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An envoy champions UK China relations

Updated: 2014-10-25 06:05
By Cecily Liu (China Daily)

An envoy champions UK China relations

Zhou Xiaoming, minister counselor with the economic and commercial office at the Chinese embassy. [Photo by Cecily Liu / China Daily]

Trade and Investment links between China and the UK have become ever closer over the past five years, and observing these transformations first-handedly is Zhou Xiaoming, minister counselor with the economic and commercial office at the Chinese embassy.

Zhou, who assumed his current office in December 2009, has actively helped to push forward cooperation between the two countries in strategically important sectors such as financial services and nuclear power, as well as between individual companies in all sectors.

Lord James Sassoon, chairman of the China Britain Business Council, has called Zhou "the UK's best salesman" on several occasions, and Zhou says he is not reluctant to accept the title.

"I am a salesman for the UK because I believe this country has a lot to offer for China, and at the same time China's support and partnership can also help the UK grow," Zhou says, sitting in his central London office near Hyde Park.

The latest Chinese government statistics shows China UK trade in September totaled $7.4 billion, representing a 17.1 percent increase, compared to a 12.5 percent increase for China EU trade.

From 2009 to 2013, bilateral trade between China and the UK grew from $39.1 billion to $69.9 billion, representing a 78.7 percent increase. Over the same period China EU trade grew by 37.2 percent.

China's investments and acquisitions in Britain last year were worth more than $3 billion, with big deals involving well-known brands, infrastructure, media, research and property development.

Recent investments have included $2 billion by the developer Greenland in two London property projects, ZhongRong Group's 500 million pound ($840 million) plans to redevelop Crystal Palace, and Sanpower's 480 million pound purchase of a majority stake in the department store chain House of Fraser.

Zhou says Chinese investment in the UK has significantly widened in scale and range of sectors over the years. Of particular significance is China's investment in the UK's infrastructure, banking, property and brands.

In 2012, China Investment Corp, the country's sovereign wealth fund, bought a 8.68 percent stake in Thames Water Utilities Ltd and a 10 percent stake in Heathrow Airport Holdings, the company that runs London's Heathrow Airport. In 2011, China's Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings bought the UK utility company Northumbrian Water for 2.4 billion pounds.

Zhou says these infrastructure investments demonstrate that the UK is very open for business, and this open attitude makes the UK a great springboard for Chinese investment into Europe in strategically important sectors like energy and infrastructure where Chinese investors can demonstrate their credibility in the UK first.

One such area is nuclear power, in which sector Zhou has witnessed continuous effort by Chinese companies to invest in the UK in the past few years.

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