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The West’s best kept secret...


I just returned from China and what an eye opener!

China is fantastic, modern, thriving and safe. I started off briefly in Beijing and then moved on to the village of Tianjin – 16,000,000 when I was there and probably a lot more now as it was 2 weeks ago. Then on to Shanghai and this was mind blowing. I saw the mighty Yangtze river – which had been a long held ambition of mine and it was the business. And on that note the reason I was in China was to sign a joint venture (JV) agreement with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).  This was an exceptionally proud moment for the company and we believe it to be the best opportunity the Orion Group has ever had. We know we will have to work hard and we know they want to make the JV work, so they won’t be slouching.

We have become the first manpower company in the world to link up with CNOOC and are now based out of both Shanghai and Tianjin. I met with our partners in Tianjin and my counterpart from CNOOC energy Technology and Service-Safety and Environmental Protection Company, General Manager, Liu Huai Zeng.

The aim of our deal is to develop talent resources and provide relevant personnel to CNOOC's projects in oil, gas and related projects in China, offshore South-east Asia, and around the world when the opportunities arise. We have never been shy to spread our wings at Orion and I hope we can show the many positives of investment with China. We can show Nicola and Donald a thing or two from a proactive, pragmatic point of view.

We've always found our partners in China to welcome our advances, willing to have conversations and set-up agreements. CNOOC has become one of the largest national oil companies in the People's Republic of China, focusing on exploitation, exploration and development of crude oil and natural gas. This is a major world player and one with which we share values for quality delivery and strong, effective, target-driven results. It will be mutually beneficial.

CNOOC had been seeking a match for quite some time and we're glad that our wide range of expertise and capabilities to supply foreign and Chinese workers shone through. The aim is to place more than 200 people in roles in 2017 and to that end we've begun the process, with 20 already secured.

So what’s “like it or lump it” President-elect Donald Trump been up to that concerns China? Oh aye he spoke with the leader of Taiwan and hacked of 1,100,000,000 people. And he’s not even in the oval office yet!

No US president has made or accepted a call from the country, also known officially as the Republic of China (ROC), since the 1970s. But, oor Donald took a congratulatory call from leader Tsai Ing-wen and has risked causing a rift between America and China. Since then he has suggested a review of his country’s “One China” policy, which does not formally recognize ROC in favour of The People’s Republic of China.

Oor Donald believes the “One China” approach to diplomatic relations shouldn’t be hard and fast. So, he claims he is seeking more assurances on the likes of trade and international waters from China. Meanwhile, China is clear that any formal deals with Taiwan would end formal ties with the US.

He is playing with fire and opponents have commented that it is another example of the new leader’s lack of knowledge on foreign policy. From a business perspective, he should at least know that US companies rely on significant trade with China, including technologists and manufacturers with supply chains and trade deals secured under the stable US-China framework.

Giants of these sectors, Apple and Boeing, have crucial tie-ups, but oor Donald hasn’t been fussed about annoying Boeing either - threatening to cancel Air Force One orders and all. For America’s largest manufacturer, it would ditch Air Force One in a heartbeat for a stable, long-term relationship with the Chinese. The latter worth a reported $1 trillion and 7,000 aircraft within the next 20 years. Donald Duck issues – never.

He has spoken to Nicola too and fair play to her she had a go about the Trump steamroller approach to building golf courses in Aberdeen. I hope I can help her if she needs help with the Chinese after the £10 billion trade deal between Scotland and the world’s second largest economy fell through? Scotland First (Minister) Politics second.

Less than a year ago, the First Minister signed a memorandum of understanding with SinoFortone, an investment group backed by the Chinese Government. All was going well until the fact this deal was signed wasn’t publicly revealed – so what? Scotland could have won high-speed railways, power stations and affordable housing, but instead we’re battling on with our current lot.

The deal was seen to be secretive (in my view understandably kept under wraps whilst negotiations were taking place) and that's been its downfall, certainly in terms of criticism from Scottish Parliament opposition, the media and public. Little was revealed until mentions in the Chinese media and through a Freedom of Information request back home (FOI). By that time SinoFortone and public backed China Railway No 3 Engineering Group felt too much hostility and backed out.

I know there are issues in China and my opinion is that by trading with them and understanding them we can only improve things.

Any business with international aspirations has to have the right approach, heeding vast cultural differences, but also remembering that people are people. After nearly 30 years in manpower we make the right calls about people. The JV in its own small way will be good for Scotland.
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