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Osborne signals new ties with China
George Osborne will today hail a new era in Britain's relations with China as ministers predicted a massive surge of investment from the Asian economic dynamo to build a new generation of nuclear power stations for the UK.
The Chancellor, who is leading a high-powered ministerial and business delegation to China, will use a keynote speech to students in Beijing to call for the two countries to take the "next big step" in their relationship.
Arriving yesterday in the Chinese capital, Mr Osborne announced a relaxation of the visa rules for Chinese nationals - amid complaints the current regime is a deterrent to more high-spending visitors coming to the UK.
He also unveiled an £800 million plan for Chinese investment in Manchester Airport, creating 16,000 new jobs in what he said would be one of the biggest developments in the UK since the London Olympics.
In London, Energy Secretary Ed Davey suggested it could simply be the start of a much bigger influx of capital, with investors in China - as well as in Japan and Korea - set to pump "tens of billions of pounds" into the construction of new nuclear power stations.
Mr Davey, who recently returned from a 10-day trip to China, said their investment could secure Britain's electricity supply into the future - sparing the country the prospect of damaging power blackouts.
"The lights are going to stay on," he told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.
The latest moves reflect the determination of ministers to rebuild the relationship with Beijing which has been in deep freeze since David Cameron welcomed the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to London last year.
In his speech at the Peking University, Mr Osborne will say that no country in the West is as open to Chinese investment as the UK.
While some in the West saw the rise of of China as a threat, Mr Osborne will say that Britain wants to share in its economic success, with more jobs and investment in China leading to more wealth creation at home.
"There are some in the West who see China growing, and they are nervous. They think of the world as a cake - and the bigger the slice that China takes, the smaller the slice that they will get," he is expected to say.
"I totally and utterly reject that pessimistic view. If we make the whole cake bigger, then all our peoples will benefit. That should be the basis of our relationship with China."
The changes announced to visa rules will reduce the need for Chinese visitors to the European Union to submit separate visa applications for Britain, with selected Chinese travel agents able to apply for UK visas by submitting just the EU's Schengen area visa form.
A new 24-hour "super priority" visa service will become available from next summer next year, while officials are also looking at expanding a VIP mobile visa service, currently operating in Beijing and Shanghai, to the whole country.
Following his speech, Mr Osborne will be joined by London mayor Boris Johnson - who is in China with a separate delegation - for a question and answer session with students.
The main government-to-government business of the five-day visit will take place tomorrow when Mr Osborne attends the fifth UK-China economic and financial dialogue in Beijing. He will also hold a series of bilateral meetings with senior Chinese leaders, including vice premier Ma Kai.
He will then travel on to the cities of Shenzen and Guangzhou on Wednesday, followed by Hong Kong on Thursday, accompanied by delegations from the asset management and hi-tech sectors.