“Answer this challenge with reform” Jörg Wuttke Spoke to Wuhan Go back »

2020-06-12 | All chapters

On 12th June, European Chamber President Jörg Wuttke was invited to attend the on-line session of Global 500 Fortune and Famous Foreign Companies Energizing Wuhan. Wuhan Municipal Party Secretary Wang Zhonglin attended and gave an opening address. President Wuttke was the first guest speaker and delivered the following speech.


Your Excellencies, Dear participants, 

The European Chamber has faced immense challenges stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak. But nothing compares to the heroic fight of the people of Wuhan, especially the sacrifice and endurance of your medical professionals. As articulated in a wartime speech made by the British prime minister Winston Churchill on 20th August 1940 "Never was so much owed by so many to so few"

I am proud to represent the thousands of European companies that, alongside our home governments, showed solidarity and compassion by donating critical medical equipment to Wuhan in the early days of the crisis. Some Europeans went further, and stayed in Wuhan even when they could have left. Two in particular stick out in my mind. First, Olivier Guyonvarch, consul general for France, who used his mastery of language in his many posts about Wuhan that connected the besieged city with the world. Second, a Belgian teacher at the Wuhan University of Bioengineering, Jerry Van Oudenhove, who captured the spirit of the European community in China when he wrote, "I'm a foreigner, but not an outsider.

The last five months have been taxing on us all, and hurdles remain on the horizon. But so too do we see opportunities.

The Chinese government has never been one to waste a crisis, and their answer to the largest calamities of the last four decades has been economic liberalisation. They answered the catastrophes of the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s by opening up the country and replacing the mechanisms of the command and control economy with ones acted upon and directed by market forces. Faced with yet another crisis, we now is the time for China’s leaders to embrace their reformer DNA and answer this challenge with reform.    

We have seen indications of this in recent months. President Xi’s visit to Wuhan signaled the start of recovery. This gave space for Premier Li, MOFCOM and the NDRC to reach out to the foreign business community. We are ready to play a larger role in recovery, and are eager to further deepen ourselves into this market, but we need an open door and a fair environment to do so.

The opportunities in Hubei Province, a major economic powerhouse with nearly the same population as France, remain strong. The European Chamber will continue to emphasize the opportunities in Wuhan, the transportation and industrial hub of central China. German-based software company SAP and French car manufacturer PSA are all represented in this region. There shall be more to come. 

We are the masters of our own fate, and must avail ourselves of this opportune moment to advance China’s further opening up. Doing so can turn 2020 into more than just the year that Wuhan and the world were ravaged by plague, but also into a landmark year in China’s economic story.

Let’s not waste a crisis.

Joerg Wuttke

President of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China