Our man in Beijing

Last week, the European and External Relations Committee continued its inquiry into how the Scottish Government engages internationally. Members heard from Christos Sirros, Agent-General of the Government of Quebec in London, Dr Paul Fischer from the Bavarian State Chancellery , Ian Campbell from the Scottish Government EU office and John Somers, first secretary of the Scottish affairs office in Beijing,  who appeared by videolink.

John Somers’s opening statement on his role and the work of the Scottish affairs office in China was fascinating. He concluded by introducing us to a new term and to the word for Scotland:

We often hear or read about the term “guanxi” in descriptions of Chinese culture. It is a description of the importance in Chinese culture of building trust through face-to-face networking and through developing meaningful individual Government and commercial relationships. Having a full-time and long-term presence in China is essential to developing and maintaining that guanxi.

We are fortunate that Scotland—or Sugélán—has an identity that is recognised within China. People know about our whisky and our food, our Highlands, our traditions and our culture. Part of my role is to use those positive associations with Scotland and develop them further, into a more in-depth and considered recognition of Scotland as a country that is creative, innovative and open for business and where Chinese people and institutions can visit, invest, live, study or work.

If you consult the video of the meeting, you will hear both words at about 1 hour and 13 minutes into the recording.

We also learned that a “lianghui” is an annual meeting of the Chinese Parliament. It’s been very handy to have on the staff someone who grew up in Hong Kong.

Of course, with a German and a French Canadian present, there was a fair sprinkling of German and French vocabulary on offer too – the theme of languages in the Parliament continues.

Word of note

During the Rural Affairs and Climate Change Committee’s discussion of the review of agricultural holdings legislation, Martin Hall from the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association said:

I note that, although the default position is to go to the Land Court for waygo valuations, in practice it is very rare that that happens. In most cases, it is two arbiters and an oversman and that system works very well at present for waygo valuations.

According to the Chambers dictionary, in this sense the word is Scots and means “umpire”: the system provides for two people to arbitrate and a third who decides if they can’t agree.

Oversman has appeared once before in the Official Report, in 2001, when the late Helen Eadie secured a members’ business debate on the Donibristle pit disaster of 1901. She mentioned “Oversman Thomas Rattray”; in that context, the word has what Chambers describes as its now archaic meaning of “overseer”.

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