Michael Chang has worked in the ICT industry since 2000. He first became involved with the Chamber in 2010 when he began making valuable contributions to the ICT Working Group Position Paper. He successfully ran for the position of chair of the ICT Working Group in 2015 and again in 2016. Chang currently heads Nokia’s Industry Environment Department for the APAC region, dealing with technology regulations and standardisation.
Why did you decide to run for the position of chair?
The Chamber proved to be a really good platform for European industry in China to deliver our voice and communicate with the Chinese authorities in a constructive manner. After talking with other players in the ICT industry, you realise that the Chamber’s advocacy efforts are an illustration of really good team work. It makes you want to do more, not just for your own company, but for the benefit of the European ICT industry overall, as well as Chinese consumers. I was very lucky that members of the working group put their trust in me when I first ran in 2015, and again when I stood for re-election in 2016.
What are the main issues that foreign ICT companies currently face in China?
I don’t think the major issues have changed in the last decade. The ICT industry provides critical infrastructure in China and the Chinese Government has put a lot of effort into promoting the domestic market in that respect. So we have seen many citizenship and reciprocity challenges in front of us from very early on, from technological research and standardisation, R&D, funding issues, market access and certification, not to mention certain regulatory surprises. So there needs to be a lot of improvement in terms of communication and exchange to start removing some of the market access barriers, and it will take a great deal more lobbying.
Do you think the issues resulting from the recent spate of regulations that reference the need for technology—particularly with respect to government procurement—to be ‘secure and controllable’ can be positively resolved?
It’s a difficult question to answer because this is something new, for both sides. From the Chinese perspective, the need for technology to be ‘secure and controllable’ stemmed from the national regulatory requirements for cyber security. We recognise that this is a very important future issue, not just for China but for the rest of the world as well. We strongly encourage open and transparent communication between government and industry on issues of policy before things are put in place that directly affect the market.
This is not an issue that affects just the ICT Industry, it affects important vertical sectors like banking, insurance and even manufacturing – its influence is very broad. We need to work with these other industries to really tackle this issue with the government.
Do you expect the China Manufacturing 2025 initiative to open up new opportunities for foreign-invested ICT companies?
The magnitude and scope of the plan is really attractive, and it presents a huge opportunity for the whole industry. To revitalise China’s economy, I think there is an awareness that global practices need to be followed to achieve global economies of scale, and this is one advantage that European companies can provide to China, by working together with and supporting Chinese authorities in this initiative to ensure that they win, and of course that we win too. That’s the spirit.
Which areas hold the most potential for EU-China cooperation in the ICT industry?
In September 2015, we made huge progress in terms of EU-China cooperation when we signed a 5G collaboration joint declaration. This is huge. An MOU was also signed with the objective of promoting bilateral cooperation in 5G development in terms of improving R&D, technology and standardisation. As far as China’s transformation of its infrastructure and the digitalisation of its economy is concerned, 5G is a key element. Beyond that there is also big data and the IoT, which also hold huge potential for EU-China collaboration.
What would you consider to be lobby successes of the ICT Working Group?
For many years we have been discussing with the Chinese Government the importance of having global standards. As European companies we have historically have had no, or at best restricted, access to China’s standards technical committees – so either no voting rights or we are excluded completely. After lobbying continuously on this issue for more than 10 years we have made some really good progress. Technical Committee 260, which is a standardisation organisation that deals with security matters, is starting to open up to foreign industry. Honestly, it is still not quite what we want, there are still some limitations in the membership, but we will keep trying.
Another success is related to access to government-funded R&D projects. European industry was previously excluded from this, but now we are making solid progress. Starting from this year we are seeing companies start to take part in projects and get funding for them. Although it is only a small number of companies, it is still a positive step. Credit really has to be given to those engaged in dialogue at the government level.
The working group also helped to facilitate discussions on EU-China collaboration on 5G.
What are the priorities for the ICT Working Group this year?
I think looking to the future, 5G and IoT will be extremely important to the European ICT industry’s development in China. So we will be prioritising lobbying on matters related to the coordination of research and standardisation. We already have an MOU signed and in place regarding 5G collaboration, which is great, but we need to concentrate now on the implementation of this cooperation. The ultimate goal is to drive for global harmonisation of the ICT eco-system, which will benefit global markets as well as end-consumers from both sides. Second, the cyber security issue is growing into the most important topic in China, so we are going to drive for open and transparent communication and coordination on this issue, in terms of policy-making and implementation. Third, we need to focus on making China’s standards-making procedures open and transparent as well to ensure the reciprocity that the European ICT industry has equal access to and influence in China’s standards technical committees, and that they enjoy equal access to government funding programmes as well. Finally, we need to try and enhance coordination on ICT regulatory activities that are crucial for market access.