East meets East End

Nick Albrow

This week’s announcement that work on a £1bn Chinese business park will begin in Newham’s Royal Docks could mark the beginning of a new era of commercial co-operation between the UK and the Far East.

The hope is that this will attract more Chinese and Pan-Asian businesses, and their increasing wealth and influence, to London – thus securing further ties with the new global economic superpower.

Following the Olympic Park development in Stratford and silicon roundabout in Old Street, the move sustains the revival of East London, once run down and abandoned but increasingly an economic and cultural hub. A Chinatown in the heart of Newham could soon be on the horizon.

The value of developing this hub and engaging with an economy which is forecast to grow by 7.75% this year is obvious, particularly when compared with the UK and the USA’s stuttering forecasts – both predicted to be less than 1% over the same period. Indeed, such has been China’s success in recent years, this rate of growth has even been criticised in some sections as it compares unfavourably to the highs of over 10% enjoyed in the 2000s.

The hope will be that the UK economy can bask in the dragon’s flame and that our own economic revival can be accelerated on the back of an influx of Chinese money. There are already moves to ease up visa restrictions on Chinese tourists, making it easier for them to come and go as they please – spending as much money as possible in the process.

In education too, the UK is taking more of an interest in China. Mandarin study in schools is becoming increasingly popular, and communication barriers will be broken down, as more members of the next generation develop an understanding of Eastern language and culture.

Our renewed interest in the East has not gone unreciprocated. Recent news stories have reported on the desire of Chinese parents to have their children educated at English public schools citing them as amongst the best in the world, viewed more favourably than those in the United States due to the prevalence of guns in America.

Longstanding issues continue with China – human rights records, its support of North Korea and restrictions on the press – yet in an increasingly globalised economy it has never been more important to look East, as well as West. This latest news from the Royal Docks, which will bring the Orient to London’s East End, could be a vital step in securing our future prosperity.

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