The iconic London black taxi has already been shipped to Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, while it's possible to flag one down in South Africa and Nigeria.

But finding one in the world's most populous country would have been nigh on impossible - until now.

The Coventry built cab could be assembled in the Far East after its parent company - Manganese Bronze - revealed talks to set up a new factory in China.

Manganese Bronze, which owns London Taxis International, has signed heads of terms to create a £53 million joint venture with Chinese car maker Zhejiang Geely.

Instead of travelling around Trafalgar Square in London and Broad Street in Birmingham, the deal will see thousands of cars built to transport fares around the sights of Shanghai, Beijing and beyond.

A full agreement could be sealed in the next few weeks which would ultimately see a factory building 20,000 cars a year by mid 2008.

The deal is the latest example of growing links between West Midlands firms and their counterparts in China.

Zha Piexin, Chinese ambassador on a visit to the region earlier this year, said Nanjing Automobile's purchase of MG Rover last year could herald more links between the two countries.

Dozens of automotive suppliers are already setting up joint ventures in the Far East, while the Technology Innovation Centre in Birmingham has set up joint research centres with Chinese universities.

Manganese said the deal would benefit the firm's Coventry factory, whose 350-strong workforce built 2,400 taxis last year.

Mark Fryer, group finance director, said: "This deal will help our Coventry operations, which will continue to supply the rest of the world apart from the Far East.

"Our key cost is components, but we will be looking to import these from China which are cheaper.

"This will help us reduce the price of the vehicles, which will enable us to sell more and create more jobs."

Mr Fryer said his company had chose Geely because it was the fastest growing car company in China, which manufactures its own engines and gearboxes as well as having its own supply chain. He said: "We know there's a substantial market for the cars. We have sent some of our cars out there for trials and the Chinese absolutely loved them. They loved the space in the back and the manoeuvrability on the back streets of Shanghai.

"There are lots of other companies looking at links with Chinese firms. We are part of the Chinese-British Business Council and there are lots of others planning to do things like this."

The deal, which has been in negotiation for the last 18 months, follows abortive talks between Manganese and Chinese chemicals company Blue Star.

Manganese Bronze is investing £19.85 million for a 37.6 per cent stake in the £53 million joint venture but will not be spending any money itself.

Instead it will satisfy its investment by licensing its intellectual property rights for £5.6 million and issuing 5.7 million new ordinary shares to Geely at £2.50 a share.

Geely will pay £14.25 million for the shares, which give it 23.0 per cent stake in Manganese.

Geely will also pay £38.4 million, of which £9 million will be for the new factory.

Manganese Bronze will call an EGM in December in order to win approval for the plan.

Darren Jones, vice president of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is fantastic news. This will help the spread of the London Taxi, or as we call it, the Coventry taxi, across the world.

"A joint venture where the intellectual property and design is done in the UK and some of the production is done in China can only help in the future."