LIZ CAMERON

There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. This is as true now is it was when the statement was written by Sun Tzu in the fifth century BC.

The Chinese military strategist and philosopher has long been studied both in China and the West. It is shared experiences like these, of tradition and culture, which will continue to ensure we build on our relationships with partners in China despite increasing tensions between Beijing and Washington.

The growing strength of Scotland’s relationship with China was highlighted at an event I attended on behalf of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce Network in Edinburgh last week. A group of 90 high-ranking Chinese delegates from across business, finance and government met with Scottish business leaders at the Sino-European Entrepreneurs Summit.

The event provided a reminder if we needed one of the sheer scale and breadth of the opportunity for those looking to grow trade in China.

Most will have heard of the Belt and Road Initiative. This is a trillion-dollar project to build massive amounts of infrastructure connecting China to countries around the globe including ports in Pakistan, bridges in Bangladesh and railways to Russia. The aim is to create what China calls a “modern Silk Road” trading route.

The project faces calls for increased transparency but its impact is undeniable – China is a waking giant on the global stage. Soon the Scottish Chambers of Commerce expects to repeat the success of our trade mission last year which took in Shenzhen and Shandong Province – which has a population of 100 million people – as well as the first Belt and Road Trade & Investment Forum in Beijing in 2018. This was where we signed the Memorandum of Understanding with our peers at the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC) to support the expansion of trade and investment opportunities and to overcome the problems that can sometimes happen in the course of pursing international trade and economic cooperation.

Whatever you may think you know about China, it is changing dramatically as it shifts from a manufacturing powerhouse to a more complex economy based on knowledge and skills. As an analyst at Scottish fund manager Bailie Gifford recently pointed out, China’s intellectual property office received a record 1.4 million patent applications in 2017, the highest number anywhere. This is just one aspect of how the nation of 1.4billion people is set to change the world.

Whatever the outcome of current trade tensions, in the longer term all nations must respond to the pace and scale of China’s changing economy. In Scotland, we believe that companies should see for themselves what opportunities there are.

This is increasingly important too as the UK gets deeper into a mire caused by Brexit uncertainty. Trade is not something that government does, but it is something that government facilitates. We face a summer of further delay in knowing where we stand in the world. The risk of a dangerous “no-deal” Brexit becomes higher as the next deadline of end of October hurtles towards us.

Yet even as we face gloomier economic forecasts, it is important to focus on our strengths. In Scotland, exporting is one of them.

The value of exports from Scotland soared 28% in the first quarter of the year, according to HMRC’s recent UK regional trade in goods statistics showed. This surpassed trade growth of England (9.7%), Wales (15%) and Northern Ireland (12%) which speaks of the value of our products like whisky and salmon.

We need to see more of this which is why the Scottish Chambers of Commerce is determined that our companies will succeed despite prolonged uncertainty caused by Brexit or US and China trade disputes.

Liz Cameron is chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce.