Building a Strong Platform

China Daily Editor’s note

As a German federally-owned enterprise, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is a global service provider in international cooperation and professional training for sustainable development. GIZ operates in 130 countries with 17,000 staff members worldwide and provides policy advice, knowledge transfer, capacity building and organisational development support in areas where German know-how is world-leading.

GIZ has more than three decades of experience in cooperation with China, and 28 years with Northeast China. What changes happened in Shenyang over the past decades? What are the main achievements of the cooperation between Germany and Shenyang? Helmut Schönleber, Programme Director of GIZ, shares his views with China Daily.

China Daily - European Weekly - April 11 - Page 17 - Building a Strong Platform
China Daily – European Weekly – April 11 – Page 17 – Building a Strong Platform

Q: What role does GIZ play in promoting the cooperation between Germany and Shenyang? What are the main achievements?

Commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development, GIZ launched projects in China since 1982. We began our first project in Northeast China in 1986, a Training Centre for Welding in Harbin. Just a few years later, we started to support the Liaoning Vocational and Technical Education Research Centre in Shenyang, and implemented our regional projects from our Shenyang Office ever since.

In the Liaoning Employment Promotion and Training Programme, we worked together with our Chinese partners on improving the labour market structure, supported highly skilled talent training, provided training for business start-ups, and initiated a Public-Private Cooperation Project between BMW-Brilliance and vocational schools in Shenyang. In total, we held more than 60 symposiums and trainings with over 2,500 participants.

In 2011, we started to cooperate with Development and Reform Commissions in a programme to support the new State Council strategy on integration and coordination of economic development in the Northeast. The programme achieved a good improvement in cooperation between provincial stakeholders, and contributed to an impulse on German business contacts with Northeast China.

In our projects, we arranged many mutual visits of German and Shenyang officials, experts, and entrepreneurs to build new partnerships. Germany established a Consulate General in Shenyang, and German Lufthansa Airlines connected Frankfurt and Shenyang with a non-stop flight, starting in 2012.

Q: Why are German enterprises interested in investing in Shenyang?

Germany and Northeast China are similar in climate and in the character and business habits of our people, such as seeking excellence in profession. More and more Germans know about the economic development of the Shenyang Metropolitan Area as a hub to reach all of Northeast Asia. When we did research for our “China Liaoning Business Guide”, we even found out that Liaoning was the fastest growing sub-national region in the world, far ahead of Ile-de-France, Greater London, California, Tokyo-to or Bavaria. Both the matching character of people and the amazing growth opportunities are important for attracting German enterprises.

The cooperation between Germany and Shenyang initially focused on big enterprises such as BMW and Brilliance, but the centre of attention is now shifting to small and medium enterprises. They are concerned with demand and supply, the location of customers and competitors, and the political environment when selecting their location for investment.

Q: What factors will German investors consider if they want to invest in Shenyang?

Aside from industry-specific key factors, German companies consider investing here due to the national Shenyang Metro development plan and the preferential policies expected to be applied. Compared to other locations, the Shenyang workforce has a higher level of professional training, but there is still much room for improvement. The city and the provincial government seem to pay attention to provide quality human resources for foreign enterprises.

Q: What’s your suggestion for companies in Shenyang on attracting German partners?

Firstly, German enterprises like to cooperate with foreign partners in the same field of operations. So, Shenyang enterprises should get to know German enterprises in their specific market niche.

Secondly, German companies like partners who apply a similar work attitude as they do. They like precision, specialization, efficiency, reliability, honesty, and openness. Shenyang enterprises with those characteristics will more easily succeed in finding German partners.

It is one of the objectives in our Northeast Programme to promote economic cooperation between enterprises of our two countries. Within our project, over 200 north-eastern enterprises will build cooperation with Germany. We will provide entrepreneurs of Shenyang the opportunity to meet German entrepreneurs. It will be up to them to turn these opportunities into successful cooperation.

Q: In your opinion, what needs to be improved in Shenyang?

Foreign enterprises need foreign people. I suggest Shenyang to pay more attention to providing proper services for these people, such as more international schools for their children, international food and entertainment, and convenient public transportation. Foreigners and Chinese alike also love clean air, so try to improve air quality.

