Scotland/China articles

President Xi Jinping visits the UK

by Website Editor, concluded 23 October 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping, accompanied by his wife Madame Peng Liyuan, was in the UK for a four-day State Visit over the last week. Although he did not come to Scotland, this is the first such visit since his predecessor Hu Jintao came in 2005, and some background might be useful to provide context for the visit. Below you will find information about Xi Jinping himself, the State Visit programme, and at the bottom, links to major announcements and media coverage during the visit - you can use this quick link to go straight to this.

Left to right - President Xi and his wife with The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the formal welcome
on 20 October ; President Xi meets HRH Prince William during his visit to China in March 2015

The invitation for the visit was given to President Xi by HRH Prince William during his trip to China in March this year, in support of the UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange. At that time, President Xi noted that he looked forward to meeting British leaders during the visit jointly to plan out the future of China-UK relations, saying, “both China and the United Kingdom were influential countries in the world and they share common interests and responsibilities” and adding, “China and the UK are important representatives of Eastern and Western civilisations”.

In a lengthy and wide-ranging written interview with Reuters just ahead of his visit, President Xi said, “the UK has stated that it will be the western country that is most open to China”, adding “this is a visionary and strategic choice that fully meets Britain’s own long-term interest” (see full text here - well worth a read on many issues beyond simply UK-China relations). This article also notes Xi last set foot in the UK in 1994 when he was an official in the city of Fuzhou (this apparently included visits to Edinburgh and Glasgow as well as London and Oxford).

Official Chinese state media said, ahead of the visit, that the trip “will usher in a "golden era" in China-Britain relations and lay a more solid foundation for China-EU ties” (see here). Another article noted that “the two economies are complementary and vividly illustrate the international trade principles of division of labour and comparative advantage”, and that “China is highly interested in using its expertise and finance to invest in UK infrastructure projects”. In addition “the opportunities for cultural, educational and 'people to people' exchanges are also enormous. Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Harry Potter and other classic and modern British icons are well known known cultural imports in China” (see here).

The visit follows significant UK-China activity throughout 2015, including a visit to China last month by UK Chancellor George Osborne, during which he stressed the economic opportunities offered by the relationship, and launched a bid for Chinese investment in the 'Northern Powerhouse' in northern England. In addition, the Magna Carta is currently visiting China. And of course the Scottish First Minister was in China in July (see our coverage here), although she apparently turned down an invitation to the State Banquet.

It is also worth noting that this visit comes after several years of rather cool diplomatic relations between the UK and China, following the meeting between Prime Minister David Cameron and the Dalai Lama in 2012.

Who is Xi Jinping ?

President Xi has held this role since March 2013, and that of General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party since November 2012. He was born in Beijing although his family ancestral home is in Fuping County, northwest of Xi'an in Shaanxi province – his father was communist veteran Xi Zhongxun, who was purged during the Cultural Revolution but later rehabilitated. After serving as a “rusticated youth” between 1969-75 (notably in a rural country of Yan'an, in northern Shaanxi, the Communist base from the end of the Long March in the 1930s - see this interesting BBC report, and this one), Xi Jinping rose through the ranks.

Xi Jinping, second left, with other young men who were sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, in Yanchuan county in Shaanxi province in 1973

He served in Hebei and then as the governor of Fujian between 1999 and 2002, then as governor and party secretary of Zhejiang between 2002 and 2007. Following the dismissal of Chen Liangyi, Xi was transferred to Shanghai as the party secretary for a brief period in 2007. Xi joined the Politburo standing committee in October 2007, and was groomed to become Hu Jintao's successor. He served as vice-president between 2008 and 2013. Since coming to power, his leadership has been noteworthy for a significant anti-corruption campaign, a reform programme aimed at widening the role of the market and the rule of law, efforts at military reform, and some tightening of internal security. His official biography can be found here, with further detail on Wikipedia here. A new CCTV series is to focus on his time in rural China, reports The Guardian.

President Xi has a reputation for being somewhat more informal and approachable than some senior Chinese leaders, so he can be expected to take advantage of opportunities to meet the British public. In addition, his wife Peng Liyuan, who is a notable contemporary folk singer and artist in her own right, might play a larger role than Chinese First Ladies have done before (see here for her biography and here for an interesting article by The Daily Mail).

The visit programme

This visit is a full-blown, formal State Visit - President Xi, as Chinese Head of State, has been invited by HM The Queen, as UK Head of State. This is the highest form of international visit under the rules of diplomatic protocol, so there has been much pomp and ceremony as well as politics, diplomacy and “people to people contacts”.

