Aston Business School, Aston University, Birmingham, June 2019

Andy Street, West Midlands Mayor, Liam Byrne MP and Beverley Nielsen (Director of Institute for Design and Economic Acceleration, Birmingham City University) were keynote speakers at an event on 25 June 2019 to encourage more businesses in Birmingham and the West Midlands to trade with China. Challenges were put to them in a “Question Time” type session, including around the deep reasons for other countries’ (such as Germany) successes, visas, language training and local concerns around JLR.

The event at Aston Business School was organised by the Birmingham China Business Forum. Zo Hoida, President, opened the Conference by saying that some urgency needs to be brought to the debate over how the region trades with China. Whilst the West Midlands has a trade surplus with China this is heavily dependent upon automotive sales and the event helped open the eyes of businesses in other sectors to the potential of the multi-billion-pound Chinese market.

In breakout sessions for:

  • Built Environment
  • Creative Industries and Tourism
  • Education
  • Life Sciences, Health and Social Care
  • Manufacturing and Technology; and
  • Professional Services

Local businesspeople, academics and students came together and discussed the current situation, learning and action points that need to be followed up to achieve the delivery of a Strategy for China for the West Midlands.

Throughout the event a theme developed of how important culture and openness are to make the best of the opportunities. Birmingham China Business Forum ( provides a forum for open discussion between all businesses in order to collaborate and learn from and has a fully diverse membership. The event closed to a buzzing atmosphere of networking over refreshments sponsored by Birmingham Airport.

The Roads to China conference proved the value of people from across different sectors meeting to share knowledge and experiences in working in China. Together we are stronger, and there is so much more we can do collaboratively as a City and as the West Midlands in China” said Saskia Loer Hansen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor International, Aston University

We need to improve our understanding of potential markets, not just in China but also Belt and Road countries.  We also need to build for the long term by strengthening cross-cultural and civic relationships, mutual understanding and trust between ourselves and China.”

Yeow Poon Chair of Chinese Community Centre-Birmingham and President of England China Business Forum

I am delighted that Andy Street and other politicians, academics and business institutions have given the Forum their support to enable us to put this Conference together which is the first step to a more detailed and focused China strategy for the West Midlands,” said Zo Hoida, President of the Birmingham China Business Forum and a partner at the Birmingham office of law firm Browne Jacobson.

The conference is a really good start, however, we need to make more efforts from both the public and private sectors to further strengthen trade and investment relationships between the West Midlands and China.” Angela Huang, Vice President of Birmingham China Business Forum and Chair of Chinese Future.