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Visit to Britain provides lasting ties for China

By Wang Mingjie and Li Wensha in London | | Updated: 2017-10-17 11:00

Manchester link

Xi's visit to Manchester in 2015 was an attempt to cement the relationship between China and the Northern Powerhouse, a project to create an economic area in northern England that could rival London.

New direct flights between Manchester and Beijing, operated by Hainan Airlines, were announced during the visit and the first flight took off last June, providing the UK's only direct connection outside of London.

A 130 million pound project, the China Cluster, was unveiled to provide a commercial base for Chinese businesses in the UK.

"I think the relationship between China and Manchester is a long-lasting consequence," said O'Neill, adding that he believes the Chinese people understand the Northern Powerhouse in a way that many other countries do not.

"For Chinese policymakers, the idea of trying to shift regional economic growth is something that China has done quite successfully over the past 20 years," O'Neill said.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airport Group, who welcomed Xi at the airport, said the president is seen as "somebody who's interested in global connectivity, somebody who's interested in helping businesses to develop relationships across continents and across countries, and certainly somebody who's very insightful".

"I think most people in his company and in his presence that day were actually very impressed by the Chinese president," said Cornish, who said he believes the president's visit acted as a catalyst for business-to-business connectivity.

Cornish noted the bilateral relationship in recent years has raised the level of interest in Britain and the number of Chinese visitors has grown.

"There are more businesses connecting into China from the Northwest now, so there are lots of really good signs about a developing relationship," he said. "I think most people in the UK, certainly Northern Powerhouse, are getting confidence in the Chinese president. He certainly seems to be a man that is very competent and is getting a great deal of creditability on the world stage."

Zhang Yangfei and Xinhua contributed to this story

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