Nottingham’s Chinese community has raised over £10,000 to source and deliver nearly 100,000 masks to support core workers and vulnerable people in the city during the coronavirus pandemic.

When Covid-19 started to impact on the UK population in March, three Chinese nationals in Nottingham launched a fundraising campaign. Under their mission statement ‘Nottingham Chinese standing with the NHS to fight Covid-19,’ the trio of Jason Yu, Min Rose and Lai Xi recruited voluntary support from other Chinese colleagues working for Nottingham City Council, the University of Nottingham and Midlands Engine.

With 206 donations from local Chinese entrepreneurs, members of staff, students and alumni, the team raised an impressive £10,597 within just two weeks. Support came from Chinese entrepreneurs in Nottingham such as Zhejiang Shanghong Shelf Ltd, alumni of University of Nottingham from across the university’s campuses both in the UK and in Ningbo, China, companies in China’s Zhejiang Province and those many Chinese students who have stayed put in Nottingham throughout the lockdown – as well as the wider Chinese community not resident in the city.

Then came the daunting task of sourcing masks in the face of a global shortage of PPE, involving weeks and weeks of backroom work sifting through hundreds of suppliers, making checks for due diligence and quality assurance, entering into price negotiations and daily communication with freight companies to secure shipping places during a time when all Chinese airports have hugely reduced flight capacity.

So it was an epic moment when the last delivery of masks from China landed at East Midlands Airport – the culmination of a huge effort by the local Chinese community and a clear sign of their solidarity with the city in which they have made their home and which has the reputation as the most China friendly city in Britain. City Council staff already on the frontline delivering medical and social care supplies to the city stepped in to coordinate the distribution of the masks to key workers in the local community.

The Ningbo Government, Shanghong Shelf and alumni of University of Nottingham donated over 45,000 masks to Nottingham, with that number again coming from other sources. In a letter to thank them, Interim Chief Executive of Nottingham City Council Katherine Kerswell, said: ‘Nottingham City is proud to have international links with China and these have never been stronger than now when we are working to overcome this great challenge… we are truly blessed to have built up such a strong friendship and links with China, which I know will remain long after the Covid 19 pandemic.’

Portfolio Holder for Communities, Cllr Rebecca Langton, said: “This campaign shows that the Chinese community in Nottingham, through employment, study or business investment, are not just contributors to the economy but demonstrate a great sense of citizenship, community spirit and integration into local communities. This is something that the city should be truly proud of, especially at testing times like this. If there is something positive to come out of this unprecedented difficult we all face, it is that the city can celebrate its community roots and sense of solidarity.”

The City of Nottingham is renowned for its inclusiveness with diverse population, cultures and international outlook. With two world-leading universities, the city not only attracts tens of thousands of Chinese students, but also business investors, tourists and business visitors.

A study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan International Pathways last year found that a single annual cohort of international graduates will contribute £3.2 billion to the UK economy. Among the international students community, China dominates with 120,000 studying in the UK – that is more than all EU students combined.

Ties between Nottingham and China have been growing strongly, building on University of Nottingham’s well established campus in the City of Ningbo and the Province of Zhejiang:

• In 2016, Nottinghamshire establish the friendship regional partnership with Zhejiang Province
• In 2017, Zhejiang CCPIT lead 100 businesses to visit Nottinghamshire and one Zhejiang business set up their UK office.
• In 2018, Hangzhou Government set up Hangzhou-Nottingham Cultural & Creative Industry Exchange Centre
• Midlands Engine China engagement strategy (covering both Trade and Investment). With the close partnership between Nottinghamshire and Zhejiang, over 60 business attended the Hangzhou and Ningbo Creative and Culture Industry Expos since 2017. The events provide important display platform for excellent cultural products promotion from UK businesses.

The growing educational links, cultural exchanges, economic collaborations and friendly engagement across the communities is set to sow seeds for more fruitful collaborations.