People’s Republic of China moves UK embassy to Wapping

An official ceremony has been held to mark the transfer of the People’s Republic of China’s UK embassy from it’s existing location in Portland Place W1 to Royal Mint Court EC3.

No, seriously. The UK Chinese embassy. Here.

Current Chinese embassy Portland Place W1

The People’s Republic of China’s embassy has been located at 49 Portland Place since 1877 but now, 141 years later, it is being moved to the former site of the Royal Mint a stone’s throw from Wapping’s local fortress the Tower of London.

Planning consent for the new development was given by Tower Hamlets Council in February 2017 after four years of development work with the Council and the GLA.

The embassy staff are unlikely to be popping in to Waitrose in Vaughan Way just yet as an extensive programme of refurbishment and partial redevelopment needs to be completed.

This will include new retail and leisure accommodation, 1.8 acres of landscaped public realm and 600,000 square feet of office space.

‘Right Monument of China’

Speaking at the official transfer ceremony event Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said that the move represented a ‘fresh golden fruit of the China-UK “Golden Era” and that the event gives a new meaning to the Royal Mint Court, that is, RMC also stands for the Right Monument of China.

Ambassador Liu Xiaoming

China, including Hong Kong, was the biggest foreign buyer of London property in 2017 with investment totalling £7.34 billion, according to research by JLL.

One reason for this is because London is the world’s most liquid property market – in other words it is the easiest place to convert assets such as property into hard cash.

Capitalist or communist?

Land ownership is not allowed in China as it has been a Communist state since 1947 although it also simultaneously manages to be a modern capitalist state.

This means that while Chinese citizens can make money they are limited for safe places to invest it, hence the boom in Chinese property ownership in London.

Recent research for the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan showed that foreign buyers sbought 3,600 of London’s 28,000 newly built homes between 2014 and 2016 and that of all London properties sold overseas during this period 9.6% were in Tower Hamlets, just behind the City of Westminster at 11% and ahead of Greenwich at 9%.

Artists impression of new Chinese Embassy at Royal Mint.

The largest property developer in China is Country Garden which has a market capitalisation of US$44.8 billion. The company recently bought an £80m ($110m) site Ailsa Wharf in Poplar which is to be turned into 13 apartment blocks comprising 785 homes and 2,000 sq m of commercial space. The site is a heavily contaminated brownfield area next to the River Lea with a development value of around $400m.

LW Comment

The move of the People’s Republic of China’s UK embassy to the Royal Mint site is bound to have a significant ‘halo’ effect on the Wapping area in terms of new jobs and more visitors to the area.

The nearby London Dock development is likely to see a spike in sales to embassy staff and overseas buyers from mainland China and further increases in the prices of residential property in the area.

Royal Mint Tower Hill 1830

A complete lack of high speed internet access in Wapping, rising crime levels, persistent Anti-Social Behaviour and the general feeling that Wapping is at the bottom of the Council’s priority list for pretty much anything should make any sensible home seeker think twice about buying in the area however.

One of the reasons why the People’s Republic of China sought a site like Royal Mint was to allow for the building of a fortress style embassy to provide a level of security far in excess of the current embassy building in Portland Place – so at least their staff should be safe while inside.

Overall the move is good news for Wapping and good news for Tower Hamlets. Limehouse was the original location of China Town and the borough still benefits from a significant Chinese community.

China is the most vibrant super power on the planet and even if a tiny amount of the Chinese approach to hard work and entrepreneurship rubs off on E1W we will all benefit.




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