Insight China 2017- An exciting study trip

Author: Diana Jamous

Insights into China’s cultural and economic diversity for FHNW students

30 students and lecturers from the FHNW Schools of Business, Engineering, Life Sciences and applied Psychology visited China for 17 days as part of Insight China 2017

The student-organised study trip mainly focused on transferring knowledge between senior executives, government officials, Chinese universities and FHNW students. This has been an outstanding learning experience, including onsite visits to companies, public institutions and universities. The project, in its 16th year is a highlight for those who are trying to expand their own horizons in a unique way and who would like to discover how Chinese do business in reality.
To learn more about their visits visit their Insight China Blog

Insight China delegation in front of Bühler's offices in Wuxi, China

Insight China delegation in front of Bühler’s offices in Wuxi, China

In addition to the business programme, the students have had the chance to experience ´´Chinese culture and the local lifestyle´´, by visiting the Temple of Heaven, the Great Wall of China in Beijing, trying traditional Chinese food and exploring Beijing, Lanzhou, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Guangzhou and Wuxi. They have also had the opportunity to exchange knowledge with Chinese students, look at innovative technologies and a lot more.



‘‘Insight China 2017 was an extraordinary and unforgettable trip. It was perfectly organized and a good mix between impressive foreign culture and insights into innovative companies. And it was far more; it was a journey of surprises and emotions. As a smoothly functioning team we mastered challenging official and nightly events. It was great to be part of this Insight China team!’’
Prof. Dr. Alex Ringenbach, FHNW School of Life Sciences.


The world's biggest port was one of the highlights of the visit to the Kühne+Nagel subsidiary in Shanghai/China

The world’s biggest port was one of the highlights of the visit to the Kühne+Nagel subsidiary in Shanghai/China

What is Insight China

Insight China is a prestigious project in its 16th anniversary year at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) and offers ambitious students the opportunity to gain insights into China’s cultural and economic diversity. By promoting exchange between professionals and students, both sides benefit from each other through the combination of theory and practical experience. The aim is the transfer of knowledge between the delegation of students and the companies that are involved in the project to create and strengthen the foundation of doing business in China.

Insight China is one of four international student projects organized annually by the FHNW School of Business bachelor students. Read the joint magazine NEXUS.



Diana Jamous

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China’s Two Sessions

Author: Miaomiao Wang

National Two Sessions

The „Two Sessions“ refer to the annual meeting of National People’s Congress (NPC) of the People’s Republic of China and The National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Since the two sessions basically overlap in time, while both are very high in terms of operational importance for the country, it is collectively called Two Sessions.
The National People’s Congress is the supreme body of state authority, and the people elect their representatives through democratic elections to constitute the people’s congress to exercise concentrated state power.
The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference is an important body of the multi-party cooperative political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. Its main functions are political consultation and democratic supervision, to organize participates of all parties, groups and people from all ethnic groups and all walks of life to participate in politics. CPPCC members arise from consultations.
Every five years the two sessions, considered as one period, the annual meeting is called as X Plenary Session of X period. According to the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China, the significance of the „two sessions“ is to collect the information and requirements from the people via people representatives, and convey it to the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist party. The representatives of the „two sessions“ represent the interests of the majority, representing the voters during the two sessions to the relevant government departments to put forward their own suggestions and requests. Annual regional NPC and CPPCC also known as the two sessions, usually held the time before the national „two sessions“.
The 5th Plenary Session of the 12th National People’s Congress opened on 3 March 2017 and The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference opened 5 March 2017; both are in Beijing, China.

National People's Congress NPC, P.R. China

The Third Session of the 12th National People’s Congress NPC, P.R. China

Regional Two Sessions

Heilongjiang Province 2017: Revitalize the real economy
The fundamental goal in 2017 for Heilongjiang province is to improve the competitiveness of the real economy. This is also the first time that Heilongjiang Provincial government work report mentioned the revitalization of the real economy. The real economy is developing relatively slow in Heilongjiang province, and the reasons are both institutional and for unreasonable economic structure. The main factors restricting the development of real economy in Heilongjiang Province are the strong dependence of development path and low level of technological innovation, also the abnormal development of virtual economy have squeezed the space of the real economy development to a certain degree. To thoroughly implement important requirements focusing on revitalizing the real economy, for the real economy in Heilongjiang especially the manufacturing industry that the existence structure has the problem of imbalance and lack of competitiveness and other prominent issues. It is necessary to strengthen the macro guidance in time to give important market signals, also to guide the market focus on market reality, as well as to take effective measures to support, so to fundamentally improve the competitiveness of the real economy. Continue to promote industrial projects, deepen innovation drive. Specific measures can be multi-angle strive; to promote specialized and systematized investment; change the concept of existing enterprises, promote innovation, attract talents, strengthen management; industrializing high-tech achievements; to make full application of new business type and business model; and etc.



Miaomiao Wang
FHNW School of Business / Swiss SME Research Center China

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Can China escape the middle-income trap?

