Zheng Zeguang, China's ambassador to the UK. (Photo/gb.china-embassy.gov.cn)
China's top diplomat in the United Kingdom is on a weeklong visit to Scotland to enhance the growing economic, cultural, and educational links between the nations, in a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-UK ambassadorial diplomatic relations
Zheng Zeguang, China's ambassador to the UK, said: "In recent years, the China-Scotland relationship has maintained a sound momentum of development."
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Scotland have maintained communication and cooperation on their pandemic response.
Zheng said: "This has given a new dimension to our relations, and there are new opportunities up for grabs in developing China-Scotland relations."
The ambassador made the remarks on Tuesday in Edinburgh at an informal lunch hosted by the UK National Committee on China, an educational platform that aims to strengthen decision-making and facilitate dialogue on China-related affairs.
Zheng said, with highly complementary industries, China and Scotland have enormous potential for cooperation, and economic cooperation has continued to deepen and achieved fruitful outcomes in recent years.
Scotland has taken part in the China International Import Expo for several years in a row. More than 250 Scottish companies have joined hands with their Chinese partners to provide a rich variety of quality products for consumers in China.
China is not only Scotland's largest source of imports, but it is also its seventh-largest export market, including its third-largest market for Scottish salmon and its fifth-largest for Scottish whisky by value.
Chinese companies, including China National Petroleum Corporation and BYD, have invested in Scotland and continued to expand their cooperation in the areas of energy, retail, automobiles, and innovation.
Both China and Scotland have kept deepening cultural and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.
Nineteen Scottish universities have established partnership with universities in China. More than 50,000 students in more than 300 primary and secondary schools are learning the Chinese language. And in excess of 10,000 Chinese students are studying in Scotland, forming its biggest international student community.
Frank Slevin, chair of the UK National Committee on China, said Scotland's international framework sets out its clear commitment for a strong long-term bilateral partnership with China, and the aim for Scotland was to work collaboratively and constructively with China and to encourage an open and honest dialogue.
With 30-year histories, twining between Glasgow and Dalian, Edinburgh and Xi'an, and more recently with Shenzhen, Slevin said he is certain there will be many opportunities ahead for both sides to explore initiatives in support of Scotland's long-term development goals.
Alistair Michie, who is a director of Hampton Group, which leads in UK-China investment and consultancy and is chair of the International Council of Centre for China and Globalisation — a leading independent think tank — hailed the ambassador's visit and said it will be a valuable foundation to further expand bilateral relations.
He emphasized that Scotland is different from the rest of the UK and that its people think differently. He cited quotes from former prime minister Winston Churchill, who used to be a member of Parliament for Scotland's Dundee, to illustrate the true identity of Scots, saying "of all the small nations on this Earth, only the ancient Greeks surpassed the Scots in their contribution to mankind. I think that is the first step of understanding who we are, and this is really part of our DNA."
Michie pointed out that Scotland stands out as a nation in the world, because it is the only nation, according to him, that has a written strategy for China, and that has had it for more than 20 years. He said it offers a sense of the difference of approach of the Scottish people.
He also highlighted the China-Scotland education network as unique in the world. Michie said he believes the network is a model that can be taken to other parts of the world because it connects everything from postgraduate to primary education to the exam boards to the government, but is private-sector driven.