Business leaders and politicians gathered to mark the launch of the East of England China Forum.

The 150-strong guest list for the House of Commons event featured a delegation from China's Jiangsu province, which has built strong ties with Essex County Council over more than 30 years.

Facilitated by Stansted Airport, the forum brings together business groups, councils, tourism agencies and universities to building stronger ties between our region and China.

Airport bosses are targeting new long-haul routes to destinations like China, in a move it is hoped will boost the relationship between the regions further.

Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of Essex County Council, said: “Essex County Council’s 30-year partnership with Jiangsu will be opened up to benefit the whole of the East of England, while the strengths of the region’s businesses, universities and economic development authorities will enable us to put the whole region ‘on the map’ across China.

"By working together to achieve one of the forum’s key objectives, to open a new direct air route between Stansted and China, we will give an overnight boost to the region’s tourism, business and higher education sectors.”

A similar project in Manchester helped transport links between Manchester Airport, Hong Kong and Beijing, boosting exports from the north of England to China by 260 per cent to £200 million per month and Chinese visitor numbers by more than 50 per cent.