Chinese trade mission a success for Brightlands

april 25, 2018

“Understanding what isn’t said is crucial”

When you go on a trade mission with the prime minister, three ministers and a state secretary, doors open for you in China. Director of the Brightlands China Center Sunny Jiang did not return to Maastricht empty-handed. On the contrary, in fact!

Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu, the sister city of Maastricht, were the three cities on the itinerary of the Dutch trade mission that the Netherlands Enterprise Agency organized from April 8 through 13. Since one of the key sectors targeted by the mission was life sciences and health care, this was an opportunity the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus and the Brightlands China Center could not pass up. Sunny Jiang was there, and Deputy Hans Teunissen, Maria Jacobs, director of the MAASTRO Clinic, and Robert Lambriks, policy officer for the Province of Limburg also joined her on the trip.

Based on six catchwords, Sunny looks back on what was a very successful trade mission for the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus and for Limburg.


“If you want to do business in China, you have to be patient. It’s all about having the right contacts; you want to sit down at the table with decision-makers. When you go on a trade mission with the prime minister, three ministers and a state secretary, you can achieve a lot. Doors open for you. You are given immediate access to people with whom you would normally need to go through three or four subordinates first before being granted an audience with them. It was extremely valuable in other words. We were able to take important steps for various start-ups based at the Campus. They will soon have access to an enormous market; after all, 1.4 billion people live in China! I am unfortunately not at liberty to divulge which start-ups are involved yet. To be continued!”

Do’s & Don’ts

“Brightlands China Center offers true added value. The Chinese prefer to do business with other Chinese people. Speaking Chinese isn’t enough; being Chinese means that a relationship of trust develops a lot faster. Trust is very important if you want to do business in China. Besides, it’s very important to understand what isn’t being said. You have to be able to read between the lines and pick up subtle hints. The direct approach of the Dutch doesn’t work in China. My tips prevent the Dutch people in our group from committing faux pas. I explain the seating arrangements to them for example, or teach them how to make a toast. Everything has a significance. If you take all these things into consideration, you will have an advantage.”


“Many European companies have a China Desk. This is just for that one company. Brightlands China Center represents an entire region. Apart from being able to do business with the Brightlands campuses, you can also contact the center if you want to invest or do research. This is what makes Brightlands such an interesting partner. The Chinese are very impressed with the Dutch health care system and want to learn from us. In the near future, 300 Chinese hospital directors will be participating in training courses here in the region. They will all be ambassadors. We were also acting as ambassadors for Brightlands and Limburg when we were in China. I think that we ended up giving Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister, a refresher course on Brightlands.”


“We have been sowing the seeds for the Brightlands China Center since 2014, and now we can reap the benefits. Things are suddenly moving very fast. Last year, Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus and Chengdu Medical City signed a letter of intent to set up a joint venture, a capital fund that facilitates start-ups. Barely six months later, during this trade mission, the Director-General of Curative Care for the Netherlands Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, Bas van den Dungen, and Deputy Hans Teunissen opened the Sino-Dutch Bio-Med and Healthcare Fund Management Chengdu Co. Ltd. The Health Campus holds a 25% share in this company. This is important since it means we have become a serious partner. Our start-ups will benefit from this. The volume available in the Chinese market will ensure that they can earn much-needed money that they can apply towards their R&D.”


 “MAASTRO Clinic was also one of the participants in the trade mission. Brightlands China Center helped them find a cooperation partner. During the trade mission, director Maria Jacobs was able to sign a letter of intent with several oncology centers in Suining, near Chengdu. MAASTRO will be training their medical staff. They will help them achieve the European standards and also offer remote consulting services, ultimately resulting in a vast improvement in cancer patients’ quality of life.”


“In 2015, China abolished its one-child policy. We are now seeing a lot of women approaching 40 who want a second child. This has caused an increase in the demand for IVF treatments. In Maastricht, we are a trendsetter when it comes to PGD, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. This technique involves only implanting embryos for which no genetic defects were found during testing. There is a great deal of interest in PGD in China. I was able to discuss this right before my plane was due to depart. The contacts have been made. Now we are going to study whether or not we can build a PGD center in China.”


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