Leader, Birmingham City Council
Speech to ChinaWestMidlands 2020 Annual Event
5th October 2018, Hotel Du Vin
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I’d like to begin by thanking Yeow Poon for inviting
me along to speak at today’s event. It’s a pleasure to be here to celebrate the friendship
and the links between Birmingham and China that grow stronger every year. I spoke at a
British Council event earlier this week about Birmingham’s standing as a global city with a
long track record of successful international partnerships. And no relationship better
embodies our status as a global city than our ever burgeoning ties to China.
The region’s resident Chinese population and the many Chinese investors who see the huge
potential of Birmingham and the wider region are now major players in our current
transformation. And it is safe to say that the Birmingham of 2018 and beyond would be a
very different place without our strong ties through business, sport, culture, local
government and of course friendship.
Much has changed since Birmingham entered into a sister city relationship with Changchun
in 1983. Over the last 35 years, China has emerged as a global superpower to rival the
biggest economies in the world. The China of 2018 is far more outward looking and plays a
far greater role on the international stage. It also has ever stronger links with the city of
Birmingham. Our sister city relationship with Changchun now sits alongside partnerships
with the old Chinese capital city of Nanjing and the manufacturing powerhouse of
Guangzhou. Those partnerships mean homes, jobs and regeneration for the people of
Chinese companies MG Motors and NVC Lighting are thriving in this city and have created
high quality jobs to cement our reputation as a centre for innovation, research and
development. And the inward investment doesn’t stop there. As we all know, Birmingham
is a city that is currently undergoing a period of dramatic transformation, with an ever-
growing number of building sites and cranes scattered across the city skyline.
Our city is changing thanks to major projects such as:
- The fast-emerging £700 million Paradise Development
- The exciting Smithfield Development will create 3,000 new jobs; add £470 million
value to the city economy.
- The Peddimore industrial development will create up to 10,000 jobs and boost the
local economy by £350 million.
- And the £1 billion Curzon Investment Plan to create 36,000 jobs, build 4,000 homes and boost the city’s economy by £1.4bn a year.
That transformation, bringing jobs and opportunities for the people across the city, makes
Birmingham an increasingly attractive place for overseas investors – a fact that has not gone
unnoticed in China. We’re also building homes to meet the needs of a growing population
and Chinese mainland and Hong Kong investors are playing a major part in our efforts to
build 51,000 new homes by 2031. To give you some idea of the scale of investment, our
residential market has secured £370m of new capital from Hong Kong in the last two years
We’re talking to potential investors all the time and it is safe to say that Chinese investment
will play a major role in what I have called a Golden Decade for the city of Birmingham. The
next ten years will shape the future of this city and its citizens for generations to come. And
the one project that excites potential investors more than any other is HS2. This project is a
game-changer for the Birmingham economy and no nation on earth understands the
transformational power of high-speed rail more than China.
So, it is hardly surprising that two Chinese firms – Guangshen Railway Company and MTR –
are in the frame to win the HS2 contract, while Chinese investors also clearly understand the
wider investment opportunities. Those opportunities are sure to be a major topic of
discussion when I visit Hong Kong next month, for a trip that I hope will further strengthen
our links. But property and infrastructure projects are only part of the story. Our friendship
is built on far more than money and investment opportunities. For many years now
Birmingham’s Chinese community has played an active role in the civic and cultural life of
the city. And, thanks to the efforts of Chinese Brummies, we continue to strengthen our
links with China.
Just last month, I had the pleasure of signing a renewed Memorandum of Understanding
between Birmingham and Nanjing, marking the start of a new era in our relationship that
will focus on research and development in areas as diverse as rail transport; life sciences;
new energy; creative technologies and sport and culture. In sport, I hardly need to tell you
that the leading four football clubs in this region are all owned – at least in part – by Chinese
investors. And although Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and my own club Birmingham
City are not enjoying the best of times, I live in hope that all our clubs can emulate
Wolverhampton Wanderers and return to the Premier League.
The cultural links are also stronger than ever. The libraries of Birmingham and Guangzhou
are twinned, while renowned pianist Didi has made a significant contribution to
Birmingham/Chinese relations through her music. Birmingham Royal Ballet has extensive
links to China, as does the University of Birmingham, which is one of the most popular
British universities for Chinese students choosing to study overseas. I’m sure that there will
be many more examples as you develop plans for China West Midlands 2020, because there
are many layers and elements to this relationship. But what is abundantly clear is that
Birmingham would be a poorer place – both economically and culturally – without its
Chinese citizens, friends and partners.