China Youth LinksOctober 2015
October saw the official State Visit of President Xi Jinping to the UK, and the media were full of reports and discussions about whether we should be rolling out the red carpet for China. No matter what our view on that particular issue, most of us would agree that maintaining and developing positive relations between the people of different countries, and giving them opportunities to understand and learn from one another, is vitally important. Momentum World is of course not in the government-to-government business, but people-to-people is absolutely what we are about.
So at the same time as the President was in town, we hosted a group of staff from the China Youth University of Political Studies (CYU) with a view to developing projects together which would create opportunities for youth workers and young people from both countries. Our link with CYU began when Trevor Keough met Prof. Chen Tao, Director of the Institute of New Rural Studies, at a seminar in Vienna three years ago. At the end of 2014, Trevor and Andrew visited China at CYU’s invitation. The recent visit to the UK was the next step, resulting in a number of concrete project proposals.
But how can we hope to set up a meaningful programme of collaboration with a country so huge and diverse as China? How can an independent organisation (NGO) like ours build relationships with a state institution like CYU, or make the slightest impact in terms of youth opportunities? The answer, as with so much of what we do, lies in partnership and coordination for a range of relationships, rather than trying to do everything by ourselves. In any case, in dealing with China there is room for any number of initiatives. So we are pleased that so many organisations have shown interest in this initiative, and took part in meetings with our Chinese guests. These included the British Council, De Montfort University, NCVYS, London Youth, the British Youth Council, the Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, and the Chopsticks Club.
As a result of the visit we are looking at three initial areas of cooperation: youth leadership, youth worker training, and rural youth entrepreneurship. We are also proposing the establishment of an annual China-UK youth forum, with the proviso that it must not be just another talking-shop but an opportunity to report, review and develop projects.
Designing these initiatives and securing appropriate funding will all take time. In China too, the wheels often move slowly, but the important thing is that they do move. What we have done so far is to establish the key principles of cooperation (mutual benefit being chief among them) and trust between professionals. Whether or not this is a “golden age”, we are doing our bit to make sure the youth sector is recognised in our countries’ future relations.