Foreign enterprises also need a strong vocational training system trimmed to their specific needs. German enterprises consider their long-term development more than others, so they require the availability of talents they need in 10 or 20 years.

Shenyang has been looking at the experience of the German Ruhr Area, and adopted some of the lessons learnt. I think there is still much more to be exchanged. Why not intensify the twinning between Shenyang and Düsseldorf and between Liaoning and Baden-Württemberg? We at GIZ will be happy to assist in all these endeavours.

The Shenyoungsters

I like to call the people of Shenyang “Shenyoungsters”. First, they are young compared with the people of European cities, statistically ten years younger than the average age of Germany. You will notice this when you go shopping at one of the malls or pedestrian zones of Shenyang: smiling at you will be mostly tall and pretty girls in their twenties (or at least looking as such) and smart trim young men. Second, their city has been going through an amazing rejuvenation since I first visited in 1985.

In 1985, I was a postgraduate scholarship student at Renmin University of China in Beijing, researching management reforms in the shipbuilding industry of China. The Dean of Economic History, Professor Sun Jian, guided me during an excursion to major shipyards, and our last stop was Dalian Shipyard in Liaoning province, the yard that built the largest ships of China.

At a time when men and women alike were wearing a blue or green Mao suit, when streets were jammed not with cars but with bicycles, when people addressed each other “comrade”, Dalian was a buzzing and relatively westernized city with business and modernization in the air. We interviewed Director Wang Youwei who had massively expanded the Shipyard and actually spoke some German. Afterwards, we took a train from Dalian back to Beijing, with a one-night stopover in Shenyang.

I expected Shenyang to be even more modern and globalized than Dalian, because Dalian was just a so-called “open” port city in Liaoning, while Shenyang was the provincial capital and seat of the government. But on my first visit, Shenyang disappointed me very much. My first impression of Shenyang was that of a huge village in the middle of early industrialization. Even the faces of people seemed dusty. At the time, I saw no reason to ever come back.

And I didn’t, for eleven years. In 1996, I was appointed coordinator of a Sino-German project to support chambers of industry and commerce. We considered the Liaoning chamber to be one of our key partners, main reason for my second visit to Shenyang. Now this Shenyang was quite different from the one of a decade before! There were international hotels, pubs with German beer, many entrepreneurs full of vigour and eager to cooperate with Europe. I met some wonderful people, such as Li Yingzhang of the provincial chamber, descendant of a “capitalist family” whose father had donated the family wealth to the Party in the early 1950s, or Yang Guanxing with a similar background, Chairman of the chamber today. People in general were friendly, especially to Germans, and not as intrusive as elsewhere. Many of my best friends in Shenyang today are friends I met at that time.

In the later 1990s and 2000s, I visited Shenyang many times and witnessed her progress. I moved to live there in 2008, to head the GIZ Shenyang Office and the GIZ LEPT Programme. A year later, Shenyang expanded the airport freeway to eight lanes and became host of “Germany and China – Together in Motion” with some of the high-level events arranged by GIZ. Shenyang built her first subway line, which was opened on the same day Governor Chen Zhenggao honoured me and some other foreign experts with the Liaoning Friendship Award. Shenyang opened a new, large international airport and hosted the National Athletic Games. I had to move back to Beijing, but still consider Shenyang my second home after Germany. My Shenyoungster friends, young or old, are the ones I can trust, rely upon, and both have fun and do serious business with.

China Daily - European Weekly - April 11 - Page 17 - Shenyoungsters
China Daily – European Weekly – April 11 – Page 17 – Shenyoungsters

Helmut Schönleber

Afghanistan Chamber Elections

Private Sector to Elect Provincial and National Leadership

ACCI CEO Mohammad Qurban Haqjo
ACCI CEO Mohammad Qurban Haqjo

The new Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) is preparing the largest ever business community elections in the country. Mohammad Qurban Haqjo, CEO of the national chamber, explained in a meeting on June 6, 2008, that all registered members in 21 provinces will be invited to vote for their delegates to the national ACCI High Council in July, 2008. Voters include members of the former Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), the former Afghan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC), and a large number of business people who were previously not affiliated with either chamber. The former chambers had decided in a March 2008 Joint Assembly to merge both organizations and hold elections as soon as possible.

