Richard has been MP for Gloucester since 2010. He is the current chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for China. He has worked and been involved with China since 1980, having lived and worked for Swires, the FCO and opened the Barings office in China during this time. He believes that the relationship between the UK and China have grown immeasurably in the last ten years from Government to Government to now business to business and ever growing people to people relations
What prompted your initial interest in China?
I studied China for History O’level (GCSE), and discovered it was a huge country with a long history, and relatively unknown in the West, when I left university to join Swires in Hong Kong in 1980.
What is your earliest & most vivid memory of China?
Going to Canton (Guangzhou) in 1980 and being the only ‘foreign devil’ and being the only person not wearing a Zhongshan suit. I quickly bought one.
When were you in China, and where?
Working for Swires in Hong Kong – 1980 and 1983-84
Working for the FCO in Hong Kong & Beijing – 1989-92
Working for Barings in Shanghai – 1993-1997
What do you find intriguing about Chinese culture & why?
Everything is reversed compared to the West:
Chopsticks not a knife & fork; read left to right, eat rice at the end not at the beginning. It challenges your assumptions which is good for the soul
Let’s hear your China voice. Where is China going? The best & the worst?
The Best: Setting up Care 4 Children charity and the British Chamber of Commerce.
Crossing the Taklamakan Desert – all apparently impossible. All completed successfully and happily
What in your experience is the most challenging aspect of doing business in China?
The rule of law is what the CCCP wishes it to be
If you could take one thing with you to a desert island that is special to your relationship with China, what would it be?
A four poster we found and restored and slept in while in Shanghai. Reading stories about East & West to 3 small children
How do you hope links between China and the UK will develop in the next 5 years?
The relationship between the UK and China is of far greater importance than it was only ten years ago. It's moved from being dominated by government to government relations to one where business to business to relationships are much stronger than they were - British exports have doubled - and people to people links are growing fast.
The next ten years will see more of the same, with greater co-operation in wider sectors including peace keeping, nuclear power, safe shipping lanes and the rule of law. There will also be inevitable moments of disagreement within a strategic partnership where we both have a lot to offer to each other. Those should be discussed frankly.
Do you speak mandarin?
Yes. Self studied in China 1989-1997 and am about Intermediate on a good day. Speak a little Cantonese.
What is your link with the Chopsticks Club (if any)?
Former member and speaker
What’s your favourite Chinese idiom or proverb, and why?
When you open the window some mosquitoes will come in too (Deng Xiaoping)
Are you familiar with the work of Chopsticks Club? Would you recommend Chopsticks Club and why? What value does it bring in your view?
Yes and yes: because networking with the right group can be a great source of informal advice