Sino-Bri­tish ties have en­tered a ‘golden era’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Just un­der two years ago, with then UK prime min­is­ter David Cameron look­ing on, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping de­clared that re­la­tions be­tween China and the United King­dom were en­ter­ing a “golden era”.

Just last week, I climbed aboard a Lon­don bus out­side my of­fice. So how are these two events linked? Easy! When I got on board the iconic red sin­gle-decker, I re­al­ized some­thing was miss­ing: the noise of the roar­ing diesel en­gine usu­ally lo­cated at the rear of the ve­hi­cle. That’s when I also re­al­ized I was on a Chi­nese-de­signed BYD bus, elec­tric-pow­ered and a per­fect ex­am­ple of Xi’s state­ment.

Just to re­in­force the con­cept, Xi re­it­er­ated the re­mark to Cameron’s suc­ces­sor, Theresa May, on the side­lines of the G20 sum­mit in Ham­burg, Ger­many, last week.

And it’s true — it seems that ev­ery­where you look in the UK these days, a Chi­nese project is tak­ing shape.

But let’s go back to my bus trip for a mo­ment.

Lon­don bus driv­ers are a re­mark­ably cos­mopoli­tan group, men and women of all cul­tures — Viet­namese, East Euro­peans, Africans, West In­di­ans and more.

I asked the driver, a Bri­ton called Bill, what he thought of the new ve­hi­cle.

“When I com­pare it to the rat­tling old Mercedes I used to drive, it’s no con­test. Quiet, smooth, eas­ier to drive, and the pas­sen­gers seem to like them. No prob­lem, mate.”

There will ini­tially be 30 of the BYDADL En­viro mod­els, join­ing 22 ex­per­i­men­tal Span­ish-built ve­hi­cles. To say they are state of the art is un­der­stat­ing it. A large TV screen alerts pas­sen­gers up to five stops ahead, and also gives de­tails of any prob­lems on Lon­don’s rail ser­vices, in­clud­ing the TfL Un­der­ground, or Tube.

And just to re­mind you these are de­signed by gad­get-con­scious Chi­nese, 12 of the seats have USB ports to al­low you to charge your smart­phone or your tablet. Never seen that on a Lon­don bus be­fore.

Range anx­i­ety, it seems, is not an is­sue. “I can do my shifts and still get back to the de­pot to plug in,” said driver Bill.

Buses aren’t the only form of Lon­don trans­porta­tion fac­ing rev­o­lu­tion, Chi­nese-style.

Geely, the owner of Lon­don Taxi Co, which makes the so-called black cabs that dom­i­nate Lon­don’s streets, has un­veiled a hy­brid ver­sion, and Lon­don Mayor Sadiq Khan says all new cabs will have to be hy­brid by 2020.

In fact, it was Geely’s Volvo unit, the Swedish brand fa­mous for its rugged es­tate cars and four-wheel drives, that stunned ev­ery­one by say­ing it was wind­ing down pro­duc­tion of petrol and diesel ve­hi­cles and switch­ing to ei­ther all-elec­tric or hy­brid mod­els.

When you cou­ple that with France’s an­nounce­ment that sales of new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2040, you have an idea of the size of the rev­o­lu­tion fac­ing trav­el­ers, all in­spired by the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, which most of the world’s coun­tries have signed on to.

And China is a fer­vent sup­porter of the Paris ac­cord.

So what other ev­i­dence is there of the “golden era”? Chi­nese bike hire com­pa­nies have al­ready reached the UK.

But two huge de­vel­op­ments were de­tailed in the past few weeks: Dalian Wanda Group un­veiled a huge ex­ten­sion of its Nine Elms de­vel­op­ment in Lon­don’s Vaux­hall area, and ABP, founded in China in 2003, is plan­ning a ma­jor busi­ness de­vel­op­ment in Lon­don’s Royal Docks, right next to East Lon­don’s Lon­don City Air­port.

No doubt there’s more to come.

The au­thor is man­ag­ing ed­i­tor for China Daily in Europe. chris@mail.chi­nadai­


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