Left to right - The Queen with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping during her 1986 visit ; the official 132-page ceremonial booklet for the 1999 visit of President Jiang Zemin - something similar will no doubt have been produced to cover this week's events ; The Queen is shown how to use her chopsticks at the
State Banquet in Beijing during her 1986 visit

The only previous visits of this kind in either direction have been The Queen's visit to China in 1986 (our Chairman Janice Dickson co-ordinated the UK media travel for that trip) ; President Jiang Zemin's visit to the UK in 1999, and President Hu Jintao's visit to the UK in 2005.

The four-day visit included :

  • on 20 October, a formal welcome in central London, starting on Horse Guards followed by a state carriage procession to Buckingham Palace
  • on 20 October, a speech to the UK Parliament
  • on 20 October, a courtesy call by the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP (see this C4 report, although such meetings are in fact routine for such a visit – William Hague MP, then leader of the Conservative Party in opposition, met President Jiang Zemin in 1999 - the Corbyn meeting is reported here)
  • on the evening of 20 October, a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace
  • on 21 October, a meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron MP (interviewed in advance of the visit by Chinese TV here), a China-UK business conference where the focus was on investment, infrastructure and innovation, and a visit to Huawei Technologies
  • also on 21 October, a visit to Imperial College London (previewed by Chinese TV here) and a creative industry event
  • on the evening of 21 October, a banquet hosted by the City of London, emphasising the growing financial links between the UK and China
  • on 22 October, a visit to Inmarsat and a Confucius Institute conference at UCL
  • on 23 October, a trip to Manchester, including a visit to the National Graphene Institute and to Manchester City's Eithad stadium and a civic lunch - President Xi is a keen football fan, although apparently he prefers Man United to Man City (see here and here) - President Xi left from Manchester airport

London's Chinatown decorated ahead of the visit

Typical general articles introducing the visit can be found in The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail, while this video shows how London's Chinatown prepared. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that the Chinese public and press are expected to “swoon” over the Royal welcome - this China Daily article is a good example, as is this Chinese TV piece.

HRH Prince Charles' position on China is well known (summarised here by the BBC), so it is not surprising he did not attend the state banquet (see this report) but he met President Xi separately for tea on 20 October (reported by the Embassy here).

Surrounding the visit, there was extensive discussion of human rights, notably by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and some demonstrations. Various media outlets touched on this, including The Guardian and the BBC.

Media coverage

We have listed the major announcements and media coverage during this visit in this section. It has been "wall to wall" and in some places rather gushing, in others, sharply critical.

