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23 July 2020 - Diana Bluhm

Chinese companies are investing in Bremen

Investing in Bremen

China has a huge commercial interest in Germany’s smallest federal state

Containers from China at Bremen’s Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ)
Containers from China at Bremen’s Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ) © WFB/Jens Lehmkühler

Chinese companies have been opening subsidiaries or branches in Germany for decades. In doing so, they intensify the trade relations between the two countries. Bremen’s economic development agency opened its first office abroad in 2003 under its international Bremeninvest brand. And the members of the team in Shanghai, China, have been banging the drum for Bremen as an investment location ever since. Their efforts are bearing fruit.

In the past 17 years, more than 150 Chinese companies have established businesses in Bremen. China is Bremen's third largest trading partner for exports and fourth largest after imports (German). The main products traded between Bremen and China are vehicles, tools, steel products and fish.

“Bremen is known in China as one of the world’s major ports,” says Matthias Hempen, Bremeninvest’s representative for relocations from China. “But that’s just one of the factors attracting Chinese companies to our Hanseatic city.”

Long-standing trade relations between China and Bremen

Once a Chinese business decides to invest in Europe, it will need to find a suitable base for its operations. Germany is centrally located in Europe and has good transport links to the other EU states.

Bremen stands apart from many other German cities because of its long-standing historical links to China. The beginnings of trade between the Hanseatic city and China can be traced all the way back to the 18th century. And today, container ships travel non-stop to China from Bremen seven times a week.

“It’s an advantage that there are already a lot of Chinese businesses here,” explains Karin Noetzel, who is also part of the team at Bremeninvest responsible for maintaining good links with Chinese companies. “We have a large Chinese community. And it’s by no means a closed network. They maintain close links to Bremen companies, particularly in the export and high-tech sectors.”

We work mainly with mid-sized Chinese companies.

Matthias Hempen, Bremeninvest

Many of the Chinese mid-sized companies that establish operations in Bremen specialise in imports and exports. For them, having the proper infrastructure in place is just as important as being able to work with local logistics providers.

“We work mainly with mid-sized Chinese companies,” explains Hempen. However, they do need to meet certain requirements. They have to be of a particular size and have sufficient financial resources to tide their businesses over for the first two years. Strong management is also important. Promoting language skills and offering the right training for employees form a key part of this.

“The companies need to have an international outlook,” adds Wang Lu, who runs the Bremeninvest office in Shanghai. “This includes having an English or German website and being aware of cultural differences. They should know, for example, that the German language has a formal form of address and that they should use this with business partners.”

Containers at Bremen’s Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ)
Containers at Bremen’s Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ) © WFB/Jens Lehmkühler

3,500 jobs linked to Chinese businesses in Bremen

Chinese companies in Bremen employ around 700 people. They also indirectly support a total of more than 3,500 jobs because of the many services that they use. Among the commercial enterprises that benefit from the Chinese presence in Bremen are logistics providers, firms offering legal and tax advice, marketing agencies and language schools.

The Chinese are also a boon for Bremen’s tourism and property sectors. They book hotel rooms for their business partners and put up holidaying families and friends in apartments. High-end accommodation is their usual preference. In general, Chinese people moving to Bremen are happy to rent or buy. But Chinese companies relocating in Bremen prefer to buy.

In 2015, Linhorn’s managing director Zhaohang Lu decided to set up his own company in Bremen.
In 2015, Linhorn’s managing director Zhaohang Lu decided to set up his own company in Bremen. © WFB/Pusch

Linhorn: Industrial technology from Europe

A successful example of a Chinese company establishing operations in Bremen is Linhorn Industrietechnik. The Linhorn group with its seven subsidiaries trades in industrial parts for machines in the steel, food, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. In order to be able to sell parts from European manufacturers in China, the Shanghai Group established an office in Germany in 2011.

“Lu Wang from Bremeninvest drew our attention to Bremen. Among other things, trade taxes and the cost of living are slightly lower here. Bremeninvest gave us really good advice, and supported us through the process of setting up the company” sys CEO Zhaohang Lu. He found ideal conditions for shipping goods to China here - good connections to the highway network on the one hand and a short route to an international port on the other.

Further services for companies looking for a location

Bremeinvest also organises trade fair stands or delegation trips abroad - provided there is not an international virus pandemic - as well as visits by international guests to the Weser. Economic Development Manager Matthias Hempen takes stock: "The interest of Chinese companies in Bremen is high.” The Bremeninvest office in Shanghai has proven its worth over the past 15 years and should continue to draw attention to Germany's smallest federal state.

Solidarity across 9,000 Kilometers
Also during the Corona crisis the solidarity between Bremen and China is evident. Chinese people in Bremen, former Bremen students from China and business people in China organised themselves independently online in March 2020 and, with the support of Bremeninvest, organised a donation of 5,000 face masks from China plus additional protective equipment. " As a sign of gratitude to the city of Bremen, we would like to get involved and express our solidarity," said Dr. Yamei Leng, founder of the translation and interpreting agency China Dialog in Bremen.
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