The Chinese project manager helping Ove Arup build business in Asia tells Elaine Knutt what brought him to Manchester.
Why did you decide to come to the UK?

In China, a lot of important projects are built by foreign contractors and I realised that project management would become an important part of Chinese industry. So, I began to look for a project management course at a foreign university. A friend in Manchester told me that UMIST was the best project management school.

Was it expensive for you to study here?

I got a scholarship from the British government – an overseas research scholarship. But that only covered the difference between fees for UK and overseas students. I had to pay the rest myself.

Why did you stay on after your degree?

I thought I needed practical experience in project management and I wanted to make a contribution to the co-operation of British and Chinese firms. I joined Ove Arup & Partners because my supervisor was a friend of one of its directors. Companies such as Ove Arup have good expertise in engineering design and project management. China can learn a lot from them.

What is your role at Ove Arup?

I am helping the firm expand into China, working with Peter Budd, the director responsible for overseas markets. I help British companies, especially Ove Arup, find business opportunities and partners in China. I can help them with Chinese selection procedures and explain what Chinese companies are good at.

I also work on quality and safety management and as an architect on pharmaceutical projects. And I'm also working on Xian Airport in central China, where Ove Arup is responsible for the electrical design.

Are British working practices different from Chinese ones?

In China, people usually work at the weekend and they work harder. A lot of projects need them to do that. In private companies, people work hardest. But in government organisations, there is not much to do, so they have long lunch breaks.

Do you enjoy living here?

It's a beautiful country. I have visited a lot of places, such as Scotland and Wales. My colleagues and my boss are very kind.

Are there any downsides?

I am a watercolour artist and it is expensive to buy paint and paper here, compared with China.

What else do you do in your spare time?

I play football and table tennis, go swimming and visit other cities.

What do you miss about China?

Frankly, I miss the opportunities. My former classmates all have important positions. If I was in China, I would have more responsibility. I'm doing quite well with Ove Arup, and Budd and I have discussed my working for Ove Arup in China. But right now, it's not part of Ove Arup's strategy. I will stay one more year and then go back.

The British Council/Department of Trade and Industry bond scheme has placed 50 professionals from China, Russia, India, Egypt, Brazil and other developing economies with British firms for 12-24 months. Other construction firms taking part are Bovis, Halcrow, Maunsell and WS Atkins. For more information, visit

Personnel Information

Age 36 Current job On a government-organised placement at Ove Arup & Partners’ Manchester office Employment history Lecturer in architecture at Wuhan University of Technology, 1985-88, also worked as an architect for the General Real Estate Development Corporation of China and as a sole practitioner; joined Ove Arup in 1998 on a placement arranged by the British Council/Department of Trade and Industry “bond” scheme Qualifications BEng in city planning from Wuhan University of Technology, 1984; MA in architectural design and theory, 1988; PhD in project management at UMIST in Manchester, 1994-98 Lives Central Manchester Salary £1000 a month through the bond scheme, plus a top-up from Ove Arup Family Married to Xiaoxin He, a research assistant at Manchester University, with one 10-year-old son, Ximin Luo