Leaving on a Shanghai
FM HAILS HER TRADE MISSION TO CHINA Sturgeon There are big opportunities
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has faced criticism over her visit to China.
Her government intervened over plans for a Chinese-owned power station in East Lothian the day before she met officials of the firm in Beijing.
Political rivals accused Sturgeon of putting the Chinese company’s interests before the concerns of people in Cockenzie – but the Scottish Government said their was no link between the meeting and the planning call-in.
Here the First Minister explains how her visit to China benefits Scotland.
This was my first visit in almost three years – and it comes in a very different context, with Brexit featuring in many of the discussions with business leaders.
For a country of five million people, Scotland punches well above its weight in terms of international brand recognition. Making the most of that is one key to our future economic prosperity.
There are enormous opportunities for Scotland in China.
The value of goods exported from Scotland to China increased by an astonishing 40 per cent last year, with our high- quality food and drink produce in high demand.
Chinese tourist spending in Scotland has increased massively in the last 10 years – which will no doubt be boosted further when we see the launch of the first direct air link between Scotland and China in June.
More than 8000 Chinese students are studying in Scotland.
So when I arrived here last Sunday, I had many objectives – supporting Scottish businesses trying to expand in China, promoting us as a great investment and tourism destination, and deepening cultural links.
Six days and three cities later – Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong – I can confidently declare that this visit was a success.
It’s perhaps fitting that, in the Year of Young People, my first engagement was with a group of young Scots learning Mandarin under the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools programme. I was struck by the sense of adventure of these students – secondary school leavers who have travelled half way across the world and immersed themselves in another culture and language.
I met with vice premier Hu Chunhua in Beijing. Being received by such a senior member of the Chinese Government is itself a symbol of the growing importance that China places on its relationship with Scotland. We spoke about our shared desire to see the links between our two countries and areas where we could collaborate further.
It also gave me a chance to raise how human rights, social values and the rule of law underpin our engagement with China.
A key platform for me to do that was during an event hosted by UNICEF the following day, where I gave a keynote speech in which I publicly called for the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child to be upheld – for all children in every country.
One of my key engagements was to help launch a major new international marketing campaign, called Scotland is Now, to promote Scotland as a place in which to live, work, invest, study and do business.
If you head over to www. scotland.org, you’ll see what I’m talking about – I think you’ll agree it’s a pretty impressive looking campaign. There were Scotland is Now launch events last week in Beijing, Shanghai, New York, San Francisco and London.
The two I attended in China were resounding successes – with the many Chinese present able to meet Scottish business representatives, sample some great Scottish food and drink produce, and of course our hospitality.
My last engagement of the week was to meet with Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam – another very senior politician – who was keen to further develop Scotland-Hong Kong relations.
I’m struck by the fact that, for all of the many links that Scotland has with China, we have barely scratched the surface of this vast country.
I’m determined to build a relationship between Scotland and China from which everybody can benefit.
As I write this, I am on my way home to Scotland reflecting on a busy – but very productive – official visit to China.
CONFIDENT First Minister reckons Scotland can build trade with China AFP/Getty Pic
LINKS Nicola Sturgeon in Forbidden City, above, and vice premier Hu Chunhua