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Scotland/China news

This page includes links to relevant external news items, including media reports, government announcements, NGO news and other resources. This page is for material from 2011 and 2012 (up to end April). Older material, for 2010 and earlier, is now on a separate page here. Newest items are at the top.

Please note - as of 9 May 2012, these news pages were no longer updated due to time pressures, and some older links may no longer work properly.

News items from 2012 (updated 1 May 2012)
News items from 2011

Over the last few years, there has been considerable activity on developing Scotland-China links. This includes :

  • the Scottish Government's China Plans of 2008 and now 2012

  • the 'China Now in Scotland' programme to link with the Olympics throughout 2008

  • the signing of an education agreement with China in April 2008, supplemented by an agreement with Tianjin city in December 2009

  • the establishment of 16 'Confucius Classrooms' in Scottish schools, and significant activity by the Scotland-China Education Network

  • the visits to China by the Secretary of State for Scotland in March 2009, and by the Scottish Government First Minister in April 2009, July 2010, December 2011, November 2013, and July 2015, as well as other visits by other Scottish ministers

  • many new commercial links, and significant Scottish business involvement in the Shanghai Expo in 2010

  • a Scottish Film Festival in Beijing in March 2009

  • increased activity by the Confucius Institute in Edinburgh, and in 2011-14, the creation of other Confucius Institutes at Glasgow University, Strathclyde University, Aberdeen University and Heriot-Watt University

  • a high-level visit by senior Chinese government ministers and a trade delegation in January 2011

  • an Asian theme, including China, for the 2011 Edinburgh International Festival

  • the arrival of two pandas at Edinburgh Zoo in December 2011

Where appropriate, relevant background to many of these organisations and initiatives can be found on our Scotland/China resources page, here.

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News items from 2012


Shandong delegation - a delegation from Shandong Province is visiting Scotland next week, according to this report - see also this later article in The Midlothian Advertiser.

03/04/12 onwards

Pandas try for mating - Tian Tian and Yang Guang have been put together in the same enclosure in the hope they will mate, reports the BBC. However, their first attempts were apparently unsuccessful, says The Scotsman. The final end of the 2012 mating season was reported here by the BBC.


Panda mating next week ? - Scotland's giant pandas will be ready to mate next week, the bears' keepers are predicting - see The Herald, The Scotsman, the BBC and many other news outlets.


40th anniversary of diplomatic relations on 13 March 2012, the 40th anniversary of full Ambassadorial Diplomatic Relations between the People's Republic of China and the United Kingdom was celebrated at the Chinese Consulate-General in Edinburgh (see this BBC story).


Theatre links - the national theatres of Scotland and China have launched a "lively and exciting" collaboration which aims to develop new work, reports The Daily Record. The partnership between the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre of China was announced in Beijing today.


Chinese students - the number of students from China studying at Scottish universities has risen by 31.3%, from 4,680 to 6,145 in 2010-2011, according to The Scotsman. It is worth noting that the Scottish increase of 31.3% compares with 18.1% for the UK as a whole, implying Scotland is an even more popular destination that other parts of the country.


First Minister's China trip - See this Parliamentary Answer for a complete run-down of all the First Minister's activities during his trip to China and Hong Kong in December 2011.


Pandas increase visitor numbers 200% - some 70,000 people have seen Tian Tian and Yang Guang since mid December 2011, reports The Independent.


Chinese steel for new Forth Bridge - some 24,500 tonnes of structural steel for new Forth crossing will come from Zhenhua Heavy Industries in Shanghai, reports The Herald, amidst political criticism.


Colic problems continue for pandas - Tian Tian has now suffered an attack of colic, reports The Scotsman, with a vet liking the problem for "a travel tummy bug" in humans.


Panda tartan launched - the specially designed tartan to commemorate the arrival of the pandas has been unveiled by Edinburgh Zoo - see this BBC report.


Chinese coverage of referendum announcement - it is interesting to see some Chinese domestic media coverage of the announcement, on 25 January, of proposals for the independence referendum - see for example People's Daily (albeit in English), and CCTV13 (in Chinese - advert at beginning).


Chinese New Year message from First Minister - Alex Salmond has issued a New Year message to the Chinese community in Scotland, see here.


Micro Chinese New Year card - experts at Glasgow University have created a Chinese New Year card that is invisible to the naked eye because it is so small, to demonstrate "the huge potential for China to profit from Scottish innovation" in nanotechnology, reports The Scotsman. Not very convenient for posting, however - for more practical cards, see the Scotland China Association's dragon and panda cards.


