Top tips about entering the Chinese market from our team at the Beijing Expo 2019


A reverence for gardens is something that we in the UK have in common with our friends in China and the Chinese market. Though we approach them differently, through this mutual love we find a connection from which we can learn about working together.

Siyuan Ren, Communications Consultant works in gigCMO’s sister company assisting clients to establish a dialogue with Chinese consumers. This year she managed the UK Garden and Pavilion at the celebrated Beijing International Horticultural Expo 2019 on behalf of the DIT and the British Embassy in Beijing.

Here she explains how the experience embodied three important takeaways to help all businesses looking to enter the Chinese market…

The UK Garden and Pavilion won the Grand Award at the Beijing International Horticultural Expo 2019, which is outstanding as there were 262 pavilions eligible. Qatar was also a winner and are the hosts of the next International Horticultural Expo.

Over 162 days, under an extremely tight budget, the Pavilion welcomed 1.1 million visitors and the team organised 28 business and consumer events. They were in agri-tech, sports, green finance, green technology, children embracing nature, education and food and drinks. In addition, there were six art and technology exhibitions, two UK ministerial visits, and countless international ambassadorial meetings. Of course, Britain’s “Green Is Great” campaign was also launched.

Looking back at those 162 days presenting the UK in China, there are three key learnings from working at UK Garden and Pavilion at Beijing International Horticultural Expo 2019:

1. The Chinese market loves the UK

Despite of the political turbulence, Chinese people and the Chinese market perceives the UK as a country with advanced innovation, great IP (the UK’s admired creative enterprises include Peppa PigPaddington BearPeter RabbitGame of Thrones, the Premier League and Wimbledon, to name a few). The UK is seen as one of the world’s leading financial centres, and it is at the forefront of environmental protection. Although it was a horticultural expo, there were so many visitors eager to know more about Britain. British people and businesses should be proud that they have so much to offer to the world and at the time of Brexit, and should look beyond Europe.

2. Tell the story right

Chinese peoples’ impression of a British garden is that it should be cultivated and well-manicured, like their idea of a palace garden. Many who visited us didn’t understand why we had woodlands, wild meadows, botanicals, sensory gardens and urban gardens. They thought we didn’t make an effort. However, everyone who followed our guided tour was impressed by how British people integrate nature into their lives and how important the wild meadow is to our ecosystem.

People will always have their opinions before they get to know you, your business or your products. Articulating your message is not just about what you say but also how you present it. Engage your audience by unveiling your stories throughout an experience.

3. Use locals and act like a local

Organising an expo is not easy. You can imagine the amount of admin, process and communications, not to mention the 262 pavilions having their own ways of dealing with things in their countries and regions. Operations at an expo are like a mini export operation to a foreign country. I saw some countries who didn’t want to use any locals in their management and processes. If there was anything they were not happy with, they sent a formal complaint. As a result, they did not achieve much. One country hired someone who had lived in China for a while, speaking fluent Chinese and acting like a local. There was no favouritism, but this country had the easiest ride when organising their logistics and event. So, if you can’t act like a local, hire someone who can to join your management team and work together. By doing so, it also shows that you respect their culture and customs. Trust me, you will get a lot done effectively and efficiently.

These are just three takeaways from my experience of the past few months at Beijing Expo 2019. If you want to know more about what happened, what events we organised at UK garden and pavilion, and hear tips about working in China, do get in touch.