Author: Vannak Im

Innovation and legale frameworks needed

The explosive growth of China over the last three decades has created a middle-income country. However, China did not manage to sustain its previous growth rate in recent years and its government now faces the daunting task of avoiding the middle-income trap: How to remain competitive with higher labour costs.

During the Preparatory Seminar of Insight China, four experts discussed this complex situation: Lukas Züst, Counsel & Head of China Desk at Vischer AG, Elisabeth Tester, Co-Founder ChinaIntelligence, Janwillem Acket, Chief Economist at Julius Bär and Prof. Michael Jeive, Head of the FHNW Swiss SME Research Centre China.


According to Acket, China has reached a crucial period in its economic development. Last year’s growth rate of 6.7% was the slowest pace in more than a quarter century, confirming multiple years of slowdown that impairs its economic transformation. Stuck at the middle-income level, the world’s second largest economy is unable to break through.

“China has entered the first stage out of poverty and the big challenge is, how can it go from its current stage into the next higher level,” Acket said.

He denoted China’s middle-income trap as a dilemma because of its sandwich-position. Due to the exhaustion of cheap labour, China struggles to maintain international competitiveness with low-cost countries. Besides, there is an intense high-tech competition with developed nations, according to Acket.

Meanwhile, the government recognises innovation as the key driving force for China’s further development and placed significant emphasis on science and technology in its 13th five-year plan. “If you look at the five-year plan, there is a clear focus to go away from heavy industries that actually brought China at the forefront, as the largest manufacturer of the world,” Acket noted. In order to overcome the hurdles of the middle-income trap, Tester confirmed the importance of creating an economy based on innovation and technology. “There is one word that characterises the whole discussion and this word is innovation,” Tester said.

Governance of innovation

A critical barrier that China must face before entering the spectrum of technologies is its own governance of innovation. According to Züst, the government identified the areas for improvement and is doing its utmost to strengthen innovation, yet they still want to maintain control and restrict with it the freedom of research. “That is the kind of contradiction that the current system still has,” Züst concluded. “If a government wants to be involved everywhere, it is not very motivating for researchers,” Acket added. “It is going to be crucial for China’s development process into the final stage, that the government allows free zones for research and development.” Furthermore the government is required to develop a legal environment that paves the way for innovation, in particular a functioning intellectual property protection system, according to Züst.

The shift from resource-driven growth to innovation-based growth is undoubtedly a huge challenge for China. However, the panellists are confident that China will move up the income ladder. The government understands what is required to foster innovation and if it also manages to cope with legal certainty, Züst believes, China will not be caught in the middle-income trap.

Author: Vannak Im
FHNW international student project „Insight China“
PR & Communication

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Parallel Market Research in Multiple Chinese Cities – a new research concept

Author: Michael Jeive

The  Swiss SME Research Center China (SSRCC), a center within the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland  FHNW, carries out market research in parallel in multiple Chinese regions leveraging our extensive network of university partners.

Why Carry Out Parallel Market Research in Multiple Chinese Cities?

It is easy to be seduced by the sheer size and apparent potential of the Chinese market. However, in many cases in reality China has multiple overlapping markets and its economy is as varied and complex as that of Europe. Comparing Harbin, Kunming and Shanghai is much like Copenhagen, Cadiz and London, and surely no one would research in Cadiz for a product launch in Copenhagen.

To understand the market potential and market entry modes for a Swiss product or service and to investigate potential market entry modes, the market must be segmented both geographically and by sector. This means finding the right place and the right channels to offer the best chances of success for your products or service.

Would you research in Cadiz for a product launch in Copenhagen?

Let’s consider one example:

Example Findings – Buying Decisions of Retail Cosmetics Customers

Customer preferences and buying behaviours are significantly different in Shanghai and Harbin and also amongst high and mid income buyers. Customers in Harbin respond to cosmetic products in a different way and use quite different criteria and process in the buying decision. Importantly, cities like Shanghai which are most developed are also the most contested and challenging markets while growth potential in many Tier 2 cities is strong and competition still comparatively weaker offering solid opportunities for those companies able to take them. Such data is vital for companies to developing marketing and communication strategies and enables targeted regional activities helping to segment and respond to large and complex market.

Selected cities within easy travelling distance of an FHNW School of Business partner (cities in bold are home to an SSRCC partner, others are within easy travel distance of a partner)

Parallel Market Research Process

Market research is conducted in parallel in several economic regions in China to support SMEs in their decision-making. This is made possible by the FHNW School of Business university network in China. Working with local university partners we also learn more about the local markets and the economic environment in China, ensure our researchers have local knowledge and minimise the potential impact of western researchers influencing the responses of the interviewees.

Swiss Concepts Applied Internationally

The initial market research concepts for the Chinese market are developed individually for each customer in Switzerland, then approved by the customer and tested locally in China by a local partner university to ensure user friendliness and data reliability. After the test phase, the adapted concept is approved again by the customers before the Chinese partners are trained in the research instruments.

