Former First Minister condemns UK government attack on Confucius Institutes in Scotland

Alex Salmond, former First Minister of Scotland and currently the Leader of the Alba Party, has condemned the British government’s announced intention to close Confucius Institutes, describing it as, “the sort of Cold War mentality on display in Westminster which ends in hot wars.”

Salmond added his condemnation to that expressed by his party’s Westminster Leader Neale Hanvey MP. Hanvey noted that: “Westminster’s feud with China undermines and will deeply damage over a century of Sino-Scottish educational relations.”

The first known student from China to study in the UK enrolled to study medicine at Edinburgh University in the 1860s.

Alex Salmond strongly supported friendship and cooperation with China throughout his time as Scotland’s First Minister, 2007-2014. The March 2014 edition of Voice of Friendship, the magazine of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, reported on his November 2013 visit to Beijing, describing him as, “an old friend who visited China successively in the years from 2009-2011.” 

On that occasion, Salmond presented State Councillor Yang Jiechi with his government’s document, ‘Scotland’s Strategy for Stronger Engagement with China’. 

Reporting his visit to the Confucius Institute Headquarters, Voice of Friendship noted: “Since he took office, Mr. Salmond has attached great importance to carrying out cultural exchanges with China. Right now, Confucius Institutes have been set up in four universities and Confucius Classrooms in 13 primary and secondary schools in Scotland, with a total of 150 schools and institutions teaching Mandarin.”

Mr. Salmond and the Alba party are to be congratulated for sticking to their principled stand in favour of positive and constructive relations with China. We reprint their statement below.

ALBA Party Leader and Former First Minister Alex Salmond has added his condemnation to the UK Government’s attack on Confucius Institutes in Scotland. 

Commenting Alex Salmond said: 

“This is the sort of Cold War mentality on display by Westminster which ends in hot wars. The Scottish Government should defend these valuable cultural exchanges and oppose any attempts by the UK Government to close them down. We have nothing to fear from talking and exchanging culture. The real danger is from those who wish to divide the world into armed camps and who wish to shut Scotland out from the international community.”

Earlier ALBA Westminster Leader Neale Hanvey MP also reacted to Minister of State for Security Tom Tugendhat MPs announcement that Confucius Institutes in the UK are to close. He said: 

“Scotland’s educational links with China have long presented opportunities to increase trade and secure Chinese investment in industry and infrastructure. 

“The Confucius programme helps promote Scotland’s innovative and creative sector through cultural exchanges and sporting links with China and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. These links also promote Scotland as a destination of choice for Chinese tourists – something which pre pandemic delivered 172,000 visits to Scotland from China bringing £142M into the Scottish economy. 

“While the Confucius scheme invests £3M in Scotland to foster these bonds between our two countries, this modest investment has generated a fee income of £790 million for our world class Scottish Universities. 

“Westminster’s unilateral decision to block this programme takes no account of Scotland and China’s cultural links and will have a devastating impact on the entire Scottish Higher Education system. 

“Westminster’s feud with China undermines and will deeply damage over a century of Sino-Scottish educational relations”

Tribute to Avtar Singh Jouhl, 1937-2022

In our contribution to the Fifteenth Forum of the World Association for Political Economy (WAPE), hosted by China’s Shanghai International Studies University last December, Friends of Socialist China surveyed the history of support for the Chinese revolution in the working-class movements in the United States and Britain and noted:

“As in the United States, it was again the political representatives of oppressed peoples who came to play an outstanding role in supporting and defending the People’s Republic, be it on the part of the outstanding Trinidadian communist Claudia Jones or of such organisations as the Indian Workers’ Association, its equivalent bodies among Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Kashmiri workers, the Black Unity and Freedom Party, the Black Panther Movement and many others. Very often out of the sight and hearing of much of the predominantly white left, they collectively constituted the mass proletarian base for China friendship and solidarity in Britain, from the early 1960s onwards.”

The working-class movement lost one of the true giants of that movement with the death on October 7th of Avtar Singh Jouhl at the age of 84. Avtar came to Britain in 1958 and joined the Indian Workers’ Association (IWA GB) the same year. He came intending to study at the London School of Economics (LSE) but instead found himself working in a foundry in the West Midlands for many years. His son Jagwant was quoted by the BBC as observing: “Most people think the streets were paved with gold, but the reality was they were paved with soot from the foundries.” 

In 1965, Avtar invited Malcom X to Smethwick, near Birmingham, to see the type and extent of racism and the ‘colour bar’ then prevalent in the area, just weeks before the African-American revolutionary leader was assassinated.

Becoming National President of the IWA, Avtar played a very full role in the life of the community, the struggle against racism, the trade union movement, and the struggles of the working class in Britain, along with mobilising support for the revolutionary struggle in India, for anti-imperialist struggles throughout the world, and in support of the socialist countries.

