Day 2 China delegation
Day 2- An Oriental Conference- Swapping Brighton for Beijing.
The Second Day of the Young Fabians in China saw the beginning of our official conference with the Chinese Youth University of Political Studies, a premier institute in China specialising in a broad range of social science topics, with a specific focus on youth engagement and participation- finely complementing the broad aims and aspirations of the Young Fabians.
The initial theme of discussion- “Sino-British Relations” saw Dr Chai Baoyang, Dean of Public Administration, and yours truly, Rishi Patel, Young Fabians, speak on how best we can achieve mutual trust and co-operation, fostering enhanced economic, cultural and human exchange.
Dr Chai’s realist take on the relationship rested on the idea that there is neither such a thing as an eternal friendship, or eternal enmity; and that like every relationship respect and tolerance are key. He welcomed the UK’s efforts to invest and dialogue with China, but stressed that for the relationship to be successful, the UK would be wise to put aside hang-ups about sovereignty, human rights and how to “handle” a multi-ethnic society.
Given Dr Chai’s views, I was hesitant to engage too openly about my own uneasiness with regards to the Tibet and Hong Kong issues. It’s clear that these are a complex issues intertwined in this nation’s price and psyche, and so I focused, perhaps chicken-heartedly, on investment opportunities and cross-cultural exchange, before looking at prospects and challenges for the future. We talked Brexit- I’m increasingly beginning to hear that the Chinese do view Britain as a good soft landing point for the European Union, and leaving would create more challenges than opportunities for us. Dr Chai’s final remarks were pertinent- the relationship will only improve through people to people dialogue, and it was reassuring to see his enthusiasm about the Young Fabians’ visit, as a key example of just that.
Our international relations morning moved to economic reform, and an insightful session with Mr Li Minghzi, Director of the Chinese Communist Party’s Economic Office, and how to prevent China from falling into a “middle-income trap.” Mr Minghzi described the almost neo-liberal stance China is increasingly taking with regards to removing public sector control of assets and industries. We touched on our own experiences and aspirations for the UK, and talked about the contemporary will for a responsible capitalism benefitting all sections of society, as well as alleviating inequalities. I think the overarching aim for the Communist party is to create an economic balance- between consumption and production, state and markets.
The final session looked at a subject close to all our hearts- opportunities for young people in both China and the UK. Again we are perhaps depressingly, faced with the same common challenges and themes. A chronic skills misalignment between the jobs available, and what young people are encouraged and qualified to do. Stereotypes from birth based on gender and prestige, where certain jobs are reserved subconsciously for certain members of society, and certain jobs are prized whilst others sneered at, showed the hurdles both China and the UK still face, when attempting to create a more equal society.
A silver lining was perhaps to hear about the innovative policies China is rolling out, such as encouraging and funding paid work for graduates in underdeveloped Western China, for example work allowing young people to use their digital skills to empower marginalised and rural communities to connect with China’s boom, through technology.
What really stuck with me however was a discussion we had with a bright Chinese student contemplating further study in the UK. She perplexedly asked, why don’t British people want people like me to put my skills and training into practice, at work? Lamenting recent crackdowns to the post study working visas, we replied with equal frustration, at the policy’s short-sightedness. This case of a bright student wavering in her choice to choose the UK for higher education demonstrates the profound implications this Government’s immigration policy has for the UK’s future economic prosperity, especially as the role foreign students developing cross-border enterprise and exchange relationships gathers increasing importance.
By Rishi Patel, Young Fabians