CHINA, RAILWAYS, CITIES & INFRASTRUCTURE

DF Speaking China Cities Infrastructure T 1000x200

Sample of Possible Topics
China’s national HSR network
Subway / Metro systems in Beijing and Shanghai
Urbanisation: Is China ready?
Future-proofing China’s cities and infrastructure
Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei: Jingjingji, The New World Metropolis
Visualising Smarter Infrastructure for China

I’ve been to nearly a thousand cities in China, most primarily by train, but also by car, and by plane, and have, through this, visited almost all jurisdiction on Mainland China, as well as Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan. I considered myself a true road warrior — always on the road with a driving licence since 2003, and I’ve cruised on the highway networks from the northernmost parts of northeastern China’s province of Heilongjiang to trying my hands at the Western Ring Expressway on the tropical island of Hainan.

However, I switched from the roads to the rails in October 2007, when Beijing’s Subway Line 5 opened, slashing north-south travel times (and avoiding the city’s brutal jams). This has also encouraged me to discover China’s cities from the city metro systems. I’ve travelled on over half of China’s growing city metro network, including the world’s longest monorail (Line 3 in Chongqing). The Beijingology sites I started in 2007 were mainly highway and (in particular) subway-centred.

The core of my activities and interests concern China’s railway network. I’m one of the most visible independent voices about Chinese railways and its new and expanding HSR system. I’ve never been an official rail crew member, but that didn’t prevent me from travelling on all different classes of trains in China, and I’ve also worked closely with the railways independently, including devising a totally new standard of English for the railways, which is progressively being used. I’m currently doing a documentary which will see me travelling to all railway stations on Mainland China open to the public. My articles and views on the country’s railways system are frequently published on People’s Railway Web / peoplerail.com, the official railways magazine website, where I’m also a columnist on improving railway English.

I’ve also spoken about the Chinese railways story to audiences both in China and abroad, including at TEDx, and to Australia via Skype. I’ve taken part in both in summits regarding railway development and in general rail travel conferences. On the topic of metros and railways in China, I’ve has been featured by CNN, the official People’s Railway Daily rail magazine, the Beijing Daily, China National Radio, Xinhua News Agency, and many more media organisations. Civitology, which was a collection of rail-related wikis in 2009 I founded, was featured by AdAge; it is now part of the new Tracking China site, which has covered Chinese rail and HSR virtually nonstop since 2011. Since 2017, I’ve been doing the Next Station: China documentary, discovering China from the railway stations across the country.


CITY OF BEIJING

DF Speaking Beijing T 1000x200

Sample of Possible Topics
An introduction to the city of Beijing
City Dictionaries: Beijing and Zürich / London
A look at the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei metropolis
Getting into and around Greater Beijing
Information Session for International Studies
Tips, tricks, and secrets of the Chinese capital

I’ve extensive knowledge of the city of Beijing. As early as 2006, I started an “alpha test” site which would evolve to be a wiki on the city of Beijing. This site, known as Beijingology, continues today in the form component sites (under new names) in the Street Level China network (as the China City Directory and Tracking China component sites).

In 2007, I started blogging with City Weekend, one of the city’s better-known expat magazines, about a myriad of Beijing-related topics, which included summaries of the city’s evening news, developments in the city’s infrastructure, and key headlines of city-wide importance. This work lead to a feature being produced in the form of a web-and-audio feature on the BBC in summer 2008, in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

In 2008, I worked along with the Beijing City Planning Exhibition Hall for a full year as part of my Summer Olympics commitment. There, I hosted government, commercial and educational delegations from up to 70 countries, and it was my duty to brief all visitors on the past, present and the future of Beijing. Apparently, someone ended up pleased about this, for I was commended for my work at the museum by city authorities.

My talks about Beijing will be about the city from a one-of-a-kind perspective: resident, observer, infrastructure geek, and world traveller in up to 250 other cities. It works great either as a talk about the city overseas, as a post-arrival welcome session, or as a fresher.


CHINA & MEDIA / TECHNOLOGY

Currently not prioritised

DF Speaking China Media Tech T 1000x200

Sample of Possible Topics
Evolution of the Chinese Internet
Who’s online? A breakdown of Chinese Internet demographics
Social media in China: Development and discourse
A quick intro to China’s media world
Censored? Decrypting the myths of content regulation rules in China
On Air in China: Experience as a radio personality

Of all topics, I have the strongest academic and practical background and qualifications in this topic, as I’ve been using Twitter and Facebook in China since 2007, and Sina Weibo since 2009. My PhD was about social media and policy, and I have taught media in China, also to international audiences.

