Business opportunities abound between China-Massachusetts

Updated: 2011-10-28 11:25

By Zhang Yuwei (China Daily)

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Business opportunities abound between China-Massachusetts

Zoll has a wholly owned business operation in Zhangjiang High-Tech Park with 10 staff members. Gao Erqiang / China Daily

NEW YORK - As the economic relationship between China and the United States grows rapidly day by day, Massachusetts is one example of a state that has opened new opportunities with China in life sciences, clean energy and higher education.

The economic ties between the two were strengthened after Governor Deval Patrick's trade mission to China in late 2007. Patrick called it a "powerful trip" and said the delegation returned with many new opportunities for Massachusetts companies to do business with China.

One of the highlights during the governor's visit was the establishment of the Massachusetts Technology Center at Zhangjiang High-Tech Park in Shanghai - a State-level, high-tech industrial development zone with the presence of multinational companies, such as Citibank, Asia-Pacific Software, Sony, BearingPoint, Kyocera, Applied Materials and SAP AG.

The initiative was to encourage innovation and collaboration between businesses in Massachusetts and China. The technology center aims to strengthen connections between companies in the commonwealth and in Shanghai and beyond, the governor noted during his visit.

As economic opportunities in China continue to grow, more companies in Massachusetts and China have asked for guidance on how to conduct business overseas. The center is open to any business in Massachusetts to exhibit and market products to Chinese companies. Patrick said creating resources such as this one was the reason for the trade mission.

Zoll, a company in Massachusetts that provides medical products and software solutions, was one of the companies that benefited from this initiative.

Daniel Sun, general manager of Zoll Medical Corp in China, said the timing was right when the tech center approached the company about doing business in China because it was looking for its next growth opportunity.

"It is not easy for companies like ours to get into a place like Zhangjiang without local knowledge. And the tech center knocked on our door at the right moment when we were looking to start in the Chinese market," Sun said.

"The center is a good business platform. It helped us understand the local policies and arranged meetings with local officials. We then set up our representative office there," Sun said.

"Our sales (in China) at that time were only about $500,000 back then and now it is up to nearly $10 million ," said Sun, adding these are "good results" for a company for its size.

Located in Chelmsford, 30 miles outside of Boston, Zoll is the leading manufacturer of heart defibrillators in the US, which is a device that helps save thousands of heart attack victims each year. Zoll set up a wholly owned business operation in Zhangjiang High-Tech Park with 10 staff members. Its new representative office in Beijing aims to expand its operations in China.

Zoll's products contribute to managing patient care and savings lives as well as increasing the efficiency of emergency medical, fire and hospital operations worldwide.

Sun said, as a major industry in Massachusetts, the biotechnology industry has great potential to create more business opportunities between Massachusetts and China, because devices like theirs are increasingly needed in the China market.

"Major hospitals in China use our products. Foreign companies like Zoll can bring new, advanced technologies not only to sell in the (China) market but also for local companies to learn and improve their own," Sun said.

Thomas Sommer, president at Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, went on the trade mission in 2007 with a couple dozen delegates led by the governor.

Because he was part of the informative trip, Sommer and his organization now attend an annual medical equipment fair in Shenzhen every year.

"We are very pleased with the activities that generated out of that trade fair," Sommer said.

Sectors vital to Massachusetts' economy include biotechnology, healthcare and higher education. China became the third-largest export market for Massachusetts-made goods in 2010, according to the Washington-based US-China Business Council.

Massachusetts' exports to China grew 337 percent in the past 10 years while its exports went up only 20 percent to the rest of the world. Medical and surgical instruments exports to China increased 23 percent in 2010.

Higher education is another pillar industry for the state and collaboration between Massachusetts and China has seen increasing achievements.

Boston University is among the 10 American universities with the highest number of foreign students, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). Harvard, Northeastern, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts (UMass) are homes to large numbers of international students - particularly those from emerging economies such as China and India.

IIE said China sent the most international students to the US in 2010 - more than 18 percent of the total international student population. The growth in international students in the US in 2010 was primarily driven by a 30 percent increase in Chinese student enrollment for a total of nearly 128,000 students.

In March 2008, UMass became the first foreign university approved to offer online education courses and degree programs, known as UmassOnline, in China.

"Building relationships with our counterparts in China is very important for our business relationships for both (Massachusetts companies) in China and for promotion of foreign direct investment (FDI) here in the state," said Ken Brown, executive director for Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment.

FDI encourages the economy in the state, Brown said.

"FDI by China is somewhat difficult to track, but we do know China has established operations and created jobs in at least 35 states in the US, including Massachusetts," said Brown, one of the principal organizers for the governor's trade mission in 2007.

One good example of FDI collaboration between Massachusetts and China is the Cernet (China Education and Research Network) project where China-based Cernet Education Science & Technology Research Development bought the property previously owned by Verizon in Marlborough, Mass., for about $10 million in 2009 to establish a preparatory school for Chinese students.