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The Chancellor's mission to make up lost ground and build bridges with China

Chancellor George Osborne is trying to build on the UK's ties with China. Photo: REUTERS/Toby Melville

This weekend George Osborne was one of 80 million passengers who pass through Beijing's airport every year, arriving in China to begin a five day visit. He first announced Chinese involvement in a multi-million pound development at an airport closer to home, in Manchester.

The Chancellor told me the deal will bring huge investment to the North West: 16,000 jobs and attract more Chinese business interest in the UK.

The construction of Manchester Airport City is being hailed as the largest project in the UK since the London Olympics, the latest deal to benefit from an 80% rise in Chinese firms investing in the UK.

Last year Chinese firms, both state owned and private poured £2.5 billion pounds into a variety of contracts. In London, a huge business park is being developed in the Docklands, Crystal Palace is being revamped and there's a 700 million project in Vauxhall. China now owns a chunk of Heathrow's holding company and has dipped its toes into Thames Water, hoping for a safe return from a utility company. If you enjoy three Weetabix for breakfast, then that's now Chinese-owned too.

However, Chinese investment is still less than 10 per cent of the total foreign investment into the UK. There's massive potential and there does seem to be remarkable growth: investment from China is up sharply over the last year and a half. It all feels similar to when the rich Saudis were buying up Britain in the 1970s.

However, frosty political relations over the last 18 months can't have helped. The Chinese government was enraged after David Cameron and Nick Clegg met the Dalai Lama last year.

The Chinese government treats the Dalai Lama as a separatist, the leader of a terrorist "clique" fighting for Tibetan independence.

Beijing gradually calmed down and the sulk is mostly over. During the freeze in relations, no top UK politician has been able to have a meeting with their Chinese counterpart. David Cameron hasn't been here for almost three years now. The PM's visit last year was delayed and delayed, effectively cancelled by fuming Chinese officials.

Now, like a Boris bus, two senior British politicians come along at once. One of them is Boris.

On stage today at Peking University: the Mayor and Chancellor show. Tough gig for George Osborne. Both these ambitious men have been forced to share the billing. That wasn't the original plan. Boris is not a member of the British government and so wasn't affected by the "incredible sulk" as Embassy officials have called it.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson is in China at the same time as Osborne. Credit: PA Wire

His trip was fixed months ago, the Osborne visit was subject to last minute postponements and adjustments by the Chinese still grumpy about the Dalai Lama meeting. The Chancellor ended up having to come to China at the same time as Boris. Awkward.

Both the Chancellor and the Mayor are now trying to make up lost ground. This is the first time in a year and a half that Britain has been able to send large high profile trade missions to China; a country where business and politics are always closely intertwined.

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