During my speech to an audience of approximately 100 Chinese business leaders in Beijing last Thursday, I highlighted that ‘our focus is not only on improving the life styles of our people today, but ensuring we leave a legacy we can be proud of for the generations to follow.’
Recognising that ‘doing business’ with the Chinese evokes highly emotive and strong arguments for and against, I believe it is naive to dismiss the potential presented. China is a growing superpower and burying our heads in the sand will be to our detriment. We need to grow understanding and build strong relationships to help ensure any developments in the Far North are appropriate and sustainable. No matter the investor.
The trip to China has given me great insight. I have returned more learned. And recognising the real opportunities, I have also quickly come to the conclusion that we need to be very smart and very clear on the investment we are looking for. We need to clearly articulate where foreign investment can take place and what form this might be in. We need to be clear about what development we want to encourage and what we clearly don’t. This is a district conversation.
As we know, affordability is a real issue here in the Far North and a growing one. We do need to think outside the box and we do need to attract investment. There is real opportunity out of China. However, we need that big plan. A clear, strategic long-term plan that is owned by the people.
One of the things you have to truly admire about the Chinese is their long term-vision, that is clearly articulated. They know where they want to go. And we in turn must be clear on where we want to go, at a district and national level.
We spent some time with Tus-Holdings, the Council’s Memorandum of Intent partner, a subsidiary of Tsinghua University, the most prestigious in China. All the conversations were high level and included an introduction to some of the activities their companies undertake. One of the activities was an incubator business programme for recent graduates.
The second part of our journey was hosted by Government leaders. This saw a half-day presentation to business leaders and sowing seeds around commercial opportunities. Being only the first visit since the signing, there was no detailed discussion around the process moving forward and no agreements were signed by our Council. It was a trip focused on growing understanding and building relationships.
I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity. We were treated with great respect and their hospitality was second to none. I now hold stronger insights, which I intend to grow. This can only assist me in better serving a district I love. It is, and always has been, my desire to see the Far North flourish, to look after our people and our place for now and future generations.