  • 19 October - Chinese economic data for the first three quarters of 2015 was issued this morning - the headline growth figure was 6.9%, slightly below the target of 7% for the whole year - also notable were a continuing slowing of infrastructure investment, reasonable increases in retail spending, and a continuing decline in imports, all of which fit with the Chinese government's aim of rebalancing its economy more towards domestic consumption than exports and large asset investment - however, exports also remain weak
  • 19 October - the BBC and other sites report a speech by Prince William on the ivory trade, an issue he discussed with President Xi during his visit to China in March, noting that the speech was aired on Chinese TV
  • 19 October - the Guardian preview notes the expected demonstrations in London, with more here, on both pro- and anti-Chinese groups
  • 19 October - Xinhua reported that the President had left Beijing and that his entourage includes Wang Huning, member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and director of the Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee ; Li Zhanshu, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, member of the Secretariat of the CPC Central Committee and director of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee ; and State Councilor Yang Jiechi, the Chinese Foreign Minister. The BBC later reported the President's party had landed in London, in what appears in this Xinhua TV footage to be a specially converted Air China Boeing 747
  • 19 October - BBC Panorama aired a half-hour programme on President Xi's life - this may be on iPlayer in due course
  • 19 October - the first Chinese investment news has been announced, reports the BBC, with £5.2bn from SinoFortone Group for two waste power & food plants in Wales and an amusement park in Kent
  • 19 October - for a slightly less serious take on 'Things that Chinese and British share', see this China Daily video, which includes some amusing juxtaposed photos...
  • 19 October - for those readers who use Twitter, the hashtag for most "official" and mainstream news on the visit was #XiUKVisit - there may be other less official streams !
  • 20 October - the BBC is getting exercised over some trifling issues...a Sun Yat Sen jacket, as later worn by the President, seems to have been a prefect solution
  • 20 October - the Guardian had a live feed on the day's events, which still seems to be up
  • 20 October - Professor Michel Hockx, interviewed by the BBC, notes wryly that President Xi stayed on the night of 19-20 October at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, owned by the Jardine Matheson group, which has a certain history in China !
  • 20 October - opinions vary on the value of the visit - compare this in the Daily Mail with this from the Chair of the 48 Group, a leading British-China business group
  • 20 October - No. 10 has announced that the State Visit will bring "more than £30 billion worth of trade and investment deals completed, creating over 3,900 jobs across the UK", in sectors such as the creative industries, retail, energy, health, technology, financial services, aerospace and education
  • 20 October - Foreign Sceretary Philip Hammond has defended the UK government's approach on China
  • 20 October - the President's meeting with Jeremy Corbyn MP is reported here
  • 20 October - the Chinese President's address to the UK Parliament is shown on video in full here on Parliament TV, event starts properly at around 16:09 - a summary of his text is available from the Embassy here
  • 20 October - the Chinese Embassy report on the State Banquet is here
  • 20 October - various BBC reports on the day's events are here, here and here, while Chinese netizens' views on UK politicians are reported here
  • 20 October - Xinhua's take on the day is here
  • 20 October - the State Banquet is covered is extensive detail by the Daily Telegraph - we note the main course appears to have been Scottish venison from Balmoral, while the musical entertainment included a pipe programme of the Sound of Sleat and the Caledonian Canal, led by Pipe Major Martin MacDonald and performed by the 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland and the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming - so Scotland has certainly been tasted and heard !
  • 21 October - this has been a day of political announcements, focused around the talks between President Xi and Prime Minister Cameron - see this general UK government news release (which also confirmed the Chinese investment in Hinkley Point C, with more here, and trails more investment announcements in Manchester later in the week), well as this one on health care (including a new venture on nursing training for Glasgow Caledonian University), this one on the creative and technology industries, this one on a dramatic increase in visa times for Chinese tourists, this one on research collaboration, and this one on intellectual property and counterfeit goods
  • 21 October - the full text of the joint press conference is here
  • 21 October - media coverage of all this includes reports from the BBC and the Guardian on Xi and Cameron's joint press conference
  • 22 October - further UK government news releases have been on the UK-China Joint Statement agreed during the visit (with Chinese Embassy reporting here), a summary of the business deals agreed, the talks at Chequers (also reported by the BBC)
  • 22 October - the President attended a UK-China business summit - his speech is here and David Cameron's is here
  • 22 October - the President's visit to Imperial College is reported by the Embassy here
  • 22 October - the President's visit to Chinese electronics manufacturer Huawei is reported by the Embassy here
  • 22 October - the President attended a creative industry event
  • 22 October - the full text of President Xi's speech at the Guildhall is on the Embassy site here
  • 22 October - The Independent takes a look at Chinese media coverage of the visit, which is - unsurprisingly - somewhat different to that in the UK
  • 23 October - President Xi visited Manchester on the final day of the visit, and various new Chinese investment for the 'Northern Powerhouse' was announced - this is covered by the BBC with a picture roundup from the Manchester Evening News
  • 23 October - Manchester is to get direct flights to China, reportsits local newspaper

The website of the Chinese Embassy in London is here, with various material usefully listed here. The main page for Xinhua, the Chinese state media agency, is here, and has been carrying many articles this week - it now has a special section dedicated to the visit, here.


China commemorates the 1937-45 war

by Website Editor, 26 August 2015 (updated 3 September 2015)

On 3 September 2015, China commemorated the 70th anniversary of “the Victory of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the Anti-Fascist War”. This article provides some background to these events, and highlights a few of the many Scottish connections with the conflict. See also our article here on a reception held at the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh.

Left - Chongqing (then Chungking), China's wartime capital, burns after an air raid - it became known as the most-bombed city in the world during WW2 ; right - the 70th anniversary logo

The commemorations culminated in a large military parade in Beijing on 3 September, featuring Chinese troops, modern military weaponry, and foreign troops (a first – details here). In addition, Kuomintang (KMT) veterans have also taken part in the parade, another notable first, “fully recognizing the contribution by the KMT to China's victory”, as Xinhua notes. There are some photos and videos of the parade rehearsal here. The BBC previews the parade here.

For various reports on the parade, see the special Xinhua page here, and the BBC. President Xi Jinping's speech is notable for his announcement that the PLA will cut its numbers by 300,000 personnel, around 13% of its current active strength, by 2017 - for more detail, see here.

Events are also being staged in other parts in China. The day is to be an extra public holiday, and we understand that the school holidays have been extended to 5 September to allow greater public participation. There is also going to be a prisoner amnesty, see here.

The parade will be the first time China has marked the anniversary on such a large scale (there were smaller commemorations in 2005, see here). The country played a very significant role in WW2, fighting Japan not just from 1941-45 but also alone from 1937-41. Over the course of the war, it is estimated that China suffered more than 20m military and civilian dead, with military casualties reaching more than 3.8m, accounting for a third of the total casualties of WW2, according to this Xinhua report. A further 15m people were wounded and around 90m became refugees, and the economic damage to China's early industrialisation was immense.

Chinese forces also killed some 1.5m Japanese troops, and tied up perhaps 70% of Japan's total strength, which might otherwise have been deployed against the Allies in the Pacific War from December 1941. Contrasting with the reconciliation that has taken place in Europe between former foes, relations between China and Japan have remained strained to modern times, notwithstanding recent statements by Prime Minister Abe and the Japanese Emperor.

