by Alistair Nicholas
April 29th, 2013

Companies hoping to influence the new Chinese government’s policy agenda need to be engaging with the government now rather than waiting to see what is on its agenda in nine or ten month’s time. This was the view of Alistair Nicholas, senior advisor, Public Affairs and Crisis Management Practice, Australia, Weber Shandwick, speaking to a business gathering in Sydney last week.

“While power in China is a slow burn process, that doesn’t mean business can take a wait and see stance. You need to be influencing the policy agenda now,” Nicholas told the gathering of the Australia-China Business Council.

Nicholas, who returned recently to Australia after 13 years in Beijing where he led public affairs programmes for multinational corporations operating in China, was speaking as part of a panel that also included Dr. John Lee of Centre for International Securities Studies  of Sydney University, and Mr Laurie Smith, the executive eirector of International Operations of the Australian Trade Commission. While noting that a company cannot lobby Beijing in the same way it would lobby Washington or Canberra, he outlined three ways businesses can nonetheless influence change:

- Have a plan: something that can put a win-win proposition on the table for the Chinese government. If you want to influence policy outcomes in China you need to demonstrate to the government how the policy you would like to see in place will help to achieve its economic and social agenda.

- Find a suitable partner: look at partnering with a Chinese business that shares your view of the policy framework. Turn the debate into a Chinese debate rather than a foreign company versus Chinese company debate.

- Collaborate with influencers: partner with some of the leading think tanks whose opinions feed into the policy debate in government. By partnering with them and helping them to access key data from around the world, they can develop White Papers that will turn the debate into one about China’s global competitiveness – and China wants to be competitive on the international stage.

“It’s not impossible to affect policy outcomes in China; you just need to be smart about how you go about it,” concluded Nicholas.

Alistair Nicholas is senior advisor, Public Affairs and Crisis Management Practice, Australia, at Weber Shandwick

Nicholas’ full speech is available for download here.

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