Expats witness China’s changes

China Daily event

On 12 December 2018 China Daily organized an event in The Bookworm “Expats witness China’s changes”, as China celebrates the 40th anniversary of the reform and opening-up. China Daily website invited over 30 foreigners to share their stories and insights.
The China Daily online article: https://enapp.chinadaily.com.cn/a/201812/14/AP5c132630a310475542874c93.html

See here the PDF of the article: 181212 CDBookworm

The program and guests:
For the full program see here: 181212 ProgramBookworm

Main speakers:

  • Zhang Chunyan, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily Website
  • Laurence Brahm
  • David Bartosch
  • Gilbert Van Kerckhove
  • Alex Chan
  • Hujjatullah Zia
  • Jocelyn Eikenburg
  • Bruce Connolly

Gilbert talking

The official topic and introduction:
2008 it’s an important year for China as Beijing held the Olympics successfully. To many who have watched or attended the Beijing Olympics did have great memory on it, some even remark it was transformative for the city and country. For our next speaker Mr. Gilbert Van Kerckhove, he was deeply involved in the preparation of the Beijing Olympics. He acted as a bridge between the Chinese administration and foreign governments, embassies and chambers of commerce during China’s preparation for the Olympics. Due to his achievements, he was honored with the China Friendship Award, and he was offered a Chinese “green card” in 2008. Now, we have Mr. Gilbert Van Kerckhove to share his 38 years experience during his stay in China.

The report from China Daily:
Gilbert Van Kerckhove is one of the earliest foreign business people to venture into China after its reform and opening-up. The 70-year-old Belgian business strategist has not only witnessed, but also played an important part in the country’s tremendous transformation over the decades.
In 2008, as Beijing prepared for the Olympic Games, Van Kerckhove acted as a coordinator between the Chinese administration and foreign governments, embassies and chambers of commerce.
Looking back on his memorable experiences of the 2008 Olympics, Van Kerckhove summarized the whole complicated effort in one sentence: “It was not only me — it was teamwork. It also illustrates that we foreigners can contribute to this country.”
Living in China for 38 years, Gilbert Van Kerckhove witnessed China’s great transformation. “In this respect, China has being pretty much planning ahead and being very forward-looking,” he said.
Due to his great achievements, he was honored with the China Friendship Award in 2005, and he was offered a Chinese “green card” in 2008.

Meeting friends

Was good to meet some friends who were there as speakers or VIP guests:
Laurence Brahm, David Bartosch, Bruce Connolly and Emanuele  Francia.

See here the pics, mostly from China Daily, others from friends and myself.

My interviews on SINO-US.com websites


Recently I was interviewed by Rebecca Lin from www.SINO-US.com.
The interview lasted over two hours and I guess Rebecca has a lot to digest and has material for more publications…
Some of my friends were surprised to read my story. Indeed, I mostly keep a low profile so some of the more “new” friends know little about my crazy stories, Olympics and much more.
Thanks Rebecca for being very professional.

See here the link: http://sino-us.com/21/17590493560.html
The PDF: 161011-mychineseolympicdream


Then, confusion as my friend Mark Levine alerted me about another article that was published in Los Angeles, about him and me. After asking around Rebecca kindly sent me the PDF as that publication is related to SINO-US …
I honestly forgot about that interview and how those pictures landed there. I need to check about the journalist Zhang Han.
The online translation was kind of hilarious. Seems I am now :Van Gogh”. I am honored!
See part:

“Honor status. By the end of 2012, when Van Gogh was granted a Chinese green card, only about 7,300 foreigners were awarded the honor. Including two years earlier than his American-Chinese physicist Yang Zhenning.
Van Gogh was born in 1948, after graduating from university in Brazil and Nigeria, multinational companies work.”

See here the links:
The PDF: 161009-articleuschinab

PPP in China: long way to go

I think I can say I have been a pioneer in Beijing trying to launch the Olympic projects under a PPP scheme (Public Private Partnership). After studying how other countries successfully used PPP, I launched the big tenders (Bird’s Nest and others) under a PPP approach. While the Prequalification was a real success we were then hit with the lawyers who said we could not follow the PPP because of the new tendering laws. So, PPP was dead, virtually, and we tried to carry out the projects in a “creative” way. Some lawyers tried to convince me “China has PPP” but our discussion lasted 1 minute only, after I asked one question; the only real PPP project ever in China was the power plant Laibin B.

Recently China officially launched a series of “PPP projects”. While I do not agree with the approach and the format is not really PPP, it seemed like a nice try.
Well, the results are not good.

