Does China still remain an important market for Benelux businesses?

How have Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg) companies active in China performed in 2017 and what their expectations for 2018? Are Benelux companies more impacted by new rules and regulations in China and have Benelux companies experienced any business opportunities due to governmental policies such as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)? What do companies consider about the current business climate in China? And does China remain still an important market for Benelux businesses? 

This year's Sino Benelux Business Survey addresses these questions and has been organized by the Benelux Chamber of Commerce across China (Beijing, Shanghai and Pearl River Delta), supported by the official representations of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in China and in partnership with MS Advisory in China. 

Starting from early March 2018 until mid-April, we have distributed an online questionnaire to approximately 2000+ Benelux companies whom are active across China and which answered 61 questions on various themes such as their business performance, onward expectations and opinions about the business climate within China. This year the questions from the Sino Benelux Business Survey and the Sino-Dutch Business Survey from the Dutch embassy in

China has been merged together. Results of Sino Benelux Business Survey 2018

Approximately 166 companies have participated in our survey, of which 93% are directly coming from the Benelux-countries. The other companies (7%) have either strong ties with the Benelux or management from the Benelux countries. Most companies within our survey are based in East China (43%), however also many companies are based in the North (30%) and the South of China (19%). Based on revenue and employees within China, we can categorize most companies as SMEs within our survey; approximately 2/3 of the respondents have less than 100 million RMB revenue (approx. 13 million EUR) within China and 2/3 have less than 50 employees within China. The companies are mostly coming from industrial services & goods sector (44%), also consumer goods & services are well represented with 26%. 

The profit margin and revenue growth of Benelux companies in 2017 has been better compared to the results of previous years. Total of 69% of the respondents achieved 5% or higher revenue growth in 2017, which is similar and currently beating the economic growth rate within China. Compared to 2015 and 2016 results, approximately 15% more respondents have grown in 2017 with 5% or higher revenue growth. Furthermore, compared to previous years’ business survey, 10% less of the respondents have indicated to be loss-making China. In addition, approximately 14% of respondents have indicated that their profit margin is higher between 5% to 10% in China than in 2016. 

Following the good results, the expectations on revenue growth and profit margin for 2018 are also higher than in 2017. Total of 72% of the respondents expect their revenue to grow with more than 5%. Total of 68% of the respondents mostly expect their profitability to be influenced by revenue growth in 2018. Only 12% indicate this would mostly be due to cost savings. Compared to business survey 2016 and 2017 expectations, revenue growth expectations above 5% and higher have increased with approximately 10% and with 5%. Overall, respondents believe that their business in China will further grow in the future.

Still some challenges remain for Benelux businesses within China. Rising salary costs has remained as one of the major negative drivers of their business in 2017 and also remain one of the most prominent challenges in 2018. A major concern for the Benelux companies is the “unlevelled playing field” within China and the overall level of restrictiveness for their business. Total of 62% of the respondents of the survey feel various levels of restrictions on their business within China; only 8% have indicated a decrease. Furthermore, managing sales volumes within China remains a continuing challenge for Benelux businesses.  

In terms of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), only 20% of the companies came across BRI partnerships and business opportunities. Mostly these projects were focused on providing support in infrastructure projects and advisory services. Companies with or without experience with the Belt & Road Initiative indicated to have little knowledge about the BRI, as well about the advantages for their business because of the BRI. 

Conclusion Sino Benelux Business Survey 2018

The respondents have indicated that there is an increased attention for corporate social responsibility (CSR) within China. Most of the companies have indicated that they believe that CSR is important for clients and suppliers in China. 

Overall, companies are very positive about the Chinese market, they have had good results in 2017 and they are expecting to grow even better compared to last year in China. However, they do still take existing challenges into account which they have indicated to have a negative impact, whereas salary costs, restrictiveness and unlevelled playing field remain to be key concerns for Benelux businesses within China. 

Please click on the following link to read the full report on the Sino Benelux Business Survey.


