Top Chinese diplomat pledges investment in Northern Powerhouse

A SENIOR Chinese diplomat has invited Yorkshire businesses to “join hands and do something together” with China.

Speaking during a visit to Leeds University, Jin Xu, minister counsellor at the Chinese Embassy, said Chinese investment is coming to the North of England.

In return, he said China wants to benefit from Britain’s world-leading creativity, technology, healthcare service and management systems to tackle problems posed by its ageing population of 1.3bn people and rising labour costs.

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Mr Jin added that the Northern Powerhouse project to rebalance the UK economy has been received very positively in China.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “The Northern Powerhouse is not only a good opportunity for the cities around here and the British people, but also for Chinese investment and Chinese businesses.”

He compared it to China’s One Belt One Road project to rebuild Silk Road trade links with Europe and Asia.

Mr Jin said: “Those two projects are both very important and ambitious so we can put our efforts and experience in places together to do things together to make advantage of each other’s resources.”

He added: “China’s economy is getting stronger and stronger and Chinese businesses are getting more powerful now so the Chinese government is now encouraging Chinese business people to go global. They will choose, they will prefer (countries that) are safer and more open and profitable.

“The Northern Powerhouse regions have a deep culture and very good history in your industries. Also you have a lot of creative businesses in this region, which Chinese people need badly.

“Chinese people they are very hard working... They need a lot of new ideas.”

He said he was certain that China would invest in northern infrastructure and cited Airport City in Manchester as “a concrete example”, along with the introduction of a new direct flight between Manchester and Beijing.

President Xi Jinping’s pomp-laden state visit ended last week with a trip to Manchester.

Mr Jin said: “The state visit was very successful and very fruitful. The two governments attached great importance on this visit. The royal family also gave a lot of support.”

He added that China and the UK signed contracts worth £40bn, most noticably the £6bn deal to invest in nuclear power.

Mr Jin recalled how China has changed since his birth in 1957. China was then very poor and many people did not have enough food or clothes. Chairman Mao told the Chinese people not to worry, they would soon catch up with the UK and the US.

It wasn’t until the late 1970s that China started its policy of opening up. Foreign investment in the 1970s amounted to a few million dollars in the late 1970s. Last year, it totalled $80bn.

By some measures, China is now the largest economy in the world. It is the largest trading country with the greatest number of imports and exports and it is the biggest trading partner for more than 100 countries, emphasising its importance to the global economy.

Mr Jin said China does not want to the next superpower and still perceives itself as a developing country. While observers say the country has a huge labour force, cheap costs and enormous production capacity, he countered that the population is ageing, labour costs are rising and international investors are looking elsewhere to site operations.

He added: “We come back to the relationship with China and the UK. Both leaders are very ambitious, very eager to have more and more, closer and closer, stronger and stronger economic ties, political ties and cultural ties with each other... Let’s join our hands and do something together.”