Despite the challenges important that cooperation with China continues - Angus Robertson

Angus Robertson celebrating St Andrews Day in Beijing with staff from the Scottish Government, Visit Scotland and the Scotch Whisky AssociationAngus Robertson celebrating St Andrews Day in Beijing with staff from the Scottish Government, Visit Scotland and the Scotch Whisky Association
Angus Robertson celebrating St Andrews Day in Beijing with staff from the Scottish Government, Visit Scotland and the Scotch Whisky Association
Relations with China really matter, especially at a time of global instability and climate crisis. That is why US President Joe Biden met recently with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and outgoing UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly travelled to Beijing where he met his opposite number Wang Li.

Given the scale of shared challenges from global change to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine it is important that dialogue continues, despite obvious challenges around human rights and other issues.

Scotland has many areas where relations with China really matter, from trade and investment, biodiversity and climate change, education and research, culture, tourism and transport. These are largely devolved areas where the Scottish Government has responsibility to promote cooperation.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

On trade and investment China is a priority market for Scotland. Scottish higher education, salmon and Scotch whisky are popular with Chinese consumers. There are significant Chinese investments in Scotland’s energy infrastructure, such as Grangemouth refinery, and research collaboration.

In energy China leads global offshore wind installation with new installation of 5GW in 2022 and a record of 21GW in 2021. It has set a green hydrogen production target of 5 million tonnes by 2030, with a huge further potential for development. With Scotland’s expertise in renewables there are huge opportunities in Chinese floating offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and electrification of oil and gas assets for Scottish supply chain companies.

The challenge of climate change continues to be a major shared concern across the world. Scotland has been active, not just as the host for COP26 but as the co-chair of the Under2Coalition, the largest global network of states and regions committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. Today, the coalition represents 173 individual states, regions, provinces and subnational governments along with several other national and subnational entities: a total of more than 270 actors, totalling more than 50 per cent of global GDP and includes Jiangsu and Sichuan Provinces in China.

On biodiversity, Scotland already cooperates with China through the Edinburgh Process, where 300 sub-state governments signed the Edinburgh Declaration on addressing the biodiversity crisis, including Kunming, the capital and largest city of Yunnan province, which has a population larger than Scotland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Education is an area where cooperation with China is highly relevant, especially given that about 25 per cent of all international students at Higher Education institutions totalling around 20,000, are from China. These are all people who will have a connection with Scotland, even after they return following their studies. In research, China is a top international research collaborator in Scotland, ranking 8th in co-authorships with Scotland for research articles. With 1.87m researchers accounting for a quarter of the world’s R&D workforce, China is an emerging powerhouse with whom relationships will matter even more going forward.

On culture and tourism, links are strong and getting stronger. A memorandum of understanding between Scotland and China has been renewed and there is considerable cooperation with Edinburgh’s festivals. Before Covid struck, China was the fastest growing inbound travel market with 172,000 visits to Scotland, valued at £142m. Direct connectivity has to be a major priority to build on existing services by Hainan airlines.

All in all, there are many reasons why Scotland must maintain a constructive relationship with China. Notwithstanding the challenges, it is important that we find a way to promote cooperation while differing respectfully where we don’t agree.