Now, Tony Blair’s former communications chief Peter Mandelson is pushing a rather different project: the New Titanic, a 1bn yuan (£116m) bid to rebuild the doomed passenger liner in a landlocked Chinese county more than 1,200km from the sea.
Qixing Energy Investment, the Chinese firm behind the doomed liner’s revival, has faced criticism that it is seeking to profit from the 1912 catastrophe, which occurred during its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.
But Mandelson reportedly told guests at the ceremony those behind the venture were doing “a remarkable job” in rebuilding the liner.
The Labour peer’s support for the New Titanic project appears to stem from his role as the president of the Belgravia-based Great Britain China Centre, which promotes ties between the two countries.
The China-Britain Business Council has previously offered its support to the New Titanic initiative which investors have claimed is fuelling “tremendous expectations” in both China and Britain.
Xinhua, China’s official news agency, reported that after giving his speech on Wednesday Mandelson attended a tourism forum in Suining, another nearby city.
The Chinese replica of the Titanic will be put on show far from any icebergs, at Sichuan’s Romandisea resort on the banks of the Qijiang river.
The China Daily, a state-run English language newspaper, said the vessel would be permanently moored there and was designed to “boost development of the local tourism sector”.
Su Shaojun, one of the project’s main investors, said the New Titanic would feature replicas of the liner’s banquet hall and first-class guesthouse.
“Many blueprint fragments found their way into the hands of collectors or remained missing. We spent many years collecting the blueprints from many parts of the world and managed to obtain most of them,” he was quoted as saying.
Guests and visitors will also enjoy modernity amenities such as Wi-Fi and a spa.
Curtis Schnell, a veteran Hollywood production designer who has been hired to work on the project, told Reuters the project was being handled in a “very respectful way”, rejecting criticism that it was exploiting the disaster.
Those behind the New Titanic attempted to explain their project in a tweet earlier this month.
“Titanic is an epic tragedy of a century ago, but the glory of the humanity has existed forever and should be commemorated and inherited,” they wrote.
Villagers in Daying told Reuters they feared they might be evicted from their homes to make way for the replica ship. “If we’re not going to have to move out of here then that will be really good for us. Us old folks might do a little business in that case,” said local farmer Li Jieyong, 60.
“But then if we have to move then that won’t be any good. They wouldn’t provide enough compensation for us to get by.”
Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd