China chooses Sheffield for billion pound developments

China's Sichuan Guodong Construction Group is to invest £220 million over the next three years in projects in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and is looking at more than £1 billions-worth of investment in the coming six decades.

Announcing what represents the largest Chinese investment outside London, Sheffield City Council announced that an initial investment would pay for the construction of four or five city centre projects over the next three years and create “hundreds if not thousands” of jobs.Though individual projects have not been announced, council leader Julie Dore said work on the first of them could start early next year. She suggested new hotels, leisure facilities and residential properties could all be on the agenda."It's a massive vote of confidence in Sheffield. It is the first deal of its kind to be made by a UK city", she said. "We have the skills and the connections to drive economic growth in our city. This is the biggest Chinese investment deal to be made by a UK city outside of London. And perhaps more importantly, it is the first deal of its kind to be made by a UK city. This is a real partnership.“The projects funded by this investment will be determined by Sheffield City Council, and the 60-year commitment secures a stream of investment into our city for the next generation, and means a whole range of projects become viable because of the long-term nature of the relationship. At a time of unprecedented uncertainty and turmoil on the national political scene, we have taken the bull by the horns and led by example."
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The investment deal, which was 18 months in the making, was announced after council leaders visited Chengdu in SW China and after Wang Chunming, chairman of Sichuan Guodong, visited Sheffield a number of times.Mr Wang said, “Sheffield really does stand out amongst all UK cities as an outstanding business investment. This agreement illustrates our confidence in Sheffield as a city going from strength to strength, with real growth potential. We are looking forward to being a part of this over the coming decades.”The Star newspaper in Sheffield reported, "The deal is the largest in a series of partnerships between Sheffield and China. The city has recently signed co-operation trade agreements with Daqing, the leading centre for the oil and gas industry in China and location of a major World Snooker International Championship, and the city of Nanchang. Sheffield also hopes to host a major conference with Chinese business leaders next year. One Chinese-funded project already underway in Sheffield is the £65 million Chinatown development between St Mary’s Gate, Bramall Lane and Sheldon Street. Construction has already begun on the 20-storey scheme, which will comprise shops, food and drink outlets, student flats and office space funded by Chinese investors."Next week, a high-powered delegation of business and civic leaders from Manchester will travel to Beijing in a bid to secure Chinese investment in NW England. But the Guardian commented on Thursday, "Chinese officials have said they are open to launching trade negotiations with Britain in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, but there remains uncertainty about how Theresa May’s government will seek to do business with Beijing."Experts have predicted the beginning of the end of the so-called 'golden era' fostered by the former chancellor (George Osborne), who last year unveiled plans to make Beijing Britain’s second biggest trade partner by 2025. Osborne was seen to have wooed China by stressing trade and investment rather than human rights. Experts believe that Theresa May and her chancellor, Philip Hammond, will take a cooler approach, albeit under greater pressure to strike trade deals with non-EU countries."

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