Welcome back to Beijing for Vlerick MBA

April 8th, 2015

On 28 March one more of the usual “Q&A” sessions with the group of Vlerick Leuven Gent, done jointly with the National School of Development at Peking University and BIMBA (Beijing International MBA at Peking University).

As usual I shared the panel with Prof. Tony Liu but I had the answer the vast majority of questions during the 90 minutes Q&A, as Tony has already talked a lot during other sessions…
This time the location was ARIVA Beijing West Hotel on Haidian Nan Lu.
Next session with another group in about two weeks.
I like the format where basically we do not give a presentation, except to introduce ourselves; the students can ask whatever question they want, on any topic. Always challenging but fun!

The European Chamber talking to the Rotary Club in Beijing

March 25th, 2015

On 17 March we had Mr. Adam Dunnett, Secretary General of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, spoke on “Taking a Stand: EU Business in China”.
I know Adam since more than ten years and I have been working with him closely, as the chair of the Public Procurement Working group. What few know, he also played in a band in Beijing…
Adam started the talk by examining how his own upbringing shaped and later after many years of dealing with China confirmed his beliefs in compassion, understanding of others and taking a stand in his actions. He also observed the changing sentiments in the West of China’s rise since 2000. China’s economic take off in the 2000 was first treated as a phenomenon, and with incredulity. However with the Beijing Olympic and financial meltdown in the West after 2008, the West started to treat China with awe and China’s miracle was regarded as “supreme”. China’s mode of development was coveted with glowing praise. With China’s GDP now down to the “new normal” of 7% and protectionist measures erected against foreign companies, the West has started to view China’s recent policies with caution and frustration, which in turn has fueled a new “stand firm” attitude among foreigners in their dealings with China. Mr. Dunnett urged all business and individuals to take a stand on what they believe in and not compromise their beliefs when it comes to China.

Adam urged the foreign businesses operating in China to take a stand on three areas: the removal of the industry catalogs; the signing of an EU-China Investment Agreement; and relaxing of the internet and digital censorship in China. Despite the recent announcement by China on the expanding of the industrial investment catalogue, the catalogue was in fact more restrictive for foreign investment, because the government had opened up industries with little or no interest for EU companies and in areas of overcapacity; it put more restrictions on industries with higher margins. China now ranks the 54th place in investment restrictions in the FDI Survey out of 54 countries. The negotiations of EU’s investment agreement with China are aimed at gaining more market access for EU companies and thus require the support and involvement of business. The recent tightening of the internet censorship had hurt foreign businesses’ digital and research development. This negative impact has been further aggravated by the recent government decree that all banks are required to procure domestic made IT equipment, which would not only jeopardize the banks IT development but also cede to the government valuable client and bank’s data.

Overall. Adam gave a well balanced overview, with a sound dose of sarcasm at some point…
Rtn Gilbert thanking Adam on behalf of the club.

Embassy of Canada: a view on the Arctic

March 19th, 2015

On 18 March I had the privilege to attend an interesting overview on what Canada is doing and planning for this enormous region, called the Arctic.
Ambassador Guy Saint-Jacques invited us all you to a “Canada in Conversation event” featuring guest speaker, Dr. David Hik, Board of Directors Member, Canadian Polar Commission in conversation with moderator, Dr. Yang Huigen, Director General of Polar Research Institute of China on “Canada’s Arctic Science in an International Context: Innovations for a Changing Arctic in the 21st Century”
The new Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) Act is expected to come into force soon, making it the focal federal government organization for coordinating Arctic research in Canada. This will present on a number of opportunities to strengthen international cooperation in Arctic scientific research, and specific possibilities for enhancing Canada-China collaboration. Science, technology and relevant knowledge underpins all four pillars of Canada’s Northern Strategy – environmental protection, social and economic development, governance, and sovereignty. In addition, given the devolution of some federal responsibilities to local governments and various land claims obligations, the way in which Arctic research is conducted is changing, including greater involvement of Northern communities in decision-making. As China is strongly commitment to Arctic research, though a variety of ongoing university, laboratory and institute activities, the conversation will examine the structure and plans for facilitating international collaboration within the new CHARS and the possibility of implementing joint Canada-China research focused on changes in Arctic sea ice conditions, as well as other areas of potential collaboration.
A networking reception followed the talk at the Official Residence.

