University sets up new gateway to strengthen Sheffield's China links

SHEFFIELD IS strengthening its links with China with the creation of a new 'gateway' which aims to make the city the landing point in the North of England for Chinese businesses, academics and students.

Sir Keith Burnett. Picture: Andrew Roe

The new Sheffield Confucius Business Gateway announced today is a partnership between Sheffield University, the city’s chamber of commerce and their partners in China.

It follows the news last week that the city council had secured a £1bn 60-year investment deal with Sichuan Guodong Construction Group to fund city centre projects.

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The university already runs the Sheffield Confucius Institute which leads research into Chinese language and culture and provides language training for students, teachers, community and businesses.

The new gateway was announced today by Sheffield University’s vice chancellor Prof Sir Keith Burnett as he met Sheffield Confucius Institute partners in Nanjing - formerly the capital city of China, which has a population the same size as London.

He said a long-term collaboration with the country is vital to the UK and will create jobs and prosperity in both nations.

Sir Keith said: “China is a quarter of the world’s population and we face many similar challenges around energy, sustainable jobs and healthcare as our populations age,” he said.

“If we can pool our expertise and energy over years and decades, we have the potential to do real good in the world and to bring a powerful boost to the future economy of the UK’s Northern Powerhouse.”

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive Richard Wright has welcomed the news.

He said: “It is fantastic that Sheffield is leading the way in securing inward investment opportunities from China, but we want to develop the kind of business community and culture that is really ready and able to take advantage of these opportunities and to build long term partnerships between the UK and China.

“The chamber of commerce has worked with the Confucius Institute for some time on business language and understanding, but we need to take that to a new level. If we get this right, I am confident we can help to make Sheffield the landing place for China in the North, drawing in particular on the strong existing links with China through the University, Sheffield City Council and existing investors like New Era Development.”

The New Era Development is a £65m ‘Chinatown’ project close to Sheffield city centre.

It comprises a 20-storey scheme featuring shops, food and drink outlets, student flats and office space.

The new gateway will involve the Sheffield Confucius Institute.

Its director Dr Lucy Zhao said: “We have worked with the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce not only to teach Chinese language and business culture to local company leaders, but also to help translate and facilitate inward investment and the New Era Square development.”

She added: “We know though that if we are truly to be the landing place for China in the North of England, we need to make the most professional and culturally adept point of welcome.

“We are determined that we make the bridge between China and Sheffield as easy as possible for both sides to navigate, using students from the University’s internationally-leading Department of East Asian Studies and our talented Chinese students to support this.

“It is really a tremendous opportunity for everyone.”