Royal Visit for pandas - The Princess Royal is to meet Tian Tian and Yuang Gang on 28 February, reports the The Scotsman.


First Minister meets Premier Wen - Alex Salmond met China's Premier Wen Jiabao in the margins of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, as briefly mentioned in this news release.

News items from 2011


Panda cam goes live - the Edinburgh Zoo's "panda cam" in Yang Guang's enclosure has gone live - see here and this Herald article. Tian Tian's "panda cam" is only initially available to members of The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland through a special members-only portal.


Pandas meet the public - the general public finally got to see Tian Tian and Yang Guang on 16 December as reported in The Daily Record, and many other media outlets. Edinburgh Evening News also noted a rash of spoof Panda Twitter accounts. Some of the other residents of the zoo have reacted oddly to the arrival of the Chinese bears, reports The Daily Record.

Schools around Scotland are starting to become involved, too, with an educational roadshow visiting Peebles.


Pandas meet the media - the first footage of the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo has been released, see this BBC report and this Scotsman article.


Promoting Chinese inbound investment in Shenzhen - First Minister Alex Salmond secured links for Scotland with the key city of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province at events yesterday, and plans to twin Shenzhen with a major Scottish city will now begin with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) anticipated for the near future on the basis of collaboration in biotechnology, renewable energy, education and culture, according to this Scottish Government news release. He said, "there is little doubt this city will be the source of China's next wave of international companies and therefore it is essential Scotland makes its presence known early in Shenzhen's expansion".

What is interesting about this effort is that it is not, as has been more usual in the past, about helping Scottish companies invest in or export to China, but about the reverse - helping Chinese companies invest in or export to Scotland. The focus is quite clear from this photo - note the headline on the backdrop banner. This is very much in tune with developing trends in Chinese economic policy.

The First Minister has also been promoting Scottish luxury products such as farmed salmon and whisky - see this Scottish Government news release.


Human rights, climate change, wind power science and tourism - in talks with Chinese officials, and in a keynote speech to the Central Party School, First Minister Alex Salmond has raised the issues of human rights and climate change - for more, see this Scottish Government news release and this Scotsman report. The full text of his speech at the Central Party School is here.

It has also been announced that experts from Scotland's world-leading wave and tidal testing hub the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) are to collaborate with their marine energy counterparts from the Ocean University of China (OUC) in Shandong Province under a new partnership. And there is also a new tourism initiative.

There is now a Flickr stream of photos of Alex Salmond's progress around China.


Scotland/China air link ? - Alex Salmond has held talks today with China's Civil Aviation Authority about the possibility of a direct air link between the two countries, noting "a high-level industry team in China has now been established to examine the detailed business case and to work with Scottish Government officials and our agencies" - for more, see this Scottish Government news release.

The BBC's Glenn Campbell, accompanying the First Minister, has noted in his blog that "the state owned airline, Hainan, will send a delegation to Scotland early next year [2012], to check out the airports and recommend a route". Hainan Airlines already fly several routes into Europe from Beijing, including Brussels, Berlin, Budapest and St Petersburg.

Separately, today's Scotsman has a two page spread on Scotland China links (pages 20-21), also online here.


First Minister toasts whisky sales and cultural links in China - Alex Salmond continued his China trip by visiting a Chinese company which is aiming to create the country's largest whisky sales network - for more, see this Scottish Government news release.

Later, he met Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who visited Scotland in January 2011, and also signed various cultural agreements with China.

See also here for a blog by Glenn Campbell, the BBC Scotland political correspondent, who accompanied Mr Salmond.


Pandas arrive in Scotland - media coverage intensified as the pandas began their journey to Scotland - amongst many others, see the Sunday Mail, which has a nice article from their departure from Chengdu (complete with bagpipe send-off !) ; this BBC report of final departure preparations ; another BBC report ; China Daily photos of their departure ; The Scotsman on "panda diplomacy" and final preparations at the zoo (panda pun warning !) ; The Sunday Telegraph on the mixed feelings of the panda's keeper in China who has seen them off ; Scotland on Sunday on the panda's "diplomatic immunity" ; and China Daily.

The Fedex panda plane finally landed at Edinburgh Airport - for more, amongst many reports, see this BBC report, this Mail on Sunday article, this Sunday Telegraph article, this China Daily item, and this Scottish Government news release.


