Economy & Trade

China Outbound: Low Operational Costs Turn ASEAN into Preferred Destination for Businesses Relocating From China

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Our Latest Round-Up of Business News Affecting China-Based Businesses Investing in Asia

In this edition of China Outbound, we compare the operational costs in Vietnam and China’s Pearl River Delta, one of China’s key engines of growth and a magnet for foreign direct investment (FDI). Vietnam’s lower operational costs and abundant supply of labor make it a top location for manufacturers shifting production capacity. We discuss Thailand and ASEAN countries’ new investment promotion policies and how these will impact foreign businesses looking to relocate from China. Lastly, we take a look at China’s growing ties with ASEAN and Vietnam’s Free Trade Agreement, as well as the the potential benefits of these trade deals for foreign businesses.

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Ningbo: the City that Beat Hong Kong to be the World’s Fourth Busiest Port

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CB-2013-03_Trade-With-ChinaBy Dezan Shira & Associates
Editor: Elizabeth Leclaire

With a GDP of US$122.31 billion in 2014, Ningbo is a major economic hub along China’s eastern coastline. Much of Ningbo’s economic success can be attributed to the city’s ports which connect the Yangtze River Delta to the East China Sea. Over 10.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (teu) passed through Ningbo’s ports from January to June of this year, surpassing Hong Kong’s throughput volume of 10.1 million teu over the same period. Ningbo’s profitable overseas trading sector, in addition to its bustling manufacturing industry, has placed the city among China’s largest commercial centers. Continue reading…

The Cost of Doing Business in ASEAN Compared with China – New Issue of Asia Briefing Magazine

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Cover 250 x 350The newest issue of Asia Briefing magazine, titled “The Cost of Doing Business in ASEAN Compared with China“, is out now and available as a complimentary download in the Asia Briefing Bookstore.

  • Doing Business in China & ASEAN – Land, Labor, GDP Per Capita and Welfare Comparisons
  • Executive Summary – Choosing an Investment Location in ASEAN

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China’s Growing Ties with ASEAN Opens up New Opportunities for Foreign Investment

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In recent years, closer economic links between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has opened up new opportunities for trade and investment between the two. China has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner since 2009, while ASEAN has been the third-largest trading partner of China since 2011, largely thanks to the Free Trade Agreement between the two.

The China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in 2010, is by far the single most important FTA that China has yet reached, and currently the only multilateral one. The agreement is expected to eliminate import-export tariffs and other barriers on some 90 percent of all products traded between China and the ASEAN member states. Bilateral trade between China and ASEAN totaled US$480 billion in 2014, up 8.3 percent from the previous year and growing six-fold from US$78 billion in 2003. This number is expected to reach US$500 billion by the end of this year.

Tensions between China and some of its Southeast Asian neighbors over the South China Sea have been simmering for some time, which may have a negative impact on the relations between China and ASEAN nations.  However, as economic cooperation is further enhanced between the two, we are sure to see significant growth and an investment boom within ASEAN, as outlined in the latest ASEAN Business Optimism Index by Dun & Bradstreet. Below, we break down China’s trade with three ASEAN nations – Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia

Related Link IconRELATED: Why Indian and ASEAN Relations are Set to Prosper


In 2014, bilateral trade between Thailand and China totaled US$63.6 billion, expanding by 39 percent compared with 2010. Both countries’ governments predict this number to reach US$100 billion by 2020. In 2014, China overtook Japan to become Thailand’s largest trading partner. Thailand’s investment in China is currently more than US$6 billion.

Thailand’s National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has approved a US$23 billion project to connect two high speed railways with China’s rail network by 2021. The railway lines will directly link to Kunming, in China’s southern Yunnan province. Constructing these railways in Thailand is part of China’s scheme to build a 3,000km (1,860m) high-speed track stretching from Kunming to Singapore. This railway will pass through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. Further, China has planned to help Thailand build a high-speed railway and upgrade the country’s infrastructure. Under the plan, the more-than-11-hour train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai could be shortened to three hours with China’s high-speed railway technology.