The Arctic merits indeed a lot of attention for many reasons, due to Climate Change, Warming of the Planet, the melting of the ice cap, the impacts on fauna, flora, fishing, coastal lines, shipping and so on. China is very interested in the subjects and is looking forward to work with Canada on further research.
I had also the pleasure to hand over my book “Toxic Capitalism” to the ambassador. The book also mentions the issues affecting the arctic.
It had been quite some time since I visited the embassy. I particularly enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and cordiality.
See here the biography of the main speakers:

Dr. David Hik
Dr. David Hik was appointed to the Canadian Polar Commission’s Board of Directors in November 2010, and reappointed in November 2013. He has conducted research in Northern Canada since 1984, and his interests are focused on the ecology of tundra ecosystems in Arctic and mountain environments, social-ecological resilience, and the interface between science and policy. Dr. Hik is currently a Professor at the University of Alberta, and also a visiting guest professor at Polar Research Institute of China. He recently completed a four-year term as President of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) where he championed engagement of early career researchers, international partnerships, data management, and long-term planning for research coordination.
Dr. Hik currently serves as Vice-Chair of the Arctic Council’s ‘Sustaining Arctic Observing Networks (SAON)’ initiative; Chair of the 3rd International Conference on Arctic Research Planning (ICARP III); and Co-Chair of the International Polar Partnership Initiative (IPPI). Previously, he held the Canada Research Chair in Northern Ecology (2002-2012) and was Executive Director of the Canadian International Polar Year (IPY) Secretariat (2004-2009). He is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and was awarded the Society’s Martin Bergmann Medal for Excellence in Arctic Leadership and Science in 2013.

Dr. Yang Huigen
Huigen Yang is the Director General of the Polar Research Institute of China (PRIC). Over his career, he has spent significant time carrying out Aurora observations at Syowa and Zhongshan Station in the Antarctic and Yellow River Station on Svalbard. During the 2007-08 International Polar Year (IPY), he acted as Chief Scientist of the IPY China Program. Dedicated to international cooperation, he is the Vice-President of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), and the national representative and council member of both the Science Committee of Antarctic Research (SCAR) and International Council for Science (ICSU). Dr. Yang was the leader of the 25th Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition, 2008- 2009, during which the Kunlun Station at the top of Dome A was established. He also led the 5th Chinese National Arctic Research Expedition to traverse the Northeast Passage. He has built up intensive cooperation with Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Norway, United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries in the area of polar sciences, logistics cooperation, and education and outreach. Dr. Yang obtained his PhD in the field of the space physics in Wu Han University and completed a Post-Doctorate at National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR) in Tokyo.

(information all provided by the Embassy)

Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen op bezoek in Beijing

March 19th, 2015

Op 18 maart had ik een lunch, natuurlijk bij Renaat Morel, met een delegatie van de Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen, met aan het hoofd de heer Geert Versnick, vice-gouverneur die ook voorzitter is van de “Provincial Development Agency of The Province of East Flanders”. En zij komen natuurlijk uit Gent, mijn geboortestad.

Het bezoek werd uitgewerkt door de lokale vertegenwoordiger van “East Flanders & Ghent University of Belgium – China Platform”, onze vriend Chi Zhang (spreeekt perfekt Nederlands!). Ik ben oud-student van Gent…
De bedoeling van de werklunch was een overzicht te geven aand de delegatie over de huidige economische en politieke situatie in China en de weerslag op zaken doen.

The Bookwork Literary Festival: I took part!

March 15th, 2015

Now in its 9th year, the Festival has become not only a tradition, it also has become … huge. From 13 to 29 March some 120 authors from anywhere in the world attend the events in the three locations: Beijing, Chengdu and Suzhou, all under the watchful eye of Peter who happens to be a Rotarian from the Chengdu club, see the pics when we first met at the upper deck of The Bookworm.
This year I attended the kickoff event on the evening of 13 March, for the talk “Celebrating Writers and Readers”. On the panel were: Chan Koonchung, Linda Jaivin, Sheng Keyi, Xu Xi and Lijia Zhang. A fully packed room. Followed by music and more drinks – one of our Rotaractors was at the piano…
For more on the Festival: http://bookwormfestival.com/

On Saturday 14 March I was fortunate to be at the following panel:

How does one reach beyond cliché to unearth the root causes of China’s environmental problems? Start by assembling a panel that rivals those you’d find at international summits: Ma Jun, possibly China’s preeminent environmentalist, selected by Time magazine as one of its 100 most influential people in 2006; Dr. Husayn Anwar, with more than three decades of experience, who founded the first private environmental services firm in China in 1992; Gilbert Van Kerckhove, author of the thought-provoking book Toxic Capitalism; and Xizhou Zhou, honored by Forbes in 2011 as one of the “30 Under 30” young leaders in energy. Moderated by Jonathan Fenby, who sits on the Board of Trustees of the environment-focused Chinadialogue.net. This event was in English and Chinese (thanks to a super translation…).
See the announcement: http://bookwormfestival.com/events/2015bw14c/

The debate was interesting and lively and the room was fully packed… Then some say the environment issue is “passé”? It was clear most agree the water problems are underestimated, the air pollution is indeed serious, implementation of the environmental laws are still a major challenge and we as consumers have to change our attitudes.
It was an honor to have Ma Jun on the panel, he is featured in my book and he is probably the most famous pioneer in environmetal issues here in China.

I mostly commented on the well-know documentary “Under The Dome” by Chai Jing. Somehow my book already addressed all the same issues and much more. She came at the right time and adds to more awareness on the environmental problems. And she is a former CCTV host, a lady who spent a lot of money on the documentary and – did it all in Chinese. I can‘t compete with that!
Seems all my books in stock at The bookworm were sold out…