“We’re not as integrated as we could be” warns Birmingham businessman

L/R: Jimmy Lin, Alan Tsui (Director of Beijing Overseas Chinese Affairs Office), Liu Chunfeng, Max Parrott, Andy Leung, and James Wong.

“We need to be competing with Berlin, Beijing and Boston,” says Birmingham businessman

Birmingham businessman James Wong is calling for his city to up its game when it comes to hosting international delegates from around the world.

Having recently returned from a high-profile trip to China, organised by the Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Overseas Exchange Association, James believes his city must pull together to leave a lasting impression on visitors.

A respected figure among the city’s Chinese and corporate communities, James was chosen as a delegate to China as chair of the Birmingham Chinese Festival Committee and a Southside BID Board member.

He was one of only five English representatives chosen for the recent trip, which saw 350 business men and women from around the world descend on China for a six-day visit.

As the only delegate from the Midlands, put forward by the head of Birmingham’s Chinese Community, James was able to talk on an international stage about the positive developments in the region; from projects close to his heart like the Chinese Arch project through to Andy Street’s first few months in power and even the city’s Commonwealth Games bid.

The aim of the visit was to showcase the ‘great and good’ of China; demonstrating import and export opportunities, in addition to longer term partnership projects.

As well as gaining an insight into innovative projects like Beijing E-Town, James’ takeaway was that their Chinese hosts really understood the importance of the whole city pulling together to showcase itself to international visitors:

He said: “This trip was the true meaning of the ‘VIP treatment’ and I think there are loads of lessons that we, as a city and region, can learn from it.

“The biggest observation from me was that each area we visited was properly prepared for us; the coordination couldn’t be faulted, from roads being closed to ensure that we could pass through easily, to the premium hospitality we received at every venue.

“The West Midlands is hosting more delegations than ever before, with new investments and developments creating opportunities for business relocations and trade deals, but I do worry that we’re not as integrated as we could be.

“Disruptions like road closures and bin strikes happen but we all need to pull together to ensure that important visitors come here and leave with the best possible impression.”

James is no stranger to hosting the city’s delegates, particularly through his three restaurants – Chung Ying Central on Colmore Row, Southside-based Chung Ying Cantonese, and Chung Ying Garden.

However, he is calling for the city to encourage better collaboration between business owners to deliver unrivalled experiences in the city.

“As a business owner, I know how important visits like these are, particularly when looking at longer term investment into the region, but we definitely need better coordination from the top to get us all working together.

“The trips already organised are great but I think there’s power in local businesses and business leaders playing their part too; from infrastructure planning and putting on entertainment across the city, right through to us all briefing our customer service teams to be aware of any international visitors.

“The trip to China gave us a money-can’t-buy experience that we could easily replicate here; this isn’t about us rivalling Manchester, we need to be competing with Berlin, Beijing and Boston.”

The ‘Discovery Trip to China For Eminent Young Overseas Chinese’ was also supported by Beijing Municipal Government, Jiangsu Provincial Government, Shan-dong Provincial Government, and Henan Provincial Government.  

Delegates were hand-picked by their local embassies as representatives on a global scale.