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. ▶
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. ▶
Being interviewed on the lawn at College Green in central London, right next to the Houses of Parliament, was and remained a very unique event to me. The BBC got together around six people from all walks of life — including lawyers, artists, academics, and independent journalists — and filled an entire hour of programming with discussions and debate, with the Chinese President in town.
The way we conducted the interview and the programming itself was, certainly to me, quite unlike any other. It was held in the open, right next to other “camera & mic” setups by other media outlets (such as TV stations). We had no cover, no cameras, three microphones (microphones only, since this was an audio-only show), and stood around in a circle. It was in fact none other than like a good old chat — except you handed over the mic to the person who wanted to speak. At the end, we tuned in live to the Chinese President’s address to the Houses of Parliament and gave our quick 2p on how the talk was. Consensus was we did in fact actually like it.
I myself believe that things like today’s live interview is a great way to share voices freely, a principle I stick to dearly. Everyone was given almost equal microphone access and on-air time, and every view was so different and unique. The discussion wrapped up by noting how down-to-earth the Chinese President’s comments were and how this was welcomed and made a difference. ▶
Croydon, to me, was this fantastically crazy mix of the UK, Hong Kong, and Mainland China in the weirdest possible mix, especially architecture-wise. (The presence of Tramlink added a more Helvetic factor to the whole thing, too.) And I’d have never really found out much about Croydon — if I hadn’t been there recently to get my Registration Certificate, which was recommended if I wanted to get Tracy her Residence Card.
These Residence Cards are good for 5 years, but there’s something they didn’t tell you — waiting times are upwards of 6 months, and they actually take your passport away for the whole six months. Hence went our first planned trip back to China straight down the sewer. (Oh well.)
To prove I was eligible for one, all I needed were a few payslips from my university, plus my new, David Feng passport and ID card, a hugely complex formed filled in, and — that was pretty much it. I could get mine the same day (really not fair: Tracy had to wait all those months). ▶
The only bit I’m not too happy with Pinner is the fact that if you’re on a Metropolitan line train to Uxbridge, it won’t take you there. Too often, I rush down to platforms with a Met line train waiting — only to see it ending at Uxbridge.
I was like: OK, so there’s one less option for me to spend my time in.
To me the reason why I’m in for Pinner is because it’s the England I grew up knowing it would be. Never mind I was educated first in Switzerland, then in China. The England I was brought up knowing it to be (a la what I have seen on the BBC, read in UK-authored textbooks and on the Web, etc) would be one with a nice little High Street, a fair bit of shops, people talking to you at establishments (like restaurants), and a fair bit of peace and quiet. ▶
My wife Tracy and I join everyone in announcing that we will be based in the UK with effect from early August 2014. We have just received all documents needed to enter the UK and we will be in London, which in essence is the world inside the M25.
Beginning this autumn, I’ll be with the University of Westminster’s China Media Centre, and my position will be involved in research as a visiting fellow about media in China. This opportunity is unique and is one I greatly treasure. A mix of European and Asian upbringing from Grade 1 through to “Grade 22” (final year of my PhD studies) has made me a true World Citizen, with mileage over a million kilometres across 200+ cities in 20+ countries and territories. I will provide a unique view into China and its media world, especially when it comes to social media. Tracy will be with me in London whilst I’m there for at least a year doing research. ▶
The UK is known for great programming — some of my favourites include not just the “plain-vanilla” news shows on the BBC, but also a whole slew of others, including comedies. I know Open All Hours off by heart (in summer 1998 I gave it a quick dekko), and more recent favourites my end include much from Monty Python, Blackadder, Are You Being Served?, Yes Minister, and The Vicar of Dibley.
But British TV is also a must-see when it comes to quality programming. And for me, hHosting around 30 of some of Britain’s best media people, including those in the independent documentaries business and others, was and remains a great delight. I learnt as much as the audience, and I was really happy to take part in the event, mainly as a host.
My favourite event was co-hosting the UK Evening Gala with others from the UK, where we cracked just the funniest jokes ever, and I would continue on with a few in English whilst translating the rest into Chinese using the words I knew might trigger laughs equally quickly. Never mind the fireworks never synchronised with our two countdown attempts: everyone had fabulous fun, and there was a lot of appreciation from everyone at the event. ▶