Conquering the odds: 19 years ago, we entered China

Calvin Xie, General Manager China at FCM Asia shares insights into FCM's strategy for China and his vision for the company

Much has changed since FCM entered China in 2002 but one thing has remained constant – the company’s focus on bringing the best of its glocal expertise through innovation to Chinese travellers. Over the last 18 months, while return to travel may be the most polarising topic, every organisation still believes in the future of China as an essential market for a company’s growth. 

As the world’s largest corporate travel market and second largest economy, China continues to lead in recovery from the effects of COVID-19. We’ve seen companies leveraged on its open domestic market to take advantage of the resurgent economic growth. At the same time, we continue to see improvements in the business environment for multinationals and Chinese companies in the market, leading to more foreign MNCs to double down on their investment to expand their presence or establish new footholds in different Chinese cities.

While this provides significant optimism for the market’s recovery, operating in China is often not without challenges. Companies often have to show a strong commitment to innovation and digitalisation to get on an even playing field to compete in the market and deal with a plethora of challenges which are often not so black and white. These include:

  1. Data regulation – Storage of personal data information of Chinese citizens is not allowed outside of China. How should data handling be managed then?
  2. Capital distribution – Government regulation of capital inflow and outflow, with outflow triggering withholding tax implications
  3. Employment regulations - Employee-centric employment contracts with unilateral dismissal that outlays significant penalties to employers
  4. Distribution capabilities – Strong government influence over distribution capabilities as seen in the recent controls implemented on China’s flight booking systems as travel restarts
  5. Cultural differences – What are the cultural nuances that affect business strategy preferences to enable orchestration of good processes and desirable results?

Today, innovation and digitalisation are on a whole new level in China. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, FCM’s in-depth knowledge of the market, its global reach and expertise, and the understanding of differences between China and global markets has enabled us to provide alternative and tailored solutions to fulfil these nuances. 

Systems such as booking and profile management can’t be replicated from another market - they requiring a new ecosystem for operating in China that will provide a consistent experience for companies and their travellers across the globe.  

FCM entered the market in 2002 as a partnership and over time we’ve become more vested in China as we learnt more about the market. Recently we embarked on the next step of our China journey: launching our first proprietary technology, FCM Platform China this year.

FCM's journey in China


This technology works globally and seamlessly across markets from China to the rest of the world; it’s tech that is consistent with what MNCs expect globally to work for all markets including China; it’s tech that provides access to the most comprehensive local and international air, hotel and land content that every company would want. 

The last 19 years has been a wild ride as our approach comes full circle. We have learnt so much from our stakeholders and customers in China and they have likewise gained knowledge on the intricacies of corporate travel.

Ms Dai, Business Travel Manager at CVTE, one of our Chinese customers shared:

I was also impressed with the FCM team, who was always available to provide us with relevant analysis and advice on improving employees booking behaviour, keeping a tight supervisory control strategy over business travel, as well as ways to generate cost savings. They were extremely patient as well, always explaining new processes in a detailed and clear manner. Thanks to the FCM team, we are more knowledgeable on the latest travel cost settlement methods in the market and are now using AirPlus International, a global business travel payment solutions provider, to make our travel costs and spend even more transparent.


It is in our bloodline to always find new ways, to push the envelope to make corporate travel simple and accessible to companies and their travellers. Corporate travel needs to be smarter and more efficient.

As we approach our 20th year in China, our commitment stands: to be the best localised global TMC in China. Global consistency of our tools, capacity expansion, region-specific expertise – these may be core focuses for us internally as a company, but we also want to make sure we’re sharing this focus externally.

Find out how we are shaping smarter business travel decisions, anywhere in the world – including China – one of the world’s most unique markets. 

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