China-Britain relationship directly supports more than 100,000 British jobs

A report published today by Cambridge Econometrics, for the China-Britain Business Council, finds that trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), tourism and expenditure by Chinese students support over 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs in the UK.

The report UK jobs dependent on links to China highlights the significance of Britain’s relationship with China and finds that for most of the activities considered China has been of rapidly growing importance to the UK economy with much potential for future growth.

The analysis estimates the number of UK jobs supported by links to China, with key findings as follows:


The number of jobs in the UK supported by trade with China has been increasing since 2005. By 2019 Cambridge Econometrics estimates that exports support 80,000-95,000 FTE jobs (about two-thirds of which relate to goods and the remainder to services). Exports of goods have grown rapidly to £25bn in 2019, six times larger in real terms than in 2005 with China now the UK’s third-largest export market for goods. Services exports are smaller (just over £5bn in 2019) but, here, the UK runs a trade surplus with China.

Foreign Direct Investment

Between 2016/7 and 2018/9, estimates from the UK Department for International Trade (DIT) suggest that over 9,000 jobs have been either created or safeguarded by Chinese foreign direct investment. The value of Chinese companies’ investment in the UK has been stable, at between £1.7bn and £2.3bn (over 2015-18). This is a small share of the total value of investments held by foreign companies in the UK: just 0.2%. Relatively more of China’s holdings are in transport equipment, retail, and financial services.


Around 16,000 UK jobs are supported by Chinese tourists. Between 2009 and 2019 the number of visits from China has increased by 430% to over 1 million in 2019. Expenditure by Chinese tourists grew by 500% over the same period. Tourism from China, in terms of number of visits, nights spent in the UK and expenditure, grew faster than tourism from any other part of the world. 

Higher education

Chinese students’ expenditure (excluding tuition fees) is estimated to have supported 17,600 jobs in 2018/9. In the 2018/9 academic year there were 120,000 Chinese students registered in UK higher education, a 35% increase from 2014/5. Chinese students now represent 25% of all international students in the UK.

For more information

China Britain Business Council press release.

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