Every year, at this time, we’d see millions and billions take to the rails, roads, and air, as this nation of 1.3+ billion and coming make their way home to their ancestral homes — back to their grandparents and parents — just for that classic meal, the dinner on New Year’s Eve in the Chinese calendar… For 2017, I’ve decided to take part in this by not just launching a Twitter topic on it (#Chunyun), but to make a difference and trial new brochures helping people. And also to broadcast this live to the wider world audience.
It’s been said Chinese railway tickets are a blessing and a curse. The blessing being that you’re booked onto one train, with one credit card-sized ticket telling you everything from which gate to use, which train you’re booked onto, when you’ll set off, and what seat will be yours. Unfortunately, the curse is that they’re all in Mandarin Chinese…
Except for that I didn’t want this to hold true forever. Having talked to quite a number of seasoned expat travellers, I decided to create (using Apple Pages) a brochure describing what this, that, or the other thing would be on the ticket — in both Mandarin Chinese and English. There was also a card for passengers who’d have lost their ticket, and need help getting a replacement. ▶
In Switzerland our only “really” global airport is not located in the Federal City (much the equivalent of a “real” capital in other countries), Bern, but Zürich. It is only the “real” 100% Swiss airport of a major dimension (since the airports in Geneva and Basel have connections to nearby France, but all exits at Zürich Airport lead solely to Swiss territory).
We are somewhat satisfied with our 3-runway (or two-and-a-sort-of-half runway) airport, which is in a well-forested part of suburban Zürich. We completed around a decade back the new Fingerdock E, which is where most intercontinental flights land. The inside of the airport has also been massively redone, from the toilets to the concourses and shopping areas. The inside of the Airside Centre, in fact, feels not much unlike Shanghai Pudong!
However, it is the explosive growth of Beijing’s new air hub — Daxing International Airport, as it is sometimes known — that simply wows me in full. A few days back, I took my car for a spin, dashcam and other imaging devices ready, hoping to catch a glimpse of the new airport in the making. What I saw was enough to make me faint: basically miles on end of cranes and construction sites meaning that this new airport was about to become reality — very soon! ▶
It’s not a David Feng talk if it’s not about trains. With the population of just over two Londons moving from the countryside to the city every year across China, something will have to carry them. And whilst the country may have pretty much the largest national motorway network on the planet, it’s also home to over two-thirds of the world’s HSR tracks.
This already-massive network — at 19,000 km (11,806 miles) — is expected to grow even more by 2020, with figures by then to hit 30,000 km (18,641 miles) for the entire nationwide HSR network. With most trunk lines running at no less than 300 km/h (186 mph), this is going to be one of the most efficient ways to get across the country.
My talk on 12 April 2016 at the London Book Fair introduced urbanisation in China and its effects, with a focus on infrastructure. ▶
Urbanisation in China is something that is literally breathtaking to behold. In late 2009, I did a drive for about a hundred miles just east of Beijing. I was just absolutely stunned by just how urbanised this erstwhile rural part of the Middle Kingdom became. It has also meant massive upgrades for many Chinese. The hutong alleyways of Old Beijing, as an example, had communal toilets instead of toilets in each compound. For those living “above ground” as in what I call the “low-rise” flats, we had loos that looked like they were hastily rushed, and a minimal kitchen solution.
In newer flats, we have better amenities, an emphasis on recycling, better transport links, and improved security. And yet, what I find pretty saddening is whilst we’re being couch potatoes (or sucked in our 9 inch screens) in those newer, and probably glitzier, high-rises, we’re seeing more and more of the older parts of town go away — for good. ▶
I will be talking about China and urbanisation at the London Book Fair, which will be held at Olympia Exhibition Centre. For further details as to where you can find me, follow me on Twitter (@DavidFeng).
I am expected to talk around 15:55 on Tuesday, 12 April 2016, although I might begin a few minutes earlier depending actual situations, so if you’re coming, I advise you to come around 5-10 minutes before time.
The talk on urbanisation will also coincide with the release of a new series of books on China urbanisation. In addition to remaining active in the China media world, I will also be taking an increasingly closer look at China’s urbanisation. ▶
It had every last David Feng element possibly conceivable on the planet. Trains. Subways. HSR trainsets. Audiences. Comparisons between the Metropolitan line and Beijing’s Line 1 and the Batong Line extension. The audience at the London Transport Museum was wowed for an hour as I did my shtick — a one-hour presentation on From A to B in London and Beijing. Everything was fully localised for a London audience. Miles per hour appeared next to their SI equivalents, and the Victoria line was shown its Beijing counterpart.
