Catering for the large expat Chinese community, which is mostly made up of overseas Chinese students at the city's colleges and universities, Newcastle's Chinatown is located right opposite the St James Park football stadium. It is one of the ten Chinatowns' in the United Kingdom (the others being in London, Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool). Easiest way to get to it is by taking the convenient Newcastle metro, get off at St James station, and then turn left, and you can't miss the large Chinese style archway (as in photo). The main street is just on the first right hand turn. Have a Dim Sum in true Geordie style!
On the 22nd of January 2013, the Commonwealth Journalists Association hosted a seminar held at Senate House, University of London on the issue of ‘China 2013 – what next?’
The Seminar, which was held in partnership with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, was both topical and enormously engaging, and well received by the hundreds of specially invited guests in the audience.
Humphrey Hawksley, the well known BBC foreign correspondent, author, and commentator on world affairs, chaired the seminar. On the discussion panel were Jonathan Fenby (respected writer and China expert), Carrie Gracie (BBC China correspondent), Rana Mitter (Professor of History and Politics of Modern China, Oxford University), Stephen Chan (Professor of International Relations, SOAS, University of London), and George Magnus (Senior Economic Adviser, and author of ‘Uprising: Will Emerging Markets Shape or Shake the World’s Economy?’)
Deriving from their years of China experience, the five China experts shared their rich viewpoints on where China is going to be in 2013. Some of the key highlights of the evening included as follows:
Senior Economic Advisor at UBS Investment Bank and highly sought after global economist, George Magnus outlined the dual challenges of China’s demographic and economic hurdles ahead. He specifically pointed out that, on the demographic side, China’s ageing population, these included a weaker savings base and older working population and, on the economic side, newer developments had to be found as the country has saturated the gains made from economic development areas of the past in areas such as construction and industry. He said that the Chinese economy is particularly important now as it has reached the end of extrapolation.
He said China faces issues of discontinuity, making it hard to predict its growth into the future in a linear fashion. The GDP rate, which hovered around 10% through the 2000s was now dropping to about 5%. His main point was that China has worked hard in the first 30 years of reforms to match up with, and exceed, the economy of most countries, and now the challenge was on how to continue that growth while maintaining impeccable house-keeping issues within the country. Mr. Magnus pointed out that a new model needed to be invented in China to keep the country’s growth on track, maintain workable and sustainable relations with neighbours and maintaining internal stability.
Carrie Gracie spoke about the role of Media in China and what 2013 looked like from the point of view of journalists. She said the communist party views media as an extremely potent tool and considers party strengthening to be the media’s role. Describing the transition period in China from the old administration to the new as tense and ‘febrile’ she emphasized the need to appreciate what direction the people were trying to push the country in. Ms. Gracie specifically highlighted the immense growth of China’s Twitter –Weibo – and other social media platforms had also empowered others outside the media, including businessmen, and how that is having an influence on the changes that are happening within the country’s social, cultural, and economic side.
Ms. Gracie also pointed out how she has noticed changes that are happening in the rural areas of the country. A clear example of this has been illustrated by her annual visits to a village almost every year and meeting a local family, and seeing how that family and the people of that village have adapted to the changes around them in the decades that have gone past.
Interesting contributions came from the highly respected British-Indian academic Rana Mitter, who spoke about China and her neighbors. Professor Mitter, who is the most senior British professor of Indian origin to have a strong expertise on China, was quick to spell out any indifference between China and her neighbors and stated that China was a very long way from the situation 70 years ago when East Asia erupted.
In regards to India, Professor Mitter said it was not important to see who would win the race between the two countries for growth and power, but that China was way ahead of India as was reflected in GDP numbers, (China’s USD 8400 per capita to India’s USD 3500).
When I asked him a question about what his thoughts were on the India-China economic race, Professor Mitter pointed out that during his recent visit to New Delhi he personally observed and experienced many differences between the two nations. He felt there was no particular race between India and China in any capacity (infrastructure being one of them was behind in India compared to China).