This method ensures that each customer works with a project manager who understands the local position of the company in Switzerland and can guarantee that all confidential and sensitive data remain in Switzerland in order to minimise risk. At the same time, the quality of the research is maximized by taking advantage of local insights and the knowledge of the Chinese partners. This process ensures the reliability and clarity of the method for the entire geographically defined market research area in China. Once the research data have been collected in China, they are delivered to Switzerland for data analysis and reporting.

Lower Costs Thanks to Local Partners, Increased Benefits for Swiss Students and Academics

Our new market research method also means that the costs can be kept lower thanks to our local partners and the possibility to test the concept simultaneously in several Chinese cities spread over a larger area. This new method also strengthens and intensifies the cooperation with our local university partners. This results in additional research ideas and joint academic research contributions.

As a University of Applied Sciences and Arts, it is central to our function that we pass on our knowledge to our students in the classroom so that they are prepared for their future employment are more valuable employees for Swiss enterprises especially those operating in global markets now or in the future.

The Swiss SME Research Center China (SSRCC)

The SSRCC’s mission is to promote information and technology exchange and bring together industry partners from Switzerland and China to build cooperation and innovation. The SSRCC provides Swiss enterprises, especially SMEs, with a viable opportunity to gain a market presence in China while offering their Chinese counterparts the same possibility in Switzerland.    The SSRCC is part of the the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz FHNW, School of Business and provides services in the area of ​​business consulting and market research for Swiss and Chinese enterprises as well as joint research and executive development programmes with Chinese university partners. We are currently working on a number of market research assignments for medium-sized companies from the region of northwest Switzerland. The FHNW University of Applied Sciences has maintained an intensive exchange with companies from various sectors, renowned universities and important authorities in China for over 25 years. These relationships are used to foster the exchange of knowledge and business relations between Switzerland and China. In this way, we are able to improve the professional abilities of our students and help deliver opportunities for Swiss companies in the Chinese market.


Prof. Michael Jeive
Head of Swiss SME Research Center China
University of Applied Sciences Northwerstern Switzerland
FHNW School of Business

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Impressions from the Gansu International Fellowship Program GIFP

Author: Stephan Jüngling

The „One belt one road“ initiative

A new boost for mutual exchange between China and Europe might come from implementing the 21st century “One Belt One Road” initiative first formulated by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013. This vision aims to rebuild the ancient Silk Road spirit of cultural and economic exchange with modern high speed train infrastructure, new energy transmission lines and digital networking technology. Gansu is rich in cultural resources and historical heritage sites. Gansu’s central geographical location provides many beautiful landscapes for tourism. Dunhuang is ready to conduct a series of annual international cultural expositions that started in September 2016. Their goal is to further promote cultural exchange and support mutual learning among all the countries along the New Silk Road.

The Gansu International Fellowship Programm GIFP

In November 2016, the GIFP took place for the 11th time with the goal to strengthen the ties of mutual understanding and friendship between the East and the West. It is sponsored by the People’s Government of Gansu Province and undertaken by the Foreign Affairs Office of Gansu Provincial Government. It provides a great opportunity for the delegates to learn about Gansu and China from the 8000-year-old roots of the ancient Silk Road up to the New Economic Road And Belt Initiative to be implemented during the next few years.

The GIFP agenda includes

  • Facilitating bilateral exchange
  • Exploring common development potential in the fields of economy, trade, tourism, science and technology
  • Lectures about cultural, economic, political and ecological development
  • Visits to universities and vocational training institutions, companies and public institutions
  • Trips to other cities and heritage sites in Gansu

During this one-month programme, 26 delegates from 18 different countries were invited to learn and deepen their understanding about Gansu and China from a wide variety of different perspectives. We had lectures about the evolution of Chinas political system with the different approaches and influences from foreign monarchies over multi-party systems having more than 400 different parties up to today’s central communist party system. Other lectures were about the economic development of the Gansu province which ranges from being one of the most important locations of the ancient silk road during the Han dynasty, up to the fact that Gansu is currently the second poorest province of China but is in a very good position to play a major role in the context of the New Economic Road and Belt Initiative again.

Agriculture is an important industry sector in this area having a long history and expertise of farming and raising animals. Gansu has 250 million hectares of agricultural land with an annual meat production of 750’000 tons and 790 tons of grain. The corn seedling industry is very strong in the Hexi Corridor, which produces over 50% of corn for the entire country. Lanzhou is also well known as a “city of fruits and melons”. Since the weather is very dry, water saving and water efficiency technology are very important issues for Gansu and are subject of close collaboration with Israel.


The Yellow River which flows through the centre of Lanzhou also plays an important role for the city and its environs. Tourists marvel at the riverside waterwheel park with its 20m high wooden, fully functioning waterwheels that demonstrate ancient methods of  agricultural production and irrigation. The nearby parks also serve as recreation areas and are used very actively by the people of all ages with even the very elderly enjoying the many physical exercising tools or practicing Tai Chi while others dance, sing or play cards together. Even strangers like myself are very quickly invited to join them for ping pong or badminton.






