China is now a global powerhouse – the world’s second largest economy and a huge, fast-growing market that no business with international ambitions can afford to ignore.

That’s why Wales World Wide has already featured China several times and is now making China the theme of its next ‘Season Focus’.

It is also why the Welsh Government is organising a trade mission in March to Chongqing, in the south west of China, giving Welsh companies a low-cost way to find out more and explore opportunities for trade.

Since the late 1970s, China has moved from a closed, centrally-planned economy to become the world’s biggest exporter with a rapidly-growing private sector.

Over the last 10 years, the Chinese economy has grown by an average of 10% per annum – or nearly five times as fast as the US economy.

At official exchange rates, China’s economy is now just over half the size of the US economy. When adjusted for real purchasing power, the gap between the two economies narrows even further.

China is a major importer of commodities such as iron, steel, oil and minerals. However, as its economy matures, it is also becoming a big market for consumer goods and a wide range of services.

China has a population of 1.3 billion people, and millions of them moved to the cities and became more affluent in the last decade leading to lifestyle changes that are creating demand for Western brands.

Though China’s annual rate of growth slipped to 7.4% in the third quarter of last year, retail sales are 14.2% higher year-on-year signalling domestic consumption is growing.

Of course China now also incorporates Hong Kong, one of the world’s leading financial centres with a currency – the Hong Kong Dollar – ranking as the eighth most traded in the world.

A British territory until 1997, Hong Kong has a service economy characterised by low taxation, free trade and a high standard of living.

China and Wales

Wales and China have a number of links through business, trade and investment. The relationship between the two nations has been established through trade missions and reciprocal visits, with a number of partnerships being forged as a result.

These partnerships centre on the south west city of Chongqing. In 2006 Rhodri Morgan, then First Minister of Wales, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Chongqing Municipal Government and the Welsh Government.

The Welsh Government is leading a multi-sector trade mission to Chongqing from March 2 to 9, with applications for places closing at the end of this month.