Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Liberal Democrats’

The Future of UK-China Trade

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 22nd October, 2017

JF addressing Chinese LibDems AGMLiam Fox and other Brexiteers in the UK’s current Conservative government are fond of saying that when we are “free” from the European Union, we will be able to enter into a great new dawn of trading partnerships with other big players around the world, not least China. Actually, it was David Cameron and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who really championed the idea of a bright future hand-in-hand with the People’s Republic, though they never imagined that would be something totally separate from EU-China trading relations. Theresa May, interestingly, has been a little more cautious in her embrace of President Xi Jinping, who has been expertly consolidating his authority at the Chinese People’s Congress this week. But despite the bluff reassurances of Liam Fox, David Davis and Boris Johnson, forging an advantageous new trading relationship with China is unlikely to be straightforward, for a number of reasons. First, until Britain formally leaves the EU — in principle on 29 March 2019 — it cannot make any bilateral arrangement with Beijing. Moreover, there are not sufficiently qualified negotiators in Whitehall to handle such a sensitive matter (as the EU has dealt with our trade negotiations for the past four decades) and little Britain, with 60 million inhabitants, is going to be at a distinct disadvantage in taking tough with the colossus of China, unlike the 500-million strong EU, which is still the largest trading bloc in the world. Bilateral trade is already skewed in China’s favour, and is likely to be more so in future, not less. Other factors make prospects mixed. China under Mr Xi is becoming more assertive in global affairs, having largely sat on the sidelines for many years, even within the UN Security Council. Many people in China believe the time has now come for China to reassert its pre-eminence in the world, as was the case prior to 1500 and the rise of European Empires. The four hundred years of European dominance, followed by a century of American hegemony, may in future be seen as a blip in comparison to China’s long supremacy. Then there is the issue of Donald Trump, who is repositioning the United States to be more isolationist (and certainly more self-centred), racheting up conflicts with countries such as Iran and North Korea in a way that risks souring US-China relations. Yet Theresa May aspires to be Mr Trump’s greatest ally, despite disagreeing with him over the Iran nuclear deal. This could prove awkward. In the meantime, the British government has downgraded human rights as a priority in its foreign policy, which is sweet music to Xi Jinping’s ears — though Britain must be careful to ensure that as a future relationship evolves it does not end up dancing to Beijing’s tune.

This is a summary of remarks I made as the guest speaker today in London’s Chinatown at the AGM of Chinese Liberal Democrats:  https://chineselibdems.org.uk/

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Commemorating the Chinese Labour Corps

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th September, 2016

chinese-labour-corps-1As Britons this year have been remembering the fallen of the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago, scant mention has been made of the largest group of foreign labourers who helped dig the trenches, unload ships and trains and make roads: the Chinese Labour Corps. About 96,000 predominantly rural workers from China volunteered to help the British in the war effort, enduring a grueling journey by ship from Shanghai, then six days in a sealed train across Canada before another ocean voyage, eventually reaching England and being transferred to France. Once in the war zone they worked ten hours a day, seven days a week, with only a three day annual holiday entitlement, and they were looked down on as “coolies” by many of the fighting men. But their loyalty and bravery were exemplary and many who survived stayed on until 1920, to carry out the distressing task of digging up human remains and reburying them under the neat rows of headstones in war cemeteries. across Flanders. Those cemeteries have become places of pilgrimage and remembrance, especially in this centenary year, and in Britain there are 40,000 memorials of one kind or another to the fallen of the First World War. Yet there is no memorial as yet to the Chinese Labour Corps, even though an estimated 20,000 perished. That includes over 500 who died when a German submarine sank the French ship Athos, bringing labourers to the battlegrounds, after which China declared war on Germany in August 1917. However, a project, spearheaded by Steve Lau, Chairman of the Ensuring We Remember Campaign, is now underway to ensure that the members of the Chinese Labour Corps get just recognition with a memorial to be erected somewhere in London. Last night I attended a fundraising dinner in Chinatown, along with Merlene Toh Emerson of Chinese Liberal Democrats and a number of other politicians, including DCLG Minister Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth and London Assembly member Shaun Bailey. Further details and an opportunity to donate can be found at http://www.EnsuringWeRemember.org.uk

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Danny Alexander Is a Rat

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 11th February, 2014

Danny AlexanderChinese RatHarriet Harman once notoriously referred to Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander as a “ginger rodent” — a remark she later regretted and withdrew, though Danny had the last laugh by sending out a Christmas card the following Michaelmas featuring a red squirrel. Alexander 3, Harman 0, as London’s Evening Standard likes to summarise these political spats. But this evening, at the Chinese Liberal Democrats’ annual Chinese New Year dinner in London’s Chinatown, at which he was guest speaker, Danny made himself a further hostage to fortune to the political sketchwriters by admitting that he discovered recently that in Chinese terms, he is a Rat (having been born in the year starting 15 February 1972). According to the Chinese zodiac, the strengths of Rats include being smart and wealthy and successful (all great Chinese virtues). Rats are also sanguine and very adaptable, and popular. I shall leave others to research the Rats’ weaknesses. This year, of course, is the Year of the Horse, which Liberal Democrats in London hope will lead to the Party galloping to victory in the local and European elections on 22 May. Certainly, Britain’s economic and financial position — for which Danny must share some of the Coalition’s responsibility — is in a far healthier state than when the new Government took over in 2010, and the steady rise of the income tax allowance to £10,000 is indeed something for all to celebrate. Moreover, as tonight’s dinner attendance showed, the LibDems’ reach into both the Chinese and Korean communities in the UK has been impressively extended.So which Labour MP will be the first to tease Danny the Rat? Not Harriet Harman, I’m sure. Once bitten, twice shy. Oh, and if you’re wondering, I’m a Tiger. Doesn’t it show?

