Travelling with Astrid are 5 ministers and state secretaries from the different governments, major companies like Barco, Bekaert and Agfa but also smaller businesses taking their first steps. Universities and a number of institutions are also sending representatives.
While the mission may only last 5 days, preparations took several months, the VRT's expert on China Veerle Devos explains: contacts with Chinese ministers, visits to giants like Alibaba and dozens of seminars.
While China boasts a rapid innovation, Belgium still has something to offer: "If you can offer expertise in pharmaceutical products, clean technology or waste processing, you stand a chance", says Bart Horsten, who has been active in China for 23 years.
Focus on the authentic "Made in Belgium" label
Chinese supermarkets are already offering beer and chocolate, typical Flemish export products. "If you want to score with these products, you need to centre on the "made in Belgium" aspect. The Chinese middle class is growing and they like authentical products. We are good at this."
The universities of Leuven (KU Leuven), Gent (UGent) and Antwerp (UAntwerpen) and the Thomas More University of Applied Sciences (Mechelen) are joining the mission as well. "We will visit our partner institutions here, and the presence of Princess Astrid can boost this process", says Mieke Van Herreweghe of UGent. Ghent university has over 600 Chinese students at present, and the number is growing.