Lanzhou, a city with 2.4 million people, is the capital of Gansu province with its 26 million inhabitants and 56 different ethnic nationalities, I experienced a welcome as warm as your home village. Even if the language barrier seems to be very high, little tools on the smart phone help a lot to do a minimum of conversation. Tools such as translation apps are indispensable since not many people in shops can speak English. But in most cases, the staff in the shops tried to organize someone who does speak English, be it a client that just happens to be in the shop or English speaking staff from the shop next door.

In addition to the formal lectures we Gansu International Fellows enjoyed many on-site visits to privately-owned companies or institutions like the traditional Chinese medicine TCM center or the Lanzhou 3D digital center, which is the public service center operating 48 different service hotlines for the city. We also visited the monitoring system room, with a large wall with dozens of screens where employees observe pictures from all the live webcams distributed across the four main districts of Lanzhou city.

In order to understand the vision of Gansu it is important to understand its history. As part of the ancient Silk Road Gansu lay on the nexus of the the cultural exchange between China, India, Central Asia and the European countries which lasted for more than ten dynasties. We visited the Gansu Provincial Museum, which has 19 exhibition halls with state-of-the art facilities and cabinets with touchscreen functionality that allows visitors to interact with the different tools.

One of the highlights was the excursion to Dunhuang and the Mogao Grottoes, located 1100 km north west of Lanzhou, covering 735 caves, 45’000 m2 of murals and 2415 earthenware sculptures that constitute the largest and richest site of Buddhist cave art content existing in the world.






China International Friendship Cities Conference 2016

A special honour for me was to go to the China International Friendship Cities Conferences 2016 in Chongqing, an international biannual event where the Gansu Province and the Canton Solothurn got an award for their mutual and outstanding bilateral friendship and cooperation. The truly international atmosphere with all distinguished guests and excellences from 600 partner cities from 154 different countries was overwhelming.





Gansu is ready for economic development and is investing a lot in cultural exchange and mutual understanding. With high speed trains you will be able to reach major cities like Shanghai or Beijing within 4 hours. China has already become the 2nd largest economy of the world in a very short period of time. Reaching Rotterdam from Shanghai by high speed trains rather than by ship will have further game-changing effects on the European market. We should be careful to understand the global challenges and changes of today and be prepared to contribute to a sustainable future and global vision of tomorrow.


Dr. Stephan Jüngling
Lecturer Business Information Systems

Dr. Stephan Jüngling ist auch Projektleiter des 4-tägigen Seminars „Doing Business in China

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Erster offizieller Besuch einer swissuniversities-Delegation in China

Eine Delegation von swissuniversities, bestehend aus sechs Vertretern von Schweizer Universitäten bzw. der EPFL Lausanne und Ruedi Nützi, Direktor der Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW als Vertreter der Schweizer Fachhochschulen, besuchte im Dezember 2016 in Peking, Shanghai und Shenzhen 14 chinesische Universitäten. Es handelte sich um den ersten offiziellen Besuch einer Delegation von swissuniversities in China. Dies in der Absicht, die von Bundespräsident Schneider-Ammann und Staatspräsident Xi Jinping beschlossene strategische Partnerschaft im Bereich Innovation zu konkretisieren.

swissuniversities Delegation 2016 bei Huawei

swissuniversities Delegation 2016 bei Huawei

Die chinesischen Partner zeigten grosses Interesse an einer Zusammenarbeit mit der Schweiz und mit Schweizer Universitäten und Hochschulen. Auch das spezifische Profil der Fachhochschule fand grosses Interesse, geht es doch in allen Volkswirtschaften um die Praxisorientierung der Wissenschaft. Die Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW unterhält bereits rege Kontakte zu nicht weniger als 10 Universitäten in China. In dem Sinn war z.B. der Delegations-Besuch an der Shanghai University of Finance and Economics SUFE ein Heimspiel für Ruedi Nützi: Die Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW plant zurzeit mit der SUFE neue Programme in den Bereichen Innovation und Entrepreneurship sowie Forschungs-Kollaborationen und in Zukunft Executive Development Programmes (EDP). Zudem hatte Ruedi Nützi im Juli 2016 an der Summer School der SUFE unterrichtet. Ein weiterer wichtiger Output des Delegations-Besuchs im Dezember 2016 war für die Hochschule für Wirtschaft FHNW u.a. die Aufnahme von Beziehungen zur Central University of Finance and Economics CUFE in Peking.

