Scotland/China news

First Minister on 4th visit to China

by Website Editor, 3 November 2013 (updated 2 December 2013)

Scottish Government First Minister Alex Salmond has now concluded his fourth official visit to China, leading a trade delegation focused on the oil & gas and construction sectors. He has visited Beijing and Hong Kong. There was also a separate Scottish industry presence at the China Fisheries & Seafood Expo in Dalian.

An extensive series of announcements were made during the visit - links to these, and associated media coverage, are given below :

There is also a report on the visit in Voice of Friendship, the magazine of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, here.

This visit follows that by External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf between 23 and 27 June, see bottom half of this page for details.

Mr Salmond has been to China on three previous occasions, in April 2009 (see this news release and later ones that week) ; July 2010 (see this news release and later ones that week) ; and December 2011 (see this news release and later ones that week).

For various announcements made during the Prime Minister's later visit to China in the week commencing 2 December, see this UK Government page. One announcement on new cultural links mentions that the National Theatre of Scotland is expected to tour China in 2014/15.

For details of the July 2015 visit to China by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, see this page on our site.

Armadale Academy goes to Tianjin

On Friday 4th October, 12 S6 pupils from Armadale Academy set off for China for a ten day trip, as part of the school's developing partnership with Tianjin TEDA No. 1 Middle School (see our earlier article here). They were accompanied by their teachers Miss Young and Miss Moar, as well as SCA members Jean Ye, translator and external China coordinator, and Councillor Jim Dixon. This article has been kindly contributed by Miss Young. 

We arrived on Saturday evening in Beijing, and everyone quickly had to pick up the chopstick skills that would be essential over the next ten days. 

Sunday was spent experiencing Chinese culture first hand, with a visit to Tiananmen Square, the national museum of China and the Forbidden City. Everyone was overwhelmed by the huge crowds at these tourist attractions, as well as the large numbers of cars and bicycles on the Beijing streets. 

From Monday to Friday, the 12 pupils and two teachers stayed with host families from TEDA No. 1 Middle School. This school is located in the Binhai area of Tianjin, about 80 miles south east of Beijing – TEDA is the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area, an important regional zone. The young Scots stayed with the same young Chinese who had stayed with their families and visited Armadale Academy in August 2013. 

The photos below show scenes from the trip, all courtesy of Armadale Academy


This was a most enjoyable experience for our pupils to catch up with the friends they had made in August, and to experience first hand what it's like to live in a typical Chinese home as well as experiencing life in modern China. We all found the Chinese to be most kind and generous. 

Pupils were given a TEDA No. 1 Middle School uniform and got the chance to take part in various activities in school including Chinese face mask painting, tai chi, making Chinese dumplings and calligraphy. We visited various classes including English, chemistry, physics and PE, as well as the local primary school and Master Kong noodle factory, a business in the area. On the final day an assembly was held with performances from pupils at both schools, followed by a basketball game which was convincingly won by TEDA No. 1 Middle School. 

Principal Wang, Head Teacher of TEDA No. 1 Middle School, said that he found the pupils from Armadale Academy to be very polite and well mannered. He also commented that the parents from the host families were very impressed and went out of their way to make this a special occasion for the visitors from Armadale Academy. 

On Friday after a tearful farewell the group headed back to Beijing for the last two days of the trip. This included a visit to the Beijing National Library (the biggest library in Asia), the Great Wall, the hutongs (typical Beijing lanes), the Summer Palace and Olympic Stadium. Not to mention the shopping we all found time to fit in ! 

As my colleague Miss Moar said, "I feel very privileged to have been a part of the first and very successful China exchange trip. The whole group, including Miss Young and I, have thoroughly enjoyed every minute and have many special memories to cherish, particularly those shared with our lovely host families. This was a truly unique, cultural experience that I believe has inspired our young people and given the confidence to pursued further adventures in study, work or travel abroad”. 

The young people of Armadale also found the visit fascinating. Colin Waddell said, "I felt really nervous before I came out, but staying with the host family meant that I experienced real Chinese culture. In the end I did not want to leave. I have made friends for life and I hope to stay in touch and go back to China in the near future". 

Nina McDonald added, "it was good that the Chinese pupils visited Armadale first because it made it easier to stay with them in China as we already knew them. It showed me a new way of living that I never expected. China is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. If anyone gets the chance to go I would recommend it". 

Jean Ye feels that the pupils have learned a lot from this experience, saying, “I am thrilled to work with the Armadale team. This trip brings the best out of the pupils, and I am really proud of them”.&nbsp

This has been a fantastic experience for everyone involved. I am very proud to have been involved in the first exchange visit with our partner school in China. The pupils threw themselves in to all activities and were not shy when it came to trying different foods or haggling in the local markets. 

