China’s public affairs landscape is often viewed as one of the biggest opportunities for growth of the public relations business in the region, and with good reason. As foreign MNCs continue their efforts to tap into exploding consumer consumption, expert knowledge of the country’s regulatory and political environments becomes ever more valuable.
Within this context, Yuan Associates operates as one of the premier public affairs firms in China. The consultancy was founded by Yuan Haiying, a former China government official and diplomat to the US who also served as a senior vice-president at Edelman and APCO Worldwide. He is supported by partner Huang Gang, also ex-Government.
The two partners have driven the firm’s growth since its inception in 2004, adding a third partner—public affairs veteran Jean Ma— two years ago. The consultancy’s credo is simple: it focuses on facilitating cooperation between MNCs and Government, an approach that has proven highly successful for its client base of US corporations and industry associations. These include such household names as AB Inbev, DuPont, Walmart, Cargill, Kraft and Pepsi. A team of 20 professionals is relatively diverse, drawn from Government, diplomats, state-owned enterprises, the media and PR agencies.
The financial slowdown has had little impact on Yuan Associates, with the agency growing its revenues by 30 per cent in 2009. The past 12 months also saw the firm broaden its offering by adding strategy development and market entry feasibility studies to core capabilities that include policy monitoring, government relations, issues and crisis management and M&A support. In particular, the firm is well-known for its expertise in developing Chinese FDI into the US, and supporting tenders for Chinese Government procurement. All of these services are built around a core philosophy that aims to match client interests with those of national and state government in China.
A key highlight was the firm’s work as representative office for the state of Arkansas in China. In this capacity it has enabled the US state to better connect with China policy on outbound investment, and position itself as an appealing destination for Chinese investors eyeing the US.
Unsurprisingly, international agency interest in Yuan Associates has grown in tandem with the increasing importance of China’s public affairs market. In 2008, Yuan Associates signed a formal partnership with Edelman; it is understood the global network is keen on extending the relationship.—AS