Final #YFChina delegation blog
The final day of the Young Fabians International Network delegation to China started off with a meeting with the All China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU). Zhang Guoxian, head of International Development, briefly summarized the roles and functions of the ACFTU that are aimed at creating a ‘harmonious’ workers- employers relationship. These included compensation and protection over health, travel and legal issues that are paid through the membership. Jessica Toale, Young Fabians Executive Member, then presented the history of the Trade Union movement in the UK before questions were exchanged. It was interesting to note the similar trends that both countries faced with membership sign ups. The rise of SMEs and self-employment has challenged the traditional purpose of trade unions and the demographics of membership indicate issues with reaching out to young people. Another noteworthy question asked by the ACFTU was around legal aid and the recent changes. Victoria Desmond, Co-Founder of Labour Campaign for Mental Health, provided her insights into the repercussions of Conservative policy changes to workers’ rights of representation.
Our second meeting of the day was with the Publicity Department of the Communist Youth League. The raison d’etre of the department is to reach out to the Chinese youth via social media platforms through campaigns and broadcasts. One such campaign was to get the Chinese flag trending on the Weibo platform, another patriotic campaign on Wechat had 89million take part in celebrating ‘martyrs and heroes’ of WWII. Regular broadcasts of state messages are also sent via social media such as warning young people about the dangers of smoking and food waste. It should be noted that they state having editorial independence mainly out of the party being too busy to micromanage all of their activities. The department staff members were interested in our thoughts in how they could best export a positive view of China to the world, although both sides also realised that this would be difficult as there is a divergence to the tone as well as the different use of social media platforms (with Facebook and Twitter blocked in China but predominately used in Western nations).
The final meeting of the delegation was with social entrepreneurs at the China Youth Daily (CYD). Xu Ge, the Editor of CYD, introduced the recent impetus on social entrepreneurship from Premier Li Keqiang to be seen as a path of ‘friendship and communication China and the UK’. Wei Heping, Secretary of CYD, raised the point that despite extensive research from 150 social entrepreneurs from 22 provinces , China can learn from the model of social companies in the UK. There was also an interest in Fabian ‘gradualism’ as a means to cultivate the desired culture and pioneering services.
The Young Fabians delegation was aptly timed before the arrival of President Xi Jinping’s visit to the UK this week as part of a Europe tour. As a follow up to his visit and the Young Fabian delegation, the Young Fabians will host an event on the 26th of October with Liam Byrne MP to discuss the subsequent steps for the UK-China relationship. To mark the end of an 18 month programme, delegates and contributors of the “ China-Ready: Equipping Britain for an Asian Future" pamphlet will provide their opinions alongside audience participation into what the two nations can learn from their relationship.
I would personally like to thank the Fabian Society, the Young Fabians, Jessica Toale for leading the delegation, Joel Mullan for initiating the programme, as well as fellow delegates, Fabian members and contributors to the Young Fabian China Programme.
By Junaed Khan