Malta is 7,753km away from China, we speak different languages, live cultures that are intrinsically polar opposites, and have no overwhelming historic affiliation with the great land. So why the unfaltering enthusiasm?
PKF partners, George and Pierre Mangion, have been travelling to China with a business development purview for many years, as early as 2007, when remote gaming was a chief proponent. Since 2017, I and other lawyers have made repeat trips covering vast provinces within China, promoting Malta as a base for immigration solutions, which went down nicely and gained momentum. By then, it must be said that the FDI potential in China had been recognised by the entire local industry and firms were flocking to Beijing and Shanghai as naturally as one would earlier have gone to London to watch the Lion King.
However, PKF Malta, and most notably its senior partner George Mangion, was something of a forerunner when one considers his earlier travels, continued research and writings through the early years of career. He keenly followed and still follows the movements of China’s Government, the recurring US-China trade wars and decreased economic growth in 2011, noting the urgency of job creation and struggling exports, and contemplating the integration of China as an aid to Europeans in raising the defence for troubled Eurozone countries around the same time, as well as the adjusted monetary policies to boost the economy and upwards incline of the real estate market in 2012.
When the ‘Silk Road’ or ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative was incorporated into Chinese policy in 2017, PKF Malta was one of the first to absorb it into our daily vocabulary, advocating for the concept and actualising it by setting up a dedicated China desk and recruiting Chinese managers to oversee it.
Having several PKF network offices in China helped quicken the tangibility process and several exchange trips were organised, both with Maltese delegations being flown to all manners of Chinese provinces as well as Chinese investors being brought to Malta on familiarisation tours. Both ends of these arrangements saw expressions of considerable culture shock. Throughout 2018 and 2019, the Maltese brand became better known and established within China, in part thanks to the significant investment planted in this direction by the Maltese Government in marketing targeted residency programmes to willing takers.
Beyond immigration, the Maltese offering quickly grew to encapsulate all measures of real estate investment and blockchain solutions too, which by this point had also been acknowledged as a viable contender in an emerging facet of financial services.
By 2019, PKF Malta was honoured with an award presentation during the 24th edition of the Etouce Industry Elite Convention held in Beijing, China. In it, PKF Malta was recognised for its unrelenting hard work in the pursuit of promoting Malta as a choice jurisdiction with emphasis placed on quality of the clients to complement Malta’s exclusive stance in offering the various immigration opportunities – an award which I received on behalf of PKF Malta.
The award was also significant for us as we continue in our endeavours to bridge the gap between Asia and Europe. While 2020 was almost entirely a wasted year, where all efforts were brought to a grinding halt by the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021, PKF has, at an international level, come together to revive the China Strategy, and as a first step, we have asked to gain a greater understanding of what China Desk operations (or similar) exist across the network.
The PKF International China Strategy centres around three key initiatives. Firstly, reconnecting with and strengthening PKF’s network of China Desks globally – including assisting firms to strengthen existing China Desks, helping firms establish a China Desk where it is either wanted or needed, and facilitating greater collaboration between the network’s China Desks themselves, and between the China Desks and member firms in China.
The second initiative is to work with PKF member firms in China to establish an ‘International Desk’, whereby inbound and outbound international work and collaboration opportunities would flow, which would be a natural link and access point for our network of China Desks. Thirdly, to market and promote our capabilities as a network to handle Chinese business through our China Desk operations at an international level as well as support firms’ marketing efforts at a local level.
This is being done by expanding on the following subcategories of joint collaboration:
• Service capabilities: Showcasing the capabilities of the network as a whole and the China Desks specifically, to PKF China firms, to raise awareness of what the China Desks are and what they can fully offer clients who are looking to expand internationally.
• Client Sharing: Increase sharing of client information for specific clients that would create opportunities for other China Desks.
• Networking: Bolster networking opportunities and one-on-one meetings to develop relationships.
• Referrals: Creating an ability to share what kind of clients or referrals a firm is looking for, and what kind of clients or referrals that firm can give. Also creating a list of companies which a firm is trying to target and share that with other firms that can highlight if they have contacts there, or if they would be able to make any kind of introduction.
• PKF China Firms: Setting up of meetings with all member firms in China to discuss this project
Hence, it seems that the Orient love affair whose early seeds were planted by George Mangion have grown to include a colourful and multi-disciplinary cast of willing contenders. While challenges remain, like the unceasing difficulty to move money out of China for investment purposes, the drive of adaptability for finding fitting solutions and ever new attractions, fuels the journey to go on, steadfastly into the future.
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