Fraidoon Watanyar
Fraidoon Watanyar

The national and all provincial chambers of commerce are currently validating their membership lists and accepting new membership applications. Voter lists are being prepared. According to ACCI Membership Director Fraidoon Watanyar, more than 10,000 voters were already registered by June 6, 2008. At the current rate of membership applications and verification, about 12,000 members are expected to cast their votes in July and elect more than 120 delegates for the national High Council. The High Council will then convene in Kabul in August to elect the new Board of Directors of ACCI.


Key objective of the merger and the elections is the creation of an ACCI High Council that is accepted and supported by a strong majority of the Afghan business community as their leading representative organ, and that is also able to build opinions and make majority decisions internally, to then unanimously advocate these decisions externally.

The ACCI Board of Directors has established an election schedule for the economically active provinces, as well as procedures for the nomination of candidates and the actual voting. Nomination and elections will be free, fair, and transparent. The event will be a unique opportunity to introduce democratic procedures many members are not yet familiar with.

BMO Workshops in Laos

Income Generation of Chambers and Business Associations

Vientiane Workshop
Vientiane Workshop

The Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) and (UNIDO) held two workshops on income generation of business membership organizations (BMOs) from April 25 through May 2, 2008. The workshops in the capital Vientiane and in Northern Laos’ Oudomxay Province were part of a training series on chamber and association management within the joint UNIDO-UNDP project “Promoting Private Sector Development Through Strengthening of Lao Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Business Associations” in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The LNCCI Board of Directors met in Oudomxay for an internal meeting before opening the first workshop on April 25. President Kissana Vongsay, Vice Presidents Onesy Boutsivongsad, Dr. Sananh Chounlamany, Chantao Pathammavong, Sisanouk Sisombat, Southone Sirisack, Oudet Souvannavong, and Secretary General Khanthavong Dalavong participated in the discussion of income generation potential and new strategies of LNCCI, provincial CCIs, and the other BMOs. Deputy Secretary General Sengdavone Bangolesengdet explained the principles of decision-making and political advocacy of the business community within a strong and united BMO system. CIM Expert Dr. Ramon Bruesseler presented a status report on LNCCI strategy development in 2008. UNIDO Expert Helmut Schoenleber provided background information on international best practice in demand-oriented services for members, the structure of fair membership and service fees, and the optimization of other income.

Oudomxay province had been selected for this first workshop of the series, because the provincial Chamber of Commerce and Industry is one of the youngest in the country and urgently needs support in capacity building and management. The provincial government underlined its strong interest in the new chamber: Oudomxay Governor Bounphone Buttanavong and Vice Governor Somsy Saybounhuang joined the group after the workshop and promised their continued support for the business community and its chamber.

Leaders and financial managers of LNCCI, five provincial chambers, and seven national business associations participated in the second workshop in Vientiane from April 28 through May 2. Trainers in this workshop were LNCCI Deputy Secretary General Sengdavone Bangolesengdet, accounting and auditing consultant Phonexay Sanasin, and UNIDO’s expert on business membership organizations, Helmut Schoenleber.

Afghanistan Builds a New Chamber

Business Community Achieves Unity


Nearly 500 top business community representatives from all provinces of Afghanistan assembled in Kabul on March 9th, 2008, to set a strong signal for private sector development by establishing a new, united Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (new ACCI). They formally confirmed the merger of the two former chambers, the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (former ACCI) and the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (former AICC).

The assembly, chaired by Hakim Malyar, also discussed and agreed on a transitional by-law. The delegates of the private sector elected a temporary Board of Elders to decide on the transitional leadership of the new chamber until democratic elections have been carried out in all provinces. The elders decided to ask the complete Chamber Merger Committee (CMC), that had prepared the assembly, to act as Transitional Board of Directors of the new ACCI. Mahmood Karzai, Chairman of the CMC, will be the Transitional President, and CMC Head of Secretariat, Mohammad Qurban Haqjo, will be the Transitional Chief Executive Officer.

