Ask China: How can a foreigner invest in technology start-ups in China?
CGTN
04:02

Foreigners are curious about the Chinese economy, but not always in the way that we expect.

The gap between what news professionals think ordinary people would care about and what ordinary people actually care about can be huge.

Over the past month, when “Ask China,” one of CGTN's flagship programs featuring Q&A sessions with Chinese officials, conducted street interviews worldwide to find out what members of the general public would want to learn about China economically and commercially, we expected the recent U.S.-China trade war to be a hot topic.

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However, the trade war, which is potentially the biggest ongoing economic story in the world, did not dominate the feedback given by the men and women on the street.

"When will you be exporting Chinese-manufactured cars to the UK?” A British man said slowly after a brief stare at CGTN's camera, unaware of Chinese carmaker Geely's operation in Coventry, England that manufactures London's iconic black cabs.

A British man asked about Chinese-manufactured cars after a brief stare at CGTN's camera.  /Screenshot of CGTN's Video

A British man asked about Chinese-manufactured cars after a brief stare at CGTN's camera.  /Screenshot of CGTN's Video

The pause suggested to us that although trade and economic growth dominate life in the newsroom, they may take a backseat in the daily lives of many people.

Like the man who asked about made-in-China autos coming to the UK, during the pause before talking to the camera, the majority of the interviewees seemed to be seeking the manifestation of China's economic presence in their communities. Many of them had succeeded, attesting to the reach of the world's second-largest economy.

In Canada, instead of asking about the controversial arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, we received very technical questions, such as how China manages to resell. 

In Thailand, a young woman wanted to know how her friends could get refunded by Chinese e-commerce platforms when problematic products had been purchased, rather than how China's economic influence will grow in Southeast Asia.

Infographic about the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. /CGTN's Photo

Infographic about the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. /CGTN's Photo

Questions about the world's two largest economies crossing swords arose as expected, but only for interviewees living in the U.S.  Amid busy crowds of New Yorkers, the people who stopped quickly recited what the news coverage of the dispute had hammered into their minds: Where are the two countries now in their trade talks? How will the economies be affected if the talks fail or are prolonged?

Questions concerning different issues, but with the same magnitude as the trade war, were asked in other areas of the world, but simple answers were hard to produce.

The building of the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. /VCG Photo

The building of the Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. /VCG Photo

"Can your government share with ours the secret for your country's economic success?" Asked a Thai woman. And an Irish interviewee wanted to know if the Chinese government will invest more economically in Ireland.

It's very hard to predict where China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will be mentioned the most, given the vast area the Chinese-pioneered development strategy reaches. Apparently, it has stirred interest across the world, even as far as in Mexico, where China strengthened cooperation via the BRI last year. The BRI is already drawing interest there, but ordinary people want to know more about the actual business opportunities it could provide them.

Dr. Song Wei is the associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce. /CGTN's Photo

Dr. Song Wei is the associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation of the Ministry of Commerce. /CGTN's Photo

We have transferred the questions about doing business in China to our expert at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, a think-tank under China's Ministry of Commerce, hoping that her answers (hit the video on the top) could help those who would like to advance their commercial interests in China.

For the rest of them, China's ongoing annual legislative session has provided us a great venue to seek the answers. CGTN's reporters will present the questions to the lawmakers responsible for the relevant areas, and continue to update our social media platforms with their replies.