The East is Red

Only one thing I could blog about today, the visit to Manchester of the President of the People's Republic of China, Xi Jinping. Although we have had many important visitors to the city including several Prime Ministers, I cannot recall us previously welcoming a Head of State as part of an official State Visit, and certainly not one with the status of heading the world's most populous country and its second biggest, heading for biggest, economy.

Manchester has a long relationship with China going back over 150 years, and visitors to the Great Hall in the Town Hall will see China on one of the ceiling panels representing our then trading relationships. More recently we have had a friendship agreement with Wuhan for the past twenty nine years, a relationship that is now more active than ever.

At the heart of the current relationship is of course economic growth and jobs. We already have Chinese companies like BCEG investing in the city and creating local jobs. Yesterday I was talking with the Executive Vice-President of the Bank of China, who have long had a branch in the city, and are exploring the possibility of many Chinese SMEs establishing themselves in the city again creating local jobs. But it's not one way traffic, and the delegation that I accompanied to China last month included lots of UK businesses with the potential to sell goods and services to China. I have blogged before about the need for Manchester to play an active role in the global economy, and we certainly cannot ignore a player of China's significance.

I was interviewed about the visit on Radio Manchester this morning and inevitably the question of human rights came up. It's worth noting that is less than twenty years since this country signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, so even here it is work in progress. I first visited China twenty nine years ago and have seen almost unbelievable changes over that time including improvements in labour rights, the legal system, and human rights education. President Xi himself has noted that China is in a process " to realise social fairness and justice and continuously promote the development of the human rights cause ". As a friend of China we need to recognise that they are on a journey and to support them on the way. As with all friendships there might be disagreements from time to time but if you want to stay friends you don't post them on Facebook.

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