Minister Farhang
Minister Farhang

Minister of Commerce and Industry, Dr. Mir Mohammad Amin Farhang, expressed his full support for the new ACCI, but also promised that the government will not get involved in its internal affairs. “The new chamber must represent the democratic decisions of the business community vis-a-vis the public, foreign organizations and businesses, and also vis-a-vis the government”, he told the entrepreneurs. “This chamber is your own house!” He also suggested for the new ACCI to join international chamber organizations such as the Islamic Chambers of Commerce and Industry as soon as possible.

The ambassadors of Germany, Dr. Hans-Ulrich Seidt, and of Saudi-Arabia, Said Ghorm Malhan, were honorable guests of the assembly. The USA and Germany have been supporting a strong, efficient, and representative chamber system in Afghanistan for several years. Their development agencies were represented by Zdravko Sami of USAID and Shafic Gawhari of GTZ. The presidents of Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, Omar Zakhilwal, and of the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan, Suleman Fatimie, representatives of international organizations and of the national and international media also participated as observers in the meeting.

Assembly in Session
Assembly in Session

The assembly was a joint session of all elected delegates of the former ACCI and the former AICC, extended by numerous well-known private sector representatives who were previously not affiliated with either chamber. New ACCI President Karzai appreciated the strong engagement of the entire business community. He explained that the CMC was surprised by the enormous interest in the new chamber. “Until the last day before the assembly session, we kept receiving requests of business groups and famous entrepreneurs of all provinces to be included in the new chamber. Of course we are very happy about their interest, and despite our difficulty to organize these last-minute changes, we did not want to turn them down.” In a controversial discussion, regional and sectoral interest groups within the business community had voiced their concern about appropriate representation in the first regularly elected leadership organs of the new chamber.

The assembly unanimously passed a resolution requesting the transfer of all property owned by the former chambers to the new ACCI. The former ACCI had used contributions of the business community over decades to acquire considerable assets, which have not yet been returned by the government. The new Board of Directors plans to discuss the issue with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai within a few days.

The transitional leadership of the new chamber plans to establish election rules and to organize democratic elections for the regional chambers’ boards of directors as soon as possible. Transitional CEO Haqjo confirmed in an interview that he strives to complete the merger of organizational structures and full-time staff of the former ACCI and the former AICC before the first regularly elected Board of Directors takes office. He appealed to the international donor community to continue supporting this effort.

Lao National CCI 2008 Annual Congress

Lao Prime Minister Joins BMO Discussion

Prime Minister
Prime Minister Bouasone with CCI Chairman Kissana

The Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Bouasone Bouphanvanh, joined more than 350 top representatives of the private business community in their discussion about a new legal framework for the business membership organizations (BMOs) of the country. The discussion was key topic of the 2008 Annual Congress of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LNCCI) on February 1, 2008 in Vientiane. By participating for the first time in a LNCCI Annual Congress, Bouasone underlined the government’s strong consideration for a more rational and effective BMO system under leadership of LNCCI. The event was a rare opportunity for entrepreneurs and business leaders to voice their concerns about specific obstacles to the development of their BMOs, as the Prime Minister listened in the afternoon session to the presidents of LNCCI, twelve provincial chambers of commerce and industry, and sixteen sector associations, before presenting his own viewpoints and recommendations.



LNCCI President Kissana Vongsay pointed out that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOC) already provided his chamber an unprecedented opportunity by authorizing it to draft a new decree on BMOs: “While all previous laws, decrees, and regulations were written by the Lao government, the BMO Decree will be the first to be officially suggested by a non-government organization.” Building a strong, united, democratic, sustainable, and financially independent system of political advocacy for the business community and of high-quality services for the members will be the main objectives of the decree, said Kissana. The improvement of the legal framework for BMOs in the Lao PDR is one objective of the UNIDO / UNDP joint project on private sector development.

350 Participants
350 Participants

Vice President Onesy Boutsyvongsack presented the LNCCI Board of Directors’ current considerations about the draft’s detailed provisions, and invited all participants to comment. In the morning session of the Annual Congress, the LNCCI members unanimously approved the 2007 annual action report presented by President Kissana, the financial report presented by Vice President and Treasurer Daovone Phachanthavong, and the 2008 action plan presented by Vice President Dr. Sananh Chounlamany. Secretary General Khanthavong Dalavong facilitated the discussions.

