Sometimes, it’s the little things that make China’s HSR great. Like, say, the 261 km long Tianjin-Qinhuangdao HSR. At just 163 miles, this is hardly a major trunk line in one of the world’s largest countries, but it links the high speed lines between Beijing and northeastern China via Tianjin, Qinhuangdao, and the coast. This new line has allowed “full” HSR services to connect northeast China with Shanghai.
The new Zhengzhou-Xuzhou HSR isn’t massive, either, at “only” 362 km. Yet, for its mere 225 miles or so, this new line, good for speeds upwards of 350 km/h (217 mph), formed a crucial link — it was the first rail line good for such high speeds to connect between two of China’s most vital north-south HSR routes — the Beijing-Hong Kong and Beijing-Shanghai HSR routes. It also meant that my long-awaited connection from Xi’an (where I’ve ancestral roots) to Shanghai is finally reality. Most trains that run on this line “borrow” it to reach their final destination. ▶
Let me be honest with you all: I find an equal amount of grave, dismal, even abysmal faults in China, as I find it to be one of the best countries in the world. It’s natural: I was born here, and until I was 18, I used to be a Chinese citizen. I still live here — with all of my family.
I am hardly alone in this, as I’ve learnt. Most people — expats included! — have this conflicting love and hate of China and of Beijing. But I am not willing to be sold out to either extremes. I’m a poor Swiss citizen if we’re to be seen as “the best of” viewpoint neutrality. So what I do instead is to reinterpret neutrality as a “smorgasbord of views”.
I’ll continue to have a love-hate relationship with the city — and the Middle Kingdom as a whole — as it’s a real, living, breathing experience — and because we all care about this place. Dearly. ▶
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. ▶
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. ▶
I have been taking trains for pretty much as long as I can remember. I remember quite clearly I was onboard a train in northeastern Switzerland, in second class, along with other members of the Chinese communities, in either 1989 or 1990.
In school, I quit the school bus service and instead, got myself multiride tickets between home and school. In high school, I got myself annual nationwide season tickets, known as the SBB GA travelcard (Generalabonnement). I wanted to spend some extra time on trains to get my homework perfected, so I was lucky enough to get a first class edition of the travel pass. This also meant I had weekends when I could travel onboard any train in Switzerland for as long as I wanted to. It also meant I had a front-row seat to Switzerland’s new ICN pendular train (when it came onto the rails on 28 May 2000) and the Coop shopping coach (a nice concept, unfortunately slightly flawed — as you had the train go at pretty high speeds, making the shopping more like tight-rope walking!).
When I returned to China in 2000, the whole national railway system there was completely different. You had virtually no freedom of travel: you were booked onto a specific seat on a designate train, and because I wasn’t up for this, I gave up trains in China for 8 full years. However, I was able to talk myself onto trying a train on 01 August 2008 — a Swiss day that had Chinese elements, for the world’s first-ever 350 km/h (217 mph) train service opened up on a day that was both Swiss National Day and military day in China. ▶
Once again, the China Media Centre has a seminar ready for all, and like last time, when I chaired the highly interactive talk with Vincent Ni, I’ll be chairing this one as well. We’re really honoured to have Professor Michel Hockx from SOAS with us.
As usual, this event is open to all members of the public.
Here’s the details:
China Media Centre 2016 Spring Seminar
WEB LITERATURE AND WORLD LITERATURE
Speaker: Prof Michel Hockx
Date: Wednesday, 24 February 2016
Time: 14:00 – 16:00 (with refreshments to follow)
Venue: A6.03, Maria Howlett Building, University of Westminster Harrow Campus
Chair: Dr David Feng
OPEN TO ALL
This was an evening very much unlike any other. For a long time, I had my eyes on China Central Television’s Spring Festival Gala — itself often ridiculed. I wondered why eight emcees were needed — but loved it when in early 2011, a CRH high speed train model rolled into the studio.
I was totally unexpected for something like this to happen to me, for my remote control to be replaced by a microphone, and for me to be standing in the centre of the stage in front of thousands — instead of leaning back on the comfy chair.
This completely changed on Wednesday, 17 February 2016, in the city of Portsmouth, right on the southern coast of England. I was to emcee, along with another host (a lady), the Cultures of China, Festival of Spring Year of the Monkey gala to a massive audience in Portsmouth’s King Theatre. ▶
Caution! No cover! That’s more likely a sign that a certain something isn’t going to provide you with shelter than an advisory not to cover something with, say, your jacket.
To ensure even the most minute of Chinglish are gone from northeastern China’s rail tracks (plus also to renew Tracy’s ID and get her travel permits for parts of China outside of the mainland), we headed up to Harbin. Temperatures weren’t the most accommodating, though: platform-side temps were rather Siberian, at around -10°C, but the warmth of the locals made it much more bearable.
We also took this chance to ride in China’s most northernly metro system (yet) — the Harbin Metro, which still operates at sub-zero temps over the long, Arctic winter. It drew much of its inspiration from the Beijing Subway, although the line number design icon had a seriously Shanghai feel. ▶