Business leaders at the Middle East Oasis Forum of BEYOND EXPO 2024 shared valuable insights on combining creativity and strategic confidence, highlighting their experiences in accelerating sustainable development and robust economic progress in the region. 

The panelists at the “Confidence with Imagination” included host Andre Kwok, founder of Good City Foundation and chief of staff at Tsangs Group, along with Jackson Zhang, the assistant to the chairman and manager of International Affairs at DeepRock Group and Biosphere 3, and Yamin Xu, dean of Tomorrow.City Institute at the Smart City Expo World Congress.

Navigating Middle Eastern markets with confidence and humility

There has been a significant shift in mindset among Chinese entrepreneurs over the years, Xu said.

Historically, Chinese business leaders admired Western companies and focused primarily on American and European markets. However, with China’s rise and the success of its infrastructure development strategies like the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese entrepreneurs have found new confidence in doing business globally. 

Xu noted that while this confidence is beneficial, it sometimes borders on arrogance. He said entrepreneurs need to adopt a “more mature and balanced worldview, recognizing the importance of understanding local histories, cultures, and economic contexts when expanding into new markets.”

Xu also expressed optimism about the younger generation of Chinese entrepreneurs, adding that they are better equipped to navigate the complexities of the global business landscape due to their broader experiences and open-mindedness. 

However, he cautioned other entrepreneurs to be alert to global changes and avoid harboring outdated mindsets. Xu concluded that a successful global expansion not just requires confidence but also understanding and respecting diverse markets and cultures. 

“In the journey of Middle East expansion, humility and respect are our guiding lights,” Xu said. “With a balanced worldview and openness to diverse cultures, we forge connections that transcend borders, ensuring enduring success and mutual prosperity.” 

Embracing confidence for Middle Eastern ventures

Zhang said Chinese companies expanding globally should strategize integrating resources to form corporate communities for better handling challenges in foreign markets. He highlighted that DeepRock Group leverages its experience in green building and energy management to upgrade and transform local regions.

Zhang added that Chinese enterprises venturing into international markets must be confident in their global expansion, adding that companies should thoroughly prepare and understand their target market’s cultural nuances and business environment. 

To illustrate his point, Zhang shared examples, including DeepRock Group’s involvement in the Masdar City project in the United Arab Emirates. He said he has noticed the evolving mindset of Chinese entrepreneurs and the shift toward a more global outlook.

However, Zhang also urged investors to be wary of the socio-political events of countries in the region — while Egypt is currently under military rule and faces political challenges, Libya, endowed with abundant oil resources and high per capita income, flourished during the era of Gaddafi, and Iran, a densely populated country with a high level of education, has high unemployment rates. 

“Although my understanding of these three countries is limited, I believe Iran maintains a positive attitude toward investment from China,” he said.

Zhang reiterated that as investors embark on their Middle East ventures, they should “harness the power of confidence tempered with cultural sensitivity.”

“By understanding local nuances and embracing diversity, we pave the way for meaningful collaboration and sustainable growth in international markets,” Zhang said.