The Government is continuing to pull out the stops in an attempt to woo China, this time sending in a famous face from its old guard to talk about healthcare deals.
Cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke is heading up a new trade mission to the country, with his eyes firmly on China’s rapidly expanding healthcare system.
The trip by Europhile Clarke follows a PR offensive last year which saw Chancellor George Osborne and Mayor of London Boris Johnson visit in October, followed by Prime Minister David Cameron in December.
During Mr Cameron’s visit, healthcare deals worth around £120 million were signed between the two nations.
The UK Government is now hoping to consolidate the positive work done last year with this latest trip, which sees Mr Clarke accompany 50 representatives and a slew of translators from 38 British companies, universities and training hospitals on the week-long visit intended to build business relationships and foster the political links needed to unlock further trade and investment opportunities.
Mr Clarke, a former health secretary, said: “The British healthcare system is the best in the world, and there will be important export opportunities as China invests huge sums of money in its healthcare system over the years ahead.
“Healthcare and life sciences are among the strongest sectors of the British economy and our standards are held in high regard overseas. As a country, we must play to our strengths if we are to continue to build a healthy, modern economy, and there can be no doubt that exports in this area will play an important part.
“From building a hospital to training the staff to building the IT and management systems, the UK has the expertise that China needs as it builds a healthcare system that is projected to be spending a trillion dollars every year by 2020.”
The flurry of events in recent months involving the UK and dignitaries from China have brought a much-needed boost to UK/China diplomacy, which hit a low point last year following Mr Cameron’s decision to meet with the Dalai Lama. Relations with Beijing soured over the issue of Tibet’s spiritual leader, who has lived in exile since the Tibetan uprising in 1959.
The jazz-loving minister without portfolio’s itinerary included pit stops in Beijing, Tianjin, Nanjing, Zhejiang and Shanghai, as well as talks with Chinese health minister, Li Bin
Chinese health spending has soared from 1% of GDP in 2002 to 5.15%, and analysts predict further room for investment in the coming years. Estimates show that around 95% of the population have some kind of health insurance, with health spending in China projected to reach a trillion dollars by 2020.
The Government has identified the Chinese healthcare market as a “high value opportunity” for British firms.
During the trip, members of the UK delegation offered British expertise in pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, hospital construction, medical training and expertise in patient records and other management systems.
Before embarking on the trip, Mr Clarke said: “I am very happy to be leading another delegation of excellent British companies to China, which will build on the progress made by the Prime Minster when he visited in December. The British healthcare system is the best in the world, and there will be important export opportunities as China invests huge sums of money in its healthcare system over the years ahead.”