BUSINESS Secretary Vince Cable has called for more UK exchange students to visit China and increase links with the nation.

Dr Cable said he wants businesses to support the Generation UK British Council programme, which aims to see about 80,000 UK students take part in study or work experience programmes in China by 2020.

Last year, only 5,400 UK students spent time studying in the country, while nearly 100,0000 mainland Chinese students come to the UK each year, according to Government figures.

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His call came as he visited Sun Yat Sen University in Guangzhou.

He said: "The global centre of gravity is shifting eastwards to major economic powerhouses like China.

"We must raise our game.

"New independent research shows a lack of language skills in the UK is costing our economy about £48bn.

"The shortage of Mandarin speakers is part of the problem.

"I don't want young British people to get left behind."

Carma Elliot, director of the British Council in China, added: "By coming to China to work or study, UK students develop a global mindset and gain international experience and skills that will enable them to thrive in a globally competitive labour market."