As we enter the Year of the Pig, the Burness Paull team look forward to what they think it might have in store for us in 2019 and share their thoughts following a successful visit to China at the tail end of the Year of the Dog.

In the Chinese zodiac, the well fed pig is a symbol of wealth.

Shenzhen is the destination where young, talented and ambitious Chinese nationals go to make it big and to make their fortune – so Chinese officials reminded us on our recent trip there. The thriving city considers itself as a new rival to other booming migrant cities such as London and  New York, and looks set to formally become a ‘sister city’ of Edinburgh.  The outlook from those we visited was overall very optimistic. Serious investment in infrastructure projects is evident throughout the city, which has been transformed from a small fishing village of 30,000 people into a global economic powerhouse with a population of over 12 million in only 30 years. Shenzhen is a place to watch - and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Folklore says that the pig was famously late to the Jade Emperor’s great meeting as he had overslept.

Shenzhen is widely recognised as a major global tech hub, rivalling Silicon Valley in the USA. It is clearly a city that is certainly not missing the global tech boom. With cutting edge incubators, tech parks and launchpads throughout the city, and investors with money to invest in anything that could turn into the next big thing, the city is awake and alive to the importance of the digital and tech sector to the global economy. Its focus is increasingly international – in terms of Shenzhen companies looking overseas for partnerships and opportunities, as well as Shenzhen businesses and authorities looking to attract foreign businesses to set up in the city. There is a clear strategy to support tech businesses of all sizes and stages, from start-up to post-IPO and we expect to see Shenzhen continuing to produce world leading tech companies and entrepreneurs.

The pig is said to be calm when facing troubles.

The ongoing trade dispute with President Trump’s US is clearly affecting business decisions in China.  However, the consensus in the business world there seems to be that the Chinese authorities will take a sensible and calm approach to the trade spat and things will be ironed out before the dispute escalates out of hand.  This blip in Sino-US relations had clearly impacted on thinking as a number of our contacts are planning resultant moves to diversify their investment portfolios away from the US, having concerns about the stability of longer term relations. The biggest beneficiary of this is likely to be the UK and continental Europe as Chinese investors shift the balance away from the US.

Henry VIII was famously born in the year of the pig

King Henry VIII initiated radical changes to Britain’s relationship with mainland Europe, and centuries on Britain’s relationship with Europe remained a hot topic on our travels in China. The Chinese tend to take a longer-term view when doing business, and this seems to inform their perception of Brexit. A notable theme of our trips to China over the past few years has been the Chinese’s attraction to the UK and their relatively relaxed view of Brexit – any views expressed are more likely to be positive, as to the opportunities that it brings. This was tempered with a few expressions of nervousness about what a ‘no-deal’ Brexit might mean, and an element of concern about moves towards protectionism in the UK – a concern that, regardless of Brexit, there may be political decisions taken that restrict or create barriers to  investment in the UK or in certain sectors. In the Year of the Pig, we expect to see Chinese investors seeking the positive opportunities that Brexit might create.

Despite the unpredictable and tumultuous global stage, we say goodbye to the trusty dog and move on to the year of the prosperous pig with a very positive outlook.  In Shenzhen in particular, there is a real hunger for more internationalisation, more innovative business adventures, and much more investment and collaboration. Chinese astronomers always highlight the pig’s industriousness sincerity and optimism. As we enter the Year of the Pig, it is clear that there is good reason to share in the positive outlook of the Suid as we look ahead with genuine sincerity to prosperity and good health in Sino-British and Sino-Scottish relations.

Wishing all of our friends, clients and contacts a very happy and prosperous new year.