China Entrepreneurs ClubJuly 31, 2012
My Lords, distinguished guests and club members, ladies, and gentlemen
It is a great honour indeed to welcome you to the Houses of Parliament and to be your final point of call in what has been I am told a highly productive visit for yourselves, for China, and the UK. I hope you also enjoyed your tour of this historic and stately building as well which is perhaps a fitting contrast to the fireworks and music of last night’s Olympic ceremony!
As Chair of the APPG for East Asian Business I am particularly pleased to welcome you here. The APPG was originally established because I would ask my colleagues here who the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs would be. Many said it would probably be someone from China but nobody could name one name. In my mind I thought that we must create a forum where Parliamentary and business leaders, the media, and the public could learn about the East Asian leaders shaping our world today and in this century through keynote events, delegations, and research.
So it is such a joy therefore to receive you, not only one East Asian Steve Jobs or Bill Gates but an entire roomful! And I want to congratulate you particularly for the impact you have made in the media and with the British establishment and public this week who now have, I believe, a better idea of your story as a club and as leading global businesses.
And I say global because I do believe in this room we have the architects of what I have called the Chinese Dream, leaders who are creating the products and services of the future, the products people around the world are and will be eating and drinking, wearing, living in, and travelling and communicating with. I do hope and trust that as you go about reshaping our world and China that you will continue to do so in partnership with Britain and Europe, because together we can be stronger. As a British-born overseas Chinese I hope also that we can find ways for local European Chinese to help you, local firms, and cities in both regions to connect, to be bridges helping strengthen ties and building trust so that two way trade and exchange can progress harnessing their understanding of both Western and Eastern cultures.
Finally, I want to particularly congratulate you on your emphasis on responsibility, not only to change the image of Chinese business which can at times unfairly be portrayed only in negative terms, but because you know you have been a lucky as well as talented few, and that you now have the means and experience to help serve the many. As a previous business person turned social entrepreneur I know the power of entrepreneurship in coming up with solutions that can improve society, sometimes better dare I say it in this place, than legislation or a Government policy.
As Britain evolved from an industrial revolution with huge social and environmental challenges, and broadened its own political governance at the time to allow the new middle and then working classes to participate in decision making, it was often the successful business leaders, using the social media of their day (cheap printing presses), and motivated by strong values and a sense of responsibility, who helped to create and scale up the solutions. They created the schools, hospitals, training programmes and codes of conduct that helped abolish slavery, improve employee working conditions, and alleviated poverty for the masses. Business leaders such as George Cadbury and John Laing – who were reformers as well as business geniuses – and many others showed the way. We need such leaders in Britain today. And we need them in China and the world. And I think many of you here represent that kind of leader.
And as an APPG with a particular focus on sustainability I want to invite you back to tell your story and provide a fresh perspective on the work being undertaken to improve society in East Asia through business. You are always welcome to visit us here. More people need to hear your amazing stories. Together we can invent a Chinese Dream that conveys the best of Asian culture and values but using universal global narratives which the world needs urgently: the focus on family and community, harmony with nature, and sense of discovery and hunger to learn. Come tell us in years to come about the healthy drink you will create to rival Coca Cola and Earl Grey, the sustainable housing to shelter quickly the aspiring millions moving into cities, the wearable technology that will help citizens weather the elements intelligently that might be the next Levi jeans or Burberry, and the energy efficient transport and communications systems that will allow us to work together across distances that are both physical and cultural to rival the Fords and the Apples of the world. And many others that I know you, together with the next generation and us, can create and market.
So thank you for being with us. Thank you to our sponsors for making today possible, particularly the Cheung Kong Business School which I know many CEC members are alumni of, and thank you to UKTI for helping to support our efforts.
You come at a time when in Europe and all around the world, we face great challenges. I believe responsible business leaders such as yourselves can do more to address these problems harnessing your minds, talent and resources working with the rest of the world to come up with the lasting and scalable solutions we require. As Sun Yat Sen and many others believed, enterprise could save China. You have shown they were right.
Today I believe entrepreneurship – whether social, corporate, and civic – can play its part too and help make the world a better place. An impossible dream perhaps? No, a Chinese Dream, after a thirty year Chinese miracle that has lifted millions out of poverty. One which the world can further benefit from and be a part of. One which together we can make a reality.