Leav­ing on a Shang­hai

FM HAILS HER TRADE MIS­SION TO CHINA Sturgeon There are big op­por­tu­ni­ties

Sunday Mail (UK) - - Opinion -

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

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