British Council launches digital toolkit to lure British students to China

It’s been a cracking week for “Brand Britain” on television screens worldwide. First Hazza and Meghan, then Gareth Bale.


The flying Welshman turned heads around the globe for his wondergoal in the Champions League Final, playing for his non-English club of Real Madrid. It’s rare that British players like him play overseas – but look at his record. He now has three or four European Cups to his name, I’ve lost count. He wouldn’t have been so successful staying in England (sorry, Spurs fans).

Of course, we can’t all play for Madrid, but we can choose to work abroad, and if you’re young and up for it, there are few better destinations than China at the moment. (Of course, if you’re a top-draw footballer, you can consider China too – the money is good.)

The British Council recognises this, starting a programme to encourage young Brits to engage with China: Generation UK. Since the campaign was launched in 2013 (the year I left China, ironically), more than 40,000 young people have come to China, to either study or undertake internship placements.

In 2017 alone, there were 10,000 students in China – up 70 percent on the number before the start of the campaign. Impressive. But the campaign is targeting a cumulative total of 80,000 by 2020, and to continue the momentum the British Council has lately been promoting the campaign in Westminster:

As part of this advocacy drive, a digital toolkit was launched to help UK MPs raise awareness about the benefits of engaging with China and encourage local unis, businesses and youth organisations to get involved in the campaign.

The toolkit includes an overarching campaign report with key facts, Twitter and Facebook copy, video case studies, Generation UK flyers and posters, and letter templates – i.e. goodies to help influencers from schools to parents sit up and take notice in the golden opportunities presented to Britain and young people.

Hopefully these messages will reach more people from outside the Home Counties. The British Council report shows that – predictably – most programme participants are from London and the Southeast.

In the unlikely event you’re an MP, or someone connected to an MP, you can download the digital kit from the British Council China landing page.

In the even more unlikely event you’re Gareth Bale and reading this, and considering your next move, you are still too young for China, so I would stay put at Madrid, or perhaps look at PSG (thank me later)…

Brand Britain biggest in China and India

Living in Hong Kong, I’m always up for a hike. Last weekend I scrambled over a long course of boulders in pounding heat, later emerging at a striking waterfall. I was the only person there. Then someone else inconveniently turned up. The two of us spoke (a bit awkward otherwise). Within minutes, the tattooed airport worker informed me that he was a huge Top Gear fan.

Top Gear, of course, is a massive overseas hit. But it’s not the only British export success. Anyone travelling to China will probably know that brands like Burberry are popular, while Man Utd is all over Southeast Asia like a red rash.

Then, of course, there are things like beer, whisky, gin, cheese and what not – the good stuff in life. Greene King IPA sales famously soared after the leaders of China and the UK were seen enjoying a pint at a country pub in 2015.

So it’s of no real surprise that a February report confirms that “Brand Britain” is popular in less established markets.

The report by Barclays Bank highlights export opportunities for UK businesses, saying that products flying the British flag were more likely to be purchased in emerging markets and that consumers in India, China and the UAE responded most positively to “Britishness”. Beyond these there are fast-growing economies in Africa and the “Far East” (“Far East?” Really?).

British goods are popular for reasons that include integrity, trust and reliability, while the UK is also perceived as innovative – something that was emphasised recently at the GREAT Festival of Innovation.

Among other recommendations, the report suggests displaying the British flag on products and thinking about marketing messages.

Teenagers offered opportunity to work at summer camp in China

Inner Mongolia, an Adventure China destination

When I was 19, I had a summer job working on the checkout at the local hypermarket. It wasn’t all beeps and bag-filling; I enjoyed chatting with customers (though it was awkward seeing my former maths teacher, and more so as I handed out change).

In 2018 – let’s just say many years later – teenagers have more options, from starting billion-dollar tech unicorns to landing summer jobs in China. Young people, eh?

The Guardian reports that Smaller Earth’s Adventure China programme is giving applicants over 18 the opportunity to work as a camp counsellor in China for eight weeks, either in Inner Mongolia or in a nature reserve outside Qingdao.  (Now, if I were a successful applicant, I know which one I would choose: I’d be heartily familiarising myself with Qingdao’s bars and wonderful beer every weekend.)

Oliver Norris, writing for the Adventure China blog, explains in his excellent post that while teaching English has traditionally been the way to live and work in China, football coaches are being recruited in their thousands and farming work is growing rapidly, the newest way is the summer camp.

Among other skills developed at the camp, counsellors will master the squat, which would presumably be ideal preparation for the episode to follow:  travel around China for up to 90 days afterwards. It sounds an unforgettable experience if you’re young and can speak Mandarin.

While my squat ability has been honed to perfection over the years, I feel I could use an invigorating summer camp experience myself. What’s there for the middle-aged intern?