With the 2023 Understanding China Conference, the EU SME Centre Informs Stakeholders of Current Shifts and Outlooks

1 November 2023

On 24 and 25 October 2023, the EU SME Centre held a new successful edition of its Understanding China Conference in Brussels. Following a fully online Conference during the Covid-19 pandemic, stakeholders could meet again in person this year at the Renaissance Brussels Hotel or take part in the seminars and discussions online with the livestreaming of the event.

Organised since 2011 by the EU SME Centre, the Understanding China Conference informs stakeholders of recent developments and trends observed in China that are likely to impact European small and medium-sized enterprises. The Conference has been developed for intermediary organisations in Europe, such as government agencies, industry associations, business support organisations (BSOs), trade promotion organisations (TPOs), chambers of commerce, and clusters.

Liam Jia, EU SME Centre Team Lead, presented the agenda of the 2023 Understanding China Conference.


The 2023 Understanding China Conference analysed current issues both at a macro level and with practical insights for businesses. Keynote speakers from the EU Commission, EU Parliament, research institutes, business associations, and team members of the EU SME Centre provided the audience with a diverse range of viewpoints.

In the opening remarks, Igor Kalinic, Head of Sector at the European Commission’s European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency – EISMEA, explained the focus points of the EU SME Centre in Phase IV (2022–2025). Renzo Isler, Coordinator of the Consortium of the EU SME Centre in Phase IV, and Secretary General of the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce, pointed to recent shifts leading to the repositioning of European SMEs in the Chinese market. Fabrice Terrac, Deputy Head of Unit for DG GROW at the European Commission, highlighted the key role of SMEs in the economic performance and competitiveness of the European Union.

The first day of the Conference invited participants to gain a better understanding of the country’s economic outlook, the evolution of trade relations between the European Union and China, the policy environment and business confidence levels, as well as the latest developments pertaining to technology, innovation and R&D.


Alicia Garcia-Herrero, Chief Economist for Asia Pacific at Natixis, Agatha Kratz, Director for the Rhodium Group, and François Chimits, Analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies – MERICS, analysed key economic indicators, looking into likely developments for the Chinese economy.

Eva Valle Lagares, Head of Unit Far East at the European Commission’s DG Trade, Lin Goethals, Director at the European Institute for Asian Studies, and Tudor P. Fabian, Policy Advisor to INTA Vice-Chair & MEP Iuliu Winkler (EPP/RO), discussed EU-China trade relations and the implications of a de-risking strategy.

Ester Cañada Amela, Advocacy Manager at the EU SME Centre, presented the main takeaways of the recently published Policy Environment Report for SMEs in China and participated in a panel discussion on business confidence with Bernardo Mendia, Secretary General of the Portugal-China Chamber of Commerce & Industry – CCILC, and Marco Bettin, Director General of the Italy-China Council Foundation – ICCF and Vice Chairman of the EU-China Business Association – EUCBA.


John Lee, Director of East West Futures Consulting, and Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau, Head of the Science, Technology and Innovation Program at the Mercator Institute for China Studies – MERICS, looked into the regulatory landscape and support measures for technology, innovation, and research and development.

On the second day of the event, Alessio Petino, Business Advisor at the EU SME Centre, shared practical information and advice for SMEs entering the Chinese market. Simon Cheetham, Team Leader of the China IP SME Helpdesk, provided SMEs with best practices to protect their intellectual property rights.

Finally, René Bos, Exhibition Manager for Aquatech China at RAI Amsterdam, Roland Brouwer, Regional Director in Europe for BIPO, and Timo Helosuo, Chairman of the Finland-China Business Association, presented case studies and success stories of European small and medium-sized businesses active in the Chinese market.

Stay informed of the EU SME Centre’s activities, publications and events at www.eusmecentre.org.cn.

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