My name is David Feng, and I’m a China media participant, academic, speaker, blogger, and also the founder of Tracking China, a site that allows people to discover China from the railway system.
Here’s a quick look at my bio.
▶ Early Years in Beijing and Zürich
I was born in Beijing in early 1982. Having just opened up itself to the outside world, the Chinese capital back then was still rather quiet, and the first skyscrapers were some miles away. I spent six years there before moving with my parents to Zürich, Switzerland.
In Zürich, I settled in the suburbs, not too far from the airport, and went to international schools for 12 years. There, I learnt English, German, French, Italian, as well as a little Latin. I completed 11 IGCSEs and a few APs before graduating in 2000.
The original plan upon being naturalised as a Swiss was to settle in Zürich for the long term. The increasingly visible rise of China, however, meant that I decided to “give it a go” and head to Beijing in mid-2000.
▶ Beijing, 2000–2014
The original plan was to return to Beijing to merely improve my Chinese and complete 4 years of studies for my BEc in international finance. However, when Beijing won the rights to host the 2008 Summer Olympics in July 2001, I decided to stay longer — and to remain in Beijing until at least the Games were over.
An extremely successful hosting of a language contest I pulled off in early December 2003 made me increasingly interested about presenting, and about media in general. In summer 2004, I was accepted by the “number one” media university in China, the Communication University. I graduated in summer 2007 with an MA in Linguistics from the School of Broadcasting and Anchoring.
During this time, I already became active in the media world. In early March 2004, I started anchoring news shows on university radio. The involvement continued in the years to follow, and by 2008, I had become a regular appearance on the city’s bilingual radio station, AM 774. Continued involvement would eventually create a show that I was in charge of the content in 2013, after sharing the stage for many years.
The Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics were a great success. My Games-related involvement was to brief, host, and introduce the city of Beijing to visiting dignitaries from 70+ countries and territories at the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall. City authorities recognised the work I had put in to this commitment in autumn 2008 by recognising me as an “Advanced Olympics Service Pioneer”.
I was also actively involved in Beijing’s tech and social media worlds. In 2002, I started the Beijing Macintosh users group, which was most active in the years prior to the passing of Steve Jobs. In 2007, I started blogging about China’s tech world, and was one of the earliest users of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. My “full-time” tech blogging, which began in 2008, got me interested about social media and government policy. These laid the foundations for my PhD in Communications, which I completed between 2009 and 2012.
Upon graduating in summer 2012, I became Lecturer at the Communication University of China. I would be teaching students media, world culture, and English. I also took on an extra commitment to teach China Media Analysis in 2013 and 2014 at Hebei University, an approximately 40-minute HSR ride away from central Beijing, to incoming students from the developing world.
During this time, I also kept an eye out, mostly in my free time, for signs of Chinglish — or mangled English in China. What became a 3,000+ picture collection turned itself into a 2011 book. In 2013, I started the highly popular Everyday Rail English posts on Sina Weibo to correct Chinglish on trains and in stations and to standardise on proper English across China. In 2014, I co-authored, with the city’s Foreign Affairs Office and radio station, a Handbook of Everyday English for Beijing.
I decided to make Beijing my permanent home in the late 2000s, in the two years between the Beijing Summer Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo. This was further made permanent in 2011, when I married a local Chinese (who had hitherto never gone abroad).
▶ London, 2014–2016
Following advice from my academic colleagues, in 2014 the decision was made to start a two-year post-doctoral research plan at the University of Westminster in London on social media and China, especially in overseas environments. I arrived with my wife in August 2014 to engage in research and teaching.
In London, I taught students both Study Skills and a course on Media in China. Entitled China’s Media and the Emerging World Order, this module, which was also co-presented by the Director of the University’s China Media Centre, focused on the evolution of China’s media world.
Additionally, I gave academic presentations at the University of Westminster, the London School of Economics and Political Science, the British Academy, as well as at Cardiff University.
Apart from research, I also immersed myself in exploring much of Greater London during weekends and holidays, completing trips on the entire London Underground, DLR, Tramlink, London Overground, and TfL Rail networks, within approximately a year of being resident in the UK. This gave me a far more in-depth look at all parts of the city — from Enfield to Croydon, from Heathrow to Upminster, across all London boroughs, plus The City (Square Mile).
I also immersed myself deeply into the Chinese community in London, both on and off campus. I organised and hosted events for the Chinese community — including organising freshers and emceeing China-related photo expositions.
▶ Beijing and the World, 2016–
On 31 July 2015, the city of Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. This came as an unexpected, but also very positive, surprise for me (Oslo was then considered the favourite as late as a year before). Followed by China winning rights to host other international events big and small — be it the 2019 Basketball World Cup, 2022 Asian World Games, or an international convention on relaxation — my wife and I made the decision to return to China beginning in summer 2016.
On 29 June 2016, we landed back in Beijing, and within 24 hours, were on the trains, celebrating 5 years of the Beijing-Shanghai HSR. I returned to the Communication University of China in September 2016. Apart from teaching and research, I’m also actively involved in media — especially where it’s very closely connected to the railways.