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Road to China Series: Xuzhou

Our third day of the trade mission took us to Xuzhou: a large urban area with a 8.5million population located in Jiangsu province in East China near to the coast of the East China Sea. Xuzhou City is 5,000 years old which was very impressive to me especially as we celebrate our local medieval town of Warwick's 1,100 birthday this year.

And history is not the only thing this area of China shares with the Midlands. It developed as a major industrial area post 1949 and became known as the 'coal capital' with it's annual coal output doubling in just five years in the early 1960s. But it's method of coal mining was very labour intensive and as recently as the last five years, the Xuzhou Government have been investing in new technology start-ups and Enterprise Centres to see how they can improve and digitalise this traditional industry.

We then had the pleasure of having dinner with many of the Government officials and, through an interpreter, I was very pleased to be able to talk to Deputy Secretary General Cheng Tangqing who had led our talks that afternoon. I was thrilled to tell him how much I agreed with his position that the future lies in transforming existing industries using modern technology and how successful this has been in my little part of the world. Coventry and Warwickshire developed as a hub of automotive manufacturing post 1949 which then had to adapt following the decline in this sector and we looked to technology. And now this digitalisation of our traditional industry has meant we can compete on a global market with new efficiencies.

And our businesses are not just competing on the global stage but leading the way. I was very lucky to hear a talk recently by Martin Jones from CovPress Ltd, a Coventry business expanding rapidly thanks to investment from Shandong Yongtai and now a global leader in car part manufacturing. Our Silicon Spa video games industry are exporting games across the world and we have hundreds of start-ups in University linked incubator hubs like WMG and the Serious Games Institute developing the new innovative technologies of the future.

So it was with a huge amount of pride I represented Coventry and Warwickshire throughout the trade mission but particularly on this day in Xuzhou. Because we also recognised the need to digitalise and not only has it meant a birth of new industries but also a rebirth of the traditional ones to make this area truly a world class global player.

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