Ask the Expert: Five tips for businesses who want to trade with China

Elaine Taylor-Whilde, CEO of Leeds-based Nine Health Global, shares her expertise and top tips for businesses in Leeds City Region who want to break into the China market.

20 March 2020

China is a large and complex market to break into and for businesses it can often be a daunting prospect.

In this blog, Elaine Taylor-Whilde, CEO of Leeds-based Nine Health Global, a company that has had huge success in China in recent years, shares her expertise and top tips for businesses in Leeds City Region who want to break into the China market.

What do you do at Nine Health Global?

Nine Health Global (NHG) uses healthcare big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovative technologies to improve patient and public health. An international company, we work in many collaborations involving universities and others across the UK, Europe and Asia. The company was established by clinicians and managers who have previously worked in senior positions in the NHS. 

When did you decide that the China market was going to be a focus for your business?

One of the first contracts awarded to our sister company Nine Health CIC was a 4 year 10.2 million EU big data programme creating personalised clinical tools. Nine Health Global was the lead UK data partner in this and in 2014 was invited by the UKTI (now the Department of International Trade) to showcase our big data expertise on a touring road show in China.

We signed our first Chinese contract in December 2014 with a base in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province in eastern China. This culminated in the launch of a project to bring ‘intelligent information systems’ to GPs in the province. With Lantone (our first Chinese partner) we developed systems which enabled primary care clinics to reach an automated diagnosis in 2015. This system is now in use in over 2500 clinics in China and we continue to work with Lantone to develop and sell it through Nine Health Global.

Do you expect further businesses growth as a result of trading with China?

Yes. We are about to set up a Chinese company to expand into the China market based in Astra Zeneca’s new health innovation hub in Wuxi, near Shanghai in eastern China. This facility will enable us to deliver a range of AI and digital projects across China and the company will double in size with the employment of more permanent staff in Leeds City Region, Wuxi and in Chengdu. We are designing a new type of primary care service as well as planning to support other companies entering the Chinese market.

Are there places in Leeds City Region that you can go for help if you are thinking of exploring the China market?

There are a range of organisations such as the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Department of International Trade, China British Business Council, The Confucius Institute and private companies who also help land businesses in China. I would also use the Department of International Trade in London and China as it has offices in most large cities and makes frequent trade missions which really can help. 

What advice would you give to businesses who want to enter the China market?

1. Before you decide to go do your research, China is culturally very different to the UK or EU and the British ways of working do not work in China.

2. Do you have the resources necessary to create and use new websites and systems (no Microsoft, Google, or Facebook) and attend the face to face meetings in China? Are you able to download and use We-chat which is where most business is done? 

3. Use professional advisors who are very experienced in the China market as the laws are complex and very different to the UK.

4. Always do thorough due diligence on prospective partners.

5. One of the most important customs is being invited for a meal after a meeting, always go “no meal = no deal” and it is very easy to offend if you do not accept. Always leave blank space in your diary for follow up meetings after events.

For more information about support available for businesses who want to trade with China please contact