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My first experience with China
2.2.2015 - Bart Horsten

Although my personal connection to China only started in 1998, China has been part of my life already since the mid eighties, the period during which my father was travelling to China when he was working on the China project for Janssen Pharma. Please check out here a testimonial of how I learned about dealing with Chinese.

I must have been a boy of only 12 or 13 years old when I met with a Chinese delegation for the first time in the early eighties. They were visiting Janssen Pharmaceutica. My father, the late Joos Horsten, was responsible for the China project on behalf of Janssen Pharmaceutica. During those years – starting from 1979 onwards - my father was travelling to China on a regular basis. He was gone for several weeks and we didn’t hear from him apart from some rare telephone calls on Sundays. 

Travelling to China in those days was quite different from today. That’s what also made the pioneering work of the Janssen China team so special. Inspired by Dr.Paul Janssen himself, Joos Horsten worked hard on the setting up of Xi’an Janssen Pharmaceutical, one of the first ever Joint Ventures of a Belgian company in China. And with the support and commitment of the governments of the provinces of Shaanxi and Antwerp, Xi’an Janssen has become a major reference in the pharmaceutical industry in China and a renowned example of a successful partnership between a Chinese and a foreign company.

Following the successful cooperation of Janssen with its Chinese partners, Joos Horsten was also instrumental in the establishment of the friendship agreement between the provinces of Antwerp and Shaanxi. I personally remember visiting the giant Pandas which came to the Antwerp Zoo and an exhibition game of the Chinese Olympic volleyball team on their way to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984.

This first meeting with people from China in the early eighties was quite a new experience for me. We went to a Chinese restaurant in Antwerp, where I ate my first Chinese food, with chopsticks. A few years later I joined my father to visit some Chinese people who were staying in Turnhout at a school. We played ping pong together. During weekdays these Chinese managers took their bicycles from Turnhout to Beerse for training at Janssen.

Who would have thought that almost 20 years later – in the early years 2000 - I would meet with a few of these people again while travelling to China myself for business. Most of them had developed to become senior managers at Xi’an Janssen. Since 1998 I have been working in my father’s company. Horsten International is a consulting company engaged in providing services to mainly Belgian companies in doing business with China. Over the past 12 years I have been involved in numerous investment and trading projects between Belgian and Chinese companies. I still feel every day that Janssen’s success in China has paved the way for Horsten’s business development in China.

In June 2008 my father unexpectedly passed away on a business trip to China. I have taken up the challenge to continue my father’s work and to bridge the cultural gap between Belgium and China. 

Note: this text was used for the book published in 2010 at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the friendship agreement between the provinces of Antwerp and Shaanxi

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