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Selling Scotland in China - From Past to Present

Selling Scotland in China - From Past to Present

The launch of the “Scotland is Now” campaign last month in Beijing and Shanghai by the First Minister was a dynamic and inspiring backdrop to the country’s latest trade mission, and one which was well received.

Scotland is always viewed positively by those we work with in China and has very romantic connotations for them.  I delivered a presentation on investment and legal affairs between attending trade mission events in Shanghai and was introduced with flowery references to our “majestic highlands”, “hardcore haggis”, “mellifluous bagpipes” and the “mystical Loch Ness Monster” (all of which sounded very lyrical in Mandarin).

In a way, these descriptions are enchanting, and the Chinese are big fans of romanticism in promoting business (anyone who has seen the Chinese Ganten Water advert filmed in Edinburgh will know what I mean).  But there is a balance to be struck – while it is fantastic to be recognised for so many lovely things, there is also a need to be viewed as a serious investment destination with an incredible amount to offer.  This is what the new campaign seeks to do.

Indeed, while many conversations I have with new Chinese contacts and clients start off with humorous references to men in kilts or amused questions about whether I have seen Nessie myself, they very quickly turn to pointed questions about investment opportunities and innovative sectors.  The sentimentalism may spark their interest, but the Chinese are shrewd and driven by business and policy factors that quickly direct conversations in a more serious and practical direction.  If there was nothing more substantial behind the stories and the imagery, the conversation wouldn’t last long.

That’s why “Scotland is Now” went down so well with the investors and businesspeople present at the launch.  As we enjoyed Scottish food and drink and saw examples of cutting edge textiles and technology, the focus was on Scotland as a progressive, pioneering country replete with opportunities, internationally renowned universities, entrepreneurial spirit and much to offer the rest of the world.  Our history and landscapes were the backdrop to the vibrant and inclusive economy which is being promoted as the Scottish “brand”. 

And this is the brand that Scottish businesses consider themselves to be part of as they explore the Chinese market, build relationships with Chinese partners and invite Chinese investment.  This is the Scotland remembered by Chinese business people who have studied or worked in Scotland and want to continue that connection in their business interests back in China.

I’m sure I will continue to begin conversations with the Chinese by knocking around views on men wearing “skirts” or answering questions about whether tossing the caber is something people do in real life.  But the reaction to “Scotland is Now” unveiled by the First Minister in China highlights the respect and enthusiasm which the modern, dynamic and creative side of Scotland is accorded.  This is the side which keeps the conversations with the Chinese going, and transforms those conversations into positive collaboration and action.

by Catriona Llanwarne
Head of China desk

Burness admin