A Chinese millionaire’s £1bn plan to transform Sheffield

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http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-china-blog-36881060

Back in the 1960s, Sheffield was still booming, with many thousands employed in making a product that had underpinned Britain’s industrial strength for centuries; steel.

At the same time, half a world away in China, a young salesman had found a niche market with the material of choice for one of the poorest countries on the planet.

Wang Chunming had a knack for selling bamboo and a willingness to ride the considerable risks in a system that had declared entrepreneurs to be an enemy class.

“Profiteering was a crime punishable by death,” he laughs.

“But practically all the bamboo blinds in China came from Chengdu, and I was the only guy selling them.”

The story of the past 50 years has, of course, been marked by Britain’s industrial decline and China’s extraordinary rise.

Which is how, having made his fortune first in bamboo and then in construction, Mr Wang is now in the position of signing a deal to invest more than £200m ($262m) in Sheffield, a place he talks about in a way Brits may once have spoken of China.

“When we saw Sheffield, we noticed the infrastructure was not very advanced,” he tells me.

“There’s not even a five-star hotel.”

The £200m is, Sheffield City Council proudly boasts, “the biggest Chinese investment deal in a UK city outside of London” and it is just the beginning of a plan which Mr Wang says will “transform” the city centre with around a billion pounds of investment spread over 60 years.

Starting with a new hotel – five star of course – and apartment buildings, Mr Wang says the eventual vision includes helping to overhaul Sheffield’s “problematic” transport infrastructure and developing its universities.

He’s keen to show off the kind of things he’s capable of, so we’re taken on a tour of some of the latest projects built by his business, Guodong Construction Company. Although it has to be said, they seem to prompt as many questions as they answer.

His recently opened hotel in Chengdu, the Guodong International Hotel, feels a little dated by the swish standards of most modern luxury Chinese hotels.

And it comes complete with a somewhat improbable faux Greco-Roman fountain which, he tells me, he designed himself.

———-

“Mr Wang is now in the position of signing a deal to invest more than £200m ($262m) in Sheffield, a place he talks about in a way Brits may once have spoken of China.”

lucky sheffield..

“Starting with a new hotel – five star of course – and apartment buildings, Mr Wang says the eventual vision includes helping to overhaul Sheffield’s “problematic” transport infrastructure and developing its universities.”

401

~ by seeker401 on August 1, 2016.

3 Responses to “A Chinese millionaire’s £1bn plan to transform Sheffield”

  1. Is there enough tourist & business travel to the area to support the 5 star hotel?
    Most entertainment facility construction is currently stifled, due to a lack of customers spending money on vacations & other excursions. And if the business environment DOES turn around, as many are predicting now, one of the first expenditures businesses tend to cut are travel expenses.

    But good luck, anyway.

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