Ten years ago, China was going through its best days. Ten years on, and the voices here are slightly more diverging, and maybe not all of this is positive — in or for multiple aspects.
The world has gotten increasingly negative since the twin events of 2016 brought down the liberal democratic order we had gotten used to especially since the end of the Cold War.
Tweets, too, have gotten even more polarising as of late. Ten years back, I didn’t have the Twitter “verified” tick, but the discussion was lively — I made my decisions of Coke vs Pepsi by what you @-tweeted me in favour of. Ten years later, our keyboards are becoming 103-button launchpads of missiles, where every push of a button in terms of a tweet can bring out a tweet so full of ire and anger…
Suffice it […] to say that I am taking a longer-term Twitter detox (as well as on general social media, too). Maybe, just maybe, one of these days, I might return and do something slightly more different on the service. But for now, it’s Feng Out for now on Twitter and much of social media. ▶
It happened earlier this year in Inner Mongolia: my once-trusty Shure mic, which “clipped” onto the Lightning connector, decided to give it the quits. Happily, I had backups: a “traditional” iRig iMic which used the usual audio connector, and the USB variant, which I used. I grew up when Mandopop divas went onstage with a handheld mic and an extremely long cable, so to me, sound recording absolutely equated with an old school microphone you held in your hands. For a long time, I had wanted to make the audio set at home work for me.
The USB/Lightning mic I carry on me has recently been “converted” to become my podcasting-only microphone. I carry this with me in my black bag that I got from my BA Club World flight back to Beijing. I’ve tried recording without a “proper” mic and only using what my phone has: it does not sound optimal. This also means that I’ve finally, after many previous tries decades back, decided to enter the world of podcasting. The podcast I’m doing is called David Feng’s Cities. It makes sense as either I’m in cities or travelling to or away from them (or going in transit). As with all things Swiss and David Feng, this is a completely independent show.
Start by tuning in here! (Generally clean language!) ▶
I used to take High Speed trains in China for granted, especially in the earlier years. The horrific Wenzhou crash changed all that. Yes the PR guy at the railways did say truly ridiculous things back then. But then you get over this whole thing, and rethink HSR and the benefits it has created for the country. Which was why I returned to the High Speed rails in October 2011.
Starting from 2012, I’ve decided to, as much as possible, travel on High Speed trains on the very first day of the year. I’ve been able to do this for 2012, 2013, and 2017. Last year I was seen off at the station by some of the best people in the rail industry here around Beijing. This year, it’s my wife, Tracy, coming with me onboard the Revival Express, the fastest train in not just China, but also the world.
The train behind me is Train G5, operated by CR Shanghai. This is the very first 350 km/h (217 mph) train for the day, and is therefore the very first of its kind for this year. We are starting off the year 2018 on the world’s fastest train, and the very first fastest-train-on-the-planet for the new year. We’re sending an extremely strong signal of approval and support for our trains, as it’s made China that much smaller, closer together, and greener. ▶
You’re seeing a black-and-white copy of the first part of my Swiss visa on my old, and now expired, Chinese passport. That was what I used to come to the Alpine republic. When I left for Beijing in 2000, I left Zürich Airport with the classic red booklet — the Swiss passport. The Swiss cross of worldwide fame was no longer restricted to a classical Wappe; it had taken over the entire cover of the passport.
Switzerland has given me so much for my past 12 years there. The country still continues to be part of what I do, day in, day out. Not sold? Here’s what it gave me… ▶
I’m headed back to Beijing in around a month, after all these years in the UK. Beijing, indeed, is the place I was born in. I’ve always kept my homeland and Beijing close to me — and it shows in all the involvements I’ve been part of. In the past two years, I’ve been more involved academically, am a closer part of the London Chinese community, have been part of events and meetups amongst locals in London, have been closer to UK media and the rail world, and through all this, now understand the UK better — not least also through my travels to all 32 London Boroughs and The City, as well as all lines and stations on the London Underground and the DLR.
Beijing is the city of the future. Once back “in the Jing”, I’m going to be involved in the Chinese capital as never before. My main career is obviously going to be rail-centred, but I’ll also keep a firm footing in academia, Beijing’s international events, and particularly the Swiss community in Beijing and across all of China. The Beijing & Zhangjiakou 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the building of the northern China megalopolis around Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei, are stories that will define our time and are unique in their own right. This is where I’ll also come in with my own experience and know-how, as I do my part in making China and its people better off and living better lives daily.
