May 7, 2018

挪威 欢迎 您! Nuo Wei Huan Ying Nin! Welcome to Norway!

Illustration: Fredrik Edén

GK is collaborating with Tom Behrens-Sørensen. He established Danish Maersk in Beijing in 1994 and has lived in China since. Tom will help Scandinavian companies in China, while GK will help Chinese companies in Scandinavia. The cultures are different. Thursday May 31st, we invite you to a Norwegian-Chinese breakfast meeting about how the relationships can be built. See the exciting program and sign up here.

The background for the initiative is the normalization between China and Norway in 2017. Today, we are negotiating a free-trade agreement with the Chinese. In 2016, we traded goods and services with China for NOK 105 billion. About three quarters were imports. China is Norway’s most important trading partner in Asia. At the same time, China’s economy has grown, and is now 20 percent­ bigger than the US economy. The Americans are worried. Trump is now trying to reduce the US trade deficit to China by $ 200 billion. The world’s economic center of gravity is shifting from somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to the middle of Kazakhstan.

In fact, this development is a normalization of history. China was always the centerpiece. They invented paper, gunpowder, the printed art and porcelain. And the best poetry! In the early fourteenth century Admiral Zheng He was sent to sea with 300 ships and a crew of 30,000 to map the world. His expeditions made Christofer Columbus’s three boats “Santa Maria”, “Niña” and “Pinta” with crews of under 90 pale in comparison. But Emperor Zhu Di did not think much of the simple foreigners, and China did not become the conqueror of the world. Knowledge-hungry European states however, threw themselves into a colonization project greater than anything before. This was the beginning of a historical exception that has lasted a few hundred years.

Norway has never been the centerpiece. For a long time, Norwegian businesses has had a certain perspective with regards to Chinese trade: Imagine if we just got a minor percentage of the 1.4 billion Chinese to buy a little more salmon, lefse or shipping services. That would be a pretty big number.

They are quite right.

But China is a different country, and quite a few Ola Marco Polo have discovered that things do according to plan when entering Shanghai or Beijing. In Geelmuyden Kiese we understand Scandinavian society and business’, but not Chinese. Therefore, we enter a partnership with the well-reputed Danish businessman Tom Behrens-Sørensen and his company. Tom cofounded both the European-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (EUCCC) and the Danish-Chinese Chamber of Commerce (DCCC). He is one of the Europeans who understands Chinese business’ and society the best.

But China is not only interesting as an export-market for goods and services. With its “One-belt-one road initiative”, the Chinese are among the world’s largest investors. If you want a share in the future porcelain and printing presses you have to trade and invest with China. For example, China is far ahead of the West when it comes to development and use of payment solutions.

In Norway we can’t even build train lines that complete on time. Or roads that can withstand the winter. Or Parliament garages that are adapted to the foundation it is built on. Not to even mention mobile phones. The Chinese can do all this. And if we are willing to pay, they will be happy to help us. But as it’s hard to be a Norwegian entering Shanghai, it’s not always easy for the Chinese entering Oslo either. China is different country. But so is Norway. Therefore, advising Chinese companies in the Norwegian landscape will be a priority for Geelmuyden Kiese.

This happens in a time when the tension between the West and China is increasing. It has become trendy to talk about Thukydid’s trap: when an emerging state challenges an existing power, in 3 of 4 cases it eventually ends in war. It all started when Athens challenged Sparta, and Sparta crushed the newcomer.

Bad news!

In Geelmuyden Kiese, we believe business can be a way out of the trap. Business is wonderful because voluntary business is win-win. We will trade with China because it gains our economy. They will trade with us because it gains theirs. In this honest interaction, there are endless possibilities. A little paper from them and a cheese slicer from us, and great things can happen. To quote Olav H. Hauge, the great Norwegian poet who was inspired by Chinese poetry: Det er den draumen me ber på, at noko vedunderleg skal skje. Translated to: It is on the dream we pray for, that something fantastic will happen.

In this spirit, Geelmuyden Kiese arranges a breakfast meeting on May 31st. You will meet Tom Behrens-Sørensen. You will meet Therese Sollien, commentator at Aftenposten, with a master’s degree in Chinese and International Relations, and Arne Jon Isachsen, Professor of Economics at BI Norwegian Business School. He holds a PhD in Economics from Stanford University, and is an active voice with eminent insight on China. Hopefully, also many of our Chinese friends will come: 挪威 欢迎 您! Nuo Wei Huan Ying Nin! Velkommen til Norge! Welcome to Norway!