The Generation UK: China Network, which is digitally hosted on LinkedIn, brings together UK nationals with experience of China to support ongoing engagement with China.
The new initiative is tied closely to the wider goal of the Generation UK – China campaign, which aims to boost the number of UK students carrying out internship programmes or studying in China to 80,000 by 2020.
Signalling the Chinese support for this commitment, the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, announced that the Chinese government would also offer the UK a “gift” to cement a “golden era” in China-UK relations, and it will fund 150 scholarships to enable short-term study of the Mandarin language.
“Let’s help increase the friendship between young people of our two countries”
The mis-match between Chinese outbound student numbers and British student numbers was noted by some of the Chinese speakers during the event, which had many alumni of the Generation UK China scheme in the audience.
But stronger student flows are anticipated as the UK and China pledge a strong commitment to build student exchange.
The British Council’s China Director, Carma Elliot OBE, told The PIE News, “We have stretching targets to 2020, a cumulative total of 80,000 young students.”
Targets were originally 15,000 over a shorter period, but Elliot explained that the British Council wanted to commit to grow greater engagement with China, to build on the programme’s success.
“Also on the Chinese side, there is a lot of support from the China Scholarships Council, individual provinces, and wider government to encourage more British students out there, in terms of their own internationalisation policies as well,” added Elliott. “So it’s the right time to be doing this and it’s gone down very well.”
Chinese Ambassador Liu announced the gift of government-funded scholarships, new to any existing offer, and commented, “Let’s help increase the friendship between young people of our two countries. If we want 1,000 years of prosperity then we need to grow relations.”
Busayo Esan was one scholarship recipient who attended the event and spoke on a panel to highlight how valuable the experience of living in China had been for him.
The University of Warwick graduate told The PIE News that gaining a scholarship had been a significant factor in making him decide to study there.
“Learning the language was a challenge but it was so much fun. Towards the end, I was using it in the market, easily asking for directions,” he shared.
Esan is now pursuing a master’s degree in international politics following his year-long experience in Xiamen. “I challenge anybody not to come back changed and more enlightened by the whole experience,” he said.
Generation UK – China was launched in June 2013 by the British Council with the aim of growing the number of UK students carrying out internship programmes or studying in China.