The Philippines

Despite the territorial dispute between the two countries, China and the Philippines’ economic relationship and trade remains stable. Bilateral trade between the two reached US$14.6 billion in 2013, a considerable increase from the total trade of US$ 12.84 billion in 2012. China continues to be an important source of tourists for the Philippines. China ranks fourth in number of tourist arrivals – from January to October in 2014, 354,202 Chinese tourists visited the Philippines – approximately nine percent of overall traffic.

In another move to strengthen the economic ties between the two countries, the Philippines has joined China’s “maritime Silk Road” program proposed by President Xi in 2013, which aims to strengthen economic links, joint infrastructure projects, and cooperation on maritime security between China and its neighbors in the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Related Link IconRELATED: Assessing Foreign Investment Prospects in ASEAN


Malaysia, the first Southeast Asian nation to establish formal diplomatic ties with China, has been China’s top ASEAN Trade partner for six consecutive years. In 2014, bilateral trade between Malaysia and China totaled US$63.5 billion, making China its second-largest trading partner, behind only Singapore. In 2013, Malaysia formally launched the first joint Malay-Sino industrial park in Kuantan (Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park), the state capital of Pahang Province. The new park will be completed by 2020 and is expected to attract in excess of US$1 billion in annual revenues, employing some 5,500 Malay workers. The country is also in negotiations with China about setting up an RMB clearing center


Business Optimism Index

The ASEAN Business Optimism Index, released every quarter by Dun & Bradstreet, is considered a leading economic indicator for turning points in business activity and measuring business sentiment. The Index captures business expectations for the quarter ahead based on six parameters: sales volume, net profit, selling price, new orders, inventory, and employment. Sampling in the Index represents key business sectors including manufacturing, construction, wholesale, transportation, services, finance, mining and agriculture, according to their GDP contribution in each nation.

The ASEAN Business Optimism Index for Q3 2015 is out now and available as a complimentary download in the Asia Briefing Bookstore.

The Shanghai and Guangdong Free Trade Zones: A Comparison

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CB 2014 09_Revisiting the Shanghai Free Trade ZoneBy Elizabeth Leclaire and Rainy Yao

Closely mirroring the structural and legislative policies of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ), the Guangdong Free Trade Zone  was launched in April of this year, along with two other FTZs in Tianjin and Fujian. With Shanghai as the nation’s de facto financial center and Guangdong as one of the world’s major manufacturing and trading centers, both the Shanghai FTZ and Guangdong FTZ have caught the attention of foreign investors seeking to enter a more liberalized Chinese market. While the Shanghai FTZ and Guangdong FTZ are regulated by similar policies, important distinctions exist between the two zones, and foreign investors must be careful to select the location best suited for business needs. Continue reading…

China Outbound: Strengthened Regional Cooperation and Emerging Industries in ASEAN Countries

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Our Latest Round-Up of Business News Affecting China-Based Businesses Investing in Asia

In this edition of China Outbound, we look into the recent development of India and ASEAN nations, their regional cooperation, as well as the improving trade ties between the UK and Vietnam. These also include the current economic relationship between India and ASEAN countries, which presents a multitude of industrial, commercial, and investment opportunities. From here, we move into new opportunities provided for investors seeking to invest in Asia’s emerging industries such as coffee and automobile industries. Lastly, we provide professional tax advice specific to foreign nationals working in India and ASEAN nations.

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Using Virtual Offices to Save Operational Costs in China

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By: Servcorp

With the rising cost of office space in China, many foreign companies are finding it increasingly challenging to find office premises that are affordable and that make a positive impression upon their clients and partners. In response to this challenge, an increasing number of businesses are opting for virtual offices.

A virtual office is an office solution which allows companies to establish a presence in a city — without a dedicated office space. A typical virtual office package includes a local telephone number with receptionist service, a mailing address and access to meeting facilities and boardrooms.

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Opening up a Restaurant/Café in China

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Opening up a Restaurant Café in ChinaBy Kimberly Wright

Many expats in China at one point or another have dreamed about opening up their own restaurant, café, or other sort of food and beverage operation. Away from home too long, perhaps, their sensitive palates will start to miss the tastes of home, inspiring them to invest in China’s food service market. The largest in the world, China’s food service market offers many exciting opportunities for foodies and savvy business people alike, but foreigners can be daunted by the often bureaucratic process of establishing a business in China. In this article, we provide a step-by-step guide to the process involved. Continue reading…

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