As Chinese President Xi Jinping said on 7 July at the Marco Polo bridge, site of the first Sino-Japanese fighting in 1937, "the great contributions made by the Chinese people to the world anti-Fascist war should be remembered”, adding “we must cherish peace while being cautious of the future”.

The official logo for the commemoration (seen above) highlights a striking, dominant red number "70" in the center. Above the "70" five doves fly over and behind it the Great Wall spreads in the shape of letter "V". As Xinhua explains, “the 'V' symbolizes victory and the unity of Chinese nation, while the five doves demonstrate the memory of history and the aspiration for peace, representing people from the five continents united and moving together towards a better future after experiencing 'blood and fire'”.

It is only the last 10-15 years that the full history of the war has started to be explored in China. As Professor Rana Mitter wrote in 2010, "over 60 years after it ended, the rediscovery of China's wartime experiece is big business in China, and in Chongqing in particular". Prof Mitter runs a special research project at Oxford into the war, and his book China's war with Japan is an excellent recent study of the conflict (see more on the wider historical aspects of commemoration at the end of this article).

There is a special Xinhua website with many stories, photos, and videos relating to the war and commemorations, here.

The Sino-Japanese War 1937-45 and the war in the East, 1941-45

The Sino-Japanese War lasted from 7 July 1937 to 9 September 1945, and was fought on a vast scale and with particular brutality by the Japanese – the Nanjing massacre of 1937 being the best known example amongst many atrocities. A summary of the war's course can be found on Wikipedia here, including links to many books, web resources, videos etc.

Until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on 7 December 1941, the Chinese fought Japan alone, although she received some diplomatic support, financial assistance and humanitarian aid from the UK, USA and other countries.

Left – a British aid organisation booklet ; middle – Japanese tanks at the gates of Nanjing, 1937 ;
right – a US aid organisation poster

After December 1941, China was allied to the UK, US and the other nations that became involved in fighting across Asia and in the Pacific. Chinese troops fought bravely alongside the British, Commonwealth and Americans in the fighting on what became known as the China-Burma-India theatre - some nine Chinese divisions took part in the initial battles in Burma in 1942, and two of these later moved to India to receive further training from the Allies before re-joining the campaign. Some 24 Chinese naval cadets even took part in the D-Day landings, see here.

Left – a US poster supporting China ; middle – the Burma Road, a remarkable feat of engineering built primarily by Chinese civilian labour, allowed the Allies to send supplies to China by land from early 1945 ; right – General Auchinleck British commander in India, watches Chinese troops under training

Scotland and China's war – the military

Scottish soldiers had a front line seat in the early days of the Sino-Japanese war, albeit as observers rather than participants. The 1st Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders were in Shanghai in 1938, manning defences around the International Settlement at the time of the initial Japanese attack on the city. As the photo below shows, they did so in close proximity to the Japanese forces, who would become their enemies just a few years later.

Another unit, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Scots, was part of the Hong Kong garrison from 1940 and took part in the defence of the colony against Japanese invasion in December 1941. The unit lost 117 dead and 230 wounded in the battle for Hong Kong, and a further 62 died in Japanese hands as prisoners of war. A further 144 were lost as a result of the tragic sinking of the Lisbon Maru, a Japanese ship taking them to China, by a US submarine that was unaware it was carrying allied POWs. Another soldier captured at Hong Kong who spent the war in captivity, and indeed survived the Lisbon Maru, was Warrant Officer Thomas Nelson, Royal Artillery, father of SCA Glasgow Committee member Mike Nelson. An excellent source on this battle, and the fates of those who took part, is the website Hong Kong War Diary, and the associated books, by Tony Banham.

Left – the Seaforth Highlanders marching over Garden Bridge, Shanghai ; middle – Seaforths on the Shanghai defences, alongside Japanese marines ; right – The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Sai Wan, Hong Kong – 45 Royal Scots are buried here, and a further 217 are commemorated on the Memorial, including those lost on the Lisbon Maru

Scotland and China's war – the missionaries

There was a significant Scottish missionary presence in China at this time, and many missionaries and their families had their lives disrupted, or worse, by the conflict. The Church of Scotland had two main centres, in and around Shenyang (then Mukden), in Manchuria, and at Yichang (then Ichang) on the Yangtze, and other Scots worked for other denominations elsewhere in China. Many of these were interned by the Japanese and endured several years of captivity.

Those caught up in the war included at least one later SCA member - Betty Barr was interned in Lungwha camp in Shanghai, a story she tells in her book, Shanghai boy, Shanghai girl, still available from the SCA – see here for more details. Betty and her husband George have recently been interviewed by the BBC about their experiences, and there are now several items online, see video here, and some text here. There was also a longer video segment on BBC2 Newsnight on 2 September - the full programme is available here, with the China item running from about 30:40 minutes until almost the end of the programme. This will be online for 30 days from 2 September.

