Wed, Apr 10, 2013 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan, China wooing Scotland

By Colin Alexander

Maxwell, a practicing medical doctor, was the first Presbyterian missionary to come to Taiwan in 1864. In 1865, he founded the Tainan Sin-Lau Hospital, the first Western-style hospital in Taiwan, and on June 16 of the same year, established the first Presbyterian church in the country.

Barclay, who arrived in 1875, oversaw the first translation of the Bible into Taiwanese and also introduced the first printing press to Taiwan.

While these individuals may be known to some sections of Taiwanese society, they are virtual unknowns in Scotland, and this has provided Taiwanese with an opportunity to demonstrate to Scottish MPs the considerable heritage that the two nations share in the hope that a bond can be solidified.

The Taipei Representative Office in Edinburgh has also been keen to engage with politicians in Scotland. One of the most demonstrable ways it has done this is through the design and registration of a Taiwan Scottish tartan in 2011. This was primarily to commemorate 100 years since the formation of the Republic of China (ROC) and to raise awareness of ROC history.

The tartan itself incorporates the Maxwell and Mackay family tartans — George Leslie Mackay (1844-1901), a Canadian of Scottish descent who was a Presbyterian missionary to Taiwan — but also has distinct blue and red elements emphasizing the Scottish Saltire and ROC flag.

Since 2011, the Taipei Representative Office in Edinburgh has been very generous in its provision of Taiwan Scottish tartan scarfs to politicians and public officials. As such, when being photographed by the media with a member of the representative office or another visiting Taiwanese official, it is normal to see the Scot in question wearing the Scottish Taiwan tartan scarf. The tartan scarf has therefore become a gesture of goodwill from Taiwanese toward Scotland’s politicians, in the hope that Taiwan’s interests will receive fair representation as Scotland nears its referendum next year.

However, the Scottish government has also increased its relations with China in recent years. This has come in the form of economic integration, gestures of goodwill and most recently Beijing’s endorsement of the governing Scottish National Party and its pro-independence agenda. In terms of economic integration, the Scottish government’s policy seeks to maintain Scotland’s traditional export markets in Europe and North America, as well as target high-growth markets, particularly China. Indeed, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) visited Scotland in a trade capacity when he was vice premier in 2011 and the two governments confirmed major agreements on investments in carbon fuels and renewable energy.

What is more, the arrival of a male and female panda at Edinburgh Zoo in December 2011, on loan from Sichuan Province, is an example of Chinese public diplomacy toward Scotland and is a testament to the prestige with which Beijing views its relations with Scotland as the country nears possible independence.

Finally, in an article on Feb. 19 in the Beijing-based Global Times, China confirmed that it was endorsing nationalist groups in Scotland and Northern Ireland primarily to combat some of the British government’s China policies. Interestingly, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond failed to meet the Dalai Lama on his tour of the UK in June last year.

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