I took the opportunity to have a chat with Lord Provost Councillor Frank Ross about his recent trip to China on an invitation issued by the Fujian Chamber of Commerce.
Frank was delighted to fly the flag for the city and undertook a number of speaking engagements throughout his stay in the capital of the Fijian Province, Fuzhou, which is one of the largest cities in the area and boasts a population of more than seven million. It lies on the north bank of the Min River, close to the island of Taiwan.
The Lord Provost was interviewed on TV and radio and spoke about possible future links between Edinburgh and Fuzhou and he has already facilitated a dialogue between both airports, with representatives of Fuzhou airport planning to visit Edinburgh this year to discuss the possibility of a direct link, not only for the benefit of cultural tourism but also trade, potentially opening up a new market for Scottish produce, particularly seafood.
He also took the opportunity to establish links with Napier University which provided him with promotional materials and contact numbers. Napier has already expressed its delight at the prospect of working closely with the education sector in Fuzhou and it is anticipated that future collaboration will bear fruit for both parties.
The Chinese Government has established a policy labelled the “The Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People’s Republic of China, the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road. Various estimates have indicated that the BRI is one of the largest infrastructure and investment mega-projects in history, spanning more than 68 countries, equivalent to 65 per cent of the world’s population and 40 per cent of the global GDP as of last year. Frank was invited to meetings to discuss the issue and Edinburgh, a capital city with a port, has been invited to join the 21st Maritime Cooperation Committee as a founding member. It has been asked to send a delegation to attend the inaugural meeting in Fuzhou, providing a forum to present the city as a tourist destination. The Lord Provost will not head up that particular delegation as his presence is required at the opening of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but it is anticipated that Edinburgh Marketing and the Edinburgh Tourism Action Group may wish to seize this opportunity to further the aims and economic well-being of the city.
The city of Fuzhou is also keen to sign a friendship agreement with Edinburgh and this will be undertaken when their delegation visits Edinburgh later this month.
Edinburgh’s twinning with the city of Xian has provided a number of cultural benefits, not least the very first exhibition in the UK of the ‘Terracotta Army’ at The City Art Centre back in 1985 and it is hoped that these new links will cement a relationship that is mutually beneficial.
All in all, Frank said that the trip was hugely successful and, at no cost to the council, was invaluable.
It was also interesting to note that Frank followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, the former Lord Provost Donald Wilson, by sporting full Highland dress on the trip, a move which found an extremely appreciative audience in China!