Perhaps the most well-known Scottish missionary caught up in the war was Eric Liddell, who worked in China as a missionary from 1925 until his untimely death in 1945, in a Japanese internment camp at Weifang (then Weihsien), Shandong province. In 1940, Liddell was in fact back in Scotland on leave, and given the international situation, could well have stayed. But he returned to China, and was thus interned by the Japanese when hostilities broke out with the UK and the US, initially at Tianjin and finally, in 1943, at Weifang. He threw himself wholeheartedly into camp life and was loved by his fellow internees, especially the children, many of whom had been interned from schools on China's east coast, without their parents who were still living in parts of the country not occupied by the Japanese (this BBC article tells the story of some such children). Liddell's death, to a brain tumour, was a blow to the whole camp community. Liddell's memory is of course maintained by The Eric Liddell Centre in Edinburgh. It was notable, and entirely appropriate, that Sue Liddell-Caton, Eric's niece, was invited, with colleagues from the Centre, to the Chinese Consulate reception in Edinburgh on 1 September 2015. In addition, a new statue of Liddell has recently been erected in Weifang, where he is buried, see this article.

The city of Weifang commemorated his life by laying a wreath at the memorial headstone marking his grave in 2005, as part of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the internment camp. A new film based on Liddell's life, The Last Race, went into production in China in 2015, starring Joseph Fiennes, and is expected to air in March 2016. This is expected to cover much more of his Chinese experience than did the earlier Chariots of Fire.

Left – dormitory at Pootung Camp, Shanghai ; middle – painting of the dining room queue, Lunghwa camp, Shanghai, by Deidre Eve, an Irish artist interned with Betty Barr and her parents, from Betty's book ;
right – dormitory at Lunghwa camp, Shanghai

Scotland and China's war – the home front

The war in China was followed closely by many in Scotland. Long-serving members of the SCA recall Roderick MacFarquhar, an early member of the Association, speaking of the widespread wartime sympathy for China during a visit the country in 1985. And it is very possible that Tom Murray, a founding member of the SCA and lifetime international socialist, was involved in local activities to support China, as there is a 1938 booklet entitled "Aid for China must go on" in his archives held by the National Library of Scotland.

A search in the online archives of The Scotsman (courtesy of the National Library of Scotland) for the terms “China” and “war” brings up over 5,000 entries of varying kinds. To select just a few :

  • 8 July 1937 - reporting on the outbreak of hostilities at the Marco Polo bridge the previous day, the paper noted “both sides are apparently anxious to localise the conflict” - sadly, of course, that did not happen
  • 10 November 1937 – the Glasgow Kino Film Group held a showing of Chinese and Spanish war films – one was 'War in China', on the recent bombing of Shanghai, and part of the collection went to Chinese medical aid
  • 13 October 1938 – the Chinese Ambassador, Dr Quo Tai Chi, attended a mass meeting for the Edinburgh Committee for China Relief – it was reported that over £800 had been raised in the city in the previous six months – the Ambassador said that “even as a Chinese, I am astonished at the will and fortitude of my people”
  • 8 January 1942 – by now, China was an ally of the UK, and a speech in London by the Chinese Ambassador, now Dr Wellington Koo, was reported, in which he said, “for 54 months [China] has continuously fought the formidable foe against overwhelming odds, and she is willing to fight an equally long period if necessary”

Some 'Scotsman' reports on aid to China and Chinese visitors - left to right, 29 September 1942 ;
10 January 1944 ; 7 March 1944

  • 29 September 1942 – an Edinburgh branch of the United Aid for China Fund was formed as part of a national appeal launched by Lady Cripps (wife of Sir Stafford Cripps, the UK politician) in July 1942 – this was a merger of various other funds that had been running for several years – the paper noted that “Scotland had a special interest in China”, because “many of her sons occupied key positions in the Treaty Ports ; the railways depended on Scottish accountants to manage their affairs, and many industrial and commercial houses were staffed by Scots” - it also noted that one of the organisations that would receive the funds was the Chinese Red Cross, “headed by Dr Lim, of Edinburgh University” - this was Dr K. S. Lim, who went to school at George Watson's College and graduated in medicine from Edinburgh, served with the British Army during WW1 and was, by 1942, Director of the Medical Relief Corps and the Chinese Red Cross Training School
  • 5 February 1943 – Sir Stafford Cripps made a major speech on China in Edinburgh's Usher Hall, and explained how China had moved much of its industry from the coastal cities into the interior of the far west, through “feats of carriage and of engineering which Western engineers have given up as hopeless have been carried out by teams of coolies with no other apparatus than bamboo poles and a piece of rope”- he added, “the Chinese have revealed a patience and courage not of a martial race, but of a peaceful race inspired by a high ideal”, and concluded that China was “a full and equal ally in the fight for victory and a full and equal partner in the world building that must follow”
  • 10 January 1944 – a Chinese official mission visited Edinburgh and Glasgow during a wider tour of the UK – their aim was “to convey the greetings and homage of the Chinese people ; to study the British war effort ; and to explain to the British people the hopes and aspirations of the Chinese people”- Dr Wang Shih Chieh, the leader of the delegation and former Minister of Education, said it had “become the deep conviction of the Chinese people that when China had been economically and industrially developed, she would be both a stabilising force for peace and a tremendous market for world trade” - he also noted the vast increase in literacy and education that had been achieved in China during the war years