Here’s a look back at 25 pictures of two highly successful years in Britain. ▶
Dear friends from across the world,
The year 2016 is with us. For me, this is a year of remembrance, gratitude, and progress.
In this new year, I shall look back at five years of marriage, and twenty years since approaching the microphone in front of an audience, and also of clicking my way online. I do treasure these precious moments of promising the love of my life my eternal commitment, of sharing thoughts with people, and of being a member of the Internet community. These are now fundamental and inseparable parts of my life. It is true that so much has happened since our promise of being for one another for life, my first speech, and Internet presence. ▶
The average academic talk is where you’ve students all facing one way, staring at a speaker, and then trying to make sense of this. Then you realise that when I do seminars and events, I wanted to make it the exact way both the speaker and attendees want it. We decided shifting tables so that most of us ended up looking at one other — much like a semi-roundtable — would be the best idea. And that’s exactly how the classroom was arranged for the first China Media Centre seminar, which took place today.
Vincent Ni, who’s now with the BBC World Service, came today as speaker to deliver an extremely insightful talk — insightful as it was also thought-provoking and very much what you expected from a distinguished journalist with a lot of experience. He has covered the elections in Myanmar / Burma, the Arab Spring, and much more. He has also worked previously in China-based media, moving recently onwards to media based in the UK. ▶
…and I can easily say this has been the absolute best month yet my end for probably the best part of 12 years, if not ever. Of course, nothing beats hosting a brilliant arts expo in London about China’s Hebei province. But even off-stage, there’s still a lot of things that got improved — and now, it’s all about the blogs, too.
I do admit that running a huge diversity of blogs can be a bit of a chore, especially for those which you post in separate locations. This is why I am merging all non-Street Level China blogs onto davidfeng.com with immediate effect. First to go onto this new centralised base on davidfeng.com will be my Switzerland-oriented blog, 8152blog.ch, as well as the That Building… blog, and the Chang’anjie Media Notebook. All other blogs will be merged here onto davidfeng.com no later than 29 December 2015.
Merging them onto this site brings very obvious advantages. The best that can happen is a unified interface, along with easier access to all other pages and posts of relevance. Finally, having them on the main davidfeng.com site means they will likely be translated into the other site languages. ▶
I enter November 2015 completely refreshed, as I realise that only by loving what you do to the fullest, will you get the most results. My end, this includes just about anything — from emceeing events to academic research.
Facebook alerted me to a very worrying trend — that as you are constantly denied what you want, worries and eventually hate will breed. Ultimately, hurt people hurt people (nope, that’s not a typo!). I’ve been in this devilish cycle for a fair bit of time. My wife, Tracy, grew increasingly worried at a trend she saw as excessive pessimism.
Tracy got me home and we had a heart-to-heart on all issues impacting me — many, many times. She wanted me to be more active, and so got me involved in a great number of projects. I had lots of hour-long calls with other members of the family. Slowly, things started to change. The event that Tracy encouraged me to host on 31 October 2015 was the tipping point. Fyvie Hall was awash with mutual appreciation even amongst total strangers. ▶
It’s been a month of very hard work on this site. This is whilst nearly a hundred site elements get translated from English to simplified Chinese. It meant working up to 05:00 (in the morning hours here in London!… maybe even more!), but it was worth it.
This is the first time in the history of my site — in any form — that a non-English language version has been translated in full. Obviously, with simplified Chinese serving mostly the Chinese mainland market, it made sense to apply the extra tests to ensure that content was visible, and remained visible, from mainland China, which simply meant (a) translating it in a way that made sense and (b) ensuring it was compatible with Chinese law. Obviously, as this site remains largely apolitical, the latter was less a hurdle to clear than you think it might be.
Over three-quarters of all content have been translated; the rest should be ready before the weekend is over. During the first week, it will obviously be a case where you might encounter the odd dead link — or get a link that you click in Chinese, taking you to the English version of the page. Rest assured, there will be a full inspection of both languages of the site, and any minor errors you run into today will be gone. A general check in terms of grammar for the Chinese site will be up next, and then, part of the site will be integrated into my WeChat public presence. For now, huanying ni (欢迎你) — welcome — to the new site in simplified Chinese. It has been incredibly difficult to get stuff right at times, but the work more than paid off. Last but not least, all posts in simplified Chinese will migrate to the new page no later than 29 December 2015. ▶