“UPDATE 1-China says to further pave way for private investors in infrastructure projects”
Reuters article

So far, fewer than one-quarter of projects announced by the government as PPPs have found private investors, official data shows.
Investors had signed up for 619 of 2,531 projects with a total value of 1 trillion yuan through the end of July 2016 according to the NDRC.

Reuters also pointed out in another article that the government trying to woo private capital has been a flop. Since March 2015 the NDRC has raised more than half of its target of 3.5 trillion RMB for PPP projects for bridges, roads, schools, hospitals. But over 90% comes from SOE according to a study by North Square Blue Oak. A real embarrassment for the government as it failed to attract the right private investors and SOE have been finding ways to monopolize the funding.

See also: “China’s private infrastructure firms face unexpected competition”
Yahoo Finance article

Some statements say it all:
“The government is willing to work with government firms, but co-operation with private companies is a shambles. None of the projects make financial sense.”

My experience showed most government officials (and not only in China) do not understand at all what is PPP. Explains why many projects fail as private companies do not see an interest.
As a former long-time chair of the European Chamber’s Working Group on Public procurement I kept a watch on PPP in China.


HONAV: licensed Olympic goods and more

On 27 September I was invited for a visit to HONAV, as the company “Beijing Huajiang Culture Development Co. Ltd.” is known. I joined government officials from Beijing Dongcheng District (I am their advisor).
See: http://issuu.com/danielpeng/docs/honav_brochure

As reported by my friend Rachael Church-Sanders on MEI (Major Events International), on 12 August 2012:

Honav named official provider
Honav, the Chinese company that designed and made lapel pins for the Beijing and London Olympics, has become the official provider of pins for the Rio 2016 Games, becoming the first company to get pin-licensing rights three times in a row. Jack Chen, chairman of Honav, signed the agreement with Carlos Nuzman, president of the Rio 2016 organizing committee, in London during the 2012 Olympics.
Beijing-based Honav made its name in 2008 by turning waste steel at Beijing National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest stadium, into Olympic souvenirs such as miniature torches and pins. Shortly after the Beijing Olympics, Honav was approached by organisers of the 2012 Olympics to bid for those Games’ pin-licensing rights. Honav won the bid over about 40 competitors worldwide.
Honav has become the only company in the world with the right to design, produce, and distribute official pins for the Olympics organisers, as well as for Olympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola Co and Dow Chemical Co.
For the London 2012 Games, Honav designed 2,012 pins with various themes. About 20 designers were involved, both Chinese and British.
See: http://www.majoreventsinternational.com/

I was impressed by the visit to their Beijing Office. Never seen such a well-designed, orderly and clean Chinese office. I personally congratulated its Chairman and CEO, Mr. Jack Chen, during the dinner.
See the pictures to have an idea.
After the visit we had a dinner in a pretty unusual hotel: Xizhao Temple Hotel. As it happened I had visited the temple (sitting behind and on top of parts of the hotel), during a cultural event years ago, finding my way out through the hotel.

Another “specialist” hits the wrong notes in the NYT on 2008 Olympics

In this article, the usual crap estimates on the 2008 Beijing Olympics:
12 August 2013 – The Olympics’ Leadership Mess – NYT
Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, edited “China’s Great Leap: The Beijing Games and Olympian Human Rights.”
Published in IHT Hong Kong 14 August 2013 as “What the Olympics can be”
Says the article:
“The 12-year term of the current president, Jacques Rogge of Belgium, will be remembered in large part for the glaring contradiction between the I.O.C.’s explicit vision of its lofty role in the world (as outlined in the rules and guidelines of its charter) and the fact that Mr. Rogge has been responsible for two Olympics with extensive human rights violations: the 2008 summer games in Beijing and the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia, which start in less than six months.

The 2008 Beijing games, which cost an estimated $40 billion, led to a host of rights violations, including abuses of domestic migrant workers who were building Olympic infrastructure and a harsh clampdown on civil society and media, with punishment (including imprisonment) for those trying to protest.”
Minky Worden, as many others. has not done his research. Beijing never spent US$40 billion for the 2008 Olympics. I was instrumental in raising funds for the construction of the major venues and helped launch the tenders, as member of the Beijing Municipal team, I was also well placed to have insight into the cost and the challenges of preparing for the Olympics. My own estimate of the total real cost in under $10 billion. Many other misgivings exist, like allegations that over 1 million people were displaced because of the Olympics: utter nonsense, as I still often explain in my seminars looking back at 2008. Was it all perfect? Surely not. But much better than what I see coming in Russia. I insisted that Beijing would not close its biggest gay bar. It remained open during the Games.
Gilbert Van Kerckhove
(Former Delegate Investment Promotion, Development Planning Commission, Beijing Municipal Government, Office for the Beijing Olympics 2008 projects)