First Minister visits Eastern Qing Tombs - Alex Salmond has visited China's famous Eastern Qing Tombs, ahead of work to document digitally the world-famous heritage site as part of the 'Scottish Ten' project, launching Scotland-China's 'digital diplomacy' links - for more, see this Scottish Government news release and this BBC report.


First Minister arrives in China - Alex Salmond has begun his third trip to China with a St Andrew's Day celebration in Beijing - for more, see this Scottish Government news release. See also this later Parliamentary Answer for a complete run-down of all his activities during the week.


Pandas arrival confirmed for 4 December - after much speculation, it has been confirmed that pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang will arrive in Edinburgh next Sunday.

  • media coverage of the initial announcement and initial follow-ups included the BBC, China Daily, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, and The Scottish Sun (panda pun warning !).

  • there is a long article about the background to securing the pandas in The Scotsman on 3 December

  • the animals will come in a specially equipped Fedex aircraft, and Fedex have also explained the plane will also carry handwritten drawings and messages from local schoolchildren at the Sichuan Normal University Experimental Foreign Language School

  • The Scottish Sun has an amusing report on the flight arrangements (panda pun warning !)

  • the BBC aired some new film on 2 December of final preparations underway to see the pandas off from their current home in Sichuan - no commentary, but worth waiting to the end to see the Scottish/Chinese panda cartoons - although we are not sure what Big Ben is doing in the image !

  • the Edinburgh Evening News held a competition offering a lucky youngster the chance to be on the tarmac when Tian Tian and Yang Guang arrive - details of the winner and runners-up here. In another competition, The Scottish Sun is offering mums-to-be a chance to bag a 10-year family pass for Edinburgh Zoo if their baby is born this Sunday

  • there is also a new video of the panda enclosure from the BBC

  • for details of the ticketing arrangements, see this page on the Edinburgh Zoo website. The public was first able to visit the pandas on 16 December - initial demand was so great that the zoo's booking system had to be temporarily shut down - but more than 1,500 people had booked by 30 November, reported The Scotsman.

  • the pandas represent a income-generating opportunity for the Zoo and others, too - see news of panda paraphernalia on sale at the zoo and elsewhere in the city, and details of corporate packages available to see the animals (for another later story on this, see here. Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on 8 December, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said 150,000 extra visitors expected at the Zoo in first 12 months, a £2m boost for the organisation

  • some animal welfare groups and other campaigners have noted some concerns about the pandas, according to reports from The Daily Record, the BBC, and The Guardian

  • The Guardian reports a panda census is underway in China, offering some hope of a recovery in the wild population


First Minister to visit China again - First Minister Alex Salmond is to visit China for the third time in December - see this Scottish Government news release. He will go to Beijing, Shandong Province, Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, and Hong Kong between 3 and 11 December. One highlight of the trip is to be the launch of a Scottish food and drink strategy for Asia, as well as more co-operation on renewables and other energy projects .


More panda news - with their arrival imminent, panda stories have been appearing with greater frequency. For example :

  • on 27 November, Scotland on Sunday claimed that the pandas would arrive on Sunday, 4 December. This was not initially confirmed, but see above for more on the final announcement that this was indeed to be their arrival date

  • on 23 November, The Scotsman reported suggestions that while the pandas might still arrive before the end of 2011, the public may not be able to see them until early 2012. The paper also confirmed that the animals are currently in quarantine in China, and suggested an announcement on their arrival date is "pretty imminent"

  • on 21 November, the BBC released more film of the pandas at their Sichuan base, as well as an online article

  • on 17 November, FCO Minister Jeremy Browne visited the pandas at their reserve in Sichuan as part of a wider China trip, see this FCO news item and this China Daily photo report

  • The Daily Telegraph has a rather amusing report of the "Scottish" pandas at their Chinese reserve

  • the keeper who will look after the pandas told the BBC she felt a little "trepidation" ahead of caring for "the iconic species" (note this page requires free registration)

  • It was reported that the Zoo is to grow some of the bamboo needed to feed the pandas - but not all, as most will come from a farm in Holland

  • they will now have an official tartan, reports The Scotsman. More details are at the Scottish Register of Tartans website


Pandas in Edinburgh by end of 2011 ? - pandas Tian Tian and Yuang Guan could be at Edinburgh Zoo by the end of the year, reports Edinburgh Evening News. The final check by the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association is expected in a few days, and once their final approval is given, the animals could arrive very shortly afterwards. The Zoo is already recruiting extra staff to manage the crowds expected to view the pandas, and a special welcoming ceremony is being planned.


