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.

Belgian PM Charles Michel in the Embassy

Garden Party for our PM Charles Michel in the Embassy

On the occasion of the official visit of H.E. Mr. Charles Michel, Prime Minister of Belgium, to celebrate 45 years of diplomatic relations between China and Belgium, H.E. Mr. Michel Malherbe, Ambassador of Belgium, invited the community to a Garden Party at his Residence on Sunday 30 October 2016 in the afternoon.
Before the Garden Party I was interviewed by Stefan Blommaert (Belgian VRT) along Liangma River, close to the embassy.
There was a large crowd to welcome the PM, some 500+ braving the chilly weather. Food by TRB.

Also attended: the ambassadors of the EU Delegation, Luxembourg, Russia and others. Also, the President of the EU Chamber, Joerg Wuttke.
Our PM cordially mingled with the guests to chat.
I also met several of the staff of Anbang Brussels who were happy to finally meet the father of a certain Valerie…
See pictured also Renaat and Susan Morel, Stella Chang (soprano), Sus van Elzen (Belgian writer and journalist) and other friends.

Gilbert and Chinese qipao

Yes, as some of my friends say, I get involved in “many things”.
One is the official setup of the World Qipao Association. It is connected to my role in the International Gongfu Committee. (don’t try to understand!)
On 13 October 2015 in Changbaishan International Hotel (Beijing) an event was held showing the traditional culture of qipao.
To illustrate a little the event see here my short speech before handing over the registration certificate to the qipao ladies:

” Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, good morning!
Today we convey our congratulations to the World Qipao Association to become a subsidiary of the International Gongfu Committee. We hope Chinese qipao culture can be promoted in the world. Already many foreigners are familiar with qipao but more can be done because the dress is really charming and elegant, a famous fashion statement for Chinese ladies.
Gongfu shows men’s beauty and strength, qipao shows ladies’ soft beauty.
We today celebrate the start of the NGO program for “China No Cancer”. We wish both undertakings a big success!”

The event was really charming. I think never so many ladies have been taking pictures with me!

What are the worst behaviors of Chinese drivers?

I found this on bbs.chinadaily.com.cn, dated 18 December 2014. It lists the 10 bad behaviors of Chinese drivers. Amusing as I guess there must be at least 100, the list is endless. Anyway, interesting view:
Editor’s note: MichaelM, our blogger from the US, sums up the most common, chaotic driving practices of Chinese drivers.
1. They will exceed the speed limit so long as there is no traffic camera in sight.
2. They will pass you like crazy on the shoulder of the road.
3. They will cut you off with mere inches to spare.
4. They will honk at you repeatedly with “seemingly” no patience at all.
5. They quickly use the lane of oncoming traffic to bypass numerous stopped cars or going slow in a traffic jam. Oncoming traffic just makes room for them, as if it is normal.
6. They will use the sidewalk if it’s convenient for them to get ahead of you.
7. They will pull out in front of you no matter the situation and expect you to stop.
8. They will cut in on you in traffic and expect you to submit and allow them to do it.
9. They do have laws very similar to ours in the West, but, they are totally disregarded. They mean nothing because there is no one to enforce them except for the traffic cameras, which are few and far between.
10. Pedestrians can be seen nearly everywhere walking in the middle of the road, with seemingly no concern for their own safety or the fact that they are holding up traffic. The drivers will honk at them and simply go around them as if nothing is wrong.
So, Michael, go back to the street and add the other 90!
Not to be surprised, Beijing traffic remains a mess, traffic police is nowhere to be seen and is totally useless. And makes pollution worse.

Another banquet in Diaoyutai for a mystery Taiwan seminar

Sometimes life in Beijing for a foreigner can be both challenging and interesting. Like in my case, with my Chinese being reasonable for social contacts but pretty useless for business, it also sometimes leads to frustration.
The Chinese side (whatever that means) insisted I joined some big Taiwan seminar and banquet in Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, most probably the most prestigious location of the city, food being normally better than in The Great Hall of The People.
I managed to escape from the seminar, luckily, as everything was in Chinese without translation. On top of that all the speakers (idem in the Banquet) were shouting like hell, making it also rather annoying. My daughter was getting tired of the noise in the banquet.


So, what was it actually all about? I still have no clue. My entourage just tells stuff me on a need-to-know basis. No extras.
The seminar was in one building and the banquet in another one. Nice walk.
During the banquet I also escaped by not having to sit at the VIP table. There was just one more foreigner in the whole hall and he was sitting pretty lonely on that long VIP table. Nobody seemed interested in him.
I got however a lot of attention as many of our Chinese friends were there and many other came to take picture with me. So, smile, give business card, say cheers and then next one. Who they were, mostly again clueless.
Oh well that is part of Beijing life. A must to stay connected to the “important people”.
The food was good, the red wine was pretty good and some of the performances were nice.
The gardens of Diaoyutai are meticulously maintained and are lovely, and we were so lucky with the weather.. Once I was there for a night party and it was really pretty with all the lights on the trees.