It’s fantastic to be back here in Chengdu.
I came here more than 20 years ago as a student.
I was wearing a backpack and I stayed in a hostel, visited the panda sanctuary, climbed Mount Emei (I was attacked by monkeys as I did so!) and of course had your delicious Sichuanese food.
It is therefore fantastic to be back, and marvel at what has been achieved here over the last 20 years.
An incredible feat and a real story of China’s economic development.
And what I think is fantastic about this city and about Sichuan, is the way you have retained your links to China’s great ancient civilization, while at the same time renewing and modernising yourself and growing in a way that is, I think, epitomised by the fantastic development outside the windows here by Swire Group.
There’s a real buzz about Chengdu as a centre of manufacturing, for sure, but also for tech and finance.
There’s the incredible regeneration that’s gone on and what you see here is a remarkable success story of the cities of the western in China.
What’s remarkable is the way in the last 10 years or so cities like Chengdu have become a real powerhouse of the Chinese economy.
And the way you have established links with other great cities like Chongqing, 200 miles away - an example of how big cities can come together in economic clusters, and be greater than the individual parts.
The sum can be greater than the parts.
That is precisely what we’re trying to achieve in the United Kingdom, with our great industrial cities of the north of England.
Bringing the cities together, creating modern high speed transport links between those cities, making sure that they have strong civic leadership, bringing investment to them, and as a result creating a North of England that is greater than the individual parts.
The Northern Powerhouse that we are seeking to create.
And whilst when we come to China we promote the whole of the United Kingdom and we treat seek to attract investment across the whole of our country, very specifically this week I have come here with my friends and colleagues from many different cities in the North of England, to promote investment in the Northern Powerhouse.
That is what this event today is all about.
The north of England was the birthplace of the world’s industrial revolution.
The very first industrial cities in the world were in the North of England.
They had links all over the world through the old Silk routes here to China, but across our globe.
They’re rich in heritage.
But they’re also cities that need more investment, that have got ambitious plans to regenerate themselves.
They’re cities of real character and integrity, and we are seeking that investment so that we close the economic gap that exists in our country between the north of the country and the south of the country.
And so I’m particularly delighted that on this visit I’ve been joined by the famous economist Jim O’Neill, who not just invented the term the BRICS, which is no mean achievement for anyone’s career, but who also has done so much work as an economist to develop this concept of the Northern Powerhouse.
But I’m also joined by the leaders of many of Britain’s great northern cities here on the front row.
Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester, Sean Anstee sitting next to him, the leader of Trafford near Manchester, Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool. It’s good to have you here.
Julie Dore, the leader of Sheffield.
We’ve got Michael Jones from Cheshire, Judith Blake from Leeds, Nick Forbes from Newcastle.
There are all different cities.
They’re represented by political leaders of different political parties in our democracy, but they come here with one priority, with me, to make a reality of the Northern Powerhouse.
To attract the investment that is going to bring the jobs and the regeneration and is going to raise the living standards for people in our country, in these cities and the towns of the counties between them.
We’re doing something that has never been done before.
Of course many of these cities have twin arrangements with other cities here in China.
Sheffield, for a long time has been for a long time spin twinned with Chengdu.
But I don’t think we’ve ever seen an occasion when all these cities have come together as one.
Travelled together as one.
Sought to help each other as well as themselves and make a big argument about investment in the north of England.
Now that investment from China is already flowing.
I remember last time I was here with Richard, we signed an agreement in Beijing which attracted almost £1 billion of investment into the airport city at Manchester airport.
And for anyone who thinks these are abstract concepts, come with Richard and I and see the growth now taking place there, the construction underway, the transport links that are being created there.
On the back, not just of investment by the City Council and by the British government, but by our colleagues in China.
Indeed, half of all the investment in Britain’s enterprise zones is coming at the moment from China.
So there are links, but I want to make those links stronger still.
I’m here as part of an economic and financial dialogue with the Chinese government.
That’s a dialogue that has gone from strength to strength.
I’ve made an argument about how Britain can be China’s best partner in the West, seeking more investment from China into Britain, and making sure that British companies contribute to China’s growth and development and bring their investment too.
We are publishing today for the first time an interesting fact based on new Treasury analysis that shows that 265,000 jobs in Britain only exist because of our links with China.
And I want to create hundreds of thousands of more jobs in Britain to come about as a result of those links with China.
So anyone who says ‘what is the practical benefit of this relationship’, I say go and talk to the people and the families who’ve got incomes and livelihoods and jobs because of the relationship between our two countries.
I want those links to be stronger still.
China already sends more students to Britain than any other nationality or any other nation in the world.
There are more Chinese students in Britain than there are American students, or French students or German students.
Many of them study at the great universities of the North of England.
We want to see more Chinese students in Britain. There is no cap on the number of students from China who can come to Britain, I want that message understood across this great nation.
We want more tourists to come and enjoy, not just the sights of our great capital city of London, but our beautiful countryside as well. And our great towns and cities across the country including of course, the North of England.
We want more of our children to be learning that great language Mandarin, as my 12 year old daughter is learning at the moment and teaching me a little bit .
We’ve just committed this week to increasing the number of children learning Mandarin to an extra 5,000 by 2020, so that our children are equipped with not just the language of the past but the language of the future.
We are announcing today that we have opened the bidding for the contracts for our high speed rail link that we are building from London to the Midlands, to Manchester and Leeds with stops on the way In cities like Sheffield.
And those contracts of course open to anyone in the world to bid for, open to British companies to bid for, will be awarded on the basis of who delivers the best investment, the best construction the best track for the best value for money.
But I would urge Chinese companies to put forward bids, to partner perhaps with British companies in putting forward those bids.
Because you have a fantastic experience of building many, many thousands of miles of high speed trains, as I saw for myself when I travelled on the high speed train yesterday from Urumqi to Turpan, and I will see again later today when I go to the train station here in Chengdu.
We’re also setting out in a pitchbook today very specific projects in the cities of the North that we are seeking investment into: science parks, residential developments, retail parks across the north of England, that will help create jobs in Britain and give good returns to Chinese investors.
That’s not the end of the list - it’s 20 great projects.
But we had to start some projects so we’ve put them together in a book.
There is already a huge amount of interest in them, indeed, I think yesterday we heard great news about potential Chinese investment in Leeds, which is an example of what we can achieve together.
There will be, if this is a success, more pitchbooks to come, more projects to come, work with us to make these a success.
There is an enormous opportunity.
Next month the president of China will come on a state visit to Britain, the first such visit by a Chinese president in a decade.
And he will travel to London, but he will travel beyond London as well.
And it’s an opportunity to showcase the best of Britain and to showcase our relationship with China, with different countries with different histories. We have different political systems, we know that.
But we’re also two countries which I think have done more to shape the culture of the world than perhaps any other two nations on earth.
So let’s work together, let’s invest again and let’s help create jobs and prosperity in each other’s countries and in particular, work with us to make a reality of the Northern powerhouse.
Thank you very much.