Symposium on Professional Education in Anhui

The Role of Chambers of Commerce in Vocational Training

China’s Anhui General Chamber of Commerce organized a Sino-German Symposium on Vocational Training on December 12 and 13, 2007 in cooperation with the Sino-German SME Project and the Hefei College of Finance and Economics. More than 50 owners and managers of private training institutions and other educational experts from the whole province participated in the event. After an introduction by Vice Presidents Cao Jianhua and Wu Chenggui, the Head of Programme Management of the German SEQUA gGmbH Dr. Ralf Meier, explained in his presentation the German dual system and the important role of chambers of commerce and industry as well as chambers of skilled crafts in coordination and administration of vocational training.

Presentation by Dr. Ralf MeierProf. Chen Zhulin of Shanghai’s Tongji-University explained possibilities of applying the German dual system in China. Prof. Su Yan (Hefei Institute of Vocational Training), Prof. Zeng Xianghong (China Computer Science Vocational School), Huang Bangduo (Tongyong Technology School) and Fan Shenping (Anhui Bureau of Labor and Social Security) contributed with their speeches and presentations to a complete overview on the current discussion about improving and modernizing their country’s vocational training system. Their viewpoints and the possible future role of chambers in vocational training were then actively discussed in small groups.

New SchoolDuring his visit of two private schools in the provincial capital of Hefei before the symposium, Dr. Ralf Meier obtained deeper insights into the current situation of vocational education in China. He explained that he was very impressed by the high organizational level of the new private schools. For example, the Hefei College of Finance and Economics just started operations in 2006 and already admitted over 7000 students within less than one year. In discussions with the top management of the schools, he shared his opinion and provided valuable advice in regard to their further development strategy. The students vividly expressed their appreciation of Meier’s visit.

Discussion with Dr. Ralf Meier
Discussion with Dr. Ralf Meier

Chamber Management Workshop

Anhui Chamber Administrators Discuss Management Strategies

Group PhotoAbout 40 general secretaries and chiefs of administration of the prefecture and county chambers in Anhui Province met on December 10 and 11, 2007 in Hefei for a workshop on management and services of chambers of commerce. President Li Weihua welcomed all participants and the German experts Dr. Ralf Meier and Helmut Schoenleber of SEQUA, who reported on international best practice in chamber management and work quality standards. All modules of the training program were provided to the Chinese partners. GTZ and SEQUA supported the event within the Sino-German SME Promotion Program.

Workshop for New Chamber Vice Presidents

Anhui Leadership Training

Workshop SessionThe Anhui General Chamber of Commerce (AHGCC) organized the first training workshop for entrepreneurs who were recently elected vice-presidents of all prefectural chambers in the province. The workshop took place on November 23 and 24, 2007 in Hefei, the provincial capital, with 70 participants. Anhui Chamber President Li Weihua and Vice Presidents Cao Jianhua, Yan Anyun and Wu Chenggui held keynote speeches during the workshop. Experts Helmut Schoenleber and Zeng Fanyin explained the principles and guidelines of chamber work and leadership in their presentations.

Afghanistan CRC Chairman Laid to Rest

Business Community Mourns For Arif Zarif

Arif Zarif
Arif Zarif

One of the most prominent representatives of the Afghanistan business community was among over 70 people killed in a bomb attack in Baghlan on November 6, 2007. Hajji Muhamad Arif Zarif, Chairman of the Afghanistan Chamber Reform Commission and Member of the National Parliament, was laid to rest in a state ceremony on November 9 in Kabul. Arif Zarif was also Chairman of the parliamentary Economics Committee and owner of several private enterprises. Six of ten members of the Economics Committee were killed in the attack.

The Chamber Reform Commission (CRC), the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC), the Chamber Merger Committee (CMC), and domestic as well as international business membership organizations grieve the loss of an outstanding personality who was strongly yet patiently engaged in uniting and developing the private sector of his country. Arif Zarif devoted much of his time and energy to promote an integrated and independent chamber system for Afghanistan, and he gave his life in a mission to increase public awareness of private sector development projects. All who are left behind are committed to double efforts in achieving his goals and following his visions.

Peace be to his departed spirit!

Capacity Building for the Sustainable Development of Business Communities