Scotland/China news

SCA at CPAFFC 60th celebrations in Beijing

The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) kindly invited the SCA to send a delegation to take part in events held in Beijing on 14-18 May 2014, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its founding in 1954. Janice Dickson, our National Chairman, and Peter Lindow, Edinburgh Branch Chairman, attended and their short report below gives a flavour of the commemoration. A fuller article has now appeared in the October 2014 issue of 'Sine'.

Sixty years is a particularly important anniversary in Chinese culture as this marks one complete cycle of the Chinese zodiac. This was emphasised by the presence of President Xi Jinping at the 60th Anniversary Conference, as well as the inauguration of a Public Diplomacy Museum, eight TV documentaries, a commemorative book and a special stamp. We were delighted to receive the invitation from CPAFFC – our own exchange links go back to our first delegation to China in 1972.

The main theme of the International Friendship Conference, held in the Great Hall of the People, was the importance of “people to people diplomacy”, and the significant difference this can make to relationships between China and the people of all nations.

President Xi speaking at the conference (courtesy of Xinhua)

In his keynote speech, President Xi said stressed China's peaceful diplomacy and that the country was not motivated by expansion or hegemony. He said the CPAFFC “played an irreplaceable role in promoting China's friendship with other countries”, and “showcased the power of people-to-people engagement in promoting world peace and development.” He urged people in all countries to “strengthen friendly exchanges and join hands in the face of a complicated international situation and severe global challenges”.

Xi also called on the association to innovate and explore ways to allow for more people-to-people exchanges, and help build more “twin city” links and promote exchanges between local governments. The CPAFFC has already established friendly cooperation with more than 500 non-governmental organizations in 157 countries, and helped the establishment of 2,106 “twin cities” between China and 133 nations – in Scotland, Edinburgh is twinned with Xi'an ; Glasgow with Dalian ; Perth with Haikou and Angus with Yantai.

The conference was also addressed by CPAFFC President Li Xiaolin, and representatives of friendship associations from five continents. President Xi's speech is reported in brief on Xinhua here. There is also a video excerpt in Chinese on CCTV here.

Delegates from many countries at the CPAFFC celebrations,
including our own Janice Dickson and Peter Lindow

We also attended an event at the CCTV headquarters, with 42 items in the programme, a mixture of videos, speeches and live performances. These included stories of friendships between Chinese people and those from the US, USSR, Brazil, Laos, San Marino, Gabon, and French Polynesia, amongst many others. We were especially pleased that the performance was closed by the singing by a children's chorus of 'Auld Lang Syne' – in Chinese, otherwise we would have joined in !

Janice Dickson presenting a framed photo of Andy Scott's 'Kelpies' sculpture
to CPAFFC Vice President Li Jianping

Other events during our trip included a visit to the newly opened Arts and Crafts Museum, and a lunch hosted by CPAFFC Vice President Li Jianping. At the latter, gifts were exchanged, and the SCA presented a framed photo of the stainless steel sculpture of 'Kelpies' by Andy Scott from Falkirk – very appropriate for the Year of the Horse. We also toured the CPAFFC headquarters, in the old Italian embassy in the legation quarter, and we met many old friends from the organisation, including Yang Xuehe, Zhang Ruoning, Wang Xiaogang, Qing Boming, Wang Jianhao, and Kathy Sun (who took good care of us throughout !), and made many new friends amongst the other international delegations.


New Confucius Institute at Heriot-Watt

The fifth Confucius Institute in Scotland was opened at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh on 10th June 2014, joining those already established at Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde and Aberdeen Universities. Scotland now has the most Confucius Institutes per head of population in the world.

The new centre will be known as the Scottish Confucius Institute for Business and Communication, and builds on Heriot-Watt’s long-term interest in China, its international strategy, and its mission and reputation as one of the UK's leading institutions in linking business and academia. Heriot-Watt’s Confucius Institute also partners the University with China’s Tianjin University for Finance and Economics.

It has been set up at Heriot-Watt University after being approved by the Chinese Government’s Ministry of Education last November (see this Scottish Government news release issued during the First Minister's last visit to China).

Accompanied by Chinese musicians from Tianjin University, attending the launch were (left to right)
Pan Xinchun, Consul General of the PRC in Edinburgh ; Mike Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning ; Professor Steve Chapman, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University ; Professor Li Weian, Principal of Tianjin University of Finance and Economics ; and Shen Yang, Minister Counsellor for Education, from the PRC Embassy in London

Opening the new Institute, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Mike Russell said, “this new Confucius Centre will be a fantastic addition to Heriot-Watt University and to Scotland. Mandarin is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages and it’s important that people in Scotland get the opportunity to learn about China, its language and its growing role in the modern world. Through promoting Chinese language and culture for educational and business purposes, the Institute will complement the Scottish Government’s China Strategy and our aim to increase trade and educational collaborations with China through greater mutual understanding between our respective cultures”.