Solche Universitäts-Partnerschaften sind von entscheidender Bedeutung für eine moderne, international-orientierte Fachhochschule. Durch die Kollaborationen werden neue Kenntnisse generiert, und wir können das gewonnene Wissen an unsere Studierenden weitergeben, die sich in ihrem zukünftigen beruflichen Alltag in einem globalisierten Umfeld bewegen werden. Die Partnerschaften ermöglichen auch Austauschsemester an chinesischen Universitäten für unsere Studierenden, die sich dadurch neue soziale und kulturelle Kompetenzen aneignen können. Unsere vertieften Marktkenntnisse und das Ökonomieverständnis in China  teilen wir auch mit unseren Wirtschaftspartnern, um sie in ihren China-Aktivitäten zu unterstützen. Mehr Informationen dazu erhalten Sie auf unserer SSRCC-Website.

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Winter sports market in China

The 1st China International Winter Sports Industry Conference and Exhibition in Beijing provided an overview of the Chinese winter sports market in the run-up of the Olympic Winter Games 2022 in Beijing. With the right know-how and the right partners, there are a lot of opportunities for collaborations and business opportunities for Swiss companies.

wintersport1This autumn the first China International Winter Sports Industry Conference and Exhibition took place in Beijing. The organization was supported by several Swiss organizations like the Swiss Embassy, Swiss Business Hub, SwissCham Beijing and Switzerland Tourism. But also the embassies of France, Austria, Finland and Germany and the tourism bureaus of France, Finland and Italy belonged to the supported organizers. Around 500 participants, interested in winter sports, attended the conference. Three European countries – Austria, Finland and Switzerland – hat the opportunity to present their countries and ski resorts at the conference. The European tourism experts experience a real skiing fever in China since the 2022 Olympic Games announcement and Swiss companies should grab the opportunity for extending their business activities to China.

wintersport2In developing ski areas, China can learn a lot from the European countries with mountains and a long tradition in ski tourism. But we also can learn a lot from the Chinese in using devices. The presented Virtual Reality technology could possibly be interesting to prepare for extreme skiing or freestyle skiing. But it is not only in VR technology where Switzerland can learn from China. The Chinese ski industry uses more modern technologies to enhance the skiing experience. There are many apps helping skiers with various steps of the experience.

Overview sport market in China

The conference provided an overview of the Chinese sports market. Chinese consumers in cities spend around 30% of their disposable income on sport related activities and products. This is equivalent to a real market value of approx. 7,4 billion RMB per year, mostly on football related activities. But there is an increasing high potential in winter sports regarding the Olympic Winter Games 2022 in Beijing.

Over the last several years the sport market grew by 17% per year. It is expected that by the year 2025 500 million people will be involved in jobs that have some relationship to sports. In the last few years tourism as a whole but also the winter tourism has become a mass product. Tourism will become the biggest driver of economic growth in this decade. But companies should start focusing on niche markets to generate the high profits. This might help Swiss companies that are already operating within a niche market. It might be better to increase the services and linked to that the quality instead of growing in size as the increased quality can lead to a more sustainable profit increase.

The Chinese target group

Chinese people who visit a ski resort actually do not only want skiing, therefore Ice and Snow theme parks are needed. Many of the guests want to spend more than one day in a resort, which requires a suitable hospitality concept and the resorts have to become multimode as most of the resorts only generate about 40% of their income with skiing. So far China has only a few ski resorts and they are quite small. Most of the ski resorts are situated in the Dongbei region which includes the province of Heilongjiang.

wintersport4Only 0,4% of the Chinese population currently ski (compared to 2,5% in the US or 20% in Norway), but the number is expected to rise sharply as 2022 approaches. Most of the skiers practiced skiing the first time and 80% of the people only ski once a year. China will improve the skiing experience online and offline. The online experience is an easy one as it quite cheap. The offline experience of course is more expensive as the whole infrastructure has to be set up. But for Swiss companies the offline infrastructure provides a lot of opportunities for collaborations.

Experts in Chinese winter sport resorts

wintersport9An experienced manager of ski resorts is Mr Benno Nager from Secret Garden Resorts. He shared his experiences at the conference. After many years in Switzerland and the US he was hired to manage the Secret Garden Resort in China. This resort is part of the planned Olympic village for the Nordic and Freestyle skiing events. From his experience an important part of a successful resort is its environment. It is useful to build a resort out of existing villages as they have already the needed infrastructure. He pointed out to the fact that if people are living in the village all year round the existing economy will ensure a more sustainable resort. The Olympic village will be built from scratch but if China learns from good and bad examples of ski resorts they can succeed nonetheless. And there are a lot of business possibilities for Swiss companies.

Mr Vincent Vahramian, a ski slope and ski resort architect who worked on approx. 30 resorts in China said, that due to the high percentage of people who spend only one day in a resort, the resorts should not offer too many activities for individuals but rather focus on family activities. If a family spends one day in a resort they would normally not attend individual activities but stay together. Physical activities rather than cultural, such as museums, increase the willingness of returning to the resort. And the resorts should rather focus on events and activities that create a certain atmosphere. This will encourage people to repeat their visits, too.


If a Swiss company would like to analyse or try their market entry into the winter sport market in China, we are happy to help. For those who would like to attend the 2nd China International Winter Sports Industry Conference and Exhibition in 2017, safe the date: 20 – 22 September 2017 in Beijing.


