Bethwyn Todd's Shanghai Insights

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Interview by Molly O'Brien, Marketing & Communications Specialist, Advance

It's all things Shanghai at Advance throughout August, and we're enjoying shining a spotlight on some Australians who call this ultra-connected city home. Meet Bethwyn Todd, the President of FMC Corporation, Asia, who has been living in Shanghai for two and a half years. Bethwyn shared her insights on what role Shanghai will play as a global city in the future, and why it's important for Australia to maintain a robust relationship with China. 

What’s the best and most challenging aspect of living there?

I love that it’s such a dynamic, fast-moving city. Where I live, in the French Concession district, little shops in the various streets around my home are constantly changing. It’s impossible to get bored with the streetscape! I also love that you get to enjoy the authentic aspects of Shanghai, but at the same time it’s relatively easy to experience a fairly western lifestyle with a diverse array of restaurants, cafes and familiar brands. Having said that, shopping for groceries and even using household appliances is more challenging in China compared with other Asian countries in my experience, given many products are locally manufactured with Chinese labels, manuals and so forth. The language barrier can be challenging at times.  

What does your role involve at FMC Corp?

I am responsible for leading FMC Corporation’s Asia Pacific business. We operate in three business segments: Agricultural Solutions, Health and Nutrition and Lithium, in 19 countries around the AP region. So I spend a lot of time on aeroplanes and in airports!

Why is it important for Australia to maintain a robust relationship with China?

Australia has an economic dependency on China. It’s interesting to see that consumption in China has increased at double-digit rates over the last five years and is starting to become a major driver of economic growth. Food and beverage consumption will continue to be important and provide export opportunities for Australia’s agricultural, food and beverage industries, but spending on more discretionary items is where the big growth is coming from. One of the interesting segments that is growing rapidly is travel, as the Chinese people are increasingly taking overseas trips. This, in itself, can have major benefits for Australia, through boosting Australia’s tourism, retail and other sectors.   

What role will Shanghai play in the future as a global city?

We can expect Shanghai to continue to play an important role in the future as a global city. One area that we continue to look towards to support this however is the lifting of foreign investment restrictions in China. Improvements are occurring, especially in some of the newer industries but some sectors are still heavily restricted.

Is there any one industry that Shanghai has a stronghold in?

I see an evolving economy, rather than any one major industry dominating. The more traditional manufacturing and heavy industries are being pushed out of the city these days, and the economy is transitioning to a more consumption-based one. I expect that sectors like financial services, IT-related and retail will continue to be important, but it will be interesting to see how emerging high-tech industries and developments like virtual reality and artificial intelligence find a home in Shanghai’s innovation circles.