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On China, think long-term: Lord Sassoon

As China continues to talk about opening up its economy, foreign investors keen on doing business there must be patient, cautioned former U.K. Treasury minister Lord James Sassoon.

Long-term relationships are key to corporate dealings on the mainland, Sassoon told CNBC at the China Development Forum in Beijing.

"They want to see people who are their friends in conjunction with great companies that have something to offer in this market either for consumers or in technology or in professional services. It's that combination."

He noted that many of the individuals at the forum have been present on the mainland for at least two decades.

Hailing from the historic Sassoon family, who were dubbed the "Rothschilds of the East" for their merchant empire across Asia, Lord Sassoon is currently chairman of the China-Britain Business Council as well as director of Jardine Matheson, Dairy Farm, Hongkong Land, Mandarin Oriental and Jardine Lloyd Thompson.

"Chinais continuing to open up to foreign countries...It's a question of, not the direction of travel, but the speed of travel," Sassoon said. "Business people always want to go faster."

Lord Sassoon speaks at the China Development Forum in Beijing.
Barry Huang | CNBC
Lord Sassoon speaks at the China Development Forum in Beijing.

He was also quick to dismiss concerns that Chinese investment in the U.K. may divert to Europe amid prickly Brexit negotiations.

"A big endorsement of Chinese investment after Brexit was the Hinkley point nuclear power station. I can't think there's any big Western country that would permit investment of that kind, and I think that's a great strength of the U.K."

He added that the city of London continues to see large real-estate transactions, saying that everything was "business as usual."

The British government under Prime Minister Theresa May was not retreating from globalization, he said.

"All I see from from the government and from British businesses is a global outlook, and that's two-way — welcoming further investments into the U.K. but also being even hungrier to invest in countries like China."

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