Chinese Liberal Democrats’ AGM
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 16th November, 2015
When I studied Chinese at Oxford 40-odd years ago I was considered mad by most of my contemporaries, but this year there will be an estimated 7,000 British students in China and the Chancellor, George Osborne, wants that to rise to 80,000 over the next few years. That will still be far fewer than the 135,000 Chinese currently studying in the UK, of course, despite the difficulties some experience in getting visas. But it all goes to show how increasingly important the Anglo-Chinese relationship is these days — a far cry from the mutual misunderstandings of Lord Macartney’s mission to Beijing in 1793. President Xi Jinping was in Britain recently sealing a number of bilateral economic deals. But the cultural side to the relationship between the former Opium War enemies is just as important, and Chinese Liberal Democrats were privileged at their AGM in a restaurant in London’s Chinatown yesterday to hear from the British Council’s China advisor and education specialist, Dewi Knight, about the Council’s operations in China and future prospects. Dewi is no stranger to the Liberal Democrats, having been very active in the Welsh Party. This summer he also wrote a warm tribute to Charles Kennedy that was widely circulated. And although he is quite new to his China brief at the British Council he was bubbling with enthusiasm for the task ahead. Education will be the core concern, but he was adamant that the Council will promote what some might call British values as well, such as the rule of law and freedom of expression. Although the four British Council offices in China are more closely linked to the British Embassy and consulates than is the case in many countries, the Council does enjoy a degree of greater independence when it comes to such things. albeit expressing critical observations sotto voce. Chinese Liberal Democrats meanwhile will be doing their bit, both in promoting understanding of China in the UK and in helping recruit new LibDem members from Britain’s Chinese communities.