China has become a significant player in the City and there can be no doubt that its activities in London help strengthen the Square Mile’s role as a global financial centre.
The average daily trading volume of the Chinese currency in London stood at £76bn at the end of last year, up 45 per cent year-on-year.
There has also been huge growth in cross-border receipts and payments between China and the UK, and City representatives have been actively supportive of the ambitious Belt and Road project.
All of this is sensible, but none of it requires the City to pimp itself out as an extension of China’s foreign policy.
If you missed our front page on Wednesday, a quick recap: the City of London Corporation has bowed to pressure from China and banned Taiwan from participating in the Lord Mayor’s Show.
China’s tension with Taiwan is not limited to its domestic politics and the Chinese embassy in London takes a dim view of media organisations that (through accident or design) give credence to the concept of ‘Taiwan, the Republic of China’ as the island chooses to be known.
The Chinese embassy’s political secretary has emailed me before, reminding me that “there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is part of China.”
Clearly the idea of Taiwan entering the Lord Mayor’s Show (along with scores of other countries and cultural organisations) is unacceptable to them. What’s depressing is that it’s been deemed unacceptable by the City of London Corporation, too.
The UK-China relationship is important, and Chinese interests in the City are not to be sniffed at. But are we so insecure and so desperate for China’s approval that we are, in the words of one City councilman, prepared to hang Taiwan out to dry? And are we to believe that the UK-China relationship would be imperilled by the appearance of a Taiwanese participant in a City parade?
The idea is absurd, and the decision to ban Taiwan from the event is shameful, craven and weak. The City doesn’t need to sell its soul to sell its services.
Labour treads a dangerous path
I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the way in which Jeremy Corbyn and his tribe have lauded Venezuela, but I’ve always stopped short of claiming that Labour would actually bring about Venezuelan-style misery.
Yes, they’re alarmingly left-wing by UK standards and yes, their admiration of Venezuela’s revolution is troubling, but I assumed that their version of it here would be restrained by, among other things, the rule of law.
And yet, Labour’s plan to nationalise the energy network without the inconvenience of compensating shareholders to the full market value is a carbon copy of early Venezuelan policy.
Clifford Chance has prepared a briefing on the legal challenges the policy will face and they looked for other examples from around the world of state seizure without market value compensation. Their conclusion? Only Venezuela has attempted it.
There is now a direct line from Chavez’s socialism to Corbyn’s Labour. Be afraid.
Now that's what I call spin
These are tricky times for the casual dining sector, with many restaurants under pressure. Cooking up a bit of free PR is, therefore, a valuable endeavour.
The steak chain Hawksmoor tweeted yesterday that a customer in their Manchester branch ordered a nice £260 bottle of red, but was accidentally served a £4,500 bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001.
The ensuing media coverage must be worth many tens of thousands of pounds. Hats off to them.
What I want to know is: was the Pomerol even decanted?
Crazy in love, savvy in business
In 2009, the singer Lily Allen was offered hundreds of thousands of bitcoin (then worth pennies) as payment for a gig.
She declined. Had she accepted they would be worth an astronomical sum today.
One singer determined to be savvy with her earnings is Beyonce, who performed for Uber in 2015 and asked to be paid in shares.
Wonder what she made of the IPO? Last year she swallowed a reduced fee of $4m for festival appearance in exchange for the broadcast rights. Netflix paid her $60m for it.