Sheffield secured a 60-year Chinese investment deal thanks to trust built up over years, according to the council leader.
Julie Dore, her deputy Leigh Bramall and various council officers made a number of trips to Chengdu to seal the partnership, worth hundreds of millions of pounds, that was announced yesterday.
The council leader said the level of trust she now shares with both the £1bn Sichuan Guodong Construction Group and the Chengdu government meant the deal went ahead despite the UK voting to leave the EU.
“This is someone that within two days of the referendum result signed a deal to bring in £220m worth of investment,” she said.
“Everything that happens in China has to have government approval. To build a relationship with Chinese government takes time. You have to build up that trust. Their culture is about trust and accountability.
“We have been working with the Chengdu government for four years. We have got a relationship that’s been built up over time, and that is imperative.”
The council will decide where the Chinese money will be spent, although the projects will need approval from Sichuan Guodong Construction Group and its chairman Wang Chunming. Nothing specific has yet been decided.
Coun Dore said the deal enabled the council to look at the city centre as a whole.
“We have got schemes that are shovel-ready,” she added. “We’ve talked about Castlegate, we’ve talked about West Bar. We have got to make the shape of our city in what it should be looking like in 15 or 20 years’ time.”
And while accepting there would be cynics and sceptics, Coun Dore said the first evidence of the investment could come in the next few months.
She said: “This is somewhat easier to deliver than the retail quarter, in a sense. Assembling land took several years and then we had an economic crash.
“I understand how people feel, asking why it takes so long. It’s like HS2. I think we will see progression on this early next year.”
She also rubbished reports that the deal was dependent on new Chancellor Philip Hammond, who will fly to China next week for the G20 finance ministers’ meeting.
Coun Dore said: “We knew that the G20 was in Chengdu and the Chancellor would be going. I met with his office to explain our deal. The last thing we would want is embarrassment between the two governments.
“George Osborne, at the time, was also very interested in visiting Mr Wang and the company.
“We have informed them and will be seeking further meetings with the new Chancellor’s team, to talk about other opportunities that we have got out there.”
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