AS ONE of the few places in the world which still has economic growth, China is increasingly important as a foreign market – as the Scottish Government is well aware.
With a growing middle class, China is increasingly keen on luxury products, which is one reason imports of Scotch whisky are growing by a quarter, year on year.
China is also now the world’s sixth largest consumer of Scottish salmon. Its potential as an export market is unparalleled. Trade between China and Scotland has more than doubled in the past decade, according to the Chinese government.
Figures released by China’s consulate general in Edinburgh say the two countries did almost £1.5 billion worth of business in 2011, compared with less than £700 million in 2001.
Relations between China and the Scottish Government were strengthened by the negotiations to secure the loan of two pandas which arrived at Edinburgh Zoo this year.
After a recent visit by First Minister Alex Salmond, it was announced there were plans to twin a Scottish city, possibly Dundee, with a large industrial urban area in China.
There were also suggestions that Salmond’s reluctance to meet the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the exiled Tibetans, on his recent visit to Scotland was a result of pressure from China over trade links.
The organisers of the Tibetan leader’s tour said requests for an official meeting with the head of the Scottish Government were repeatedly issued but ignored.
China’s vast cash reserves mean it is one of the few countries currently able to invest. It has been buying up resources across the world, with Britain no exception.
Earlier this summer, China’s state-owned Bright Food grabbed a majority stake in Weetabix, and it plans to expand the firm into Asia, where western eating habits are catching on.
Last month Chinese state-controlled group CNOOC agreed a £9.7bn offer to buy Canada’s Nixen, the second biggest oil producer in the North Sea.
Together with a smaller separate deal elsewhere in the North Sea, the deals have ensured that China controls around 8 per cent of the UK’s total oil and gas production.
In July, China recorded a massive trade surplus of $25bn, not far short of its record one-month figure. With such vast resources of cash at its disposal – and with such scant funds available elsewhere – it is little wonder that the country is seen as crucial to driving commerce for the foreseeable future.