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BQ: In conversation with Anita Zhang, CEO of ACOLINK LTD, on how exporting to China is shaping up for UK businesses

2019-01-31 9 minute read


BUSINESS QUARTER — As China embraces even more bilateral trade and UK businesses look towards its market with a fresh perspective, ACOLINK LTD is helping firms to set their feet firmly on the ground.

As China embraces even more bilateral trade and UK businesses look towards its market with a fresh perspective, ACOLINK LTD is helping firms to set their feet firmly on the ground.

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) predicts that China will import USD $10 trillion worth of goods and services in the next five years.

Through initiatives to help first-time and tentative exporters, China is opening up and encouraging more imports.

ACOLINK campaigns for trade between the UK and China and in 2017, they signed a strategic partnership with China International Electronic Commerce Centre (CIECC), a MOFCOM agency responsible for shaping and implementing the dynamics of China’s e-commerce market at the state level.

ACOLINK chief executive officer, Anita Zhang, explains: "China is a dynamic market. There’s a knowledge gap for exporters and we’re working hard to fill that. Let’s Do China is one of the initiatives we’ve launched to allow businesses to explore China’s opportunities.

“We’re also very proud to say that we’re the first and only delivery partners, outside China, for CIECC’s YIMOOC. It’s an expert-led platform showing how to trade successfully in China’s new retail market. Since it’s a state-level initiative, it consolidates contributions by Alibaba, JD, Tencent and more. So businesses can learn from the key players in the market to enhance their competitive edge.”

Currently, ACOLINK has joined forces with the Exporting is GREAT campaign and PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards to champion new and recurring exporters. For last year’s Scottish Export awards, they organised the attendance of Minister Councillor Jin Xu of the Commercial Office of the Chinese Embassy and the Chinese Consulate General in Edinburgh, Mr Pan Xinchun.

“It’s wonderful to see so many businesses together with genuine excitement for export opportunities,” Anita says. "We’re delighted to be partners. Following on from last year, we’re thrilled to be arranging for the Minister Council office to attend again.

“With Brexit uncertainties, it’s a vital time for businesses to think about growing sustainably and investing in export. China is a high growth market and it is especially looking to the UK for imports. ACOLINK have led two CIECC delegation visits to the UK for the last two years. We were also the only Northern business invited by Henan Department of Commerce, overseeing a population of 100 million people, to the Henan International Investment and Trade Fair — representing the exporting potential of the UK and the Northern Powerhouse.”

Last year marked forty years since China’s Opening and Reform Policy. China more than doubled its cross-border e-commerce pilot zones across the country to offer exporters favourable trade policies. Together with BQ and through their own website, ACOLINK delivers China trade developments to their UK audience.

According to Anita, this type of in-depth look at China’s market will encourage more businesses to export. ACOLINK launched Let’s Do China – a series of seminars, workshops, and training that visited multiple Northern cities last year – to continue to pass on the knowledge. This year, they are eager to gather questions from potential exporters to host a live Let’s Do China Q&A between businesses and ACOLINK’s buyers and sellers in China.

“We want to create a community with a strong message,” she says. “That trading with China can be difficult, but together with peer to peer support, we can do it.”

ACOLINK also has ongoing trade trends and policy update monitors in China. In April, they were among the first to analyse the merge between the General Administration of China Customs (GACC) and China Inspection & Quarantine (CIQ); a move that streamlined and eased access to the market for exporters.

“There are many cost-effective and time-saving pathways to China now,” Anita continues. “ACOLINK have bonded facilities in China’s national strategic logistic hub, Zhengzhou, and close connections with the China customs broker association. We stay at the forefront of policy changes to adapt to changes quickly and help our clients navigate the market better. We work with two London fashion brands and they’re selling on JD Retail after less than six months. The work we do in China echoes what we’re doing in the UK and that helps streamline the whole process.”

There is a bright focus on exporting. ACOLINK participated in a key stakeholders market sounding meeting with DIT Northern Powerhouse to help shape exporting initiatives.

“As a service provider, we’ve built a vast network of enablers from both government agencies, associations, and private sectors so that UK businesses can feel supported,” she says. "Our network means businesses can find out what’s going on faster, and we can connect them with full resources and support. ACOLINK can become your extended export team to support with the export journey.

“China is always evolving at a fast-pace, and sometimes it can require patience,” explains Anita. “But it can also be very, very rewarding. Our goal is to present it to businesses in a way that’s cost-effective and simple to understand. It’s a balancing act that many businesses don’t have the time, connections or funding to do. That’s ACOLINK’s goal in a way. To get businesses over the first hurdle of export so we can focus on getting tangible results on the ground.”

Northern Powerhouse Export Awards

PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards, in association with HSBC and the Department for International Trade, seeks to recognise the most entrepreneurial exporters from across the North of England.


Let’s Do China (LetsDoChina.org, #LetsDoChina) is an ACOLINK initiative designed to provide businesses with the tools and knowledge to grow their brand in the Chinese market. It’s a series of events, workshops and training — delivered in different formats — developed to build confidence and give exporters a competitive advantage.