I also founded and presided over the Beijing Macintosh User Group from 2002 through to around 2008 (actively), and have taken courses or been actively involved in “front-line media / PR” in China.

My active media involvements included hosting live shows, and being interviewed regularly on world media. I can speak from both from an academic / theoretical point of view, from actual, real-life practice, or from both.

I can also speak about the social impact of media, especially social media, in China, as well as the impact of technology upon the population of that country. In addition, I also focus on mediatised official messages from China.

I gave the first and best-attended seminar of the University of Westminster’s China Media Centre for the academic year 2014 / 2015 in November 2014, with a two-hour talk and Q&A session about social media in China over the past decade. This was followed by academic talks at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and at Cardiff University.


LANGUAGES

Currently not prioritised

DF Speaking Languages T 1000x200

Sample of Possible Topics
Contemporary World Languages
The Anglosphere and Sinosphere: Mind the Gaps!
Multilingualism in Switzerland
The “Chinglish” phenomenon in (and outside of) China
Chinese and the World Language Market
Quick Starter Lessons in Mandarin Chinese

I’m happy to talk about a wide variety of language-related topics — these include multilingualism, in particular the situation in Switzerland, as well as major world languages overall. I’m also very interested in the “Chinglish” phenomenon — but apart from ticking your funny bone with hilarious (mis-)translations, I can also try to make sense of why it’s all wrong and how the users of these two languages actually do (in actual fact) think different! (I have, in fact, published a Chinese-language book in this matter, and Beijing city authorities regularly ask me to join them in trips around the city, hunting for any signs in Chinglish!)

Many of us outside China are sometimes bewildered by precisely this “Chinglish” that, apparently, crops up all too often from students who were from China. Much as we might try to appreciate a well-thought out article, we are too often distracted by poor grammar and a confusing layout. As both an educator in China and in Great Britain, familiar with both languages, I know how both cultures think, and so can expand upon “Chinglish” beyond laughs and give insight into how two very different ways of thinking — from two vastly different languages — can create texts that appear “hopeless”, but in fact is still full of plausible content. From this I also am able to explore how an English-language message is best communicated to Chinese native speakers, and here I also explore the gap between the Anglosphere and Sinosphere.

Over a decade in Switzerland has meant I am also more than familiar with Switzerland’s quadrilingual world. Here, I’ll can explore how the country works perfectly, switching between four different tongues, but also the nuances between Swiss-German and Standard German that mean that foreign-looking people truly win Swiss hearts by mastering Swiss-German.

Finally, who can afford to say no to a quick lesson in learning Mandarin Chinese — tailored to your audience? Believe me, Chinese people love it when they hear their own language spoken by a foreigner. I’ve trained many incoming guests from Europe on just “the basics” — the response they elicited from the local audience in China was amazing.


MULTICULTURALISM

Currently not prioritised

DF Speaking Multiculturalism T 1000x200

Sample of Possible Topics
Chinese and Western Ways of Thinking in Action
The Many Meanings of a Chinese Smile
Don’t Be Caught Unawares! China’s Small Talk Society
The European and Asian Classrooms / Offices
Acceptance, Tolerance, Mutual Respect in World Cities
Learn It From David: Personal Lessons from a Globetrotter

I think I’m of the luckier people that have a passport that gives you visa-free access to three-quarters of the globe. But that freedom of travel means also I’ve learnt a lot, whether it be decades in Beijing or Zürich, or “quick dips” or a couple of months or years in other cities — Harbin, London, or up to 250 other cities.

I was schooled in both Zürich and Beijing, meaning I’m familiar with the European and Chinese classrooms, and there is a lot to be learnt here, as I’ve also taught in both. I can offer fresh insights into how to win the hearts of students (or certainly make your best shot at doing so) — and classic FAILs that you need to know before you head into the classroom as a teacher in each environment. And because for most of us, the office happens after you exit the classroom, I can also offer fresh insights into corporate culture in both Asian and Anglophone environments.

Finally, I have a very unique “Chinese / international” mix. On the outside, you’ll think I’m a Beijinger by appearances (correct!); at passport control, though, you’ll find me in the Foreigners queue. But as much as I can fully comprehend a Westerner having rough times in China, I also can understand how locals feel about a wide variety of topics. There are some “American-born Chinese” that are fully rooted in — solely an American upbringing. This is where it’s wholly different with me — someone who understands both cultures. It is in here I can better appreciate the nuances in both cultures. What can be baffling for the newly-landed expat in Beijing and Shanghai can be made much more understandable after a quick talk I present to them.