Professor Stephen Chan, who has decades of experience on the African continent, and has seen tremendous change on the continent especially in the past decade. If there is one particular experienced British man who knows the African continent through the Chinese eyes, then it has to be Professor Chan. He noted that with all due respect that the Chinese have been trading with Africa since times in memorial, and likewise Africans have been trading with China for centuries.
A clear example was provided of the Chinese city of Guangzhou, which is the main trading hub for China-Africa (Guangzhou has the largest African population in China), and also African countries such as Angola, Algeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Kenya that have large number of Chinese people. Though he wasn’t so sure as to why there are not many Chinese people in Mali.
Professor Chan also pointed out that “The Chinese don’t know what they’re doing in Africa,” he told the discussion outlining the lack of solid reporting to Beijing from Africa. He added that Africa also had problems negotiating with the Chinese. Professor Chan spoke on China’s strategy and experience in Africa.
As part of the closing remarks to summarise the discussion, one of the key points were made by Jonathan Fenby, who is one of the most respected and experienced experts on China, when he pointed out that China is a ‘normal country that is behaving normally economically’ in respects to the world’s presence. Mr. Fenby said that China is not going to ‘overtake the world’s economy, and nor is China going to be an influence on the global culture'. It’s a country that is behaving normally and on the right track of growth where it should be. Mr. Fenby also pointed out that one of the reasons why we are seeing such a rapid growth is because of the country’s practical and population size, which is an advantage for it to make full use of its resources.
Following the discussion, there were a series of contributions from the floor including questions and comments from Chinese journalists based in the UK, Chinese students and Chinese Diaspora, and other experts and specialists who follow China’s developments (or those involved with China). It was fascinating and a privilege to listen to the insights provided by these top five China experts and I am sure it would be equally interesting to see where the world, and indeed China, will take us, going into the next decade.
International markets are developing rapidly and changing substantially. Newly emerging markets continue to grow, despite the pressures on the global economy. Markets such as China, India, Russia, South Africa and South America are set to continue double-digit growth, and are looking to up-skill, including through formal global exchange programmes, as they seek to increase productivity and quality.
A full transcript of the talk can be read at http: //www.cja-uk.org/2013/02/2317/
On Saturday the 13th of October, I was a guest on the ‘Lucky Cat’ show at London’s Resonance FM radio station (www.resonancefm.com). Zoë Baxter, the DJ, Broadcaster, and Asian Culture Connoisseur (http://luckykitty.blogspot.co.uk/), normally hosts the show every Saturday at 3.30pm. However since Zoë was unavailable this weekend, so covering her spot was Anna Chen (read about her at www.annachen.co.uk) who writes for the Guardian, New International Magazine, and the SCMP among others. In this lively one hour radio programme, Anna played some tracks from her Dad's China Revolutionary folks songs LPs. Anna's poetry book Reaching for my Gnu is out now. For more poetry and Anna's upcoming gigs see: http://madammiaow.blogspot.com
Other guests on the show were the well-known guitarist and music journalist, Charles Shaar Murray, who has just recently published his new book on Jimi Hendrix (www.charlesshaarmurray.com), and the Chinese actor, Hi Ching who made one of the best screen villains: Li Si, the prime minister to Chin Shi Huang Di, China’s first Emperor. Topics discussed included the ruthless nature of Emperor Qin (as depicted also on the BBC website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19922863), and how China has changed since the 1970s.
I have been in London for the past 2 weeks on a private visit. It is good to be back in the U.K. for a short break, and especially after experiencing my recent interesting adventures in Shenzhen, Shanghai, Xi'an, and Beijing.
If you missed listening to the programme, than here is the podcast link:
A special thank you to Anna Chen for hosting the show, and thanks to Zoë Baxter for the links.