You might also be interested in:
Beijing Olympics 2022 Fact Finding Mission
13. – 15.2.2017 in Beijing
read more…

China Ski Industry White Book
Author: Wu Bin / Wei Qinghua
read more… (PDF)

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Last week, over 100 guests from universities across China travelled to Switzerland, specifically to the FHNW in Olten for the 2016 International Conference on Management Science and Engineering. This is the 23rd time that the conference has been held by the Harbin Institute of Technology, but the first time that there has been a joint organising and academic committee and an international partner (FHNW) playing such a central role.

IMG_9796.RMX cropped

Some of the authors and guests take a photo break during coffee at the opening ceremony

Over 100 presentations took place with papers being submitted by (mostly) lecturers and doctoral students from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin Engineering University, Fudan University, Beijing Foreign Studies University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Beijing Institute of Technology, Nan Kai University, Shanghai Maritime University, Southeast University, Hangzhou Dianzi University, Northeastern University at Qinhuangdao, Center for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development, Geneva , Shenyang University of Technology, Nanjing Audit University, Beijing Decision-making Consultant Center, China University of Mining &Technology, Dalian University of Technology, Hohai University, as well as universities from South and South East Asia.


The Vice President of HIT (foreground) and Dean of HIT School of Management discuss the keynote speeches

Distinguished Guests

The conference also included speeches from Professors Dr. Ruedi Nützi and Professor Dr. Rolf Schaeren (School of Business, FHNW, Switzerland); Counselor XI Ru, Education Section, Embassy of The Peoples’ Republic of China in Switzerland; Professor Qiang Ye, Dean School of Management, Harbin Institute of Technology, P.R.China; Professor Gus Gaynor, IEEE Technology Management Council, USA; Beatrice Ferrari Ph.D., Deputy Head International Relations, State Department for Education Research and Innovation; Nektarios Palaskas, Ph.D., Head of Science, Technology and Education Section, Swiss Embassy in the People’s Republic of China.

Our two distinguished keynote speakers for the opening ceremony were Professor Doug Vogel, Harbin Institute of Technology, P.R.China and Professor Dr. Xinhua Wittmann, School of Business, FHNW.


We were treated to some excellent papers from both experienced and younger academics and all of those who took part gained valuable input.

Challenging Research Topics

For the SSRCC, it was wonderful opportunity to bring together academics from China and Switzerland to investigate research in the areas of:

  • Big Data and Business Analytics
  • Enterprise Ecosystem and Enterprise Strategy in the Context of Big Data I
  • Challenges of Cross-Border Collaboration
  • Financial Innovation and Risk Management
  • Health Care Dynamics and Solutions in Changing Societies
  • Strategy and Innovation Management
  • Urban Development and Governance

To wrap up the conference, we hosted a workshop on Transfer Research into Practice: Creating Actionable Management Knowledge.

The SSRCC’s mission is to “promote information and technology exchange and bring together industry partners from Switzerland and China to build cooperation and innovation. The SSRCC provides Swiss enterprises, especially SMEs, with a viable opportunity to gain a market presence in China while offering their Chinese counterparts the same possibility in Switzerland.”

Building Sustainable Academic Partnerships

A conference like this allows us to build stronger relationship with business schools across China and opens myriad opportunities to generate and disseminate  knowledge for key FHNW stakeholders including local industry partners,local public sector partners, local civil society partners e.g. chambers of commerce, students at FHNW, continuing education students, FHNW staff.

We plan to follow-up the conference by working towards joint research and publications on business environment, market entry, effective business models, cross-border collaboration in China so that we can further support Swiss and Chinese companies and institutions through our local networks with Government, industry and academic partners in China and Switzerland as well as cooperating with partner universities to develop programmes to ensure that the knowledge we generate is shared widely.

This quick post is mostly to say thanks to all of those who worked so hard to make the event a success including the whole SSRCC team and all our colleagues at HIT.

It’s great to report that the conference was a great success and we’re looking forward to taking part again in 2017.

More photos of the conference


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Chinese social media channels outstripped the western well-known channels

workshop1Everyone is currently talking about digital marketing. But using digital marketing as a communication tool in the Western world of business is not the same as in China as the tools, the users and the environment are radically different. At the same time, Chinese people are very advanced in using Social Media. With the Workshop „Digital Marketing in China“ Ms Dr. Chun Chen introduced the workshop audience to the most common Chinese digital marketing channels.

At the beginning of social media a lot of Chinese channels were just a copy of western channels like YouKu for YouTube, Baidu for Google, but this comparison is no longer valid. Nowadays the Chinese channels combine a lot more services in one channel compared to their western counterparts. As an example Ms Chen introduced  the most important channel in China, WeChat. At the beginning WeChat was the counterpart of WhatsApp. Nowadays WeChat offers similar services like WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype, Browser, Google Maps, Paypal and Uber, all of them combined in one single channel. Therefore western companies who want to reach their  desired Chinese target group, must understand  the Chinese handling with social media and the functions of Chinese social media channels first and then choose the right channel. Usually the first decision will be if you need an e-commerce channel for selling products or a news channel to make your company or brand better known.workshop2

The speaker Ms Dr. Chun Chen is the Digital Media Project Leader at Swatch Group in Biel-Bienne and is a profound expert in Chinese digital marketing.