For more detailed information per country, please find the infographics for Belgian and Dutch enterprises doing business in China.

This article has been prepared by Moore Stephens Consulting, a professional service firm based in China and member of Moore Stephens International. Moore Stephens Consulting provides full financial services to foreign companies active in China and Hong Kong. For more information regarding this article, please do not hesitate to contact us at  or visit their website to be updated on news about China. 

And a prosperous Year of the Pig!
MS Advisory wishes you a Happy Chinese New Year!
At the start of Chinese New Year, on 5 February 2019, the "Year of the Dog" has made place for the "Year of the Pig". To celebrate this occasion, we would like to share several interesting facts with you about this important holiday in Chinese culture. We would also like to briefly reflect on the past and upcoming year. According to Chinese legend, the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝 or "Yùhu
A comparison to understand the differences
The 3 most common China entry modes for Foreign Investors
Any organization wishing to do business with or in China may consider at one moment in time to establish a business entity within China. Setting up a business in China requires much time and investment and may seem complex for foreign investors. It is important to have a good plan before entering the Chinese market and one must coordinate the entry well to avoid or minimize any disruptio
What has changed?
What is China's new Negative List and what is its impact on Foreign Investment?
Although China's entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 helped liberalize its trading environment and reduce restrictive measures on foreign investment, several industries remain regulated or inaccessible. Since the introduction of the "Negative List" by the National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) as part of the new Foreign Investment Law, of which a draft was published as early
The Year of the Dog!
MS Advisory wishes you a “Happy Year of the Dog”!
With 2018 being started, we will also transit in China from the “Year of the Rooster” to the “Year of the Dog” and celebrate the Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year is an annual celebration which brings most Chinese families together. An estimated 50% of the Chinese population will travel across the country to visit their families and as a result many businesses are closed during this perio
China Desk
Transfer Pricing in China: 5 things all foreign companies doing business in China should know
Fueled by initiatives such as the BEPS (‘Base Erosion and Profit Shifting’) Action Plan by the OECD and newly implemented transfer pricing local rules and regulations by OECD- and non-OECD member countries, transfer pricing has become a topic of increasing importance for companies all over the world. Though China is not a member of the OECD, they have also followed the recommendations by the O
China Desk
Why should foreign companies in China be ready to expect the unexpected?
Why should foreign companies in China be ready to expect the unexpected? Two exceptional cases to explain you why and what you can do about it Police in China seize 20,000 tonnes of low-grade ‘fake’ salt  The above is an actual headline taken from the Thursday, July 2, 2015 issue of the South China Morning Post.  China is a market which provides many opportunities t
China Desk
Have you updated your Business License in China already? An overview of the reform in China to the Five-in-One Business License
The Chinese authorities are trying to simplify administrative procedures and to reduce bureaucratic hurdles with the aim of developing a market-based economy and “promoting mass entrepreneurship and innovation”. Therefore, they have instituted administrative reforms simplifying China’s business establishment and registration procedures. In October 2015, the “Three-in-One” business lic
China Desk
How to sell services, conduct trade, and manufacture goods in China without owning a local entity
The rules and regulations for foreign companies to do business in China can be considered as strict and for some businesses even as restrictive, However, it certainly remains possible for foreign companies to do business in China without owning a local entity. Foreign companies can sell their services in China, sell and import their goods into China and have their products produced in China, all w
China Desk
A changing economic environment in China: results Sino Benelux Business Survey
Sino Benelux Business Survey 2017: A changing economic environment in China and how have Benelux businesses performed within this context? The year 2016 has demonstrated again to be a year of many changes. The Chinese economy has been steering more and more towards domestic consumption, new regulations have been implemented (i.e. VAT Reform and Transfer Pricing) and many developments have taken
How do you apply this principle?
China "tax break" principle for expatriates
Expatriates living in China for almost five years or more are regularly asked whether they had or will have a “Tax Break” to avoid being taxed on their worldwide incomes.

Subscribe to our newsletter