Manchester Welcomes the Year of the Tiger7th Feb 2022
Links between UK city and China continue to strengthen across commerce, education and culture.
Manchester, UK, welcomed the Year of the Tiger with a day of celebrations in the city’s Chinatown and a specially-commissioned tiger art sculpture which took residence in the heart of the city.
Manchester’s celebrations, led by FCAM, the Federation of Chinese Associations of Manchester, are renowned as some of the best in Europe, and although 2022’s celebrations were on a smaller scale, visitors were still able to enjoy a whole host of activities including traditional lion dances, Chinese acrobatics, Kung Fu demonstrations and live performances, alongside food stalls and an illuminated dragon.
To pay homage to the Year of the Tiger, Manchester Business Improvement District, which has collaborated with FCAM on the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations for the last eight years, commissioned a bespoke tiger sculpture.
Created by Manchester-based Decordia Events, the tiger installation, located in the city’s St Ann’s Square, was cleverly constructed from wood so that it appeared as delicate as a children’s toy yet every bit as powerful as those found in the wild.
Lisa Yam, President of the Federation of Chinese Associations of Manchester said: “This was our 28th annual celebration and although we had to make some adjustments to this year’s programme to allow visitors to safely enjoy the event, it was wonderful to see lots of people enjoying live performances, dancing and entertainment in Chinatown once again.
“In more recent years we have worked with Manchester Business Improvement District to help extend festivities across the city and this year’s tiger sculpture, located in the heart of the city’s shopping district, really was a sight to behold and a spectacle worthy of honouring the Year of the Tiger.”
And with the passing of the new year last week the city has much to celebrate and look forward to in terms of its growing links with China.
Spearheading this relationship is the Manchester China Forum, the city region’s special purpose vehicle which has strengthened the region’s relationship with China and has resulted in an increase in commercial activity, the launch of direct routes to Beijing and Hong Kong, and President Xi’s visit to the city. Since the inception of the Manchester-China Forum in 2013, Chinese firms have invested in projects with a development value in excess of £6bn in the region, including the Far East Consortium investment into the £1bn Northern Gateway project and the £1bn Airport City development involving Beijing Construction and Engineering Group as a major equity partner.
Alongside the growth in direct investment, Manchester has seen a rapid rise in both Chinese tourist and student numbers since the Forum began. Since 2014, there has been a 92% increase in Chinese students attending Greater Manchester universities, with their economic value for the same period soaring by 120%. More than 9,000 Chinese students currently enrolled in Greater Manchester universities, up 43.79% compared to the pre-pandemic figures of 2018.
The significance of Chinese students to the regional economy was demonstrated in November 2020 when 7000 students from China were flown into Manchester on specially chartered flights to allow them to continue their studies in the city and wider North of England.
The campaign to return Chinese students safely for their studies during the pandemic was driven by a working group set up initially in Manchester including representatives from Greater Manchester’s universities, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester Airport Group, the Manchester China Forum and student accommodation providers.
The North West has continued to bolster trading relationships with the Chinese market, with total exports passing the £10bn mark in the last six years. Recent analysis from Deloitte revealed that annual export figures have remained stable at between £1.5bn and £1.8bn each year, despite the ongoing uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The North West exported £1.2bn to Chinese businesses in the first three quarters of 2020 at an average of £400m per quarter, representing a rise on the £375m quarterly average seen in 2019, and identical to 2018 levels.
Rhys Whalley, Executive Director, Manchester China Forum said: “If anything else, the challenges of the past couple of years have demonstrated how intrinsically interlinked the global economy is and how critically important cooperation is in tackling common global challenges.
This Year’s Tiger Art sculpture not only symbolises the bravery, strength and courage required on our road to recovery, it also represents the importance that sustainability will play in shaping our future.
Greater Manchester’s commitment to a zero carbon target of 2038 presents tremendous opportunities to collaborate with China who will need to invest over $100trn over the next 40 years to deliver its own net zero targets.
Here in Greater Manchester, China is the biggest source market for international students by some distance. These students provide a vital bridge not only in building greater cultural understanding but in strengthening commercial links across the industries of the future.”
Chinese Consul General Zheng Xiyuan said: “Manchester has a wonderful spirit, unique charm and is a city leading by example in its determination to develop strong links with China. As one of the best cities in Europe for connectivity with China across industry, education and culture, I look forward to seeing the continued success of this relationship, bringing prosperity to the people of both nations.”
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