Those of you who know me well obviously must know that the approval people at SAFEA (Chinese State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs) and the immigration police must (not) be aware of the secret double life I am leading in China. While most of you will be brainwashed that I’m into brainwashing about trains, thus making me the epic Beijing clone of Sheldon Cooper, the official people recognise me more as associate professor at the Communication (or Media) University of China, and hence status as foreign expert. (Which as I see is the most useless, pointless, and patronising title bestowable upon me, or anyone at that, ever. Didn’t you guys in China concoct the Great Wall on your own? Then why now this administrative kowtowing to “foreign experts”?)
Oh well. The SAFEA guys arranged me to come to this International Symposium on Higher Education Development 2017 forum held at Xiamen University (same place where I did my BRICS train talk in August). And in a typical Chinese official way, they paid me First Class round-trip HSR tickets (I had uncovered from the SAFEA site that this was “normal practice” when inviting foreign experts). Only upon boarding did I know that I’d be a chair for the meeting, but 2017 was a true banner year, where I got to keynote TEDx (making my third onstage TEDx appearance so far), so this was going to be no problemo my end. (Since late 1996, in fact, and particularly since late 2003, I’ve relished taking centre stage.) ▶
Looks like I can’t quite stop talking about trains…
The China Communication Forum, held at Xiamen University, had me as a speaker about trains, of course. But instead of the tech-Sheldon-ish aspects, it was far more about the Arteries of Communications — a term “born” of this conference, which in particular fitted into my talk well on the trains and what they mean.
The arteries had roots in China with its first high speed lines in the 2000s. As the network expanded, more of China became connected. Of course routes started running to the frontiers, but also further more in the heartland and across the seafront. Eventually, the network became so big, previously planned networks were being realised years ahead — such as the 2020 goal, which was realised 5 years ahead of time. ▶
Whack my head with a great big microphone, people… I swear this doesn’t appear to make any sense.
Except for it does, actually. I was presenting a presentation of presenters from around the world to presenters(-to-be). Some were already with a media organisation; others were here to replenish knowledge before heading onstage for real. As it contained a fair bit of (hopefully) useful knowledge, and as I generally don’t, by personal policy, charge those that have nurtured me academically (such as the Presenting and Anchoring School of the Communication University of China), this would actually be some form of present to these people.
In essence this was a talk about how presenters from other parts of the planet were onstage, what digital aids they used, how they presented, their tone of voice (north Korea’s Ri Chun-hee of Juchelish telly fame set everyone in cackles of epic laughter), and everything under the Sun. Examples from 14 countries and territories (including north Korea; they were just too “legendary” to miss out on) were included. ▶
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! ▶
I’m headed back to Beijing in around a month, after all these years in the UK. Beijing, indeed, is the place I was born in. I’ve always kept my homeland and Beijing close to me — and it shows in all the involvements I’ve been part of. In the past two years, I’ve been more involved academically, am a closer part of the London Chinese community, have been part of events and meetups amongst locals in London, have been closer to UK media and the rail world, and through all this, now understand the UK better — not least also through my travels to all 32 London Boroughs and The City, as well as all lines and stations on the London Underground and the DLR.
Beijing is the city of the future. Once back “in the Jing”, I’m going to be involved in the Chinese capital as never before. My main career is obviously going to be rail-centred, but I’ll also keep a firm footing in academia, Beijing’s international events, and particularly the Swiss community in Beijing and across all of China. The Beijing & Zhangjiakou 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the building of the northern China megalopolis around Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, are stories that will define our time and are unique in their own right. This is where I’ll also come in with my own experience and know-how, as I do my part in making China and its people better off and living better lives daily.
Here’s a look back at 25 pictures of two highly successful years in Britain. ▶
David Feng to Chair and Speak at China and the Changing Geopolitics of Global Communication Conference on 09 April 2016
Although I’ve made some not-so-invisible changes to my main commitments, moving out of “theory / research-only” academia and being involved only in projects that yield actual, tangible results for the benefit of the general public, I still will be involved in my part of academia which involve speeches and lessons. This is why I’ve decided to be an active part of the upcoming China and the Changing Geopolitics of Global Communication conference. This is a unique event: both universities co-organising this are those I have academic affiliations to. It’s also a good way to transition academically from London to Beijing.
Check out the full schedule for details, and be sure to book yourself in for the event if you’re interested. I will be chairing Parallel Panel 2 (Cultures of communication) from 11:30 through to 13:00, and in the afternoon hour, I’ll have my 15 minute-presentation. ▶
Once again, the China Media Centre has a seminar ready for all, and like last time, when I chaired the highly interactive talk with Vincent Ni, I’ll be chairing this one as well. We’re really honoured to have Professor Michel Hockx from SOAS with us.
As usual, this event is open to all members of the public.
Here’s the details:
China Media Centre 2016 Spring Seminar
WEB LITERATURE AND WORLD LITERATURE
Speaker: Prof Michel Hockx
Date: Wednesday, 24 February 2016
Time: 14:00 – 16:00 (with refreshments to follow)
Venue: A6.03, Maria Howlett Building, University of Westminster Harrow Campus
Chair: Dr David Feng
OPEN TO ALL
The last time I had an equally active autumn was in 2003. I hosted two English language contests, co-hosted the Christmas & New Year Gala for international students, sat on the panel as a judge in another language contest, and hosted an end-of-year China-US culture exchange meeting. Those were five events with me actively involved in them.
This year, I was actively involved in another five, being additionally involved in one other event — the 21 October 2015 event at Fyvie Street, Regent Street Campus (University of Westminster) — as part of the organising team. But in all the other five events, I had an active role to play and addressed the crowd, something I realised now that not only do I absolutely adore doing, but I’m increasingly sold I was totally born to do.
Of the Fabulous Five that had me deeply involved, here’s a summary of them all. ▶
The average academic talk is where you’ve students all facing one way, staring at a speaker, and then trying to make sense of this. Then you realise that when I do seminars and events, I wanted to make it the exact way both the speaker and attendees want it. We decided shifting tables so that most of us ended up looking at one other — much like a semi-roundtable — would be the best idea. And that’s exactly how the classroom was arranged for the first China Media Centre seminar, which took place today.
Vincent Ni, who’s now with the BBC World Service, came today as speaker to deliver an extremely insightful talk — insightful as it was also thought-provoking and very much what you expected from a distinguished journalist with a lot of experience. He has covered the elections in Myanmar / Burma, the Arab Spring, and much more. He has also worked previously in China-based media, moving recently onwards to media based in the UK. ▶