The creator of Cornwall's £80 million Eden Project, Sir Tim Smit, has been asked to develop a giant botanical garden to regenerate the Chinese industrial city of Dongguan.

Smit, 59, hopes to recreate the spirit of his Cornish ecological development, designed by the architect Nicolas Grimshaw and described by admiring critics as "the eighth wonder of the world", in the city of seven million in China's central province of Guangdong.

The Dutch-born businessman and environmentalist said: "There's a point when you have to look at the horizon and where you're going next."

He said China was "a country that is changing its environmental strategy", and said this was a sign China's leadership had a "desire now for embracing sustainability".

Smit will collaborate with the country's largest residential developer to "bring Eden to the East" as construction begins in the Pearl River Delta outside the city, some 50 miles from Hong Kong.

China is home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

Authorities in Dongguan want to transform the city's image, and are seeking direct investment from abroad to help. Until now, Dongguan has chiefly been known as a sex-industry destination.

The Eden Project comprises two huge "biomes" - huge enclosures of adjoining domes that house thousands of plant species from around the world.

It was built in a reclaimed pit near the town of St Austell, Cornwall, and completed in 2001.