Usually it’s supposed to be “remixed” properly as Beijing + Tianjin + Hebei or the rather awkward-sounding Jingjinji. Except for this time, Hebei did take centre stage.
You will have remembered I had some pretty solid “Hebei roots and connections”. Oh for sure, I was born in the Chinese capital, which is Beijing, not Hebei. Yet apart from highway and railway mileage, my wife also has her roots in the province, and I presented the Beautiful Hebei contest three months after winning our 2022 Winter Olympics bid. The UK Hebei Association also recommended me as a co-host to a spring festival gala for the Chinese community in Portsmouth just a few months into 2016. To them, I was a serious doer. So it was no wonder they decided I belonged to something much bigger.
I am aware of how these organisations for returned overseas Chinese work, and they were aware of my Swiss nationality in addition to Chinese roots. (I became a member and thus the sole member from Switzerland.) The perfect pill for understanding? A previous policy in Chinese-language media with regards to my special ties to China and Switzerland: political loyalty to Bern, concern and care by heritage to Beijing.
Which leads me into my afternoon talk. It was as much as a talk of “what’s next?” as a “summary of frustrations” (to the benefit of North China, in actual fact). I went over many things in the round-table event…▶
I do admit I left China at a time when it was pretty much in its doldrums. 2014 was a slow year. Earlier that year, me being stuck in smog in very bad traffic was pretty much it to me.
It would be nearly 7 years since I was last in London, so I imagined development had really picked up there. I took the Metropolitan line to the city terminus at Aldgate twice — once in November 2014, and again in summer 2015. It was highly disappointing: there was just about no change there in the City.
In the meantime, Beijing had engaged Magnet Mode again: just about everything from the Winter Olympics and the G20 meeting to international gardening and relaxation summits headed its way into the Middle Kingdom in a chain series of events starting from summer 2015.
With this return trip to Beijing, the absolutely amazing pace of development just completely took my breath away. I took the Beijing Subway the day I landed to see how fast things were picking up in the CBD, after seeing pics on the Web that there must have been at least one new skyscraper in the making. The entire city took my breath away. Even more breathtaking was Hebei, especially that part which would host the world in 2022. ▶
Over two hundred people came as the event kicked off in the afternoon hours of 31 October 2015. Local and Chinese media covered the event, and we had speakers and key guests from the University of Westminster, Hebei enterprises (with some making a very long trip over to London from China), and others, including support from the Chinese Embassy in London. The ribbon cutting kicked the event off into gear, with speeches also made (as usual), but a lot of entertainment as well — including Peking Opera, Cheongsam, and solo guitar performances. Messages of congratulations from Hebei in China were also read — it was quite an important event, with 66 pictures of Hebei displayed throughout Fyvie Hall.
Most of us might be wondering why Hebei was “such a big deal”. Here’s why Hebei’s key: It is the “other host” to the 2022 Winter Olympics. Victory on 31 July 2015 has not meant that solely Beijing has nabbed the games whole. Events will be shared between Beijing and Hebei, with central Beijing and Yanqing hosting some events, then Zhangjiakou (specifically Chongli) hosting others. It’s probably not all too nice to win gold in China in 2022 — if you forgot which province you won it from! The other big reason why “Hebei must be it” is the creation of a new megalopolis that will dwarf Tokyo and Yokohama in comparison — Hebei is joining the larger Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolitan region, which will see in the mix the Chinese capital, a central municipality, and dozens of major cities in Hebei. Already now, we’re unifying standards across three jurisdictions so that the greater Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area is reality sooner. If you’re into major developments in North China, you cannot afford to “just ignore” Hebei.
It was a fantastic time entertaining visitors, and me and the other host pulled this off in both English and Chinese, often with one person alternating between these two languages on the fly (even if just for a bit). For once, it was quite an experience introducing senior academics I work with (instead of myself being introduced by the distinguished scholar, which happened more frequently my end!) onto the stage — there was a lot of mutual appreciation. ▶
David Feng to Host Hebei Photo Exhibition Launch Event at University of Westminster on 31 October 2015
I’m really happy to share with everyone that I’ve been confirmed as an event emcee of a photo exhibition about the province of Hebei. This will be held at 14:00 on 31 October 2015 as part of the opening ceremonies.
Hebei could be just any other random province out there, but since winning the rights to host the Beijing & Zhangjiakou 2022 Olympics, it has become the epicentre of a huge amount of publicity. Its close proximity to Beijing, plus a further regional integration project well underway to get Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei even closer, means that the province of Hebei is increasingly a Big in China.
With Hebei being as key as it is — hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics — it’s time the rest of the world in London knew what this place is all about. We’ll be having lots of pictures that will hopefully take your breath away. You’ll actually get to see the non-Beijing part of China that will host the games in 2022. And you’ll actually see some liquid stuff (Beijing is landlocked; but Hebei is right on the coast).
So join me as we start the show: 14:00 on 31 October 2015. This will be at Fyvie Hall at the University of Westminster’s Regent Street Campus (309 Regent Street). The entire exhibition will remain viewable to the public through to 06 November 2015.
▶ Get more info — and get tickets (free!)
See you there! ▶
Yesterday saw me bring the world of China media knowledge to lesser-known parts of the country — outside the Tier 1 cities such as Beijing and ilk. And that, to me, was actually something I did with a lot of pride.
When I graduated, having gotten my PhD in summer 2012, my first priority was not to work up the ladder to an eventual professorship as quickly as possible, but to give back to the other 99%. In the same vein, although people would vie for a teaching position in big cities a la Beijing or Shanghai, the rest of the country is left virtually untouched. To me, teaching at Hebei University, in a part of China just 100 miles away from central Beijing, is probably the best thing I can do now in order to spread the knowledge like peanut butter. As a matter of fact, I actually love doing this, because I can clock up my rail miles in the process (even if they don’t have a rewards programme).
I started teaching a class of seven students from all over the world today — they included students from South Asia, Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America, amongst other places. I made sure the class was as lively as possible and shied away from a fixed system of handouts and “100% PowerPoint presentations”. ▶
I’ve been taking a few road trips as of late. I just finished one to Zhangjiakou, and this to me, as a Swiss, is a little like a homecoming. Obviously, Switzerland is totally made up of mountains, and seeing a bit of these sure felt I was closer to my bit of the world!
Zhangjiakou was predictable. Tangshan, less so. In 1976, one huge earthquake literally tore this place to pieces. As a result, I seriously wasn’t expecting anything other than hastily-rebuilt buildings. I would seriously not be surprised if I had caught sight of rubble, to this day!
So off onto the freeway it was. ▶