For more coverage of the opening event, see this Heriot-Watt news release.

The Institute's website can now be found here.


Exhibition - Poster Art of Modern China

Hosted by the Confucius Institute in Edinburgh between 6 June and 12 July, this exhibition showcased a unique collection of 133 posters from 1913-1997, on loan from the extensive collection of over 5,000 posters held by the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. For a short review of the event by one of our members, and a report of a later visit to the Centre by a Scottish school group, see further down this page.

Take the road of co-operation (1956)

From the earliest poster of Shanghai "calendar girls" (1913) to the newest, showing Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin (1997), this collection revealed the turbulent history of China over these decades as well as varying artistic influences on this art form.

The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is run by collector Yang Pei Ming, and is housed in the basement of an apartment block at 868 Huashan Road. Many examples of the posters and other background can be found on his website.

The exhibition

There is a short video description here, including interviews with Yang Pei Ming and Professor Gentz.  We understand that around 2,500 people visited the exhibition in its first two weeks.

Exhibition catalogue

A full colour paperback catalogue of the exhibition has been published, including images of all the posters on display and explanatory text by Yang Pei Ming and Institute Director Professor Natascha Gentz. This is priced at £15.00, and can only be obtained directly from the Confucius Institute at Abden House, who can be contacted by email or telephone on 0131-662 2180.

Scottish school group visits the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre

Mr Yang Pei Ming welcomed a party of 23 pupils and three staff members from Kinross High School and Perth High School to SPPAC on 26th November, as part of a 10 day school trip to Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai arranged by SCA Chairman, Janice Dickson. He gave them an introduction to his impressive collection, put into historical context. Some of the pupils had visited the Exhibition when it was in Edinburgh, and many are studying Chinese through the Perth High Confucius Classroom. The pupils were fascinated to meet Mr Yang, and too many postcards, copies of the posters, catalogues and original books and badges home as souvenirs.

Janice had been inspired by seeing the posters in Edinburgh., and was especially pleased to have the privilege of meeting Mr Yang once again, who had started as a tour guide in the 1970’s and also collected stamps. He showed her many other posters not on display from his extensive collection. The Centre is now rated as the 6th best Museum in China by Trip Advisor.

A perspective on the Poster Art of Modern China

by Orchid Liu, SCA member and Scottish correspondent of 'UK Chinese Times'

Yang Pei Ming, Director of the Shanghai Propaganda Art Centre

This exhibition was a first in many respects. Firstly, it covered a broad spectrum of this art form throughout the 20th century. Secondly, it included high quality exhibits, many of which were being displayed for the first time. And thirdly, it was the biggest exhibition of its kind ever displayed in the UK.

Visitors had the opportunity not only to appreciate the aesthetic content of these posters, but also to improve their understanding of China's dramatic history over the last 100 years.

Poster art has a long history in modern China, serving different purposes. It has been used to enlighten, to entertain, to make money, and to serve moral and educational objectives. And of course, it has been used for expressing and spreading political views. This exhibition presented a variety of forms highlighting the artistic qualities of poster art production, as well as illustrating changes in society, policy and times.

From left to right, 1934 - promotional calendar of an ‘Aviatress’ produced and distributed by China Fuxin Tobacco Co. ; 1940 - 'The More We Fight the Stronger We Are. The More the Enemies Fight the Weaker they Get' ; 1955 – 'Barren mountains become orchards'

The exhibition was arranged chronologically. The first group of posters are from the early 20th century, mainly the Shanghai “calendar girls”, featuring the latest female fashion and combining both western elements and oriental style. The second group of posters are from the anti-Japanese war period of 1937-45, hoping for victory and peace. The third group includes the 1949-79 period, the peak period of creativity of Chinese propaganda posters.

This latter era can be further subdivided into three main periods and themes - the early years after the founding of the People’s Republic (1949-57) ; the Great Leap Forward (1958-61) and the Cold War ; and the Cultural Revolution and Red Guards Movement (1966-76). Many of these posters spread values and images for political purposes, and many also reflect the people’s effort and determination to build a better country.

The final series feature the period after the “Opening and Reform” policy introduced by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. The new government promoted positive values, and collected and recycled old posters that represented old and negative values such as class struggle. With the planned economy being replaced by a market economy, marketing and commercialised advertising has taken the place of propaganda posters.

From left to right, 1958 : 'With John on the Bull and Me on the Horse – How Could I Not Win the Race?' ;
1968 : 'Proletarians of the World Unite' ; 1997 – 'Hong Kong's return to the motherland :
one country, two systems'

Mr. Yang has been a collector since childhood, beginning with stamps, and then branching out into other areas. After majoring in English, he became one of the first generation of tour guides, hosting foreign delegations, both for business and for cultural or educational exchange. He has deep experience in communicating and sharing ideas with westerners, and was inspired by an American friend to focus on collecting China's cultural legacy.