Second Confucius Institute opens - A second Institute opened in October 2011, the Confucius Institute at the University of Glasgow - its website is here. It is a partnership with Nankai University in Tianjin, supported by the Chinese Ministry of Educationís Office for Chinese Language (Hanban). It builds on long-standing research collaborations between the two universities and is strongly founded on research on China across the University of Glasgow in the social sciences, arts, and business, in particular through the activities of the Scottish Centre for Chinese Social Science Research. First Minister Alex Salmond officially opened the Institute at a ceremony attended by Li Ruiyou, Chinese Consul General of the Peopleís Republic of China in Scotland, and Xiaogang Tian, Minister Counsellor for Education, Chinese Embassy London, and members of the academic community and public. See also this BBC news story.


Scots heritage team to record Chinese tombs - in an interesting cultural initiative, a team from Historic Scotland and the Glasgow School of art is to digitally record the Eastern Ming Tombs in China - see this BBC story for more details.


Visit to Scotland by Hong Kong Chief Executive - Donald Tsang, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, met First Minister Alex Salmond and Finance Secretary John Swinney during a short visit to Edinburgh on 15 September. He also hosted an investment conference aimed at attracting business to Hong Kong - see this Scottish Government news release for more details. Environmental, sporting and cultural connections were all highlighted.


Controversy over Festival - the involvement of the Chinese government in some of the acts at the Edinburgh Festival has prompted some criticism. Jonathan Mills, the Festival's Director, is quoted in this Guardian article as saying that "I think it is important to take the long view...personally, I think it is much more important to engage with China than not". Later comment on the same theme included this item from The Independent.


More panda preparations - the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association has been formally invited to inspect the panda enclosure at Edinburgh Zoo in October, reports The Daily Mail, the BBC and The Scotsman. This should be the final stage before a date for their arrival is fixed. There is also more info here on some final changes to the panda enclosure requested by the Chinese authorities.


New business agreements - during a visit to Scotland by Liu Xioaming, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, the China-Britain Business Council has signed new agreements with Scottish Development International and the Scottish Council for Development and Industry to promote trade with China, reports the BBC. The Ambassador also provided an article to The Scotsman and met Alex Salmond.


Panda keepers visit from China - experts from the Wolong Panda Breeding Centre in Sichuan Province will be Edinburgh Zoo next week to inspect the new enclosure, reports the BBC and The Scotsman. A later article reported that an estate in Ayrshire has offered to supply bamboo for the animals.


Grangemouth investment deal concluded - INEOS, owners of the Grangemouth oil refinery, announced they had completed their transaction with PetroChina for the Chinese company to take a US$1.05bn stake in their operations. See also this Scottish Government news release and earlier reports below from 9-12 January and 2 February.


Wen Jiabao in the UK - Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is in England for a brief visit as part of a European tour - on 26 June, he visited Birmingham and Stratford-upon-Avon, and on 27 June he met the UK Prime Minister and other senior politicians for the annual UK-China Summit. For more details, see various FCO statements here and here.

There was also extensive media coverage, including the BBC here and here, The Birmingham Post, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, and China Daily here and here. It was also reported here that Mr Wen met former Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.


Aquaculture links - the University of Stirling has signed an agreement with Guangdong Ocean University which will see students from China coming to Scotland to study fish farming - for more details, see this article.


Agricultural links - during this week's Royal Highland Show, the Scottish Agricultural College has signed a co-operation agreement with agricultural universities in Jilin province, in China's north-east. In addition, the British Potato Council announced a drive to develop trade links with China.


Education and financial services delegation to Tianjin - six Scottish universities and Scottish Financial Enterprise are leading a delegation to Tianjin this week, reports the BBC, to seek educational and financial services business.


New Scottish Cabinet - following the recent Scottish Parliamentary election, it is notable that in the new Scottish Cabinet, the role of "external affairs" - foreign issues, in other words - has been enhanced. While previously this was covered as part of a junior ministerial portfolio, it is now part of a full Cabinet Secretary portfolio.

First Minister Alex Salmond noted that this is "reflecting the increased potential to boost Scotland's economic and cultural opportunities on a wider stage, given the extraordinary international interest in Scotland's progress". The new Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs is Fiona Hyslop, who previously covered the role as the junior minister.


