Peter Pronk, new director of EU SME support centre: “Market knowledge China crucial to success”

11/1/2018 7:25:25 AM

Peter Pronk, one of Club China’s regular bloggers, has been appointed as the new director of the EU SME Centre, the Beijing-based organization that supports European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in China. Pronk, an established entrepreneur and founder of 1421 Consulting Group in Beijing, is excited about his new job. “Market knowledge is crucial to any company before starting business in China. Before you start, visit the EU SME Centre.” 

The EU SME Centre is an initiative of the European Union and funded by the European Union. The Centre supports SMEs from the 28-member states in gaining information about Chinese market. It offers its market studies, information on rules and regulations, legal support and much more, free of charge. Over time, the organisation has issued over 140 market publications which have been downloaded over 100.000 times. The Centre has answered over 4.000 inquiries and organized over 160 webinars with over 6.200 participants and organized more than 500 trainings with over 19.000 participants. Pronk: “The strength of the EU SME Centre is its great amount of market knowledge and its network for any SME that wants to do business in China. In this the EU SME Centre differs from any consulting company towards the Chinese market. 

What, in your opinion, are the biggest needs of SMEs in getting ready for business in China? 

“Market knowledge is crucial to any company before starting business in China. The market in China is huge but also complicated and before you want to start to do business in China you should get this information first. Over the years the EU SME Centre have built up a strong position with market studies which companies and organizations can get at our website. So, before you want to do business you have to visit the EU SME Centre first. The second biggest need is to understand the rules and regulation on doing business in China. Our advice Centre as mentioned have answered over 4,000 inquiries since the start of the Centre. On HR, legal, business development and many more you can drop by and get informed at the best level! 

How do you intend to make the Centre even better? What more can be done? 

After building up so much knowledge over the last 8 years we have proven to the stakeholders, the implementing partners and the SME’s the need and importance of the EU SME Centre. Now it is time to further build the network and market ourselves even more. In the present Europe the EU SME Centre can show that the cooperation among the member states towards the Chinese market is very important and needed. In the world of information, we are a unique institute and knowledge Centre and one stop shopping window for any SME in Europe. Without the vision and the strong support of the European Union this was never possible and in a world like China still 80% of the foreign companies fails within the first 3 years. 

You are an entrepreneur yourself, in China since 1998: what is your top three of main learnings about China business? 

“Firstly, I learned that nothing in China is like it is in our Western world. The fast growth of the economy and the possibilities for Western companies is not a guarantee of success. To succeed you need to understand the market fully and know what this would mean for you as entrepreneur or business woman or man. Secondly the culture in general and the cultural of doing business. It took me years to understand a little bit and every day I still learn. Thirdly, to keep up with the developments within China. An ongoing thing which always gives you the feeling you are one step behind. Within the EU SME Centre we over 170 experts in our database and we are connected to over 270 government agencies and business support organizations to keep up with the developments within China. 

Sorry for asking: what was your biggest mistake? 

Underestimating China is the most common mistake made by many and certainly by me. With a wrong attitude of “I know it all” you will certainly fail! Allow me to take this opportunity and invite any SME who read this to register at our Centre for free and ask questions before you start to do business in China. 

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The EU SME Centre in Beijing provides a comprehensive range of hands-on support services to European small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), getting them ready to do business in China. Collaborating with external experts worldwide, the Centre converts valuable knowledge and experience into practical business tools and services easily accessible online. From first-line advice to in-depth technical solutions, we offer services through Knowledge Centre, Advice Centre, Training Centre, SME Advocacy Platform and Hot-Desks. 

The Centre is funded by the European Union and implemented by a consortium of six partners - the China-Britain Business Council, the Benelux Chamber of Commerce, the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce, the French Chamber of Commerce in China, the EUROCHAMBRES, and the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. To learn more about it, please visit its official website:

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