Future Cities and the Manchester-China ForumApril 26, 2013
This country needs growth. Cities have traditionally been the major way in which we grow. As cities here in the UK such as Manchester have traded over the centuries with the world they built themselves up as powerhouses and innovated new ways of helping their citizens. We got so good at this in Britain that we in turn helped build up some of the greatest cities around the world such as Hong Kong where my parents come from. We have a chance to help again support emerging countries such as China which is building cities at a superhuman rate. And whilst Germany has made a living providing tools for China’s manufacturing story region by region we can make a living helping China tool up her services sector city by city – through education and training, sharing our know how, helping her build up her cities and the services and industries that make them thrive.
The Manchester-China forum launching today recognises that Manchester as the first industrial city can be a source of growth in the new services and advanced manufacturing age. By harnessing the city’s fantastic global brand, and its open-minded can-do people including the many Chinese who call her home or a great place to study, and by building deep relationships we can help connect this city with others in China. Cities who tell me they are keen to protect the environment, build sustainable trade links, regenerate as the factories shift to Vietnam and Africa, train workers and citizens, and strengthen retail and manufacturing and a host of other sectors old and new – and want to explore opportunities with Greater Manchester businesses and leaders. Greater Manchester’s own strengths in media, healthcare, education, sustainability and regeneration are her asset in this process as Britain as a whole seeks to trade with the world.
By connecting this city with others around the world, by understanding and helping understand how Chinese business people and visitors think, shop, and relate, and by involving all of its members in such a way as to reduce the costs and barriers to trading with china particularly for smaller local firms and organisations – we want to facilitate exchange, trade and jobs for the many and not just for the few. And we can do so by also leveraging the great work and supply chain development that is already going on through alumni and firms that already link Manchester to many cities in China. Examples such as PG Holroyd’s work with its parent company CQME in Chongqing which has created and safeguarded jobs both in Rochdale and in China. Or the growth of Manchester Business School having launched in Shanghai the last few years with hundreds of alumni in China ready and willing to help businesses here expand and connect in China – who were asked in one city we visited to expand there and create a campus harnessing local Chinese investment. Or the groundbreaking recent agreement between Manchester University to collaborate with Peking University’s health science centre on genetic medecine which will help open doors for healthcare related trade as China opens up its provision to outsiders. Or take the work of Tong Zhou a local business woman here who is helping to bring television commissions from China to businesses in Manchester strengthening local creative industries. Or of Manchester United building links with Hangzhou through a recently signed Chinese sponsor, Wahaha which is owned by China’s wealthiest entrepreneur.
These and many other examples have shown that it is possible for the city to trade with counterparts in the East. And through and with them we can make it easier still we are willing to show patience, courage, genuine friendship, discernment, and commitment.
I’m proud with other board members to be part of this story, one which I hope other cities here can join in over time since China is so big – there is plenty of room for all of us to thrive. Because with 60 percent of global growth coming from emerging cities the future lies in cities like Manchester. And growth will come as cities like Manchester become ever more connected with cities in places like China.
So today we welcome businesses to participate and give us their feedback, support, and their time, we welcome the endorsement from the Chancellor and a government willing to take a less centralised and more plural approach to trade as happens in China itself; and above all we welcome investors and potential partners from cities all over china to come and trade with Manchester: the home of football, of the BBC, of the largest campus based business school in Britain, of graphene, and of future technology driven, creative and sustainable industries – a connected city to whom the future now belongs.