Besides the IWA, Avtar played a leading role in the Association of Indian Communists in Britain (Marxist-Leninist) (AICML), which guided the work of the tens of thousands strong IWA, and was at various times a member of different parties in the British working-class movement. 

Avtar followed the Marxist-Leninist line of “uniting all those who can be united” and this was reflected in the hundreds of people who attended his funeral, which was widely reported by the BBC and others, as well as in the tributes paid by trade unions like Unite and in the press of a number of left-wing parties, including the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP).

Whilst sincere and affectionate, most of these tributes left out something that was central to Avtar’s politics. He was not simply a Marxist, but specifically an adherent of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. Under the guidance of Avtar and a number of his comrades, especially the late Jagmohan Joshi and Teja Singh Sahota, the IWA and the AIC were staunch supporters of the Chinese revolution and friends of China, maintaining close comradely connections with the country, particularly through the 1960s and 1970s. When the Britain-based editors of Friends of Socialist China initiated the Hands off China! campaign in response to the attacks on China in the run up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Avtar was one of the first people to offer his support, joining veteran communist Isabel Crook and Ghanaian diplomat Kojo Amoo Gottfried as a patron of the campaign. Avtar also gave strong support to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba and other socialist countries.

A year ago, Avtar’s son Jagwant recorded a long series of interviews in which his father recalled his life of struggle. We reproduce below two interviews devoted to China as well as a tribute carried in the Morning Star, written by Avtar’s friend Paul Mackney, the former General Secretary of NATFHE/UCU, the trade union for teachers in further and higher education.

We will remember Avtar as a great comrade and as a kind and sincere friend and extend our condolences to his family and all his many comrades and friends.

Avtar Singh Jouhl 1937 – 2022

Paul Mackney, former general secretary of NATFHE/UCU, remembers a beloved comrade, lifelong socialist and union man who once brought Malcolm X to the West Midlands during the fight against racial segregation.

ON Tuesday morning, October 10, a large and loud gathering of UCU strike pickets, outside South and City College Birmingham, stopped their singing, chanting, blowing of whistles and vuvuzela playing to observe a minute’s silence.

Continue reading Tribute to Avtar Singh Jouhl, 1937-2022

The left should resist the propaganda war against Beijing

The following Morning Star editorial highlights how absurd it is for ordinary people in Britain to blindly accept the dominant anti-China narrative, pointing to the impressive progress China has made in improving people’s lives at a time when Britain has been suffering under a brutal austerity and neoliberal free-market fundamentalism.

For example, while wages have consistently fallen in real terms over the last decade in Britain, in China they have been increasing at a rate of 10 percent per year. Meanwhile, while “China is developing mass rapid transit systems and leading the world in green technology,” Britain is “actively degrading its transport network and subsidising fossil fuel profits.”

The purpose of this relentless propaganda against China is to build public support for the New Cold War. The article concludes: “It is time socialists adopted greater scepticism towards our rulers’ claims about China. They are aimed at enrolling us in the defence of US and British imperialism — and undermining our systemic challenge to capitalism at home.”

Rising prices, falling living standards, a government in turmoil although united around its anti-union, anti-democratic and anti-environment agenda — but at least we don’t live in China.

That’s been the message of an amplifying propaganda discourse against Beijing in the run-up to its 20th Communist Party congress, which opened today.

Read Martin Wolf or Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times, and China’s economic policies are disastrous, even if they have delivered (as Rachman notes) “thousands of miles of new motorways and high-speed rail over the past 20 years” and made “Western executives sigh in envy at China’s ability to plan for the long term.”

British workers, who have endured more than a decade of falling pay, might envy China’s record (average wages have risen at over 10 per cent a year since 2010, leading the median wage to rise from 37,147 yuan in 2010 to 97,379 in 2020, a 162 per cent increase).

Of course, it is from a poorer base. But China’s GDP grew by 120 per cent between 2010 and 2020. So wages have outpaced GDP growth in China, while in Britain wages flatlined even while the economy was growing.

Continue reading The left should resist the propaganda war against Beijing

Video: Why has China suddenly become a ‘threat’ to the UK?

In the video embedded below, FoSC co-editor Keith Bennett discusses with George Galloway the recent decision by the British state to designate China as a security threat. Keith points out that this reflects a foreign policy trajectory in Britain of providing unquestioning support to the US; essentially outsourcing its foreign policy to Washington, which, starting with Obama’s Pivot to Asia and then escalating through the Trump and Biden administrations, seems intent on waging a New Cold War to contain China and suppress its rise.