This is not the end of our Chinese experience – the group who visited Tianjin will be organising a Chinese New Year Event at the school in February. Another group from TEDA No 1 Middle School will visit Armadale Academy in August 2014, and we look forward to many more visits and a long and fruitful relationship with our friends in Tianjin. 

China Day at Armadale Academy

by Website Editor, 17 August 2013 (updated 28 October 2013)

A little bit of China came to West Lothian at the end of last term, as around 120 S2 pupils at Armadale Academy took part in a special "China Day”. In a packed programme, they tried out tai chai, practiced Chinese characters, learnt about Chinese arithmetic, played ping pong, explored the geography of China and the one child policy, and even tested their chopstick skills ! And to simulate some aspects of a Chinese school day, they swopped their normal school uniforms for tracksuits and worked in classes that were, well, a little larger than usual.

SCA members Councillor Jim Dixon, who represents the Armadale ward, and Jean Ye helped out during the “China Day”. Jean provided an introduction to a few Chinese words, and the children were soon saying “wo xihuan ji mian tiao” and “wo yao ji rou tang” to each other – food is always a good place to start ! They were also helped by Connie Yeung, who brought her tai chi skills to the morning assembly.

The photos below show scenes from the China Day, courtesy of Armadale Academy

After the event, one pupil commented, “the main differences between a typical day in a Chinese school and a typical day at Armadale Academy are the uniform, pupils staying in the one classroom and longer school days".

This was all part of the school's ongoing China focus around its new partnership with Tianjin TEDA No. 1 Middle School. A group of 12 Armadale S6 pupils, accompanied by two members of staff and Jean Ye, will be travelling out to China in October 2013 for what promises to be a fascinating trip to Tianjin. They will “home stay” with Chinese families and spend several days at the TEDA school. On the 10 day trip, they will also visit Beijing and see the sights, including the Great Wall and the Summer Palace (for a report of this trip, see here).

And even before this, a group of 15 Chinese pupils from TEDA will be coming to Armadale at the end of August 2013 for a similar exchange visit. The two groups of young people are already in email contact, getting to know each other, practising English and Mandarin, and preparing to meet very soon.

These contacts follow a visit to Tianjin in October 2012 by Armadale Headteacher Campbell Hornell and several colleagues, and a visit to Armadale in May 2013 by a group of teachers from the TEDA school and local officials. In addition, the school held Chinese New Year events in 2012 and 2013.

Social Studies Principal Teacher Jen Young said, “the feedback from the pupils has been very positive”, adding “I am confident they now have a better understanding of a typical Chinese school day”. Jean Ye commented, “the children were great and I was really impressed by how quickly they picked up the Chinese language !” She added, “the event was the first building block for younger pupils with a true taste of Chinese language learning and appreciation of Chinese customs, which is critical as they will be the future beneficiaries of growing international links with China's and her growing influence in the world stage”. Councillor Jim Dixon said, “the China Day was a unique experience for all involved in this Scotland/China programme".

Commenting on the success of the “China Day”, Campbell Hornell said, “our S2 China Day proved to be a great success. The feedback from our pupils clearly showed they had increased their knowledge of China and a typical day in a Chinese school. Our partnership with TEDA No 1 School is an important part of our curriculum and this day was a small part in our programme to raise the awareness and understanding our pupils have of Chinese culture and society".

We will keep readers of this website up to date with developments in this initiative. See here for a report of the school's trip to China in October 2013.

SCA AGM 2013 in Glasgow

by Barry Moore, Glasgow Branch Chairman, and Website Editor, 28 June 2013

The 47th AGM of the SCA was held on 8th June in the impressive surroundings of the Court Senate Suite at the University of Glasgow, courtesy of the Confucius Institute. Nearly 30 members and friends attended and, after the formal business, listened to a fascinating presentation by Professor Jane Duckett entitled “Extending citizen participation in China”. We hope that a version of this will appear in Sine in due course. Finally, we enjoyed a musical interlude from Eddie McGuire and Yulu Wang, and a buffet lunch.

The photos below show scenes from the AGM (thanks to Peter Lindow and Barry Moore)

The AGM was also notable for the “retirement” of Euan Petrie as National Secretary after 19 years service. In his final report in this role, Euan noted he had been a member since 1988, and seen many changes in personnel, administration, finance and communications with members.

