Top government officials, academics and business leaders from China are to visit Birmingham as part of a high-powered event to improve relations.
The delegation from China will also spend two days in London meeting senior officials such as George Osborne, the Chancellor and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and a day in discussions with British politicians such as former Trade Secretary Lord Mandelson.
The fourth and final day of the visit, on March 28, will be dedicated to Birmingham.
A delegation of more than 10 officials from China, as well as staff from the Chinese embassy in the UK and Chinese businesses operating in Britain, will have dinner with Birmingham City Council leader Sir Albert Bore at a city restaurant.
They will receive a briefing from council officials on the economy of Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region, and opportunities for trade and investment.
The party will also meet officials from Birmingham University to discuss the university’s collaboration with a range of organisations in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China. And they will have lunch with Prof David Eastwood, the university’s Vice Chancellor.
The event will be the 7th UK-China Leadership Forum, the name given to a regular meeting between senior figures from both country.
China’s delegation will be led by Yu Hongjun, a Vice-Minister in the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which is responsible for forging links with foreign political parties and organizations.
Also taking part are officials from the People’s Bank of China and from the Communist Party’s foreign affairs office.
Their visit to the UK will include meetings with representatives of Barclays Bank and BP, as well as Sir John Cunliffe, a Deputy Government of the Bank of England, who will talk about the economic outlook for Britain and challenges faced by the UK and EU.
And to ensure they receive a rounded view of Britain’s political system, they will be treated to a five minute presentation on Conservative Party policy from former Business Minister Mark Prisk, titled “an aspiration nation for hard-working people: the Conservative Party vision for 2020”, as well as a presentation from Labour Shadow Education Secretary and Stoke MP Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central), titled: “Rebuilding Britain for 2020: the Labour Party’s One Nation Vision”.
As well as Mr Hunt, Midland MPs due to meet the delegation include Emma Reynolds (Lab Wolverhampton North East), John Spellar (Lab Warley) and Liam Byrne (Lab Birmingham Hodge Hill), who is a regular attendee at UK-China Leadership Forum events and author of Turning To Face The East, a book looking at how the UK can succeed in a global economy where China is increasingly important.
Mr Byrne said: “Birmingham is showing the rest of Britain how to win in China. But this is no time to rest on our laurels. This week’s chance to show off our city to powerful delegation of Chinese decision-makers.
“If we want more good quality jobs of the future then we need to become one of China’s favourite places to invest. So the more we bring together China’s investors and politicians together with our great city, the better.”
Sir Albert Bore, who visited Guangzhou last year, said: “Birmingham is an essential engine of the UK economy and it is vital that we continue to forge links with thriving economies worldwide. This council has for a number of years created very close links, and established three sister cities, in China, something I am continuing to do.
“The West Midlands is the only UK region to have a trade surplus with China, over £1.7 billion in 2013 and crucially, the Chinese also see Birmingham as an increasingly important investment location.”
Professor Edward Peck, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Social Sciences and academic lead for China, said: “Birmingham is celebrating a very successful year of engagement with China.
“Following the University’s original approach, which focuses in particular on Guangzhou, we have secured funding for research collaborations with the City Government, local universities, research institutes and regional enterprises in the areas of health, life sciences and engineering.
“We are delighted to be welcoming this delegation to Birmingham.”