Chinese Leader to Visit Birmingham

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will visit Birmingham this weekend on his first stop on a reciprocal visit to the UK following Prime Minister David Cameron’s trip to China in November last year. Premier Wen’s decision to begin his visit in Birmingham reflects the strength of the city’s strategic relationship with China following significant investments in the region’s automotive sector and long-standing, collaborative culture and civic programmes.

MGThe Chinese Premier will be landing at Birmingham Airport and visiting the Longbridge MG Motors car plant, home to recent major investment by the Shanghai Automotive Industry Company. With an extension of Birmingham Airport’s runway creating direct routes from the city to China, and further opportunities uncovered by its inward investment programme, Business Birmingham, it is hoped the visit will lead to further significant investment and jobs in the region.

Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, who will be amongst those welcoming Premier Wen to the UK, said: “This visit is an endorsement from the Chinese state of the importance of the relationship between Birmingham and China. Over the last seven years we have made great strides to ensure Birmingham’s connections with China were prioritised and enriched, helping to build a strong relationship for this city with a growing economic superpower.

“We have been working with the Chinese Ambassador, his Embassy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that Birmingham gives the best possible welcome to the head of the Chinese people and we are looking forward to renewing our friendships with China as a result of this historic visit.”

Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit will build on Birmingham’s strong business ties with China, demonstrated by SAIC’s long term commitment to Birmingham and ownership of MG and its site at Longbridge. SAIC, one of the 10 largest car makers in the world, has made significant investment in the MG plant at Longbridge, and recently announced its decision to resume MG production at the site. The company also announced the opening of a £5 million design studio and technical centre at Longbridge.

MG6Since 2003, after London, Birmingham has attracted more Chinese investment projects than any other UK city, receiving £76.59 million in capital investment and creating 596 jobs during this period. In 2010, Birmingham received £8.68 million in capital investment from China, creating 320 jobs.

The city’s business ties with China have also been strengthened by those elsewhere. The city is twinned with Guangzhou, the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in Southern China, and in 2004 the two cities signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop links in education and culture. In 2006 Cllr Whitby led a delegation to Guangzhou to sign a Sister-City agreement and also visited Nanjing, home of original Longbridge investors the Nanjing Automobile Corporation to promote Birmingham as the natural home for automotive investment.

Building on this in 2008, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham visited Guangzhou, and in January 2009, Birmingham Royal Ballet successfully toured China – as Birmingham’s sister city, Guangzhou was the first city in which BRB chose to perform.