Link: http://chineselibdems.org.uk

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The Sound of London Liberal Democrats

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 8th February, 2012

The Ministry of Sound is used to revving people up at its base in London’s Elephant and Castle, but this evening the throbbing crowd was somewhat different than usual in that it was made up of Liberal Democrat activists, in party mode. The event was the launch of the LibDems’ London2012 election campaign, compered by local MP and Deputy Leader, Simon Hughes. Party President Tim Farron gave an upbeat speech, underlining how seriously the Federal Party is taking the London elections this time, in contrast to previous occasions. Both the mayoral candidate, Brian Paddick, and the leader of the GLA team, Caroline Pidgeon, gave sterling performances, against the backdrop line-up of the impressive and diverse phalanx of GLA list and constituency candidates. The point was made — as it will be repeatedly to the electorate over the next 12 weeks — that last time the LibDems were just pipped at the post for the final seat on the proportional represnetation list by the BNP. This time, we will be fighting hard to get that fourth seat back, and who better to achieve that than Shas Sheehan, a Muslim woman who has already proved her worth as a former Richmond Councillor and parliamentary candidate for Wimbledon at the 2010 General Election. In 2000, we got five London Assembly members, which must be a target we can aim for this year. If successful that would also see Merlene Emerson, Chair of Chinese Liberal Democrats, catapulted into City Hall. When I took over as Chairman of London Liberal Democrats in January 2010, I was determined to up our game, to help make the organisation more professional and to build the sense of London-wide identity for local parties and activists. This evening’s event at the Ministry of Sound (courtesy of James Paulmbo) was yet another step upwards in that journey. And I am happy that in Brian Paddick we have a mayoral candidate who is an impressive figurehead, with particular expertise on policing matters, moreover one who is determined — as he said tonight — to lead a ‘radical and risky’ Liberal Democrat campaign — in the best sense of both those adjectives!

Link: http://libdems4london.org.uk  and www.brianpaddick.com    Video: http://youtu.be/ZSmgrczJNCU

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Chinese Liberal Democrat Dragons

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 2nd February, 2012

Chinese New Year, like Christmas, is an extendable feast, so there was still a vibrant celebratory spirit when Chinese Liberal Democrats (CLD) filled the whole of the large Tuli Chinese Restaurant by London Bridge station in Southwark this evening. There was a serious fundraising side to the affair, for the May London Mayoral and GLA elections, so the LibDems’ Mayoral candidate, Brian Paddick, was much in evidence, alongside a number of the party’s impressive and very multicultural GLA candidates, including Merlene Emerson, the Singapore-born Chair of CLD. She had put a huge amount of effort into organising the event and co-presented it along with the irrepressible Joseph Wu, formerly of Spectrum Radio but now working mainly (on a non-party political basis)  to encourage British Chinese to register to vote and to use their vote in all elections. It was pointed out that the LibDems have more ethnic Chinese councillors than any other party, and of course our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, has a Chinese member of Stormont too. Guest speakers at the 12-course banquet were Sir Graham Watson, President of the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) — who used to work for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank and still keeps a keen interest in EU-China affairs — and Lord (Tim) Clement-Jones, long-time party grandee, whose main claim to fame this evening he declared was having a Chinese mother-in-law. The food was remarkably authentic, unlike that in most Chinese restaurants in London, and we were entertained between courses by a very flirtatious dancing lion and an exhibition of Chinese martial arts. This New Year, as everyone should know by now, is the Year of the Dragon and it was underlined that in China dragons are far friendlier creatures than those of Western legends. So perhaps Merlene Emerson and her predecessor as Chair of CLD, Cllr Linda Chung of Hampstead (who was of course also present tonight), won’t mind my calling them the two Dragon Empresses of London Liberal Democrats, whose work promoting the values of liberal democracy within the Chinese community has been exemplary.

