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! ▶
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. ▶
Or at least I do. Happy that the Swiss managed to sneak in a goal that led them to victory in the final minute against Ecuador, I donned on a T-shirt with the Swiss flag the next day, to show that I was proud of “my gang”. It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate moment: we were going to be visiting Beijing’s Olympic Green, the National Stadium included!
My role in this: team leader and Foreign Expert. (My non-Chinese passport made me “foreign”.) It’s the latter that is the job of mystery here in China, the stuff that some expats will proudly showcase — until they realise they are all Foreign Experts. ▶
On 24 December 2013, I took part in the rather longly-worded Press Release of Blue Book of Global Media: Annual Report on the Development of Global Media (2013) and New Media Industries Frontiers and Combined Discussion on Worldwide Communications and New Media Development. (What a mouthful!)
I was here as I was part of a new Chinese-language book on the media, and especially social media. Titled New Media Industries Frontiers (2013), my bit, from page 71, takes a look at China’s social media development and trends.
In particular, I mentioned that the rise of new social media tools, such as WeChat, will change the audience of a message. On Weibo and Twitter, for example, unless you have a private account, what you post will be seen by others — even those you don’t follow or are friends with. On WeChat this is different altogether, as it is seen only with your friends, and nobody you don’t know (unless they’ve copied-and-pasted your message as a rather complicated form of a repost). So whereas a message spreads faster on Weibo and Twitter, it has less reach and impact in comparison if posted just on WeChat. On the other hand, the two are different environments: Weibo is much more for the general public, whilst WeChat is much more between friends. ▶
I am academically involved here at the Communication University of China with lessons and research underway — and as part of these commitments, I was asked to give two seminars to International Media students here for their MA. The specific lesson I presented was in Theories of Communication.
We had upwards of around 30 students, and students were basically from all over the world — Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. It was my task to present two lessons to them, which I did with pleasure:
- Special Lecture: Social Media and China: This was easily my trademark lesson, where I told students how social media worked in China — and I could easily pull this off, as I had years of experience.
- Media Matters! The Role of Media in Information Society: This was as “theoretical” as was “practical”, and as my PhD dissertation didn’t stray away too far from this, I could merge experience with theory. ▶
So, September 2012 is here. I’ve just entered China a few days back on a Z visa, or a working visa. I’m going to both be a kind of generic-alised “English teacher in China” and also a little more. I’m going to head to the Communication University of China as a Lecturer so that I can do a little academic research as a side schtick as well. My topics: new media and social media.
But here’s the thing: a teacher is not the smartest thing in the universe. There’s: (a) sure bound to be extraterrestrial life that knows more than we do (I think); (b) people who are not teachers that know more stuff than teachers do. So I’m cutting it short here — yes, I’ll be a teacher, but I’m not gonna outfox anyone. In fact, I’ll be pretty happy when folks outfox me. That’ll also be the case a few years down the line when the baby is due (or babies are due, rather): I’m perfectly OK with these guys being smarter than I am from Day One. ▶