The relaxation of visa laws for Chinese visitors to the U.K., announced on Monday, follows protests about the backlog of passport applications for ordinary U.K. residents. Chinese tourists are viewed as potentially huge consumers for the U.K. luxury goods sector in particular.
"There may be an element of jealousy of the rise of China," said Stephen Perry, chairman of The 48 Club, which focuses on improving U.K.-China trade.
He forecast that China will soon start being more active with its investments abroad, as its executives gain more experience of management.
Infrastructure, agriculture and banking are likely to be the focus in the short-term. The Chinese have experience of both high-speed railways and nuclear power stations, and the U.K. is about to embark on large, long-term projects in both areas. And China is understood to be open to allowing imports of U.K. beef and lamb again, as its burgeoning middle class's appetite for meat expands. There has been a ban in place since the BSE crisis of the 1980s.
One big question mark is over how the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)'s purchase of a London banking operation from Standard Bank will proceed. The Chinese bank is sending seven delegates, with another seven from its affiliated aircraft leasing company ICBC Financial Leasing—close to a tenth of the delegates from Chinese business in total. It is understood that this may be a way of gaining China Construction Bank a foothold in the London market, to boost renminbi trade through London.