An article from a British China aid booklet explaining the expansion of education during the war

  • 7 March 1944 – a “China Week” was held in Edinburgh, at the Hall of the Edinburgh Merchant Company, with a exhibition of Chinese art and pictures – the city's target was £10,000
  • 6 March 1945 – another “China Week” was held in the capital, and one speaker, Lord Teviot, reported that he had received a letter from Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek, in which the Chinese leader had spoken “of his great friendship for this country and his hopes that, after the war was over, the two countries would really get together in trade and cultural which would be of mutual benefit to them”
  • 3 September 1945 – noting that the Japanese surrender in China was set for 6 September, the paper's correspondent in Chongqing reported discussions about whether Japanese forces could surrender to the Communist armies as well as to the KMT, adding that if this was agreed, “it will be the first important step on the road to unity and an encouraging sign for the future”

Commemoration before 2015 and wider historical aspects

The 1937-45 war has been seen in a number of different ways in China in the last 70 years. Professor Rana Mitter reflects on this at the end of his excellent book mentioned earlier, China's war with Japan - a few of his comments are given below, from pages 380-388.

  • ”Mao's China had no place for any description of the Nationalists except as enemies who did little to defend China against Japan and had rightly been routed in 1949”
  • on the opening of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial in 1985, “it is remarkable that it took some four decades after the war had ended for such a site to be erected”
  • in the 1990s Chonging took advantage of the new openness to discuss the war, as Mitter says, “of all the Allied capitals it was the only that had no chance to celebrate its resistance and mourn its losses”

Left – the museum at the site of the notorious Japanese Unit 731, near Harbin, a covert biological and chemical warfare unit that carried out lethal human experimentation on Chinese civilians ;
middle – names of the dead at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial ;
right – a display at the private Jinchuan Museum near Chengdu featuring handprints of Chinese veterans

  • ”more noticeable within China, and more significant in the longer term, is the use of the war to unite people within China and to position the country as a co-operative rather than a confrontational actor in world politics”
  • the term “anti-fascist war” has been more recently added to “the war of resistance” to describe the 1937-45 conflict to stress China's role as part of Allied collective resistance to the Axis powers - as Mitter notes, ”the implication is clear - at an earlier time when its contribution was needed, China delivered, and it should now be trusted as it seeks, once again, to enter international society playing a wider role”
  • ”China remains the forgotten ally, its contribution only slowly being remembered as its experiences fades out of living memory”
  • ”without Chinese resistance, China would have been a Japanese colony as early as 1938” and “without the China quagmire, Japan's imperial ambitions would have been much easier to fulfil”

In this context, it is interesting to this Xinhua article, which notes that "while most in the western world believe World War II started with the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939, there are a growing number of historians who believe the official date should be amended to 1937".

The cashmere connection

by Website Editor, 9 February 2015

In the Year of the Goat we can celebrate one very significant connection between Scotland and China involving Chinese goats – the supply of wool that is made into the finest cashmere garments. There has been a trade in this product from China to the Scottish textile industry for many years. But the "cashmere connection" has been strengthened in more recent times with the acquisition in 2009 of leading manufacturer Todd & Duncan, based in Kinross, by the Ningxia Zhongyin Cashmere Company from China. This continues a manufacturing tradition begun by the company in 1867. We interviewed Bruce Cameron, the company's Sales Director, to find out more.

Cashmere's origins - goats in Inner Mongolia ; herdsmen harvest the cashmere underfleece (all photos are courtesy of Todd & Duncan)

Cashmere is the rarest and most precious natural fibre in the world, yet the product of one of its harshest environments. "Cashmere fibre can be sourced from several regions of China, and from Inner and Outer Mongolia", says Bruce, "but the higher quality types that can command a premium tend to come from Inner Mongolia or other regions of China". As Bruce explains, "during the winter months, the temperature can drop to 40 degrees below zero, and to protect themselves, the goats grow a downy underfleece of soft short hair - this undercoat is cashmere fibre".

