AstraZeneca will seek to "love the Communist Party", its China boss says

The logo of the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is seen at the company's  China Commercial Innovation Centre (CCIC) in Wuxi, Jiangsu
The logo of the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is seen at the company's China Commercial Innovation Centre (CCIC) in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, China, September 15, 2018. REUTERS/Adam Jourdan

BEIJING, May 19 (Reuters) - Global drugmaker AstraZeneca will seek to be a patriotic company in China that "loves the Communist Party", its China president said on Friday.

Wang Lei, who is also the company's global executive vice president, made the comment at an event in the eastern city of Wuxi to celebrate the drugmaker's 30th year in China, according to a person familiar with the matter.

While many local companies have in recent years pledged allegiance to the ruling Chinese Communist Party as President Xi Jinping has strengthened its social and economic role, such messaging is still unusual from foreign ones.

"Build a local, transnational company that loves the Communist Party and loves the country," Wang said in his presentation to an audience of a few hundred participants. Photographs showed the words flashing across a screen behind him.

In response to questions from Reuters on whether Wang’s pledge, and the contents of the presentation, were approved by AstraZeneca’s senior management, a spokesperson at the company’s headquarters in Cambridge declined to comment.

The spokesperson also declined to comment on what Wang’s comments meant for its business plans in China.

Among the world's biggest pharmaceuticals companies, AstraZeneca's large and growing business in China is notable. It is the country's biggest drugmaker and has operated there for 30 years.

Last year it made 13% of its sales there, and it is investing $450 million in a factory to make inhalers to treat "smoker's lung".

Since China started reopening its borders this year after it zero-COVID policy ended, many heads of foreign firms include AstraZeneca's CEO Pascal Soriot and Apple's Tim Cook have visited to stress their commitment to the country.

AstraZeneca was upbeat about China's economy, had signed three licensing deals with Chinese companies and was interested in doing more, Soriot said in a first-quarter earnings call this month.

A recent crackdown on consulting and due diligence firms by Chinese authorities has unnerved many foreign companies, which have tended to use such consultancies to research the market and prospective deals.

Reporting by Joe Cash in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Editing by Kim Coghill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Joe Cash reports on China’s economic affairs, covering domestic fiscal and monetary policy, key economic indicators, trade relations, and China’s growing engagement with developing countries. Before joining Reuters, he worked on UK and EU trade policy across the Asia-Pacific region. Joe studied Chinese at the University of Oxford and is a Mandarin speaker.

Thomson Reuters

Brenda Goh is Reuters’ Shanghai bureau chief and oversees coverage of corporates in China. Brenda joined Reuters as a trainee in London in 2010 and has reported stories from over a dozen countries. Contact (used only for Signal): +442071932810