Link: http://chineselibdems.org.uk

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When China Rules the World

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 23rd May, 2011

Chinese Liberal Democrats and the Liberal International British Group (LIBG) scored a first this evening when they enticed former editor of ‘Marxism Today’, Martin Jacques, to address a packed meeting in the Board Room at the Liberal Democrats’ HQ in Cowley Street, Westminster, on the theme ‘When China Rules the World’. Martin’s book of the same name has been enjoying success in some unlikely places; a Latvian edition has been arranged, for example. But his theme is of truly global interest. His thesis is that China is growing economically even faster than had been thought previously. It has already leap-frogged Japan to become the second largest economy, behind the United States. And it will move into first place before too long. More contentious was Martin’s argument that the Chinese currency, the renminbi, will overtake the US dollar as the preferred currency of trade within a generation, initially in East/South East Asia. One has to remember that the RMB isn’t even convertible yet and few people believe that will happen before 2020. But what does seem certain is that by that symbolic date, China will effectively be the world’s Number One, as the USA continues its relative decline. I raised the issue of sustained unity: on several occasions in China’s long history, the Middle Kingdom has broken up. If that were to happen again, it would throw a spanner in the works. Nonetheless, all the indicators point to the 21st Century belonging to China — but with some of the other BRICs, notably Brazil and India, snapping at its heels and even Indonesia rising fast.

http://libg.co.uk http://chineselibdems.org.uk

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Chinese Liberal Democrats

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 8th December, 2010

Last night I attended the AGM of Chinese Liberal Democrats in Camden Town Hall, hosted by Hampstead Councillor Linda Chung. The group has been active in fund-raising, as well as organising excellent events at LibDem Conferences, but it is also increasingly addressing political issues of relevance to Britain’s Chinese community. That community is itself quite diverse, including not only people whose origins are from different regions of mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, as well as Overseas Chinese, but different professional and student categories too. Nikki Lee, from London Citizens, was the guest speaker at the AGM; I have been involved with her group in the ‘Strangers into Citizens’ campaign, urging the regularisation of many people working in the catering industry in particular. She especially highlighted issues relating to gambling — including consequent domestic violence — and concerns over the burgeoning numbers of betting shops, particularly in the London borough of Westminister, around Chinatown. I also suggested at the meeting that perhaps we ought to look into the effects of European legislation regarding alternative and complementary medicines, some of whose Chinese practitioners are undoubtedly worthwhile even if others might be bogus. At the meeting, Merlene Toh Emerson was re-elected as Chair.

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Getting Britain’s Chinese to Vote

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 21st February, 2010

London’s Chinatown spilled well over onto the north side of Shaftesbury Avenue in Soho today, as a Chinese New Year Festival drew crowds of many thousands of revellers. There was also a serious side to at least part of the proceedings, as the team I have been invoved with that has been encouraging the Chinese community in Britain to register and vote not only had a stall at the event, but also hosted a spot on the main entertainment stage. This was compered by Joseph Wu, Chinese Programme Manager of Spectrum Radio, and various Chinese political spokesmen appeared, including the (Conservative) Mayor of Redbridge, Thomas Chan, and the LibDem parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith, Merlene Emerson. I also spoke briefly (as a member of Chinese Liberal Democrats, former student of Chinese and parliamentary candidate for Poplar & Limehouse, where the first Chinese community in London was established). The Electoral Commission has itself just launched a campaign to get UK Chinese to register to vote. Further details at:

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/

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Long Live Instability!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 12th February, 2009

chinese-liberal-democrats     Rather like Christmas, Chinese New Year tends to go on for several weeks, but the Chinese Liberal Democrats’ (CLD) banquet to celebrate the Year of the Ox in the Top of the Town restaurant in London’s Chinatown this evening certainly crowned the festive period.  CLD, in partnership with Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats (EMLD), took the entire top floor of the venue and filled it. The food was superb and the proceedings were envigorated by a political debate, featuring speakers from Liberal Youth, in favour and against the motion that the Year of the Ox will see stability. I was pleased to see the motion heavily defeated, as I myself spoke from the floor arguing that the old Chinese curse ‘May you live in interesting times!’ should be turned on its head. Historically, China sought stability and harmony (that was the Communist regime’s excuse for crushing the Tiananmen democracy movement), but stability in Britain today would mean yet more years of hard New Labour, with all its illiberal policies and instincts. Instead, particularly in the run-up to June’s European elections, we need constructive instability in the UK: a challenge to the old Labour-Tory see-saw and a recognition and resurgence of liberal values, as enshrined in the LibDems.

Link: www.ethnicminority-libdems.org.uk

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Paddy, China and the Future of the World

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 16th September, 2008

       The West made a serious mistake in humiliating the Soviet Union following the collapse of Communism, rubbing Moscow’s nose in its failure rather as the Allies did to Germany after the First World War. That was the gist of some of the remarks by former Liberal Democrat leader Lord (Paddy) Ashdown at the Chinese Liberal Democrats’ second birthday banquet in Bournemouth last night. Deploying his Mandarin to wish ‘ten thousand years’ to the host organisation, Paddy said we must not make the same mistake regarding China. Russia’s intervention in Georgia and the associated resurgent Russian nationalism are understandable, if undesirable. Continually castigating China could also provoke a backlash. Indeed, we saw something of that with the plethora of anti-Western comments on the Chinese blogosphere in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

Paddy sees the need for a new approach to the realities of the 21st century multi-polar world. We got only a hint of what that should be last night, but he is busy writing a new book that will doubtless elucidate things, and he will be going an extensive book tour next June to promote it.

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