Chinese cashmere tends to be the finest and whitest fibre available - other parts of the world tend to produce shorter, coarser fibre of dark brown colour. Bruce says, "coarser fibre will influence the quality of the handle and drape of the garment - there is some white Mongolian fibre, but it is not as white as Chinese and is still coarse".

The production process at Todd & Duncan's factory at Kinross - cashmere being dyed ; the looms ; the wide range of colours available

It takes around 1kg of raw goat wool to produce 200g of cashmere. So your cashmere sweater is the product of the wool of three or four goats – an overcoat needs the wool of 24 animals.

Todd & Duncan prides itself as being “the home of colour”, with a range of over 10,000 colours available for textile and fashion designers. Another key feature of its manufacturing process is the softness of the local water, which is as critical to the production of Scottish cashmere as that of Scotch whisky !

During the event in 2009 to mark the company's acquisition by its Chinese partner, First Minister Alex Salmond, Mr Li Jianjun of the Municipal Government of Lingwu, Ningxia, Mr Ma Shengguo, Chairman of Ningxia Zhongyin Cashmere Company, Consul General Mrs Tan Xiutian, and other dignatories tour the Todd & Duncan factory

On 12 October 2009, the then Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond MSP joined Mr Li Jianjun of the Municipal Government of Lingwu, Ningxia, and Mr Ma Shengguo, Chairman of Ningxia Zhongyin Cashmere Company at a special event at Todd & Duncan's Kinross factory to mark the deal (see images above).

Mr Salmond said at the time, “Todd & Duncan have a proud history of producing luxury cashmere on the banks of Loch Leven for use in the world's top fashion houses”, adding “I am delighted that the future of one of Scotland's leading textile manufacturers and around 200 highly skilled employees has been secured by Ningxia Zhongyin, which is China's leading cashmere company, producing fibre, yarn and garments”.

Mr Ma Shengguo, Chairman of Zhongyin, said, "I am very proud to be here, not because of the equipment I have purchased, but because of the excellent product and the quality produced here in Scotland by a skilled and talented workforce. With their support and effort, I believe that we can overcome any challenges that lie ahead and develop Todd & Duncan to its full potential".

Five years on, "Chinese ownership has been very good for Todd & Duncan", confirms Mr Cameron, adding, "our new owners very much value the heritage of our business and the fact that we manufacture in Scotland". For example, he explains, "once the acquisition of the business was completed, they quickly proceeded to purchase back the land and buildings where we were located in Kinross". As he says, "this put out a strong message to both our employees and our client base - Todd & Duncan would continue to spin the world's best cashmere yarn in our historic location".

Equally, the main benefit of the deal to Todd & Duncan is the continuation of guaranteed supply of the highest quality cashmere fibre from the very best regions in China. Clearly the catwalks of Milan, Paris, London and New York will be graced by this unique product of a partnership between Scotland and China for many years to come.

For more information, see :

1. The Todd & Duncan website is here. It includes a long video here, 'The Cashmere Trail', with several minutes of fascinating footage about the cashmere goats of Inner Mongolia.

2. For some earlier background, see this film, dating from 1978, courtesy of the Scottish Film Archive. The section from around 3:15-6:00 minutes includes some interesting shots of Inner Mongolia, where the wool came from, and the process of gathering wool from the goats and its transportation.

3. An archived Scottish Government news release about the acquisition of Todd & Duncan in 2009 can be found here.

Remembering the Chinese Labour Corps

by Website Editor, 8 November 2014

As the United Kingdom remembers the sacrifices made during the First World War, at the first of four Remembrance Day periods over the next four years, we should also commemorate the 96,000 men of the Chinese Labour Corps who supported the British armies in France and Belgium from 1916-1920.

A campaign was launched this summer by the Chinese community in the UK, who are asking the British government to support the establishment of a UK memorial to the men of the Chinese Labour Corps. They have an interesting website at, which explains their campaign and the background to the CLC. If you wish to support the campaign, you can sign their online petition.

Several notable Scots were also associated with the development of the CLC. The British Military Attache in Peking, Colonel David Robertson, was an enthusiastic promoter of the scheme, and diplomats James Stewart-Lockhart and Reginald Johnston were involved in the initial work to set up the CLC depot at Wei Hai Wei. In addition a number of Scots - often former missionaries, doctors or businessmen in China - served as officers or NCOs in the CLC.

A total of some 1,953 CLC fatalities are remembered in Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries in France, Belgium and elsewhere. The largest is at Noyelles-sur-mer, on the Somme in France, where 879 are buried or remembered (see photos below). It is similar to a normal CWGC cemetery, but with some distinctions, notably the rather attractive Chinese-style gate.

