Today the financial services industry puts us well and truly on the international map, but our name is also widely recognised on account of our famous cattle, the Royal potato, our long-gone knitting industry – the origin of the word jersey – and even Detective sergeant Jim Bergerac.
However, old episodes of Jim’s 1980s series are anything but our real claim to worldwide fame. Efforts made over some years by the finance industry, Jersey Finance Ltd and politicians to raise the Island’s profile and to promote its principal business in places such as the Gulf have paid off and can be expected to continue paying dividends for many years to come.
China, the country with the world’s fastest growing economy, is the latest focus of attention, so it is fitting that we should just have been afforded the honour of a visit by the Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Madam Fu Ying.
Any ambassadorial visit is, of course, an important event, but Madam Fu Ying’s was of particular significance. She was, to begin with, accompanied by a high-power delegation with particular interest in trade. In addition, her presence here followed hard on the heels of two major initiatives involving China – the opening of a Jersey Finance office in Hong Kong and co-operation with the Hong Kong stock exchange to allow the listing of Jersey companies.
Madam Fu Ying will without doubt have been greeted and treated with all the respect and ceremony due to a representative of the People’s Republic, and it will have been clear to all those concerned that they were engaged in an exercise in diplomacy. Nevertheless, the visit also had an economic leitmotiv and can be expected to oil the wheels of commerce to the mutual benefit of businesses and individuals here and in China.
If a majority of Islanders would have to confess that they know little in depth about China or the ways of life of its people, there would be even more puzzlement about Jersey and what it stands for in Shanghai or Beijing.
If, as we should hope, new avenues of trade, especially in the realm of financial services, are to be opened up with Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, a degree of mutual understanding will be necessary. Madam Fu Ying’s official visit has paved the way for this to be achieved.