It was my first trip to Beijing way back during the Mid-Autumn festival (widely known as the "Moon Cake Festival") in the first week of October 2002; and I was extremely excited at the prospects of actually going to experience the sights and smells of the city at first hand. I had long awaited for this moment and finally that thought was to become reality. Prior to this trip, I had two solid images of Beijing in my mind, the first one was of the Great Wall of China- the image which I suppose most foreigners would have when China is mentioned to them; and the second one was of Tiananmen Square. However that image of Tiananmen Square was the same image that, sadly, showed tanks and student protesters during the 4th June 1989. I was a 9 years old youngster living in London at that time and, obviously, I hardly remember anything at that time. However as the years have passed since that atrocious day in Chinese history, the images we in the UK (and outside of China) have been accustomed to watching are of a young man waving something (a white flag or shirt) and standing in front of a tank in the middle of the square. So on this trip; I was curious to see that square and to stand on that piece of historical land. By all means, it was not the purpose of my trip, however I wanted to see that exact place, and just compare the sight of what life is like in 21st Century Beijing, compared to what I had seen through western Media.
On this trip I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by one of my good friend’s who was kind enough to take a couple of days off her work to show me around. Born and raised in Beijing, educated at the famous Tsinghua University and an aspiring Chinese model/actress, I could not have been in any better company in this splendid city. Arriving on a hot and dry afternoon at my hotel, I spent the final hours of that day sightseeing in central Beijing, having been to look at Beihai Park, the Tian Tan (Temple of Heaven) and eating a scrumptious meal at the acclaimed Duck restaurant on 32 Qianmen Street, I eventually made my way through to Tiananmen Square.
Standing at the largest square in the in the world for the first time was just such a wonderful feeling. I immediately felt as if I was part of China’s history and not just Beijing’s history. It was a quite atmosphere to absorb. The weather was still fairly hot and there was a slight breeze coming in from the south. There were many families, tourists and residents’ alike taking an evening stroll, some taking photos, while others were just whiling away the time chatting amongst themselves. There were also quite a lot of children flying kites, taking advantage of that slight breeze I suppose.
However one thing I did notice which was somewhat difficult to avoid. As a rough estimate, there must have been about two hundred uniformed army and police personnel in the square (possibly more if one includes the non-uniformed ones). Some were marching in line, while others were just standing and watching the crowds. Were they anticipating for something to happen? Was this a routine procedure (or should I say a daily one?)? I did not know the answer to these questions. Nevertheless their presence was all the all a bizarre occurrence to me, as the only time I have seen such high number of police presence is at, say marches or public events (musical concerts and so on)- and here I was standing in Beijing on a perfectly normal and quiet summer’s evening. Every time I got my camera out to take a photo, it had always occurred at the back of my mind, “Is it safe?”, “Will they stop me from taking a photo?” It seems bad that I had these thoughts, but for some reason (I still cannot explain as to why), I always felt a bit fearful of seeing Chinese police. If I, as a foreigner felt this way, I can only imagine what a native Chinese person may feel like.
Just then a group of about 10 soldiers where marching towards us. I took a chance and asked my friend to take a photo of me with the soldiers marching as a backdrop. She asked me to stand in front of a tree, and carefully placed the camera at an angle so that no one could tell that she was talking the photos of the soldiers as well.
My friend and I strolled our way to the south side of the square, and she was happily explaining to me the daily ceremony of raising (at sunrise) and lowering (at sunset) of the national flag by the guards, when I asked her a few questions; and I could not resist the opportunity. “Is this is way the tanks came in from on the 4th of June?”, “Do you remember what you were doing on that day?” Immediately I realized that I made a mistake of even asking her up front. Suddenly her smile disappeared, and she completely ignored my questions. “Is everything alright?” I asked, to which she replied with a simple nod with a straight facial expression before we changed the subject and carried on talking about other things. To this day, I do not understand what was going through her mind, and will probably never know why she ignored my questions. Interestingly, during my many years in China, I had come to realize that this was not just an isolated case, it was quite common for anyone to just suddenly go quiet and change the subject...would be interesting to know if anyone else (Chinese or non-Chinese) has had a similar experience.