China: Back to normality?

During an online meeting of the GWP Regional Forum China, participants exchanged their thoughts on the general situation in the country and the impact of the corona crisis on business.


  • Business in the water sector barely affected so far
  • AHK offers new accelerator program
  • IE expo probably without foreign participation


02.04.2020 – How strongly does the corona crisis affect German companies’ business in China? “We managed to get through it relatively well”, states Franz Heindl from German mechanical and plant engineering company for wastewater treatment HUBER SE. “Right now, things are getting back to normal.” “We received a lot of orders, everything is still going on”, confirms Jörg Steinhardt from Steinhardt Wassertechnik GmbH during this extraordinary meeting of the GWP Regional Forum China, which took place online on Thursday. At the moment, there did not seem to be any real restrictions on business in China, the manager observes. “The final outcome, however, will be visible at a later stage during assembly and commissioning” he states. Despite healthy caution in light of the current circumstances, the meeting was characterized by an optimistic tone.

In China, the situation has mostly returned to normal and around 90 percent of the country’s companies have returned to production, the meeting’s participants observe. Except for the severely affected areas such as the city of Wuhan, almost all people went back to their offices and factories, reports Dr. Jiansan Zhang from the equipment manufacturer Aqseptance Group via video from Hangzhou in China. And even in Hubei – the highly affected region in which Wuhan is also located –  operations are expected to be switched back to their normal mode in the next few days. In particular the water sector has remained unaffected and the chances are good that things will remain this way. According to Zhang, even after the crisis, Aqseptance’s profit expectations for 2020 are still high in China and no losses are forecasted.

Local presence remains limited

Nevertheless, it still seems to be difficult for foreigners to do business in China, as the country has imposed far-reaching entry restrictions to prevent new infections from abroad. Anyone who enters China must stay in quarantine for at least 14 days. Moreover, the same applies to Chinese. Hence it is most likely that they will try to avoid travelling in the near future. Foreigners and visa holders are currently subject to a complete ban on entry.

Furthermore, the situation in other parts of the world continues to be difficult. Thus, business trips from Germany to China will not be possible either. The Chamber of Commerce Greater China (AHK China) therefore offers German companies an accelerator program to employ local staff for a limited period of term, who will then be able to operate in China on behalf of the company. “We would like to offer companies such an opportunity in order to benefit from the current recovery in China, while it is still hard to do business and plan investments in Germany”, explains Kilian Schröder of the AHK China.

In addition, trade fairs in China such as IE expo will be further affected by the entry ban. The IFAT spin-out in Shanghai, which has been postponed to 10-12 June, will probably take place largely without foreign participation. Some companies consider sending local staff to the exhibition, since foreigners are not willing to travel to Shanghai for the trade fair at the moment.

As a result, the forum leaders, participants and the GWP office agreed to postpone the GWP session, which was originally planned for the IE-Expo in June. In general, however, the trade fair is an extremely important platform, emphasised Forum Director Prof. Martin Wagner from the TU Darmstadt. Hence, the participation of the IE expo in April 2021 will be planned in detail during the next meeting of the GWP China Forum in October.


Members of GWP can download the presentations from the meeting here.