In the London Transport Museum’s Cubic Theatre, over 80 were seated as they discovered how the Chinese rails and roads worked. I first started with a fact-and-distance check: the easternmost end of the bridge by the Tube platforms at Upminster, in essence the closest point on the Tube network to Beijing from inside the M25, was 5,302⅔ miles (8,099.2 km) away. That station was a new late 2015 addition: Changping Xishankou station. ▶
At precisely 18:57:39 on 14 January 2016, a Daxing Line train, extraordinarily crowded until Xihongmen (where they’ve a ginormous IKEA with the obligatory Costa next to it), emptied itself of all riders, yours truly included, at the Tian’gongyuan terminus. That was it. I had completed all of the Beijing Subway opened to the public. And Beijing thus became the third city in the whole wide world (after Chengdu in 2013, and London in 2015) that I had travelled on its mass transit system across all lines in revenue service.
I actually was able to pull off this stunt earlier — in April 2008 — so strictly speaking, it would have been the first such system around the planet. But then the network quintupled itself, adding since that record Lines 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 14, and 15, as well as the Airport Express, and Changping, Daxing, Fangshan, and Yizhuang Lines.
The new station I have absolutely come to yell for (not yell at) is Dawanglu. The city’s south HSR hub, Beijingnan (Beijing South) Railway Station, once was remotely inaccessible for CBD people — you in essence had to cram yourself onto a Line 1 train (stuffy it was!), and make yourself through the spaghetti interchange that was Xidan onto Line 4. Now, it really is a no-brainer… I can imagine nothing better than leaving the CBD onto a direct connection to the HSR hub at Beijing South, all without having to change trains halfway through. ▶
Photo credit: Liang Bo
That’s me doing Rail English again for China. Just a few days back, I was appointed Railway English Consultant for Ji’nanxi (Ji’nan West) and its subordinate stations, which include stations from Taian to Zaozhuang. Some time earlier, I also did much the same at Xuzhoudong (Xuzhou East) station, which basically meant that if you’re travelling between these stations, you should see serious improvements in Rail English.
As of late there’s one other very welcoming development: the Beijing-Shanghai HSR has been showered by the central government in China, giving it top honours in a national science and technology progress awards ceremony.
It is no secret this is now one of China’s busiest HSR routes. Trains G1 through to G22, which generally run the 1,318 km (824 mi) stretch in less than 5 hours’ time, are amongst the most popular trains in the nation, both amongst locals and expats, as well as visitors from abroad. With the line as popular and as award-winning as it is, the next big goal my end would be to make it China’s first 100% bilingual line. ▶
I’ve been in just around 250 cities in 24 countries and territories, so I am seeing more and more cities that look the same. And Milton Keynes, or MK for short, sure counts as one of the weirder cities I’ve been to.
For a start, it’s in essence Shangdi (in Beijing; just by Zhongguancun), but rotated about 40° or so; otherwise it’s not unlike newer parts of Zhongguancun and northern / northwestern Beijing (especially around the Xi’erqi area). There are huge avenues (not unlike China), but that’s it; otherwise, it’s all square / rectangular office buildings.
I think I summed it up pretty well on Facebook:
Britain-ise Zhongguancun and Shangdi, turn the thing 40 degrees around, wave a magic wand, and kaboom: you get Milton Keynes. ▶
I have just been informed that in addition to being a discussant on the Civilised dialogue – transcultural and comparative panel at the upcoming UK-China Culture Exchange – 2nd Global China Dialogue: Transculturality and New Global Governance conference, I will also be speaking at the next panel on Urbanisation and the Fabric of China’s Internet.
Most of you know that I’ve been deeply involved in this on two fronts: riding around the country by HSR (and seeing how cities have in essence sprung up from bang in the middle of nowhere — Wuqing is your classic case study) — and a focus on the Internet in China. I’ve also taken a good look at how the two likely match up, so this will be quite a novel presentation.
I am expected to speak in the timeslot between 15:45 and 16:30. ▶