interest in China – it is actually doing something about it too. Read on.

From a Gibraltar perspective I am often asked (particularly from within the Sovereign Group, which has extensive operations in China and the Far East) whether there are any services we could offer that might be interest to the Chinese. I've never really come up with a satisfactory answer except that it's probably not going to be the export of manufactured goods. Regular readers might recall that I am a great fan of Gibraltar Crystal and for all I know this amazing local firm, which ships custom made pieces to clients all over the world, already exports to China. But I don't suppose they are looking to break into the mass market in China.

No, Gibraltar's future in China almost certainly depends on the sectors that I tend to talk about each and every month – financial and professional services. In other words, Gibraltar's insurance, funds and pensions products, as well as its private client offering. The trickier bit is deciding firstly, whether to enter the China market and, if so, how to go about it?

Earlier this year, the Gibraltar government opened an office in Hong Kong. This is designed to be both a showcase for Gibraltar and serve as a stepping-stone into China. Jason Cruz, a Gibraltarian who has lived in Hong Kong for over 20 years, was appointed as Gibraltar's representative and Director of the new office.

The government said that in addition to serving Gibraltar's financial services industry, the office would act as a shop window for the other, diverse, sectors of our economy. However it also hoped that the reverse would be true. That the new office would encourage Chinese investors to use Gibraltar both for direct investments on the Rock and as an entry-point into the wider European market.

And the Gibraltar government's support doesn't end there. In September, a high level delegation led by Minister for Financial Services Albert Isola proved hugely successful. The group included professionals from the funds and asset management sector, together with James Tipping and Philip Canessa of Gibraltar Finance.

So private sector firms can certainly be assured of government support if they decide to target China, but what is the best way to enter this vast and highly fragmented market? As with all market entry initiatives, paying a visit is normally the first step – what I call "fly driving". This is where the fun begins. China's is indeed another country – they do things differently there. Apart from the distances – not just to get there, but to travel internally – there are visa requirements, an array of national, regional and local government bureaus, not to mention the linguistic and cultural barriers. China is not for the faint-hearted, but the rewards can be, well, highly rewarding.

My recommendation is to seek good advice from the start. There is plenty around. There are several business groups in London dedicated to developing links between the UK and China; Gibraltar professionals are welcome at any of these (I know because I have tried it). Then there are English-speaking firms, both foreign and local, that have dedicated offices on the ground. Hong Kong can be of great benefit but try to seek out people who can assist you in Beijing and Shanghai too – as well as other fast growing cities such as Chengdu, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Guangzhou. Let me know if you'd like some introductions in these areas.

How about enticing Chinese high net worth residents to Gibraltar? Why not? After all, Gibraltar is an excellent base for Europe. The financial and fiscal benefits combined with ease of doing business here make Gibraltar as attractive to Chinese people seeking European exposure – or a safe bolthole – as to any other nationality. The Mediterranean climate and landscape should not be under-estimated either.

With our direct, daily link to Heathrow's Terminal 5, getting to and from China might take time but the connections are easy and numerous – British Airways and its alliance partners alone fly from the UK to 25 different Chinese destinations! BA's chief Willie Walsh is not known for opening routes just to please plane spotters, so we should be asking ourselves who all these people are? And what can we do to encourage them to continue their journey to the Rock?

Have you detected just a hint of excitement? You bet. In the case of China, as the master might have sung "if you can make it there" ... well, you know the rest. I often encounter cynics who say you must be dreaming if you think little Gibraltar can ever hope to get business from China. Well, I believe they should wake up. If they want to ignore one-fifth of the world's population, that's fine. But please allow the rest of us to go and win the business instead.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.