Xi heads north as Britain seeks Chinese cash for regeneration

LONDON: Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to Britain will end on Friday with the announcement of new air links between China and Manchester, the northern English city at the heart of efforts to rebalance the British economy.

Xi will be accompanied by British Prime Minister David Cameron on a tour of the city designed to attract Chinese infrastructure investment at the end of a four-day visit that sealed 40 billion pounds ($62 billion) of business deals.

Britain has laid on its highest level of diplomatic charm for the Chinese delegation, including an audience with Queen Elizabeth. But critics say Cameron is overlooking human rights concerns in his push to make Britain the pre-eminent Western gateway for investment from China.

Britain is courting Chinese involvement in 24 billion pounds of investment projects in the north of the country as part of its plan to regenerate the region, whose development has lagged the more prosperous southeast.

Hainan Airlines Co Ltd (600221.SS) will announce the first direct flights between Manchester and China - a deal which Britain said could boost the city's economy by 50 million pounds.

Xi, a soccer fan, will travel to the city's airport after a meeting with local government representatives and businesses. His visit will also include a trip to a soccer academy run by Manchester City and a tour of the National Football Museum.

Partnerships to build and finance the regeneration of parts of the city will also be agreed, plus the finalisation of Hong Kong firm Netdragon Websoft's (0777.HK) 85 million pound acquisition of educational supplies company Promethean World Plc.