Just wanted to write about something that caught my eye earlier today which may not be news to you, but is to me - and it made me feel quite proud! I came across this interesting article by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders announcing that British car exports to China have risen a staggering 900% in 6 years since 2009, and that China is now the second largest market for British cars after the UK itself.
Once I'd recovered from the intial shock and stopped for a moment to think, though, it made sense to me. I was living in Chengdu in 2009, and at that time the car park of the office block I worked in, which was home to a lot of businesses (including Chengdu TV), was dominated by one car: the Suzuki Alto, a budget model made in Chongqing by Chang'an Suzuki. If you've not seen an Alto before, here's one for you.
Ah yes, the Alto. One day, back in 2008 I think it was, a car-loving colleague and I decided to count the proportion of Altos in the carpark. They made up slightly more than half of the cars there! But by the time I left that job in summer 2014, things had changed massively in that carpark. The odd remaining Alto, once so "normal", now looked rather like the kid whose friends have all had growth spurts and got new clothes, while he's still waiting, fated to wear his old, tatty ones, until some hormones kick in.
China likes cars - it also likes classic, quality British brands. No wonder, then, that our remaining car manufacturers have experienced such a huge rise in sales there. Bentley, for example, saw their sales rise by 22% in 2014 - a record for them - bringing China ever closer to the Americas as their number one global market.
That's why in March last year the news was announced that the West Midlands' trade surplus with China had tripled in the preceding 12 months, and now stood at an incredible £1.74Bn. Chief among the businesses driving this trend is Jaguar Land Rover, and the region now accounts for 1/3 of the UK's total exports to China. I think that's amazing!
 "Chang'an SC 7081C" by KongFu Wang from Beijing, ChinaCropped by uploader Mr.choppers - DSC_0001. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chang%27an_SC_7081C.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Chang%27an_SC_7081C.jpg