I’ve been offered quite a few visits in the last six months but I turned them down because I didn’t think they would offer value to our communities in Hove and Portslade or give me a big enough learning experience to make me a better advocate for you.
But I’ve been asked to take part in an official delegation to China and having thought about it I couldn’t refuse this one for quite a few reasons.
The visit focuses on two things: learning and sharing leadership experience, and exploring the trading potential between the two countries following the recent visit by President Xi.
I’ve been frustrated by the focus on ‘big business’ in negotiations between our countries. This is important – as it is to our home due to EDF’s recent partnership with China about which I’ve been fully briefed ahead of my visit – but it shouldn’t be the whole story. What is the role for small businesses as China shifts from a closed market to a consumer society? I want to bang the drum for economies like ours, to talk about the importance of relaxing internet restrictions so that our businesses can sell to China as well as buy from them.
On a personal note too I’m aware just how important China is becoming to our country and planet yet I know so very little about it. This visit will give access to very senior figures in government and commerce in both Beijing and Shanghai and I have so much to learn as well and the things I want them to learn from my experiences and our ways of doing things in Hove.
The visit is organised in conjunction with the Foreign Office and is cross-party. I have received assurances that I am free to raise any issues without restriction including human rights and steel ‘dumping’ which has so damaged our domestic industry.
I leave tomorrow – Sunday – lunchtime and am back later in the week. I’m really excited to immerse myself into something so complex and important to our constituency and country even though I know it’s going to be a pretty exhausting visit.
So what do you think? I’m really keen to know what your perspective is on China and what you would ask senior Chinese officials and politicians if you were me. I will read all your comments before I leave tomorrow and ask as many of them as I can and report back. Just to underline what a different society it is, I won’t be able to use Facebook until I return because they ban it. How will I cope?!
Just to reassure you that both my constituency and parliamentary offices will be open and there for you as normal and I will be touching base with them both as much as possible.