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Change and Transition in Challenging Times – A Journey Through Heilongjiang

During a twelve-day journey through Heilongjiang in January 2016, staff from the Swiss SME Research Center China (SSRCC) visited Harbin, Yabuli and Qiqihaer to learn about economic development in the region and to identify potential collaboration and partnership opportunities for Swiss companies. We saw wonders and weakness, hope and signs of trouble. Heilongjiang is clearly a province of massive potential, but needs the right investment, policies and commercial partners if it is to flourish. In many ways this is not atypical, the recent KPMG China Outlook 2016 argues that “China’s transition from an investment and export-led growth model to one driven by consumption and innovation has led to the emergence of a two-track economy. The first track, in basic manufacturing and traditional industries, is experiencing significant headwinds, while the second, in services, advanced manufacturing and consumer markets is exhibiting strong growth potential”. These two tracks were both clearly visible during our journey through Heilongjiang.

In Harbin, we visited the Provincial Government, partner organisations and our key University partner in the province, but also had detailed meetings with Wanda Dalian about their huge new Harbin Wanda Cultural Tourism City development. In Yabuli, we visited the Yabuli Ski Resort and in Qiqihaer we focussed on industry and agriculture.


Heilongjiang in winter is a remarkable place, with temperatures in falling to -35°C, it is justly famous for the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival and a wonderland for winter sport enthusiasts with Yabuli, one of Asia’s top winter sport resorts only 150 km from the city of Harbin, set in the former Qing Dynasty Royal Hunting Grounds. Qiqihaer is one of the oldest cities in the northeast of China, it was originally an important border town with excellent pastures, developed in to a military outpost and trading centre. Throughout our visit, the increasing interest in winter sports especially skiing and snowboarding was an ever-present theme.

In Harbin, the Wanda Group is investing RMB 40bn (over CHF6bn) in the ‪ Harbin Wanda Cultural Tourism City. This is a major development for the Song Bei area of Harbin and the city as a whole. The Harbin Wanda Cultural Tourism City boasts the world’s longest indoor ski slope (significantly longer than the present number one in Dubai), a competition level skating rink, a 7D cinema (Wanda is the world’s biggest cinema owner), multiple hotels from 6* to 4*, leisure facilities and parks and housing for up to 1m people, schools, healthcare…in fact, just take a couple of minutes to check out the video to get an idea of the full scope of the development.


The Harbin Wanda Cultural Tourism City is the first of eleven planned Wanda Cultural Tourism Cities across China aiming to benefit from growth in the services sector, especially in leisure and tourism activities. The City caters to a catchment area including North Eastern China, Russia and Mongolia and adds to Harbin’s tourism and leisure industry which is already highly successful through the Ice and Snow Festival, its natural resources and unique landscapes and other iconic developments such as the remarkable new Opera House designed by MAD Beijing.

Opera House in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province

Harbin Opera House

Qiqihaer is the second largest city and third largest local economic center in Heilongjiang, and enjoys a beautiful location in the fertile plains of the River Nen which are ideal for agriculture and has developed significant organic and dairy sectors. It boasts nationally important nature reserves, especially wetlands, which are home to cranes and other rare species.

Its industries range from heavy engineering, steel, mining chemicals and nuclear. Situated close to borders with Russia and Mongolia it is also an important logistics hub and the new high-speed rail links the city to Harbin, Beijing, and all major Chinese cities; Inner Mongolia as well as a planned high-speed link to the Russian railway network. The airport will soon have direct flights to Japan and Russia. It has invested significantly in energy projects with eight new wind farms as well hydroelectric and other renewables.

Delegation visits in Qiqihaer, Heilongjiang Province

Delegation visits Qiqihaer

During tour time in Qiqihaer, we visited two major industrial plants. The first producing machine tools for a range of heavy engineering clients globally. The company currently exports to Europe, South America throughout Asia and into Africa. The second was a producer of steel parts which produced bogies for Chinese high-speed trains amongst a range of other transport related products. The visits took place only two weeks before the Spring Festival celebrations, but nonetheless the quietness of parts of the factories was evident. There have been reports of a significant slowdown in heavy engineering production and in recent quarters, the China Caixin Manufacturing PMI (PMI) has not been encouraging reading.

In many ways Qiqihaer seems to embody the challenges facing China today. Its traditional heavy industry is struggling, and while there are plans to develop tourism, increase renewable energy and promote green agriculture and technologies, these new projects must find investment at a time when the existing traditional industrial base is under significant pressure.


