Cabinet minister Kenneth Clarke is leading a new trade mission to China in a bid to capitalise on the country's rapidly expanding healthcare system.

Fifty representatives from 38 British companies, universities and training hospitals are accompanying him on the week-long visit intended to build business relationships and foster the political links needed to unlock trade and investment opportunities.

It follows David Cameron's visit last November which marked a thaw in Britain's relations with Beijing following the chill which set in after his earlier decision to meet the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

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The Government has identified the Chinese healthcare market as a "high value opportunity" for British firms.

Healthcare spending in China has risen from 1% of GDP in 2002 to more than 5% today, with 95% of the population now having some form of health insurance.

Mr Clarke, a former health secretary, said: "The British healthcare system is the best in the world, and there will be important export opportunities as China invests huge sums of money in its healthcare system over the years ahead.

"Healthcare and life sciences are among the strongest sectors of the British economy and our standards are held in high regard overseas."