Britain said yesterday it had signed deals with China to research stem cells and smart grids, after British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne held talks with officials in Beijing aimed at attracting investment.
Osborne’s two-day visit to China was primarily focused on taking forward plans to make London a key trading hub for the yuan currency and persuading Chinese companies to invest in British infrastructure projects.
However, the British embassy in Beijing refused to comment on the outcome of his talks with officials, including Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (王岐山) — China’s top finance official — after Osborne left Beijing yesterday afternoon for Tokyo.
The first deal signed focused on joint research in the field of smart grids — electricity networks that can track the behavior of users to monitor and deliver supplies more efficiently — the embassy said in a statement.
The other agreement pledged up to ￡770,000 (US$1.2 million) worth of joint investment into stem cell research.
Osborne also held talks with the heads of the nation’s sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corp (CIC, 中國投資公司), and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC, 中國工商銀行) — the largest bank in the world — as well as People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川).
His Beijing visit came after a stop-over in Hong Kong, where he announced Britain had agreed to partner with the territory to develop the City of London as a major offshore center for trade in China’s currency.
Hong Kong is the world’s only officially-designated offshore yuan trading center, but Britain is keen to make London — the heart of European banking — the second such market.
China and Britain agreed in September last year to work toward this goal, and Osborne on Monday announced the launch of a joint private-sector London-Hong Kong forum to support Beijing’s efforts to develop the offshore yuan market.
The new forum will examine ways Britain and Hong Kong can streamline clearing and settlement systems, boost market liquidity and develop new yuan--denominated products.
Osborne’s China trip was also aimed at attracting investment into British infrastructure, just months after the government identified more than 500 projects it wants built as part of plans to boost the economy.
These include roads, railways, airport capacity, power stations, waste facilities and broadband networks.
To date, none of China’s state-owned enterprises have made significant investments in Britain, but Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing (李嘉誠) last year bought utility firm Northumbrian Water for US$3.9 billion.
“We welcome further Chinese investment in UK infrastructure opportunities in the coming decade,” Osborne said in a statement ahead of the visit.