Sometimes, it’s the little things that make China’s HSR great. Like, say, the 261 km long Tianjin-Qinhuangdao HSR. At just 163 miles, this is hardly a major trunk line in one of the world’s largest countries, but it links the high speed lines between Beijing and northeastern China via Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, and the coast. This new line has allowed “full” HSR services to connect northeast China with Shanghai.
The new Zhengzhou-Xuzhou HSR isn’t massive, either, at “only” 362 km. Yet, for its mere 225 miles or so, this new line, good for speeds upwards of 350 km/h (217 mph), formed a crucial link — it was the first rail line good for such high speeds to connect between two of China’s most vital north-south HSR routes — the Beijing-Hong Kong and Beijing-Shanghai HSR routes. It also meant that my long-awaited connection from Xi’an (where I’ve ancestral roots) to Shanghai is finally reality. Most trains that run on this line “borrow” it to reach their final destination. ▶
Let me be honest with you all: I find an equal amount of grave, dismal, even abysmal faults in China, as I find it to be one of the best countries in the world. It’s natural: I was born here, and until I was 18, I used to be a Chinese citizen. I still live here — with all of my family.
I am hardly alone in this, as I’ve learnt. Most people — expats included! — have this conflicting love and hate of China and of Beijing. But I am not willing to be sold out to either extremes. I’m a poor Swiss citizen if we’re to be seen as “the best of” viewpoint neutrality. So what I do instead is to reinterpret neutrality as a “smorgasbord of views”.
I’ll continue to have a love-hate relationship with the city — and the Middle Kingdom as a whole — as it’s a real, living, breathing experience — and because we all care about this place. Dearly. ▶
The “foreign expert permit” I got this time classified me as a “university teacher of media communications”. This very classification was a hint that this was more likely to be affirmed tenure — rather than a temporary “language teacher permit”. The “foreign experts” office in Beijing were very helpful — they even got my postcode on the licence, in case things went missing.
I’ve deliberately chosen a lighter teaching schedule as I’m going to be doing loads of scholarly papers from now on (my lessons right now are “just” English and Communication Theory). These two years in London have linked me with a lot of influential academics and I’m also a lot “richer” in media-related knowledge. Those many hours at Harrow Library were a big boon — although I’ll likely miss the “speaking permitted” part of the library on the 1st floor…
By the way, I now teach classes with upwards of a hundred students. Whilst it’s great spending many hours in front of the mic teaching them the basics of academic English and media, something in me says that there’s more results when classes are smaller. So I guess there’s already a new challenge for me. Oh well… it’s not I’ve never be challenged before. Bring ’em on, kids! Let me not merely teach, but also inspire you all! ▶