THREE years ago Ottoway contract bottler and packager Portavin SA had no exports to China.

Now the company ships 40, 20ft containers of wine a month, second only to its key United Kingdom market, for its South Australian winery customers, said SA manager Tony Royal said.

It also employs mandarin speakers at its plant for visiting Chinese contacts.

Mr Royal credits the export growth to “guanxi” or “networks of influence”, garnered through Adelaide consultancy The Australia China Development Company and its Chinese contacts.

“I’ve been going up to China since 1995 trying to work out ways of getting into the market,” Mr Royal said.

“The importance of that relationship “guanxi” is absolutely critical,” Mr Royal said.

He said many times Chinese customers had said “yes” to taking Australian wine exports but the orders had not come through.

“‘Yes’ often means “wait”, Mr Royal said.

Australia China Development Company chairman and former Labor senator Chris Schacht said Chinese demand for wine was high but often Australian winemakers hit a wall of “pleasant silence” without “guanxi”.

“We do not currently have enough clients to match demand from high volume Chinese wine buyers,” Mr Schacht said.

“They attend meetings and banquets and though they receive positive communications, they find the whole exercise goes cold. Doing business in China is elusive unless you have the right contacts and “guanxi”, or “networks of influence”.

The consultancy has been operating in China for a decade and has built up considerable “guanxi” – relationships that have resulted in millions of litres sold for wine clients.

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