Scotland reveals China strategy

Scotland wants to ramp up exports to China and get more school children learning Mandarin, according to a six-year bilateral strategy published by the Scottish government.

In its China Engagement Strategy, the government outlined its ambition for Scotland to become a preferred trade and investment partner in China in the fields of: energy, technology and engineering, financial services, food and drink, life sciences, tourism, textiles and education.

“China is one of the Scottish government’s priority countries for international relations, and the reasons for that are clear,” said Scottish External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop. “As the world’s (second) largest economy, and one where the links with Scotland are already strong, there are significant opportunities.”

This is the third China Engagement Strategy produced by the Scottish government, following ones published in 2006 and 2012.

“This strategy sets out how we aim to build on those links to the benefit of Scotland – whether that is the business community, educational institutions or cultural organizations,” Hyslop said. “It explains why closer collaboration in a range of fields can develop mutual understanding and lead to further opportunity for exports and inward investment.”

The Scottish government said it aims to increase exports to China, which is currently Scotland’s 17th largest export market.

Chinese people have developed a growing taste for food and drink from Scotland, the government said in its report. Scottish salmon exports to China increased by 30 percent last year to total 69 million pounds ($92 million), while Scotch whisky exports climbed 47 percent to reach 61 million pounds.

The document noted that China recently entered the top five countries of origin for inward investment into Scotland. Chinese tourism group Ctrip bought Scotland-based online search company Skyscanner for 1.4 billion pounds in 2016, and nine other Chinese-owned enterprises currently operate in Scotland, employing 2,630 people.

“Our latest trade mission marked a step change in the development of business-to-business links between Scotland and China,” said Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce.

During a trade mission organized by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce in April, Glasgow-based sports tourism company Premiership Experience signed a seven-figure deal with an unnamed Chinese conglomerate based in Henan Province.

The Scottish government said it wants to increase ties in education and innovation with China. The strategy includes plans to get more Scottish young people to learn Mandarin through linguistic programs such as the Confucius Classroom. As part of the initiative, more than 40 locations in schools and community centers have been set up across the country where primary and secondary students can learn Mandarin.

The engagement strategy was released the same week as the start of a new direct flight between Beijing and Edinburgh and follows Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s visit to China in April where she met with Vice-Premier Hu Chunhua.