David’s research interests are centred on the external communication of China with railways as a core and central topic. He has also conducted research in social media in China, a general overview of media in China as well as making sense of the messages coming from Beijing.


Current status: Main active research topic

Some questions David is interested in answering…
How big are the railways to China and the neighbouring countries?
How did railways begin in China and how was it communicated, internally and externally?
Are the railways part of “China’s best” on the world stage?
What are the advantages, topics, and issues of the railways as seen internationally?
To how much is HSR seen as a benefit (or bane) for China’s Belt and Road ambitions?
How has the domestic communications of the railways evolved since 2012?

With many rail-related keynotes, including at TEDx, rail business forums, and many, many other events, David Feng is the ultimate independent international authority on trains, especially of the railways in China. What started out as interest and enthusiasm soon became media projects and now, a full-fledged, sustainably-funded research project maintaining a high level of neutrality, independence, and quality.

Encouraged and acknowledged by official bodies (but independently researched and executed), the rail research combines both theoretical, quantitative, and empirical research, as well as practical projects, including documentaries, talks, and academic sessions. David Feng’s rail resources in China, especially in international communications, are unmatched, and his prominence is unparalleled — featured both academically and in general media across multiple languages, continents, countries, and news and media organisations.

» Rail-related public engagement requests (talks, media projects, etc) can be requested with David Feng faster, as this is a priority core project.


Current status: Some continued research

DF AcR China Social Media T 1000x200

Some questions David is interested in answering…
In what and which ways — and to what extents — are Twitter and Weibo same / different?
What new challenges and communications concepts and paradigms does WeChat bring?
Is it true Generation 70s tune out of social media whilst Generation 00s tweet always on the trains?
Can one possibly compare (plausibly!) WeChat and Facebook?
How are Chinese government-owned organisations in transition handling social media?
If someone was to look at a random Westerner / Chinese’s iPhone, what apps would be seen the most on their Home Screens?

David became increasingly interested in social media, first as a user, then as a topic of research. During a tech gathering in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in late 2008, he started tweeting so much Twitter had to block him from tweeting a few times (they said David was doing over 100 tweets per hour!). All of these were part of an event of tech people travelling to China to find out more about China’s tech startup environment.

The tweeting and observations meant that he had a front row seat to China’s evolving social media world. In May 2009, David was accepted by the Communication University of China as a PhD student, where he graduated three years later. In David’s PhD dissertation, he proposed the idea that:

  • the Web is no longer truly anonymous as, in most cases, live humans man the lines at both ends;
  • government should be permitted to intervene (but not needlessly interfere) if needed;
  • the Web should be a place for people to demonstrate their viewpoints (as the Law sees fit); and
  • progressively, fuller Web democracy should be enabled.

In 2014, David next proceeded for further research to the China Media Centre of the University of Westminster, which he completed in 2016.

David’s research interests are closely linked to his tweeting — indeed, his interests are in social media (in general), as well as media and policy in China, and new media’s social impact on the country.


DF AcR China General Media T 1000x200

Current status: Research priority readjusted

Some questions David is interested in answering…
What are the misconceptions of China’s media system?
How are we (mis)reading the news from China?
How big is the gap between what Beijing says and what really happens in China?
How did Chinese media evolve through all those years?
How digitised is China’s media landscape?
How is public opinion management the same / different in China and the West?

David was only so interested in introducing general media topics in China — until an early 2013 opportunity meant he had his own course at Hebei University, just on the outskirts of Greater Beijing (distance-wise, like Reading from London). This lesson was such a success that he was given a second go in 2014. This further fuelled interest furthering research in this topic.

Intended mostly for introductory students and media professionals going into China, “general media” research for China focuses both on its history, policies, and statistics. As a media academic, but also media practitioner, David has both “the theory” and “the practice”, which means to the audience a far more complete and comprehensive look at media in China.


DF AcR Beijing Messages T 1000x200

Current status: Reduced research

Some questions David is interested in answering…
When it comes to China-related reports, what is the news media getting wrong?
How does culture “mix” into the news when it comes to China?
What PRC terms do people get wrong all the time?
How is Beijing conveying its message — both inside China and to the wider world?
How do you read between the lines of Chinese officialspeak?
In what ways has the message from Beijing altered and evolved over the past decades?

When China held a huge political meeting in 2007, white-on-red propaganda banners suddenly appeared all over town. Curious, David set out and photographed as many as possible. The same happened for the Beijing Olympics, and in particular, for the PRC’s 60th anniversary in 2009, and for the 2012 leadership change. Before he knew it, David had amassed a collection of almost 2,500 such pictures, and I’m now taking a particularly good look at how the message has changed over these years.

Some might find “PRC jargon” to be overwhelming. What precisely are the (deliberately loosely-translated) five talks, four beautifuls, and three warmful loves? Does the Scientific Development Concept require the use of microscopes or other “sci-tech equipment”? As much as possible, David will decrypt “the usual” from the 19:00 news show, and help people make sense of China for themselves.