Chinese visit to Falkirk - the Falkirk Herald reports a recent visit by a Chinese delegation from Yueqing city, part of Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, an area well known for its entrepreneurial flair and electrical industry. This is also interesting in that Grangemouth, where PetroChina is expected to make an investment in its owners INEOS, is within the Falkirk Council area.


Yet more panda preparations - there are two articles in today's Scotsman reporting on the recent visit by Edinburgh Zoo staff to China to meet the animals that are coming to the city - see here and here.


Enterprise minister visits China - Scottish Government Enterprise Minister Jim Mather is visiting Beijing and Shenzhen this week to promote Scottish trade. There is a particular focus on food and drink, as well as mention of further discussions on possible air links between Scotland China.

It's also worth nothing that this will be the last ministerial visit to China by the current Scottish Government administration, with elections for the Scottish Parliament due on 5 May.


Language weaknesses - the European and External Affairs Committee of the Scottish Parliament issued its report on its inquiry into 'The Scottish Government's International Engagement Strategy', which can be found here. Although not focused purely on China, it is relevant.

Notably, the Committee said they were "concerned about the poor linguistic performance of the Scottish population compared with much of Europe, including regions whose populations are bilingual (in two native languages), and recommends that language skills be promoted in order to encourage a culture of internationalisation in Scotland, and to equip young people to compete on a level playing field".


More panda preparations - The Scotsman reports that several Edinburgh Zoo staff are visiting China this week, to meet the two pandas that will be coming to the city. See also follow-up article, 22 March, above.


Chinese New Year in Glasgow - see today's Scotland on Sunday for a feature article on Chinese New Year preparations amongst the Chinese community in Glasgow.


Scottish Government Chinese New Year message - see here for a Chinese New Year message from Scottish Government minister Fiona Hyslop, which also provides a handy summary of recent developments in the relationship.


Grangemouth deal - more details have been announced of the deal between INEOS, owners of the Grangemouth oil refinery, and PetroChina, originally announced on 10 January (see below). INEOS have been offered $1bn (£626m) by PetroChina for a 50% share in its European refining business, including the Scottish plant and another in France. See this BBC story. The deal was concluded on 3 July, see above.


Panda preparations - several newspapers continue to discuss various aspects of the proposal to bring pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, including The Sunday Mail and the Edinburgh Evening News.


Scottish Government China Plan - the European and External Relations Committee of the Scottish Parliament took further evidence from Fiona Hyslop MSP, Minister for Culture and External Affairs, on progress on the 'China Plan' since early 2010 and the recent Chinese ministerial visit. The Plan is being reviewed by the Scottish Government at present. The 'Official Report' of this meeting is here. There is a short report from STV here.


Vice Premier Li Keqiang visits Edinburgh and London, signs energy deal, approves salmon exports, agrees pandas for Edinburgh Zoo - Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang - tipped to replace Wen Jiabao in 2012 - arrived in Edinburgh with a high-powered government and trade delegation on Sunday 9 January, to begin his four day State Visit to the UK - see this Scottish Government news release and this one, this Scottish Government video. Li Keqiang met Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, First Minister Alex Salmond and toured Pelamis Wave Power, before moving on to London on Monday 10 January. Extensive media coverage included China Daily, The Scotsman, and BBC News.

A renewable energy deal was also announced between W2E Engineering in Annan, Dumfriesshire and Shanghai Huannan Boiler and Vessel Co., to generate power from domestic rubbish at a plant in China.

In addition, INEOS, owners of the Grangemouth oil refinery, have announced a framework agreement to develop various joint ventures with Chinese oil giant PetroChina. Details of the arrangement remain to be worked out, but may include new investment at Grangemouth and other trading and refining operations - see also this Scottish Government news release, BBC News, Reuters and The Scotsman. See above for further reports on 2 February and 3 July 2011.

In addition, a announcement has been made on a deal to bring two pandas to Edinburgh Zoo - see this Scottish Government news release, BBC News and The Scotsman. Some later concerns about funding for the pandas were reported by The Express.

A further announcement was made on 12 January about Chinese approval for the export of Scottish salmon - see this Scottish Government news release, this Scottish Government video, and this BBC story.

A full list of agreements signed between the UK and China on 10 January can be found here.

This page was last updated on 15 September 2018.

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