China's Xi visits Premier League superpower Man City

23rd October 2015, Comments 0 comments

Chinese President Xi Jinping blew the final whistle on his state visit to Britain on Friday with a day out at the English Premier League leaders Manchester City.

After three days of banquets, processions and trade talks, Xi posed for selfies with City players and met former stars from their local rivals Manchester United -- with the clubs due to play each other on Sunday.

British Prime Minister David Cameron accompanied Xi on his tour of Manchester as the UK government tries to promote investment in the post-industrial cities of northern England.

Cameron and Xi -- reported to be a United fan -- visited Manchester City's academy.

The state-of-the-art training facility includes a 7,000-capacity stadium and 16 football pitches that can cater for more than 450 players.

The two leaders posed for a "selfie" picture with Sergio Aguero, City's Argentinian star striker.

They watched a training match and met players who helped build the city's footballing legacy, including former United captain Gary Neville and ex-City stars Patrick Vieira and Mike Summerbee.

They also met Denis Law, who scored 171 goals for United during the 1960s and 70s, but who famously scored a goal to relegate the club after transferring to City.

The two leaders toured the National Football Museum, which houses artefacts including a ball used in the final of the inaugural 1930 World Cup.

Xi inducted former City player Sun Jihai into the museum's Hall of Fame. Sun was the first Chinese player to score in the Premier League.

- 'Northern Powerhouse' -

The British government is keen to show off its "Northern Powerhouse" project, in which councils in the post-industrial north of England are being given more powers in an attempt to stimulate their economies.

Xi had lunch with around 200 business and civic leaders at Manchester Town Hall, where hundreds of organised British-based Chinese greeted his arrival, waving Chinese flags handed out from cardboard boxes.

A small number of protesters were grouped with a banner demanding "Justice For Human Rights".

As part of a raft of partnership deals, Hainan Airlines was expected to announce its first direct flights from Manchester Airport to China.

"China is a key trading partner for the UK and the partnerships being made today will see real investment going into the north," Cameron said.

Queen Elizabeth II hosted Xi on the London leg of his trip, throwing a state banquet in his honour on Tuesday.

A clutch of business contracts, said by Cameron to be worth almost £40 billion ($61.6 billion, 54.4 billion euros), have been announced during Xi's four-day visit, as well as the launch of the first yuan-denominated bond in London as China seeks to internationalise its currency.

The Financial Times newspaper said its analysis suggested the £40 billion estimate "may have involved some generous interpretation", with Downing Street refusing to say how it had made its calculations.

On Thursday night, Cameron took Xi to a traditional British pub near the prime minister's country residence for a portion of fish and chips, washed down with a pint of English ale.

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© 2015 AFP

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