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14www. c- mw. net Conference+ Meetings WorldMarch 2010 COUNTRY FOCUS A s great swaths of Europe, Asia and America suffered economic recession, China continued its growth, with its GDP closing in on Japan's to become the world's second largest economy. It has already passed Germany to become the world's largest exporter. Information and events consultancy Business Strategy Group Asia's new MD Mark Cochrane tells CMW: " On the back of this booming economy, China's meetings and conference market has roared to life". The Times newspaper in London even speculated on 4 February that the new model of capitalism could be a variant of the authoritarian state- led capitalism favoured in China, Russia and other emerging economies, rather than a reformed version of the Western democratic system. China clearly favours domestic industries over Western exporters and investors. Its recent wave of convention centre construction is more likely to end up serving local demand than international meetings business, however. It is a market that can be both intriguing and confusing. It clearly takes patience and local partnerships to unlock China's trade potential for foreign partners. While Microsoft prospers on this market, Google has been forced to consider its position amid allegations of political censorship. Beijing is trying to take on the baton of its Olympic legacy and, as China's capital and government HQ, the city is the hub of the country's meetings industry. Despite a reining in of construction projects last year and spending cuts on government meetings and travel, by mid- 2009 China's accommodation and catering industry was still showing year- on- year growth of 18.1 per cent, according to Grass Root's Meetings Industry Reportpublished last month. Alicia Yao Hong of China International Travel Services is one voice that sounds a note of caution. " Many incentives have been cancelled," she says. " Some companies may still go on with their planned programmes but to a more limited budget and lower profile." China coastal areas and their venues are not seeing the growth levels of Beijing and Shanghai. Conference cultural revolution? So how do international organisers view the China conference syndrome? President of UBM Asia, Jime Essink, sees a shift over the past couple of years. " Traditionally, with the exception of the high- end events focused on the international market, Chinese conferences tended to be free to attend and of poor quality. Some of this was led by the need to fill occupancy in the new venues, but mainly this was due to the fact that conference activity was driven by sponsorship first and then delegate requirement second. This means that conference programmes were unresearched, with the focus being on what the sponsors and speakers could get from an event, rather than maximising the learning/ information- giving experience of the delegates." " At UBM," says Essink, " we have started to see a culture change in the way our customers feel. The feedback from our clients is that they will now pay for quality." Essink believes the Chinese market responds well to established brands, and UBM has had success with its portfolio of conferences across a variety of sectors, including shipping, medical, pharmaceutical Year of the Tiger As Beijing builds on its Olympic legacy for business tourism and Shanghai readies for the US$ 45bn World Expo 2010, CMWinvestigates whether it could be the year of the meetings tiger. Shanghai World Expo runs from May to October 2010 and will be worth US$ 45bn UBM Asia's Jime Essink identifies a ' cultural change': " Customers will now pay for quality" US 1.5% Germany 0.3% France0.9% UK0.9% Japan1.7% India6.4% China9% ' On the back of this booming economy, China's meetings and conference market has roared to life.' IMF growth forecast 2010