Caixin China PMI Index

The challenges facing Heilongjiang in particular, but also much of China, are significant, but so are its resources and capabilities. While the scare stories about stock market meltdown or looming debt crisis appear mostly overhyped (the importance of the market and the nature of the debts often being overlooked); it is clear the challenges of transitioning from an investment-led to consumption-led economic model have been greater exacerbated by the current global economic environment featuring minimal growth in Europe, Japan and many of China’s key markets; relatively fragile growth in the USA ahead of the election cycle and increasing political risk.

The Provincial Government are increasingly sponsoring new programmes to support entrepreneurship and new private companies while at the same time having to reduce investment non-performing SOEs. Traditional jobs are being lost, but new service sector jobs created. The economic landscape of Heilongjiang is transforming itself and in the process creating opportunities for partnership and investment for those international companies willing to invest the necessary time and expertise.

Heilongjiang is perhaps not the ideal place for first time internationalisation, but for those companies who have experience in building organisations in emerging markets and whose products or services are needed in the region, there is support and potential.

The Harbin WANDA Cultural Tourism City


The SSRCC has been asked to support the Harbin Wanda City Investment Co Ltd project in identifying potential partners for a planned “Swiss Area” of up to 10,000 square metres and at least 2000 square metres. The area is in the hotel and office building complex adjacent to the main ski slope, ice rink and shopping mall, but is designed as a separate building. The building has already attracted interest from development agencies and companies in China and beyond. The development also includes high-class residential developments and expects to attract a large number of affluent residents.

The Harbin Wanda City Investment Co Ltd has identified a number of possible sectors which may be of interest.

  • Winter Sports Equipment and Winter Holidays
  • Travel and Tourism
  • Health and Beauty
  • Watches and Luxury Brands
  • Financial Advice
  • Food and Beverages

Yabuli Ski Resort

Skiing in Yabuli, Heilongjiang Province

Skiing Yabuli

Yabuli is a truly beautiful location and one that is growing fast with new hotels (including European-owned), a growing customer-base, new housing developments and plans to create new pistes and lifts and with a growing summer tourist programme centred around cycling, hiking and a “water fun” park as well as interest in developing wellness and spa facilities. It is and will remain a premier resort for affluent Chinese. Yabuli is also a key training centre for the Chinese Olympic team.

In detailed discussion with officials and administrators from the Yabuli Ski Resort administration and local government officials, the following ideas for collaboration were presented to us.

  • Investigate Swiss suppliers of winter sport clothing and equipment for Yabuli, both as sales and potentially production base
  • Seek piste design experts for further development of Yabuli Ski Resort
  • Management training – delegation of Yabuli managers to visit Swiss resorts to learn more about Alpine management systems
  • Investigate potential partners for development of health, wellness and spa facilities

Yabuli plans to ensure its continued success through investment in infrastructure, people and events becoming a national centre of excellence for winter sport technologies and engineers. It already has the latest equipment whether lifts from Doppelmayr and the cabins produced in Olten by CWA, up to date ski cannons (over 40 units). The Yabuli China Entrepreneurs Forum ( Chinese only) has been held since 2011 and is one of the country’s most important business events.


During our meetings we spoke to the city’s Commercial Bureau, Development and Reform Commission, and Human Resources and Social Security Department. In these meetings we learnt that the city and its regions had identified a number of priorities which they believed might be relevant for potential Swiss partners including:

  • Updating and improving factory machinery and processes e.g. CNC machines and modern computer controlled production
  • Support development of processing ad value-added activities in agricultural sector especially to produce high value products for health foods, vitamin production etc.
  • Investigate export opportunities for agricultural products; oil drills and equipment; large-scale factory machines, cranes etc.;
  • Improving skills for traditional producers e.g. in organic farming methods
  • Investigate potential investors in local Qiqihaer business including production of sporting equipment, skates etc.
  • Seek potential expert advisors for planned ski resort south-west of Qiqihaer

Professor Michael Jeive

The Swiss SME Research Center China (SSRCC) acts as a service platform for Chinese SMEs from Heilongjiang respective Swiss SMEs, to provide valuable and strong business connections with possible partner companies, providing information, guidance, market research and offering a platform in introducing possible products and services. Additionally, the concept of training and research in the field of international management as well as a mutual exchange between lecturers and students of universities in Harbin and FHNW are offered as well as the possibility for mutual research projects. SSRCC is operated from Olten in Switzerland and Harbin in China.

The Swiss SME Research Center China was set up in 2013 as a joint project between the Provincial Government of Heilongjiang Province and the FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland School of Business. The roots of our cooperation lie in strong personal ties to the most senior officials including the current Party Secretary and our history of delivering programmes to support government and economic development in China. Since the launch of the Center over 300 Heilongjiang business leaders have participated in our programmes building a formidable alumni group.


Prof. Michael Jeive

Managing Director SSRCC

Swiss SME Research Center China SSRCC

University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland

FHNW School of Business

Riggenbachstrasse 16, 4600 Olten, Switzerland

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