A week tomorrow something very exciting will happen at Edinburgh Aiport. The first direct flight from Edinburgh to Beijing will take off.
It’s an absolutely fantastic boost to Edinburgh and Scotland’s economy. What’s more, it’s the culmination of years and years of effort. There are no quick deals to be had with China. Trade and investment links take time. Relationships made, trust built.
In 2015 alone, 150,000 Chinese people came to visit Scotland and thousands more to study in our universities. Yet the potential to grow further is even greater, with a burgeoning middle class, growing economy and no less than 160 Chinese cities with more than a million people in them each.
It’s no wonder that Scottish businesses are seeking out more help to become “China ready” but this is where I would urge a word of caution. Of course we want our city to be welcoming and culturally sensitive, but surely we want to do that alongside but not at the expense of our links with other countries and indeed our own cultural heritage and traditions? I was shocked recently to be in one city centre cafe to find more signs in Chinese at the door than those in English. That’s one café with one particular unique selling point but the worry now is that it could be “best practice” example shown off to others. That for me would be a mistake.
Of course we should embrace a boom in tourism and welcome visitors into this great city with open arms, but we should do so our way and in our own image. That’s surely why people are coming here in the first place?