China’s Belt & Road Initiative: Opportunities for the City?

Held on Monday, November 26, 2018

With support from Mazars


  • Sir Douglas Flint

  • Linda Yueh (St. Edmund Hall, Oxford)

  • Daniel Widdicombe (China Construction Bank)

  • Rudi Lang (Mazars)



This one ought to sell itself… Far and away the biggest and most ambitious (and most controversial) development programme in the world, far outstripping anything that the World Bank or EIB can rustle up, is China’s Belt & Road Initiative, officially launched (as One Belt, One Road) in October 2013. So far, it involves at least 68 countries, various ‘land bridges’, a maritime ‘silk road’ and even an ‘ice road’ to open up development in the Arctic. All (potentially, at least) good stuff – but, as we already know, not all the recipients of Beijing’s largesse have been entirely happy with the execution of the various projects - or of the terms attached to the money involved.

But, for better or worse, this is the elephant in the room as far as development finance is concerned, and – since the UK (and the City in particular) is the world’s leading centre for international finance – our government has a keen interest in maximising British involvement. Reflecting this, in December last year, Philip Hammond appointed Douglas Flint – who had just stepped down as Group Chairman of HSBC – as our special envoy to the BRI. It was an obvious choice. Apart from HSBC’s long history with China, Douglas was also a member of the International Business Leaders’ Advisory Councils set up by the mayors of both Beijing and Shanghai. He is also a former chairman of the Institute of International Finance and was non-executive director at BP from 2005 to 2011. Among his other roles, he is also on the global advisory council of a leading fintech investment platform. I am, therefore, delighted that he has agreed to share his thoughts about the BRI, and what the City can contribute to it (and get out of it).

I am also delighted that we have been able to put together a distinguished panel to add their couple of yuan – and perhaps to take issue with Douglas:

  • Linda Yueh is (I am sure) familiar to you all as an economist, author and broadcaster. She is the editor of the Routledge Series on Economic Growth and Development, author of China’s Growth: The Making of an Economic Superpower, a Fellow in Economics at St. Edmund Hall and an adjunct Professor at LBS.

  • Daniel Widdicombe is the head of investment banking at CCB in London. Before joining the bank in 2009, he spent 18 years in China, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore – including a spell as head of Asian equity research at Bear Stearns.

  • Rudi Lang is leader of the global financial institutions group at Mazars. His current responsibilities include overseeing the merger with Zhongshen Zhonghuan, a leading Chinese accounting partnership.

For better or worse, we will be living with the BRI for many years – and the impact on the City will be considerable. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us, and perhaps share your own thoughts, please let us know by emailing or by calling 020 7621 1056. Thanks to Mazars’ generosity, I can promise excellent wine and sandwiches.

Sincerely yours,

Andrew Hilton