The second Sino British Summit took place on the weekend of the 24th of March 2018. Speakers and attendees filled the Rosewood Hotel with lively discussion on the fast pace of digital developments and their impact on finance, education, politics, and e-commerce in China and the UK. The main theme of discussion this year was Digital Dialogue, which focused on the rise of digital technologies and how they can fundamentally change the ways in which international relations are formed and sustained.
Ryan Li, Chairman of the Sino British Summit, opened the weekend with a warm welcome to all attending speakers, delegates, and guests of the event. Joining him, Chris Marlin, the President of Lennar International, endorsed the summit’s discursive platform and expressed the need for finding the ‘connective tissue’ between people, industries, and countries. Beijie Tang, the Managing Director of the Center for China and Globalisation, also took part in opening the weekend by highlighting the role of young leadership in China’s new ‘industrial revolution’.
The first panel featured an engaging discussion on Fintech developments in both China and the UK. The growth of Chinese Fintech start-ups has exceeded those in the US, and according to some, fuelling China to become the most entrepreneurial country in the world. Michael Kuan, the Chairman of Kuan Capital, mentioned that the key underpinnings of Chinese Fintech lie within the competitive markets of China’s consumer-led technology. Kuan claimed that a focus on the wider population, as opposed to just elites, distinguishes Fintech from preceding technologies.
Increased integration of Fintech into daily life has resulted in a surge in investment, paving the way for many Chinese companies to expand abroad. Minister Jiange suggested that growing concerns for data protection and maintaining good digital governance remain a challenge for Chinese Fintech expansion. With regards to data protection and privacy, Ian Hood, the Head of Digital at Fidelity International, believes that Chinese Fintech has actually transformed credit-scoring through new algorithms that utilise unconventional methods to generate a credit score for individuals – ‘a new digital face’. Additionally, Hood contrasted this with the UK’s relatively rigid Fintech industry; unlike China, the UK’s prospects for generating a digitised consumer are slim. Glen Moreno, the Chairman of Virgin Money, built on this point by claiming that the UK’s stringent regulations and the dominance of incumbent banks prevent British Fintech firms from establishing a greater market share. In spite of this, the panellists also explored the future potential of Fintech in China and the UK – especially with regards to the opportunities generated between retail and financial firms.
Following lunch, the second panel presented new technological insights into the education sector. Melody Lang, CEO of Edvinca, moderated this panel, and introduced questions on the evolution of technology in education, as well as the prospects for cooperation in this sector between the UK and China. Although educational technology has been growing, Tony Little, Chief Education Officer of GEMS Education, addressed the need for emphasis on the social dimensions of education; namely, teaching and social skills. In addition, Charles Conn, CEO of The Rhodes Trust, addressed the increasing demand for non-cognitive skills in graduate hiring. Conn proposed that Edtech can support these ‘soft-skills’ in students, whilst also helping them extract knowledge.
Additionally, Alexander Chen, Vice President of Bright Scholar Holdings, addressed the cultural differences in teaching methods between the Chinese and UK education systems. Chen believes that the key differences lie in approaches to inspiring creativity in students. Like Chen, Caroline Wright, the Director General of BESA, believed that there is a lot to learn from both countries. Chinese educators remain interested in learning from British primary education, formative methods of assessment, and the brand development of a school. In addition to this, Chen also believes that technology will have the potential to bridge the gap between rural and metropolitan areas in both countries.
The third panel of the weekend featured an invigorating discussion on the role that digital technology plays in shaping the global political economy. Professor Daya Thussu started the conversation by introducing the ways in which technology has increased interconnectivity, especially the changes in countries’ ability to react in international relations. Rupert Hammond-Chambers, President of the US-Taiwan Business Council, addressed the disruptive nature of social media and the ways it can challenge governments through increased transparency. In addition, social media has changed governing: leaders now have a channel of direct communication to deliver policies and viewpoints to citizens. Panelists also discussed how digital technology has changed bilateral relations between the UK and China. Alan Mak, Conservative Member of Parliament for Havant, highlighted the opportunities for cooperation, advocating a ‘Golden Era 2.0’.
Hugh Findlay, Director of Government Relations, ended the first successful day of the summit with his closing remarks.
On the 25th of March 2018, Duncan McEwan, Director of Development, reconvened the second day of the summit with an opening speech that highlighted how the panels provided delegates with a neutral platform for discussion, and introduced the new Sino British Summit Scholarship programme.
The fourth panel of the weekend focused on the role that digital technology plays in shaping the lives of young business and thought leaders. Vincent Dassault, Founder of London Art Embassy, believes that job opportunities will decline in an age of artificial intelligence, shifting students towards tech-based careers. In addition to this, Dan Choon, Founder of Cycle Group, believes that more technology should be directed towards environmental issues, whilst Susan Zhu, Founder of Shanghai Treasure Carbon, claimed that the carbon emissions market in China is growing immensely, and the United States’ decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement provides new opportunities for Chinese environmental technology. Following this, Tony Gao, Founder and CEO of Easy Transfer, also discussed China’s ‘fourth industrial revolution’ and how it has transformed China’s reputation of being a forward-thinking country.
The final two panels’ discussions revolved around technology in daily life and e-commerce. Maria Sun, Chief Operating Officer of C-trip, discussed the benefits that technology provides in daily life, undoubtedly increasing productivity and efficiency. In the presence of these fast changes, there is also an immense need for innovation to ensure businesses ‘catch up’ with consumer markets. Ray Clacher, Executive Vice President of Trinity group, claims that since millennials and X-gens are dominated by technology, being able to develop innovative methods to integrate technology into retail is key to growing a brand. Ding Ying, Chief Executive Officer of Beijing Qiaowei Group, also raised important insights into how the growth of technology will replace many jobs, but noted that it will also liberate people to do more interesting things at the same time.
This relationship between technology and employment helps explain the increasing demand for robotics. Jacky Wang, Founder of United Capital, discussed how the cost-efficient logistics remain crucial to the success of e-commerce companies. The panelists also discussed the importance of being able to ‘take the best online offline’, ensuring that online retail can translate into physical consumer experiences. Additionally, Tao Jinzhou, Managing Partner of Dechert LLP, brought up several intellectual property concerns that companies face when operating in China. He claimed that the law is lagging behind technological development and that failures often occur before the involvement of law firms. One important debate that he brought up concerning this was whether the flagging of fake products should be conducted manually or automatically.
Vincent Qiu, the Summit’s Co-founder, and Professor Michael Arthur of University College London, formally closed the weekend.
The Sino British Summit hopes to continue to provide a platform for debating diverse ideas, and would like to thank all panelists, media outlets, and attendees for supporting our second event. We hope to see you again next year!