Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has arrived in the People’s Republic of China for a week-long mission to strengthen business, cultural and governmental links between the two nations.
The visit coincided with the arrival of the two Giant Pandas, Tian Tian (Sweetie) and Yang Guang (Sunshine), to Edinburgh Zoo.
Mr Salmond will lead a delegation, including Scottish Development International chief executive Anne MacColl, for a series of government, cultural and business engagements in Beijing before travelling to Shandong. The First Minister will then visit Shenzhen, one of the fastest growing cities in the world, before concluding his visit in Hong Kong.
Tomorrow the FM will travel to the Eastern Qing Tombs – the latest international site to be included in the ‘Scottish Ten’ digital scanning project, led by Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art.
A few hours later, almost 5,000 miles away, the two Giant Pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang will arrive from China to their new home at Edinburgh Zoo.
A Scottish Food & Drink strategy for Asia will also be launched during the FM’s visit, with events in Beijing and in Hong Kong, to further promote exports of Scottish quality produce. This will build on the progress of recent agreements with China on Scotch Whisky and Scottish Salmon to help deliver more quality produce to Chinese households and boost these industries in Scotland.
Traditional Scottish fayre, including smoked salmon, haggis and stovies, will be on the menu this evening at the Beijing Caledonian Society’s St Andrew’s Day Ball, where the First Minister will address some 300 guests before they enjoy ceilidh dancing and a performance by singers from Scottish Opera.
Mr Salmond said:
“I am delighted to be visiting the great nation of China again. As the world’s fastest growing major economy it is vital that government, business and cultural organisations enhance our already strong ties with China.
“We are vigorously promoting Scotland as an attractive place for investment, trade, research, tourism and cultural associations – and that will be my focus when meeting our hosts in China. I am pleased to be able to attend and address the St Andrew’s Day celebration in Beijing.
“More than 50 million people worldwide claim Scottish ancestry and our national day is celebrated with events in many countries – from Brazil and Canada to New Zealand and, of course, China.
“While I am five thousand miles from home, I welcome the opportunity to meet many Scots who are living and working in Beijing, as well as meeting many Chinese citizens who are friends of Scotland. I hope my visit to China, beginning with the St Andrew’s Day Ball, can increase awareness of what Scotland has to offer the Chinese people.
“Across the world Scotland is renowned for a warm welcome, a rich culture and heritage, and breathtaking scenery. In celebrating St Andrew’s Day, we highlight Scotland’s place as a nation of enterprise and creativity – a nation that engages confidently with the wider world – a country that is both proud of its past and looking forward to the future with great confidence.”
Ewan Smith, Chieftain of the Beijing Caledonian Society, which is hosting Saturday’s St Andrew’s Day Ball, said:
“We are very pleased that the First Minister will be joining us to celebrate St Andrew’s night in Beijing. We are far from home here in Beijing, but we are still very proud of where we come from and St Andrew’s Night is a great opportunity to share this with the local community. We hope we can also show our guests from Edinburgh why Scots have been drawn to Beijing for hundreds of years.”
This will be the First Minister’s third visit to China and follows January’s visit of China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang to Scotland.
The First Minister subsequently met the Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming in the summer to discuss deeper trade, investment and educational links between the two countries.
And in September, he welcomed Vice-Minister Liu Qi of China’s National Energy Administration and other senior Chinese energy industry leaders during their visit to learn more about Scotland’s offshore wind industry.