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The dragon, the unicorn and the rooster

An article published on the Internet in July 2005

    China is the world's fastest growing economy and some predict it will soon become the world's fourth largest. With a huge appetite for western knowledge and products and an equal desire to share its culture and scientific discoveries, it is little wonder that Scotland is interested.

Scotland in China

    For every one Scot there are some 260 Chinese people – so a Scottish eightsome reel would involve more than two thousand dancers in China! It doesn't take a great mathematician to work out that there is vast potential for trade in commodities and ideas between the two countries (including, perhaps, dancing shoes?).

    Scotland was quick to build on historical contacts and links when China began to open up to foreign visitors and businesses back in the 1980s, and with China contributing more growth to the global economy over the past few years than the whole of the G8 put together, the importance of 'The Dragon' has been fully acknowledged by the Scottish Executive and a new official is being appointed to Beijing. The official, working closely with Scottish Development International, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Council will promote Scotland as a dynamic partner and will work to expand Scotland's Chinese business, educational and cultural links on a two-way basis.

    A significant number of Scottish companies and organisations are already doing business directly in China through partnerships, joint ventures and wholly-owned foreign enterprises. Financial giants Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life are in Shanghai and Tianjin respectively. Leading distillers, The Edrington Group, opened an office in Shanghai in July 2003 taking their brands, The Famous Grouse, The Macallan and Highland Park, to an eager market where demand for malts has grown by 23%. Other Scottish companies making inroads into China include Scottish & Newcastle, Babtie, Clyde Blowers, Picsel Technologies and the Weir Group.

    Today's educational links between Scotland and China are very strong and growing stronger. A number of Scottish schools have active exchange links with schools in China, encouraging two-way student and teacher language exchanges and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) delivers a number of Scottish qualifications such as Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) at Chinese universities. But probably one of the most exciting areas of development is the exporting of courses and the franchising of degrees in China by Scottish universities. Napier University is developing the first Scottish campus in a Chinese university in a joint venture with Zhengzhou University in Henan Province. Napier also has a contract to deliver an MSc in Insurance Accounting to the Southwest University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu.

    Stirling University is working with Beijing-USA College of English on a BA Honours in Finance and Investment; the course is divided between Beijing and Stirling and the degree is awarded by Stirling University. The University of Abertay Dundee runs a joint degree programme with Nanchang University in Jiangxi Province, whereby students progress to Abertay Masters' degrees in Information Technology and Internet Computing. The University of Paisley has signed agreements with universities in China and Glasgow Caledonian University has a relationship with East China Normal University in Shanghai to teach its software engineering students how to design video games.

China in Scotland

    Of course, education is a key area of fruitful exchange which both nations value highly. In the last five years the number of Chinese studying in Scotland has risen from 600 to 3,400 and according to a British Council study, Chinese university students poured an estimated £38m into the Scottish economy in the 2002/2003 academic year. In addition to this, Chinese students accounted for the greatest number of non-EU students studying at Scotland's Further Education Colleges and there's been an increase in Chinese students enrolling for Scotland's Independent Schools.

    This influx adds to the resident Chinese community that numbers around 16,500. The community, which has grown by over 50% in the last ten years, is the second largest non-white ethnic group in Scotland and is based mainly in the Central Belt. Strengthening these links are a number of Scottish cities which are twinned with Chinese counterparts – Edinburgh with Xian, Glasgow with Dalian and Perth with Haikov – and since the mid 1990s, the Scotland China Association and the Sino-Scottish Institute have been established in Scotland to foster good cultural, economic and political relationships between the two nations.

    Chinese culture has, for many centuries, held an allure for the West and the British Council works hard to ensure there is a wide programme of activity covering Chinese arts in Scotland. Scotland's museums and galleries often include Chinese subjects in their exhibition programmes and Chinese theatre and circus acts often visit Scotland. The National Beijing Opera Company visited Scotland this May and the One Million Days in China Exhibition, one of Glasgow's first major Chinese exhibitions, attracted almost 200,000 visitors during its run from July 2004 to February 2005 at The Burrell Collection.

    China is also, historically, closely associated with flowers and herbs and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is renowned for the cultivation and scientific study of the flora of China. Scottish botanists make regular expeditions to China and undertake exchanges with Chinese botanists. In Edinburgh, the Chinese Hillside is a well-visited feature of the Garden. More broadly on the scientific front, the Royal Society of Edinburgh has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chinese Academy of Sciences to encourage collaboration on scientific research and facilitate a number of exchange programmes between the two nations. 2005, as well as being the Year of the Rooster, is also the year of UK-China: Partners in Science.

    Finally, Scotland is set to see an increasing number of Chinese tourists. An agreement was signed by the Chinese Government in January granting the UK Approved Destination Status (ADS). This means that, for the first time, tourists from China will be permitted to travel on a leisure tourism visa to Scotland. Previously, Chinese citizens could only travel to the UK for business, education or to visit relatives. Already an 80-strong delegation from China's tourism industry has been wined and dined as Scottish tourism officials attempt to gain a foothold in what is predicted to become a multi-billion pound tourism market. The World Travel Organisation predicts this market will explode to more than 100 million trips by 2020 (but not all to Scotland!). Figures compiled by VisitBritain suggest a rising interest in Scotland among Chinese tourists. If this interest turns into actual visitors, it will certainly be something to crow about – whichever year of the Chinese Calendar it starts to take place in.

Featured content correct at date of publication.