Chinese business leaders in Birmingham have slammed Chancellor George Osborne for preventing China’s president from visiting the city.
The Post revealed last week that George Osborne intervened to stop Xi Jinping from visiting Birmingham – sending him to Manchester, the heart of his pet Northern Powerhouse project, instead.
The move has been criticised by community and business leaders in the city.
Now, James Wong, chair of the Chinese Festival Committee in Birmingham, said he was disappointed people had to travel from Birmingham to London to take part.
He said: “We are very disappointed that the government seems to have disregarded the hard work of the people in the second city in preparation of the visit of the Chinese President, in favour of the Northern Powerhouse project.
“It’s a real shame as President Xi Jinping expressed a special interest in visiting Birmingham.
“This decision appears to have been made at the last minute.
“I know that the Birmingham City Council has worked tirelessly to arrange this visit. We had over 300 local Chinese down in London on Tuesday to welcome him to England.”
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Mr Wong is second-generation Chinese, born and bred in Birmingham and runs three of the main restaurants in the Midlands.
He reflects the flourishing business relationship with West Midlands has with the Far East. More than a third of the goods the Chinese buy from this country are made in this region, and it is the only one with an export surplus.
Mr Wong said there was every reason Mr Xi should have visited the city.
He said: “We have seen an influx of Mainland Chinese investments in recent years, especially in China Town. One in three international students that studies in our five universities comes from China, many of whom decide to stay and invest in our city. I currently mentor two young businessmen who has expressed huge disappointment on hearing this news.”
Business leaders from the region did outline more than £1 billion of investment opportunities to some of China’s most senior financiers at an event on Wednesday – but they had to travel to London to do it.
A group of Chinese decision-makers and influencers were shown details of key investment schemes in the region that are worth more than £1 billion combined, including the HS2 terminals at UK Central in Solihull and Birmingham Curzon.
Coun Bob Sleigh, chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority and leader of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, said: “Greater Birmingham and Solihull have a long-standing and very successful relationship with China. Since the region hosted the then Premier – Wen Jiabao – back in 2011, we have done some serious business with the Chinese; we’re the only part of the UK to operate a trade surplus with China, currently standing at £2.7 billion.
“Our exports are worth £5.3 billion, 12 times the value of exports from London and more than three times the value of exports from the North West.”