At the end of April, Katarina Nilsson, who is the resident partner at Vinge’s offices in China, was elected as the new chairman of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in China. Katarina replaces Mats Harborn, the Executive Director of Scania’s China Strategy Office. We posed five short questions to Katarina.
Congratulations Katarina. You have already been involved with the Swedish Chamber of Commerce. Can you tell us a bit more about this?
Previously I was one of the vice chairmen of the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in China. The Chamber has two vice chairmen, one of whom is responsible for the Beijing chapter and the other for the Shanghai chapter. I was responsible for the Shanghai chapter.
How do you view your new role?
I view it as both important and fun. China is an increasingly important market for Swedish businesses and the Swedish Chamber of Commerce in China is intended to be a natural point of contact for Swedish-owned companies in China. We represent the voice of our members vis-à-vis politicians, embassies, consulate-generals, Chinese public authorities and in other contexts and also offer a networking platform for the Chamber’s members.
How will your chairmanship differ from that of your predecessor?
Mats Harborn was a very proficient and respected chairman who held the position for a long time. I hope to be able maintain to and build on Mats’ achievements and enhance the reputation of the Chamber. China has changed enormously since the Chamber of Commerce in China was founded 15 years ago. The membership has increased significantly. This autumn we will be conducting a major review of the Chamber’s organisational structure in order to identify our role and highlight any operational adjustments which need to be made.
Is there any particular issue which you will be pursuing as chairman?
One challenge is how to best serve the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises which are currently establishing operations in China. China is not an easy market. The business culture is significantly different from the one at home and competition is fierce. Another challenge faced by the Chamber is that Swedish-owned businesses are no longer confined to the Beijing and Shanghai areas but have now spread throughout the country. This makes it more difficult to organise activities where all members can participate and we have to find new ways of serving our members.
What are your views on developments in China under the new leadership?
It is not easy to give any prophesy in respect of democratic developments. What I can state is that people seem to be genuinely tired of politicians at all levels who further their personal interests. The new leadership must, if for no reason other than that of self-preservation, make changes which address this discontent. Various types of regulatory reforms are constantly being enacted in order to facilitate matters for foreign companies doing business in China. I believe that this trend will continue. However, as I said before, competition is fierce and the costs for salaries for example rise significantly. However, with the world’s largest population, the Chinese market will always be interesting.