Chinese New Year civic banquet serves as reminder of solidarity with China over impact of coronavirus

February 24, 2020

West business and civic leaders have used the region’s annual Chinese New Year banquet to express solidarity with China and its people as they deal with the devastating effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The event, hosted by the Bristol and West of England China Bureau to celebrate the start of the Year of the Rat, also served as a reminder of the strong links between the region and China, particularly in business and trade. 

Bureau chief executive Dianne Francombe told the gathering of civic dignitaries, members of the business community and students that the region stood with China – and particularly the citizens of Bristol’s sister city of Guangzhou – as the disease continued to take its toll.

“Our hearts go out to everyone in China and we are supporting them all the way in cracking and absolutely undermining this horrendous virus, which is affecting the lives of so many people,” said Dianne, pictured below.

“The West of England region is continuing to forge partnerships with China and the China Bureau is at the heart of what is happening.”

Guest of honour West of England Metro Mayor Tim Bowles told the gathering that the region was building on its reputation for innovation and collaboration and attracting more Chinese businesses.

Telecoms giant Huawei already has a research and development (R&D) base in Bristol while H&E Engineering – a UK joint venture set up by China’s Huaxing Construction Company and Efinor of France, also chose Bristol for its base.

The West of England Combined Authority, which brings together the region’s four local authorities including Bath & North East Somerset and is headed by Mr Bowles, is to host a China business event next month, he said, in a bid to boost these already strong trade links.

Meanwhile a trade mission to China of West businesses is being planned for later this year targeting the Greater Bay Area, which stretches from the West of England’s sister province of Guangdong via its capital Guangzhou to Macau and Hong Kong. 

Addressing guests at the banquet at Wong’s Restaurant in Bristol, he said: “This event is a celebration of everything that is wonderful about our region.

“The West of England has always been an international trading region and how we develop our relationship with China, in terms of our universities, in research and design and in many other things, is absolutely vital.”

The Lord Mayor of Bristol, Cllr Jos Clark, also touched on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak during her welcoming address, saying that it was important to remember how the virus had devastated so many families in China at a time when they would have otherwise been enjoying their own traditional new year celebrations.

John Savage, former executive chairman of Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative, told the gathering that he had first visited Guangzhou – China’s third-largest city – in 1998 to start the ‘twinning’ process.

“We had a week of very official meetings, official lunches and banquets every evening,” he recalled, adding that at the final dinner he and then Bristol City Council leader Graham Robertson were invited to sing karaoke and entertained their hosts with a rendition of Slow Boat to China.    

Latest figures show the total number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases on the Chinese mainland has reached 74,685, with 2,236 deaths.

For more information on the Bristol and West of England China Bureau visit


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