David Reid, Tesco Chairman, in a 48 Group Club Young Icebreaker lecture to Scottish young people on Monday 2nd March, backs the Prime Minister’s statement made in January 2009 where Premier Gordon Brown wrote, “If we are to make the most of our relationship with China, we need to understand China better, through our schools, universities, cultural institutions, our businesses and in Government. I am determined to do that”.

David Reid pointed up advantages in Scotland: “In opportunities for learning about China, young people have an advantage in Scotland. The Scottish China Education Network, led by Dr. Judith McClure, has shown what determined leadership can achieve by creating in Scotland a focus on the need to raise understanding of China and inspire the learning of Mandarin.”

But the Tesco Chairman, drawing on his extensive experience of China, warns that: “The challenge for the government will be to back its policy with resources. That could be tough in the current economic environment.” “Currently, only 10% of schools in the UK offer any opportunity to learn Mandarin. And UCAS - the University and Colleges Admissions Service - tell us that there are only 196 Chinese courses at UK universities in comparison with 1711 university courses for French language or French combined with other subjects; 1468 for Spanish; 1358 for German and 768 for Italian. This has to change. The unprecedented speed and scale of changes in China means the UK cannot afford a slow transformation as that will deny giving British young people the support they need to best prepare them for a future in which China will play a big role.”

Dr. Judith McClure, Convenor of SCEN (Scottish China Education Network) said ‘We are very fortunate in Scotland to have the support of the 48 Group Club, successors of the visionary “Icebreakers” who led the way in trading with the new China in the 1950s, in bringing together business and education to encourage students and young professionals to look to the importance of China in the 21st century and to support our schools, colleges and universities in giving China and its politics, society and language a proper place in the curriculum.’

Stephen Perry, Chairman of the 48 Group Club, said, “Tesco’s are one of the visionary companies for doing business in China. They have a real commercial need for our education system to make China main stream in Scotland. Tesco also know the whole UK needs to become sensitised to China. I hope all university students will be given the means to spend a year in China so our homes are filled with a sense of Asia. Tesco’s lead the way in the UK, let the UK lead the way in fast educating our young people about China”

Daniel Jacoel, Chairman of the 48 Group Club Young Icebreakers said, “China is the great unknown for most young British people. I hardly learned anything about China in my 14 years at school, yet China is the centre of every major story today. I am so glad David Reid is giving a lead in the business community with a much need ‘wake up’ call.”