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Xi Shoots Xi Scores: China Visit Hits Manchester
2015-10-27
 
China's President Xi Jinping has ended his state visit to Britain with a trip to Manchester as David Cameron promoted the Government's 'Northern Powerhouse' agenda.

The tour marked the final leg of Mr Xi's visit and a series of measures to boost the so-called "Northern Powerhouse" are being announced to coincide with the trip to its flagship city.

The two leaders visited Manchester City's football academy, where they met former stars of both Manchester football clubs, including Patrick Vieira and Gary Neville - and posed for a selfie with City's Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero.

They also congratulated Sun Jihai as he became the first Chinese player inducted into the Football Museum's Hall of Fame.

Among deals being announced was a new China office complex at Manchester's £800m Airport City, which is part-owned and partly-constructed by a Beijing firm.

A direct air link between Manchester and Beijing was also announced alongside new housing, regeneration and education deals.

A deal was also unveiled for the Chinese telecoms company Huawei to partner with the Manchester University laboratories that invented graphene, a form of carbon that is the world's thinnest and most conductive material.

Speaking to Sky News after President Xi's visit to Manchester's National Graphene Institute, Chancellor George Osborne defended the warm welcome extended to the Chinese leader amid criticism from human rights groups and steel industry workers.

He said: "If you look at this visit from the Chinese president, at the end of it we've got investment in our nuclear power in the West Country, science here in the Northern Powerhouse, bus-making in Scotland, engines in Derby.

"That's Chinese investment partnering with British companies, creating thousands of jobs here and at the same time we can have a dialogue about difficult issues from steel-making to human rights to cyber security."

A large crowd of well-organised students set up flags in Manchester's Albert Square from 5.30am on Friday morning.

Some of the flags and T-shirts distributed among the crowd came from cardboard boxes marked "diplomatic bag," suggesting they may have been flown in from China for the occasion.

One of the crowd - which numbered in the thousands by Mr Xi's lunchtime arrival - told Sky News he was there to greet his "idol," the president.

Mr Xi was faced with a protest from Tibet and Falun Gong supporters - who had largely been kept out of sight on the London leg of his trip - before lunch at Manchester Town Hall with 200 businessmen and women.

The delegation travelled to Manchester Airport for the Beijing flights announcement before the president and his entourage boarded a plane bound for China.

The concept of the "Northern Powerhouse" was conceived by the Chancellor of the Exchequer's team in 2013.

From inception it was designed to attract Chinese investors who have built mega-cities to replicate their plans in northern England.

On this trip, Mr Xi endorsed the plan to invest billions in cities from Liverpool to Leeds in order to help rebalance the British economy.

Mr Xi has likened the plan to his own new Silk Road idea, opening the floodgates to Chinese firms investing in northern England.

He said: "We encourage Chinese companies to the construction of the Northern Powerhouse, and make more investment, so that we will achieve win / win results.

"I am looking forward to seeing what's happening in Manchester."
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