The Chairman of BCCCI was interviewed by Todor Radev from the Bulgarian department of China Radio International in Beijing
- Hello, dear listeners! With
- My current visit to
- Let us say more about the Bulgarian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Business is a very broad concept, so let’s narrow it down to particular projects, partners and plans. What does BCCCI really do and where do you think is its place in the overall picture of the Bulgarian and Chinese economies, and the relations between the two?
- First of all, one has to know the possibilities that the Bulgarian and Chinese economy can offer very well, in order to know which fields can interact. The Chinese market is very attractive for the Bulgarian manufacturers but, unfortunately, only those whose products are very specific and unique can succeed in marketing their goods there. Rose-based products are first in this list. For instance, we were very active at the Rose Festival in Kazanlak last year. We co-organized the Miss Bulgarian Rose competition and the first prize we gave was a visit to
To sum up, we’re currently in the process of establishing a platform for all the Bulgarian manufacturers of rose-based products – especially for those who sell the end products, because they seem to be the most attractive for the Chinese market – soap, shampoo, skin care. The rose oil itself is not that interesting for the Chinese and is sold better in the West.
Second, of course, comes the Bulgarian wine. I dare say that currently
- A few months ago, in Shanghai, there was a large-scale advertising campaign for Bulgarian yoghurt. Do you have any ideas for this sector? The dairy market in
- Let’s be realistic here. First, we need to mention that the Chinese consume a lot more fresh milk. Yoghurt is not a traditional product and not that recognizable. In
- It is interesting for me to hear your opinion on another field – attracting more Chinese tourists in Bulgaria. For the great part of the Chinese people today,
- Nowadays it is neither hard, nor complicated for a Chinese citizen to get a visa for Bulgaria. There was a time in the recent past, when the procedure was very complicated because we had to comply with the Schengen regulations and we needed to learn how the whole system works. Today, however, it takes no more than two weeks for a Chinese tourist to get a visa for
- As a person who has been working in this sector for very long now, how do you think – is it easy doing business with the Chinese?
- If you know their ways, it’s easy to do business with them. If you are reconciled that we are too small for them in every aspect, if you realize that it is better to cooperate and to stand on the same platform along with your colleagues, who manufacture the same product as you or have the same target group – you have a far better chance.
- In the last couple of years, the Chinese business has been trying vigorously to go global, but not to sell anymore, but to invest. A lot has been said and written on the topic – “we, the Chinese, want to help you handle the crisis, create workplaces, to invest, but you – the foreigners, are suspicious of us, you don’t believe us and you try to keep us away. Our intentions are good.” The best examples are the telecommunication giants Huawei and Zhongxin’s last attempts to establish themselves on the American and Australian markets. They still haven’t succeeded in making some serious investment there, because
- What I can say is that we’re positive about Chinese investment, but we’re also objective.
I think it’s best here to look at the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s position. She welcomes the Chinese investors and real Chinese investment. After this we have to draw the line – what does ‘real investors’ and ‘real investment’ mean?
The Chinese, coming from a planned economy, where everything is pre-settled and regulated, tend to require too much guarantees in our market economy. They want to invest, but on the other hand, they are not ready to take the so-called investment risk. They want to be managers and investors, but at the same time want to stay mere suppliers, who get paid for their goods.
In this respect, both countries need to learn a little lesson.
Firstly, the Western world, and
Secondly, the Chinese themselves need to spend a little more efforts – especially those, who aren’t coming from
- Do you reckon the Chinese foreign investment, no matter how big, carries a risk? Maybe it is because of the reasons you mentioned that the Western partners are so suspicious of the Chinese investors?
- Yes, they carry a risk. Let me give you an example. There are certain Chinese provinces with well-developed plants and enterprises, who decide to take up foreign investment. At one point, however, it turns out that most of the people in this province not only do not know the law in detail, but aren’t even aware of the existence of regulations. This happens to be a great obstacle but doesn’t necessarily mean that Chinese investment is dangerous, nor that the outer world is dangerous for
- The Bulgarian economy is a market economy. However, what does the government need to do, in your opinion, in order for the economic, trade and investment relations with China to obtain a larger scale and for us to stop working on a piece-rate basis?
- You are right that the bilateral relations between Bulgaria and China have always been “on a piece-rate basis”. Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of long-term relations, as for example, our north neighbour
- In which sectors do you think the Bulgarian-Chinese relations have the best chance? And I am not talking about purely commercial relations, I am talking about real cooperation that more people and whole regions can benefit from.
- It’s true. I, personally, have visited a large number of small and medium Bulgarian municipalities. The mayors of such towns have designated certain areas for Chinese industrial zones and they need us to find Chinese investors. But yet again it all comes to the lack of know-how.
Firstly, those areas’ characteristics are always different. If you don’t have the right economic environment, you can’t have a prerequisite for real business. If somebody wants to attract Chinese investors to put their money in a certain industrial zone, they need to have a reason to do that, be it tax-relief or a promise on behalf of the municipality that if they create X workplaces, the local authorities will handle the infrastructure, communications, water. The ideas need to be clear and precise. The only specific vision which I have seen in
Leaving trade relations aside, we skip the agriculture and tourism, and reach the field of culture and education. I think this is the long-term investment, which will give great benefit for the future generations. I am extremely happy that a second Confucius Institute was opened in the
- This was actually the next topic I wanted us to discuss. You are the only Bulgarian, who has lived in the Shaolin monastery. What did you learn there?
- Mostly patience, maybe. I learned a lot of things during my 9-month training at Shaolin. The Monastery is a place full of energy. Aside from the personal benefit – the friends I made there, I obtained a good basis to continue developing the Bulgarian-Chinese bilateral relations, and even to take them to another level, which is the Bulgarian-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which enjoys both
- Did you have the chance to meet and talk to grand master Shi Yanxin at Shaolin?
- Yes, we met. I even managed to persuade him to take a photo with one of the three Bulgarian groups that visited the Monastery, which was very hard, because he never takes photos with anybody. I made friends with the famous Shi Yanlu, the leader of the warrior-monks. I was the one who introduced him to the Beijing Confucius Director. This is how the Ushu project in the Veliko Tarnovo Confucius Institute was born.