Barking was recently named the worst place to live in the UK, according to property news portal Rightmove. The London borough derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Berecingas’, meaning a settlement of birch trees, but it is also speculated the name morphed to Barking owing to a lunatic asylum being added to a medieval abbey, and hence the phrase ‘barking mad’.
The reason for this lengthy preamble is that Barking is the latest destination for a Chinese train – specifically a new freight service from Yiwu, a city famed for its wholesale market. WiC has reported before on the Chinese trains heading for Europe, which have journey times roughly half those of ships and are suitable for moving higher-value goods (such as computer parts). The first UK-bound train left Yiwu on January 2, tugging 200 containers of clothes and household goods. The 12,000km journey will take 12 days and according to Forbes this latest leg of the new Silk Road will “symbolically usher in a new stage in China-UK relations”.
On the contrary, the Financial Times last weekend stated that the “golden age” of Sino-British relations was coming to an end after its brief flowering during the Cameron-Obsorne years. It cited frostier relations with Theresa May’s government – with a Chinese financier telling the FT there were no plans for a second Chinese government bond issuance in London to cement its status as a global renminbi centre.
As to the economics of the new Barking-Yiwu train, WiC wonders what goods from the UK could fill the return route to China? Whisky, Burberry raincoats and fading Premiership footballers could be candidates…