Chinese New Year

Image credit: Jason

As London prepares to usher in the Chinese New Year, bidding farewell to the Horse and welcoming the Sheep,  there’s a note of cautious optimism in the air, with Oriental investment in the city on the rise, along with its skyscrapers.

London’s Chinese New Year celebrations are the biggest in the world outside China, with jugglers, acrobats and dancers performing to the crowds in streets lined with food stalls and festooned with red lanterns.

This year’s main festivities will be held in central London on Sunday February 22 from 10am to 6pm, with an opening ceremony in Trafalgar Square and four performances presented by China Arts Space. A parade, complete with the traditional Lion Dance, will wind its way through the West End to Chinatown, with further events to be staged in Shaftesbury Avenue. Special menus will be on offer at many of the area’s 100 or so restaurants.

New Year, the most important Chinese holiday, falls on different dates each year between  21 January and 21 February, calculated according to a complex calendar system based on lunar and solar cycles. Each year is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2015, it’s the Sheep, which is a gentle, warm-hearted creature. Those born in this year are considered to be polite and kind, with a  sensitivity to art and beauty, a fondness for quiet living and a cautious approach to business.

This should herald an auspicious year for Anglo-Chinese relations, with strengthening trade links and increasing investment, though there may be a sheep-like tendency to tread carefully due to the slowing in the growth of the Chinese economy.

Major Asian investors to gain a foothold in the City include the China Investment Corp, which owns  Deutsche Bank’s London HQ, among others, and Ping An Insurance, which took over the Lloyd’s Building from the German Commerzbank. The distinctive design by Richard Rogers has an eye-catching “inside-out” style with the lifts and metal pipework as external features of the building.

The  Beijing-based mobile gaming company Rekoo, whose customers include 20 million PC gamers and 10 million Smartphone gamers, is among the growing number of innovative international businesses moving to the capital’s Tech City cluster.

Future projects include a Wanda Hotel in Wandsworth – the first to be built outside China by the hotel chain Dalian Wanda – and a £1billion development at Royal Albert Dock. Owned by the Greater London Authority, this historic 35-acre site in the Royal Docks Enterprise Zone is earmarked for development by ABP China (Holding), primarily to serve as a gateway for Asian and Chinese business seeking to set up headquarters in the UK, but also in the hope of attracting further national and international businesses with its plans for 2.5 million square feet of office blocks, plus retail and leisure space.  The deal aims to re-establish the Royal Docks as a commercial and trading centre, creating up to 20,000 jobs.

As the customary foil-wrapped chocolate coins are handed out as New Year gifts, no doubt the recipients of these shiny tokens, from the bankers in their high-rise towers to the shoppers in the street, will join in the New Year’s resolutions for a prosperous time ahead.

Further details about Chinatown and the New Year celebrations can be found at Chinatown London 

Find out more about  Tech City’s architecture and investment on a Silicon Roundabout/Tech City tour.