He added that, “for me a major difficulty has been membership – although there is now a great interest in China, this hasn’t always been reflected in our membership”. In 1988 membership was just over 100, now it is around 170, although at one point it approached 250. Achieving that again would, he felt, require a vast amount of effort, which may be difficult to maintain for a voluntary organisation.

One major change which he had seen, and indeed played a large part in achieving, has been much greater use of electronic means of communication. “19 years ago”, he explained, “it was 100% post and telephone, and we had no website – now we have an excellent website, our Yahoo mailing list, and around a third of members using email for most SCA business”.

Euan also noted that in the last two decades, and especially more recently, other groups have emerged covering different aspects of Scotland's relationship with China, such as the China Britain Business Council, Ricefield Arts and Cultural Centre in Glasgow, Confucius Institutes and some student organisations. However, most of these organisations have paid full time administrators and a healthier budget.

On the other hand, Euan said, “the SCA has had very satisfying successes on limited resources, such as our 30th Anniversary in Edinburgh, 40th Anniversary in Glasgow, numerous delegations to and from China, art exhibitions, the Chinese film festival in Glasgow, and much more”, adding “our members have been involved in many other initiatives to expand Scotland's links with China, such as city twinning and the expansion of Chinese in schools and higher education”.

At the end of the official business, Chairman Janice Dickson made a presentation to Euan, on behalf of the SCA, of a print of some well-known Clyde landmarks. This had been painted by Edinburgh-based Chinese artist Chi Zhang (see photo above), who specialises in rendering Scottish scenes in a Chinese style.

China Plan and Scottish ministerial visit

by Website Editor, 26-27 June 2013

This has been a busy week for policy developments relating to China, with the publication, on 23 June, of the report by the Scottish Parliament's European and External Affairs Committee on the Scottish Government 'China Plan', and a visit to China 23-27 June by Scottish Government External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf.

Scottish Parliament report

The report can be found online (and as a pdf), here, with their associated news release here. The report link includes links to the written and oral evidence presented to the Committee.

The Committee's key findings were :

  • progress to support business to business partnerships between Scottish and Chinese companies is required by SDI, as is the development of mentoring and business incubation schemes
  • the Scottish Government should consider how it could work more directly with SMEs and their representative bodies in both the drafting and delivery of the next China Plan in order to improve stakeholder involvement
  • Ministerial visits are vital to the continued engagement between Scotland and China. These should therefore be carefully planned and orchestrated to maximise returns for the Scottish economy
  • links between Scottish and Chinese educational institutions are of increasing importance as is the teaching of Chinese languages in Scottish schools through programmes such as the Confucius Institutes
  • the financial sector currently has significant opportunities for Scotland in China, which the relevant authorities and organisations should be looking to maximise
  • a direct air link from Scotland to China will increase the potential for Scotland’s economic and cultural engagement in that country
  • the visibility of Scotland in China, through the branding of Scottish products and Scottish company offices there, is a key element in increasing Scotland’s trade with China

Various media reports on the Committee report include this one from The Scotsman.

The Scottish Government plan, entitled 'Working with China - a five year strategy for engagement between Scotland and the People's Republic of China', was released on 4 December 2012, and can be found on the Scottish Government website here, to view online or download as a pdf. There is also a news release here.

Ministerial visit to China

Scottish Government External Affairs Minister Humza Yousaf is in China between 23 and 27 June to undertake a series of diplomatic, cultural, business and trade engagements in Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

In Beijing on Tuesday June 25, 2013, Mr Yousaf discussed cultural collaboration between Scotland and China, and Scotland’s expertise in renewable energy and financial services training. The Minister then travelled to Shenzhen for a day of engagements promoting opportunities for Sino-Scottish collaboration in education and the creative industries. Mr Yousaf’s visit concludes in Hong Kong where he will highlight some of the ways in which China is benefiting from Scotland’s expertise in low carbon technology, renewable energy and life sciences.

A series of announcements have been made during the visit :

  • on Scottish involvement in the development of offshore wind energy in Guangdong - see this report by the BBC
  • on a new cultural partnership between Edinburgh and Nanjing, with exhibitions to be launched in the two cities in autumn 2013 and spring 2014 - see reports by The Scotsman and The Herald
  • various education linkups, exporting Scottish expertise to China - see this report by the BBC
  • an agreement for for cooperation and knowledge transfer between Scotland and Hong Kong in the low carbon sector

Xinhua's Edinburgh bureau carried a short report, based on an interview with the Minister, on 11 July, see here.

For info on First Minister Alex Salmond's later trip to China in November 2013, see this page.