Writing this in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport where I have a four hour wait before getting a flight to Wuhan. Before anyone gets over-excited about jaunts to China at the taxpayers expense, this is very much a working trip and by Saturday teatime I'll be, I hope, safely back in Manchester.
We have had a friendship agreement with Wuhan since 1986 - as a relatively young councillor I was there for the signing - and we have recently hosted high level delegations from the city. This week is UK week in Wuhan, centred around the opening of a new British Consulate there, and it would be very odd if the city wasn't represented. But we won't be on our own.
Alongside Britain's Ambassador to China there will be three UK trade missions including one of twenty companies from North West England. An art project involving Manchester's HOME and four artists from each of Manchester and Wuhan will be performing tomorrow night. Four Manchester universities will be meeting with Wuhan counterparts - Wuhan has 1.2m students and two of China's top ten universities. We will be signing or witnessing no less than six new Memorandums of Understanding including a refreshed Manchester-Wuhan friendship agreement, a trade agreement between Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Industry and its Wuhan counterpart, and a Smart City agreement between Manchester and Wuhan.
And Wuhan is the place to be. With a population of 10m, McKinsey's predict that it will have the third largest city economy in China by 2025 and will be the world's eleventh most dynamic city. Whilst we agonise over building a couple of hundred miles of high-speed railway, it takes just four hours and twenty minutes to travel the 680 miles from Wuhan to Beijing, and it's central location gives it equally good connections to other major Chinese cities. They are building a new underground line each year for the next five years and currently have 10,000 construction projects underway.
The trade and investment potential for Wuhan-Manchester is enormous but won't be realised by sitting at home in Crumpsall.