GBCC holds 2019 China Innovation and Leadership Exchange Programme

The Great Britain-China Centre held the second China Innovation and Leadership Exchange Programme in Oxford and London from 9 to 20 September 2019 for 18 emerging Chinese political and business leaders affiliated with the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF) and Communist Youth League. 


The ACYF is the national umbrella organisation for a range of political and industry-focused youth bodies in China that is led by the Communist Youth League, the youth wing of China’s Communist Party and key development platform for future political leaders.


The GBCC and the ACYF jointly established the UK-China Young Leaders Roundtable in 2010 to build understanding among emerging politicians from both countries, the most recent of which was held in Beijing and Jinan in July 2019.

Plans to hold the Innovation and Leadership Exchange Programme were initiated at minister-level at the 2017 Roundtable, which was the youth strand of that year’s UK-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue. The first programme was successfully held last year in September 2018.


2019 Emerging Leaders

The 2019 group of delegates came from a range of backgrounds: the Party-state bureaucracy, including central and provincial Youth League organisations, the National Party Congress, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and municipal government; state-owned and private sector companies, from the engineering, education and technology sectors, among others; and academia and think-tanks, including the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Science. The group were led at director-general level by Mr ZHU Linsen (朱林森), Secretary of the Zhejiang Provincial Youth League and member of the Zhejiang Provincial People’s Congress.


2019 Programme

The programme introduced the group of emerging leaders to UK’s history and political and economic institutions, engaging with a range of figures from government, political parties, business, academic, think tanks and third sector. They explored UK-China relations and broader Eurasian connectivity, and examined the similarities and youth development and nurturing of emerging leaders in the China and the UK. 


Week 1: Oxford

During the first week, based at the University of Oxford’s St John’s College, delegates were welcomed by GBCC’s chair, Sir Martin Davidson KCMG. He spoke on UK-China cooperation and the importance of soft power and people to people exchange. Delegates also participated in a roundtable on contemporary China and the UK at the University of Oxford China Centre. The roundtable was chaired by the Centre’s director, Professor Rana Mitter, a leading scholar of the history and politics of modern China.


Professor David Nash, Professor in history at Oxford Brookes University delivered an introduction of British history, highlighting change and dynamism, as well as the early presence in the British Isles of a range of cultures and backgrounds. Professor Nicholas Crafts of the University of Sussex, one of the world’s foremost economic historians, examined the UK’s economic development and shifts in economic policy over the past two centuries.


Dr Patrick Diamond, senior lecturer in public policy at Queen Mary’s University London, and chair of the think-tank Policy Network, delivered a briefing on the UK’s political system and its institutions. Dr Diamond, in addition to Dr Jérôme Doyon, departmental lecturer in contemporary China studies at Oxford, who has a research focus on Chinese bureaucracy, participated in a roundtable with delegates on public administration and civil services in China and the UK. During the discussion, some similarities between the systems were highlighted, including recruitment processes in terms of exams, interviews and assessments. Fundamental differences included attitudes towards political neutrality versus political loyalty, and the clear distinction between politicians and civil servants in the UK, which is not present in China.


In the following days, Roderick Wye, a member of GBCC's board, former head of research at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and currently of Chatham House, analysed China-EU-UK relations with the group. Professor Tim Williams, associate professor in Silk Roads archaeology at University College London, discussed Eurasian connectivity in historical perspective, highlighting the key role of Central Asia in the historic Silk Road. Dr Ingrida Kerusauskaite from the international development agency Palladium and an affiliated lecturer at the Centre of Development Studies at the University of Cambridge, briefed delegates on the UK’s international development assistance regime.

The week in Oxford concluded with a visit to the constituency of Victoria Prentice MP, Member of Parliament for Banbury and a member of GBCC’s board, to hear about the role of members of Parliament in their constituencies. The visit was hosted at the Bicester Town Council by Mayor Jason Slaymaker, Bicester’s youngest ever mayor at 27 years-old, who also outlined local government structures in the UK.


Week 2: London

At the beginning of the second week, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office hosted a briefing on UK-China relations, during which participants discussed areas of cooperation and areas of differences between the two countries. Delegates were also welcomed to London by Dr William Godwin QC, GBCC board member and barrister at 3 Hare Court Chambers. 

Following a tour of House of Commons and briefing on the functions of the two houses in the legislature and the role of the executive and judiciary, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Gwynne MP, hosted the group at Parliament for a roundtable discussing political pathways and careers in the UK and China.

During the roundtable, participants considered similarities and differences between the two systems. The delegates were fascinated by the wide range of professional backgrounds that MPs come from in the UK, and were intrigued by the notion that members of Parliament in the UK do not have a fixed career progression along bureaucratic lines; they are at risk of losing their seats - and job - in multiparty democratic elections.

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Benedict McAleenan, senior adviser at the think tank Policy Exchange, also gave a briefing on the range of different think tanks in the UK, their role in the policy-making process in the UK, and the importance of open debate on public policy in democracies.

The group attended a workshop on youth development in the UK and China held at GBCC’s offices. Representatives from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Office for Civil Society, responsibly for youth policy, briefed on the UK’s youth-focuses policy framework and programmes. Dr Sarah Mills, reader in human geography and youth citizenship at Loughborough University, discussed her research on Discussed the UK’s National Citizen Service, a voluntary personal and social development programme for 15 to 17 year olds. In turn, delegates outlined the Youth League’s programmes to send university students to less-developed rural areas in order to develop teamwork skills and resilience.


Focusing on trade and investment links, Alderman Sir Charles Bowman, the 690th Lord Mayor of London until November 2018, Alderman Alastair King, Institute of Directors City branch chair, and John McLean OBE, Institute of Directors City branch vice-chair hosted the delegates at Guildhall in the City of London by to discuss City-China links, including the recent Shanghai-London Stock Connect. Delegates were impressed by the City's long history and its modern competitiveness in cutting edge areas such as FinTech.  


Fang Wenjian, general manager of the Bank of China London branch and chairperson of the China Chamber of Commerce in the UK, hosted a tour of the bank’s trading floor and offices, outlining the bank’s history in the UK since 1929, as well as its current focus. To conclude the week in London, Torsten Weller, China policy analyst at the China-Britain Business Council delivered a detailed briefing on the opportunities and challenges that the Belt and Road Initiative poses for the UK. Delegates discussed their understanding of the Initiative, and how it is perceived outside of China.

Date posted: 02 October 2019

Categories: Political Dialogues, Training

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