At London’s Royal Albert Dock, a Former Appliance Salesman Envisions Office Towers Rising From Cracked Asphalt

Over the past three decades, Xu Weiping has been an industrial designer, government researcher and appliance salesman.

Now he’s seeking to build a £1 billion ($1.63 billion) business district on the edge of London, one of a growing number of Chinese developers launching their first projects in big Western cities. His efforts say as much about China’s global ambitions as they do about the economic challenges he and the government face at home.

The slowing of China’s economy and the government’s encouragement of diversification have sparked a global push among Chinese investors and developers. Last year, Chinese investors purchased more than $13.9 billion of overseas commercial property, according to Real Capital Analytics. That is more than the combined total for the four previous years.

The trend has cooled this year along with the country’s economy. But the $4.4 billion in deals in the first half is still more than the entire deal volume in 2012, when Chinese investors bought $3.7 billion in foreign property, Real Capital said.

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