“Governments can have policies,” says British Ambassador to China, Dame Caroline Wilson, “but it is ultimately people who deliver and implement those policies.” Speaking at a recent online forum for young adults who have spent time in China on the Generation UK programme, the Ambassador continued that it is vital, therefore, to have a range of people with different skills who are “informed about China and are therefore more equipped to enable the people-to-people dialogue, interaction and trust that are key to developing a positive bi-lateral relationship. Such people,” Dame Caroline continued, “are a strategic resource for Global Britain.”
Engage with China (EwC) is an educational charity building China literacy in primary and secondary schools. Enriching the curriculum through fresh knowledge about China, pupils make connections across a wide range of curriculum subjects and engage with the country that is likely to have a larger impact on their future than any other.
Pupils are encouraged to look at different values and systems, to interrogate and challenge perceptions and think about their identity in a changing world. Whether one likes China or not, our belief is that we need to engage with what China is like, how come it is like it is and what that means for the world. Through our ‘China Challenge Days’ we open young eyes to what is happening there; we feel that China has to be an important part of a wider education about what the world is like and how it has changed since globalisation, how we are inter-connected in so many ways through trade, history, logistics, tech, AI, social media, not least through the very planet we inhabit.H-J Colston-Inge, Director, Engage with China
The bi-lateral relationship may be wounded at the moment “but demonising China does not lead to solutions,” Dame Caroline added. “The world is full of opportunities, no more so than in China.” This sort of news headline is seldom on the front pages of the media and yet it is those positive stories that could well inspire creativity in the young generation today that in turn could boost the economy and develop trade and entrepreneurship in the future.
One visionary headteacher from the outstanding Trinity St Peter’s school in Liverpool, Deborah Pringle, was excited about what EwC could offer her pupils and enabled them to take part in an early pilot project. She applauded “the way [EwC] showcases some of China’s entrepreneurs and those human stories of rags to riches.” She continued, “Our school community lives in an area of financial as well as aspirational poverty. When you talked about Zhou Qunfei, subsistence farmer-turned-billionaire, supplying glass to multinational smartphone companies like Apple and Samsung … those are the kinds of messages young people need to hear…That they can leverage their experiences; that their life narrative can change and that opportunity is all around us.”
Theresa Booth, Director of Engage with China, says, “We have created a pioneering pathway in schools to develop a generational resource for Global Britain, teaching pupils about China – and we are proud of that achievement. There are certain cultural reference points that youngsters need to know – and if they do not know much about China then this significantly impacts on their cultural literacy and understanding of the world today.” She continued, “We are excited to be back in the classroom from September working with young people again face to face. Importantly, it is good that more and more schools are expressing an interest to work with us…”