Mr Yang started to collect and conserve posters in 1995, concerned about the potential loss of these social history artefacts. As he says, "posters provide a special perspective for people to understand social change”.

As his collection grew, he established Shanghai Propaganda Art Centre in 2002 in the south-west of the city, where many foreign consulates and businesses are located. This art centre has attracted many foreign visitors, and has even obtained recommendations from Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor.

The early China trade - Scottish connections

Adrien von Ferscht, who spoke to the Edinburgh Branch of the SCA on 11 December 2012 on his specialist topic of Chinese export silver, and who is now a Fellow (Arts & Culture) at the Asia Scotland Institute, is developing a wide research spectrum on the substantial involvement of Scottish merchants and gentry in the creation of the China trade in the 18th Century, and its subsequent expansion and development through the 19th Century. This body of work spans several disciplines that include socio-anthropology, history, history of art, global politics and economics, and views the subject from a totally new perspective.

He has recently published two very interesting articles drawing on this research, which we introduce here.

The longest running gentleman’s agreement in the history of world trade

As Adrien writes, “China, the largest nation on earth and one of the smallest nations in Europe, Scotland, have had a remarkably special relationship that, on the face of it, may seem highly unlikely but it has lasted longer than Scotland’s union with England. Two crucial factors come together to form the glue for this bond; trade and a synergy of mindset.

His introductory article gives an overview of the timeline of events that created this unique and enigmatic relationship, using the iconic image of the Haig Dimple whisky bottle and Chinese export silver as the unlikely catalysts that demonstrate remarkably well how the Scots and the Chinese found a common bond and kept it for almost three centuries. The article is based on excerpts from the much larger body of work that will be published late 2014 and is carried out under the auspices of the Asia Scotland Institute.

As Adrien continues, “Towards the end of the 19th century a quite remarkable and seemingly incongruous phenomenon began to manifest itself in Hong Kong and in Chinese cities that either had significant international communities or where a more Western lifestyle was de rigueur among the Chinese. The phenomenon in question was a whisky bottle; not just any whisky bottle, but one that was a sensation in itself – the Haig Dimple bottle. To understand how this happened, we have to first travel back in history some 162 years to Gothenburg in Sweden; it is a complicated tale that involves at least three nationalities, two of whom mainly comprised of refugee communities”. To read Adrien's full article, see his website here.

Chinese export silver - the Glasgow connection

The second article is a very interesting new review of the connections between Glasgow and Canton (now Guangzhou) and the export silver trade. This includes the Chinese links of Glasgow tea merchants Liptons and the city's silversmith Edward & Sons.

As Adrien writes, "nineteenth century Glasgow was the 'Second City of the British Empire'. Since the 18th century, Glasgow and Canton shared so many similarities in addition to their common denominator the China Trade, without which neither city would have existed, let alone flourished".

"The China Trade itself would probably not have existed in the form it did had it not been for the involvement of the Scottish gentry and merchants - Scots were by far the most dominant nation in the China Trade and trade with the East Indies ; in fact, the East India Company would not have been so powerful and the British the major force in the opening up of China to foreign trade in the 19th century had it not been for the Scots".

"The tea trade and the opium trade caused Glasgow to survive the downturn in the West Indies and American trade ; the Clyde ship-building yards thrived on the building of China Clipper vessels. The Scots’ affinity with the Chinese fuelled a fascination for all things oriental ; the Glasgow Royal Warrant silversmith Edward & Sons was one of the few silversmiths who officially imported Chinese Export Silver items from Wang Hing & Company, hallmarking them with the their Glasgow silver mark alongside that of Wang Hing, showing them in their Glasgow and London stores as well as a succession of vast International Exhibitions held in Glasgow to which the world came".

To read Adrien's full article, see his website here.

New China centre at Edinburgh University

by Website Editor, 19 November 2013

The University of Edinburgh and China's Peking University signed a memorandum of understanding today on establishing joint centres for the study of Britain and China in Edinburgh and Beijing, reports Xinhua.

The move will lead to the creation of a world-leading centre in China studies at the University of Edinburgh and a Britain studies center at Peking University, which "will create an environment for world-leading research on both countries and a hub of teaching and research across the two universities to develop cutting-edge interdisciplinary joint research in strategic areas".

Liu Wei, Executive Vice President of Peking University, said the Britain studies centre at Peking University, which is expected to be launched in 2015, will gather experienced academics and graduate students.

We understand this centre in the Scottish capital will be primarily for postgraduate/post-doctoral work and will host seminars and conferences, and is in addition to the existing undergraduate and postgraduate courses offered by the University of Edinburgh.