Relationships, regulations, reputation, and respect are key to building market access in China, according to Christine Vick, a principal with The Cohen Group, a leading international strategic consulting firm with long experience in Chinese affairs.

Vick was speaking at the U.S. Grains Council’s 51st Annual Board of Delegates Meeting in San Francisco, July 25-28.

Relationships in China are built on listening and mutual respect, Vick said.

As an economic superpower, China is capable of setting its own rules, and foreigners wishing to do business with China must respect China’s sensitivities and priorities.

In agriculture in particular, she emphasized that the current generations of Chinese remember all too well the Great Leap Forward, in which an unknown number of people — probably at least 20 million — died of starvation.

Food security is not just a slogan in China; it is a deeply held national commitment.

The recent emergence of China as a major international grains buyer suggests that China is prepared to broaden its options in this sensitive area.

A new generation of leadership is also emerging, and the most recent Five Year Plan places a significantly greater emphasis on expanded domestic consumption.

The prospects for increased U.S. grains exports to China are promising, but constructive engagement in building long-term relationships of trust and respect are essential — a policy priority which the U.S. Grains Council has adopted and is seeking to increase in the coming year.