Timaru Branch members were fortunate that Alan Young who has more than three decades of commercial and government work experience in Asia and, in particular, China agreed to talk about his experiences during his brief visit to Timaru in August. Strathallan Lifecare kindly made their lounge available for the meeting at short notice. A good attendance of members as well as a number of Strathallan residents enjoyed a stimulating and informative evening.
Alan was raised and educated in Timaru then gained a Master’s degree at the University of Otago.
He has recently returned to Marlborough after spending the past 8 years in China working for New Zealand Trade & Enterprise (NZTE) as Consul General/Trade Commissioner in Guangzhou and latterly, Trade Commissioner in Beijing.
Alan is Blenheim-based and currently operating as a Company Director and Beachheads Advisor for NZTE. He has succeeded in a range of senior business and official positions in Asia including with Westpac Banking Corporation, New Zealand Milk Products (China) Ltd, Sealord Group Ltd, Peterson Asia Ltd, NZTE and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade.
Alan is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese. He is uniquely qualified to demystify business in the Asian region and is highly regarded for his deep knowledge and hands on, practical experience in China business, international sales and marketing, business development, strategic planning, trade diplomacy and exporting.
His links to China go back to 1976 when he spent a year there on a Government Scholarship. Early in his time in China Alan met Rewi Alley, the New Zealander who spent much of his life in China. China was a vastly different country in those times with almost everyone wearing blue or green denim clothes. Alan commented on the vast changes he has seen in China over the years and reminded the audience that NZ’s trade links with China go back many years. Our merchandise exports to China grew 51% last year and it is now our number one export destination ahead of Australia. However, to put things in perspective, 124 other countries also have China as their main export market.
Alan spoke of the complexity of the Chinese market which is actually a multitude of markets and a great diversity of cultures. It is necessary to build relationships with people and build trust before attempting to do business.
China has seen huge changes in recent times with large numbers of people moving from rural areas to large cities in search of a better life. Pollution caused mainly by huge industrial development is a serious problem which the government is trying to address.
Chinese tourists are increasingly seeing New Zealand as an attractive destination but much needs to be done to improve their experience here with much of their time here being organised by Chinese operators who do not always let their clients experience the real New Zealand.
Asked about Sister City relationships Alan commented that this was always going to be problematic because of the huge difference is size between Chinese and New Zealand cities. For instance Timaru with a population of 30,000 is twinned with a Chinese city of 4 million.
At the end of his address Alan responded to many questions from the audience which had obviously been stimulated and challenged by his talk.