George and Keith both observe that, just a few years ago, Britain and China were enjoying a ‘golden era’ of relations. Britain under the Cameron-Osborne administration was strongly encouraging trade with, and investment from, China. Indeed, Keith points out that British Steel would have gone out of business had it not been acquired by a Chinese company. At that time, the British government was operating on the (correct) basis that good relations with China were positive for the British economy. The idea that China has suddenly become more aggressive or changed its basic policy orientation is absurd: China isn’t sailing gunboats through the Solent; rather Britain is sailing its warships through the Taiwan Strait and forming a nuclear alliance with Australia and the US. British policy-makers have clearly decided, counter to the interests of the British economy, to join in with the US-led hybrid warfare against China. Nothing good will come of this strategy for the British people.

China’s rapid, peaceful rise not a threat to any country

In the following article, China Daily’s EU bureau chief Chen Weihua responds to news reports that British Prime Minister Liz Truss is planning to declare China a “strategic threat” to the United Kingdom. Noting the total lack of evidence in support of such a label, Chen mourns the fact that China-bashing, which “has long been a favorite sport in Washington”, has developed unprecedented popularity in London’s corridors of power.

Chen observes that, behind the West’s rising hostility towards China, there is a certain outrage that China’s rise disrupts the natural order of things, in which the West imposes its hegemony on the rest of the world. Chen writes that China’s rapid rise is seen as threatening because “its ascent has been achieved peacefully, without waging wars, bombing or occupying a foreign country, seizing or colonizing any foreign territory, staging coups or assassinating any foreign leaders.” Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the rise of North America and Western Europe.

The author concludes by calling for a return to sanity; for dialogue, cooperation, exchanges, trade, and an end to the hysterical fearmongering that the British side has adopted in recent years.

This article originally appeared in China Daily.

It was shocking to read British news media reports on Tuesday that the United Kingdom government under Prime Minister Liz Truss is likely to declare China a “threat” to the UK in its new review of the country’s strategic enemies.

The reports quoted Jeremy Fleming, head of the Government Communications Headquarters, or the UK’s intelligence agency, as saying that China’s “great strength combined with fear is driving them into actions that could represent a huge threat to us all”.Fleming even warned parents to think before they allow their kids to use the TikTok app.

Delivering a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, Fleming said China’s approach to technology dominance puts them against “the whole open, democratic order and the international rules-based system”.

But such allegations are nothing but speculation, lies and fearmongering.

It’s the British government which disregarded its own experts’ recommendation two years ago that Huawei 5G does not pose a national security threat to the UK and chose to kowtow to US pressure to ban Huawei 5G from its 5G network.

Fleming called China’s rise as a “security issue that will define our future”. But does he really believe that countries such as China should be condemned to making shoes and shirts for the West, and never be allowed to catch up or lead the world in technologies?

Continue reading China’s rapid, peaceful rise not a threat to any country

Truss and China: opening a new war front?

This important article by Jenny Clegg, academic and campaigner with CND and Stop the War Coalition (and member of the Friends of Socialist China advisory group), analyses the foreign policy of the current British government, led by Prime Minister Liz Truss. Jenny notes that Truss is known for her “extreme hawkishness and a highly ideological world view” and has adopted an aggressively anti-China stance, viewing China as a threat to the so-called rules-based international order.

However, Truss and her team are also facing an extremely difficult and complex economic situation, and “questions will surely be raised from the business community as to the wisdom of jeopardising economic ties with the world’s second largest economy.” Jenny writes that at least 150,000 British jobs are connected to economic links with China, and hence it would be prudent for the government to reconsider its alignment with the US-led New Cold War. Certainly ordinary people in Britain have nothing to gain from this adventurism. Jenny concludes that the people of Britain should exert pressure on their government to adopt a sane policy in relation to China: “No way should we allow these extreme reactionaries to march us into a US-led war with China, a war bringing two nuclear-armed states into face-to-face combat.”

This article first appeared in the Morning Star.

Liz Truss, in her first international speech as prime minister at the UN, called on the G7 and “like-minded countries” to join together to limit the influence of “authoritarian aggressors.” Meeting with President Joe Biden later, she clarified her plans “to ensure Britain is fully equipped to tackle the evolving challenge from countries like China and Russia.”

Truss talks of “refreshing” the Integrated Review, which outlines British priorities in diplomacy and defence over the coming decade, to elevate the designation of China in particular from “systemic competitor” to an “acute threat” on a par with Russia.

It is clear she brings to her new role as head of government an extreme hawkishness and a highly ideological world view.

She believes in a “strong and outward-reaching Global Britain,” proposing to boost defence spending from 2 to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030 to back this. She has vowed “to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine” and has called for Nato to “go global” to tackle “worldwide threats.”

In her previous posts as international trade secretary and then foreign secretary, she advanced Britain’s Indo-Pacific tilt promoting military and military-industrial links with the region, and indeed it was she who signed the Aukus pact to supply Australia with the technology to build nuclear submarines aimed at containing China.

Truss views China as a threat to the “rules-based international order,” and calls for the G7 to form an “economic Nato” so as to play an even a greater role in rule-making.

Continue reading Truss and China: opening a new war front?