China, Northern Ireland and the World
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 26th June, 2007
Chinese Liberal Democrats and Liberal International British Group co-hosted a sell-out dinner at the School of Oriental and African Studies this evening, at which the star speaker was Anna Lo, an Alliance member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the highest elected ethnic Chinese politician in the United Kingdom. Media-savvy and endearingly charismatic, she had had a busy day, touring parliament and various Chinese community organisations in London, shuttled about in Simon Hughes’s yellow taxi. She revealed that until the recent influx of Polish migrant workers, the Chinese were the largest single ethnic minority in Northern Ireland. They had seized the opportunities offered by the relatively low prices of properties and businesses there, as well as the lack of competition in the catering industry from McDonald’s and other multi-national fast food chains. Affiliated to neither side in the long-running sectarian conflict, the Chinese served everyone, so maybe it wasn’t all that surprising that Anna was able to count on support from across the whole population — which is what the Alliance Party (the LibDems’ sister party in Northern Ireland) is all about.
As the supporting speaker, I concentrated on China’s growing importance in the world, not just economically, but increasingly in geo-political terms too. With the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, we seemed to enter a unipolar world, with Washington and its ideology triumphant. But it has quickly become obvious that that is actually not the case, and that today’s reality is much more complex. New powers, including China and India, are asserting themselves, and rightly so. Of course, there are some serious problems in China, including issues relating to human rights and the environment, but I argued that the West has to work with Bejing through engagement and, in the case of the environment, a degree of co-financing. I am proud that the Liberal Democrats are the one party in this country that is truly wedded to the philosophy of multicultural, tolerant co-existence nationally. Now we have to work to ensure that old hierarchies by geography or ethnicity are swept away globally as well.