The graves themselves are similar to those used for Commonwealth dead, with the man's name in characters, his place of origin, his CLC number, and date of death. Each grave has one of four standard inscriptions, carved by CLC men for their fallen comrades.

  • “Though dead he still liveth”
  • “Faithful unto death”
  • “A good reputation endures for ever”
  • ”A noble duty bravely done”


Keeping Sino-Scottish relations warm

by Website Editor, 4 December 2013

During the recent visit to China by First Minister Alex Salmond, a Wall Street Journal article made an intriguing reference to the fact that the Great Hall of the People, venue for the most high-profile Chinese political gatherings, “is even heated with Scottish boilers”. This set us on the trail for the background, and thanks to our network of friends, we recently met Alan Collins, formerly Director of Export for Cochran Boilers Ltd to hear more about this engineering success story.

Unless you are an engineer working in the energy or manufacturing sectors, you have probably never heard of Cochran. But they are, as Alan put it, “the hoover of boilers”, a brand-name that has become synonymous with the technology itself. “Many Chinese engineers showed me references to Cochran in their textbooks”, he explains. This high level of brand awareness, and more importantly the company's reputation for high quality equipment, is probably why Cochran has been supplying boilers to China for at least the past 40 years, and perhaps even longer. “I even found, in an old brochure from the 1930s, a mention of one of our boilers installed in the Customs House on the Shanghai Bund in 1938”, said Alan.

Cochran has had over a century’s experience in the design and manufacture of industrial boilers – the firm was originally set up in Birkenhead in 1878, before moving to Annan 20 years later. In his own career, Alan worked his way up from the drawing office to senior managerial posts in the company's export business. He first became directly involved with China in the early 1990s, and first visited Shanghai in 1994, “when the skyline was a forest of cranes”. Upwards of 1,000 of Cochran boilers are now successfully operating in China.


Alan Collins with the Engineering Manager of the Peoples Great Hall and of one of the 'Wee Chieftain' boilers that supplies steam to heat the Great Hall of the People ; Alan Collins and the Cochran team in Beijing, in front of the famous image of Chairman Mao and representatives of the 56 nationalities of the People's Republic of China

He also hosted many Chinese delegations who visited the Cochran factory in Annan, including safety inspectors from the Labour Bureau, who are the regulatory authority for the import, installation and operation of all boilers in China - “a boiler is a pressure vessel, so worker safety is very important”, stresses Alan. In 1995, Cochran was the first boiler company in the world to receive the new 'Chinese Safety Quality Licence' for boilers and pressure vessels.

One very special delegation arrived at Annan in 2005, from the engineering department of the Great Hall of the People. This eventually led to the installation of three 4000kg/hr 'Wee Chieftain' boilers, probably the world's best known and most respected industrial boiler, renowned for their reliability and durability. The boilers are located in the boilerhouse which is part of the National Grand Theatre building, next to the Great Hall, supply steam for heating purposes to the theatre and the iconic political building itself.


Alan Collins and a Chinese colleague checking the exhaust gas temperature of a Cochran 'Wee Chieftain boiler' in Beijing ; the importance of entertaining when conducting business in China - Alan Collins enjoys some local food with Mr Guo, the Cochran dealer in Beijing, and his interpreter


The Shanghai Huanan Boiler Vessel factory in Baoshan District, Shanghai ; a typical steam boiler plant installation with imported Cochran boilers at a hotel project in Shanghai

The development of Cochran's business in China led the establishment of a marketing joint venture with the Shanghai Huanan Boiler Vessel Co., Alan with himself being seconded to Shanghai during 2006 and 2007, to manage the JV project. During his stay, he helped to market the company's products all over China, and visited cities as far afield as Dalian, Chengdu, Nanjing and Shenzhen. Major prestigious installations have included the Beijing Financial Street, the swimming pool constructed for the Beijing Olympics, several hospitals in Shanghai, and Phase 1 of the Shanghai Pudong International Airport development.

Most of the boilers sold during this period were made at the Cochran factory in Annan, although some were built at the Shanghai Huanan factory in Baoshan District, near the famous Baoshan steel mill.

The company's involvement with China was recently boosted by a three year partnership with Hong Kong and China Gas Ltd (Towngas) to upgrade industrial systems across China to make them more environmentally friendly, signed in Beijing during the recent visit by the First Minister (see this article).

But for Alan himself, his China adventure ended in late 2007. “I enjoyed it immensely”, he says, adding that although now retired, he is still in touch with many of the Chinese friends he made in Shanghai and beyond. “Long term relationships are the key to success in China”, Alan stresses. In one unusual example, whilst in Rui Jin Hospital in Shanghai for some minor treatment, he was startled to find that the doctor who was treating him had been to Annan as part of a delegation some years before, to negotiate the installation of Cochran boilers in that very hospital. Clearly, the Cochran name will be well known in China for a long time to come.