SACU and Peking University’s Edgar Snow Research Center jointly hosted this year’s Awards Ceremony online for the SACU/Peking University 6th Essay/Art Competition 2021-2022 on Saturday 29 October 2022.
This year’s theme was “Our shared environment and responsibilities: what do you see as the most positive way forward?” Schools in both the UK and China took part.
Zoë Reed, SACU Chair, introduced the ceremony and Professor Sun Hua, Director of the Edgar Snow Research Center of Peking University, gave an address as competition sponsor. Dr Frances Wood, SACU Vice President and chair of the judging panel, gave her thoughts on the entries and announced the winners. Dr Wood expressed her amazement at the high standard and content of the essays and said she had learnt an enormous amount in reading through the students’ work. Dr Fang Wang presented the certificates to the winners.
The awards are sponsored by Peking University with three prizes of £100 / £50 / £25 in each of the two categories of ’Under 16 years’ and ’16 years and over’.
Congratulations to all the prize winners!
SACU is grateful for the support and sponsorship of Peking University for the Essay Competition.
The Awards Ceremony was followed by an online conversation between Professor Kerry Brown, Director of the Lau China Institute, King’s College London, and Dr Jenny Clegg, SACU Vice President.
Professor Kerry Brown in conversation with Dr Jenny Clegg
‘China in the World’ talks – SACU Speakers Bureau
SACU can also offer talks to schools under the title of ‘China in the World’. Members of our Speakers Bureau are all established writers and speakers on China with many years’ experience of living and working in the Chinese world. It is hoped that these talks on China will enhance the younger generation’s understanding of China. Please email for more information: email@example.com
SACU’s AGM Day, held on Saturday 24th September 2022, was a great success. It was a hybrid event, both in person at the Wesley Conference Hotel, Euston Street, London, and online. SACU is very grateful to CGTN Europe for providing all the technical equipment and work free of charge as partners to make the hybrid day of events happen.
Formal business for members only took place in the morning, then members who attended in person stayed for lunch.
The afternoon session was open to the public, “SACU Bridge Builders and Heart in Two Homes.”
Afternoon events at SACU AGM Day 24 September 2022
SACU Bridge Builders
SACU was invited to be part of the CGTN Programme to mark the 50th anniversary of high-level diplomatic relations between the UK and China. Their Programme includes the Bridge Builders Series – these are people improving relations between China and the UK. SACU members Michael Wood OBE, SACU President, Dr Frances Wood, SACU Vice-President [no relation] and Zoë Reed, Chair, have featured.
For our AGM afternoon session, CGTN introduced their celebration Bridge Builders series with their film featuring the wonderful Guo Family: influencers whose wisdom reaches around the world. This was followed by a lively in-person discussion with Yi and AmandaGuo and their son Toto.
The final afternoon section was a conversation between Mary Ginsberg, SACU member and Chinese art expert, and artists Qu Leilei and Caroline Deane. A selection of their work was on display in the meeting hall and Leilei and Caroline explained some of the features of their contents and styles.
Left to right: Qu Leilei, Iris Yau (SACU Council), Mary Ginsberg (SACU) Caroline Deane and Zoë Reed (SACU Chair)
Firstly, I thank Iris Yau丘靜雯, SACU Council member and the event organiser, for encouraging me to share my reflection on attending my first SACU event “Open-Air Cinema: Su Tong in conversation with Dr Frances Wood.”
I knew SACU (Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding) for a long time, through my line manager Bryan Sitch, Deputy Head of Collections of the Manchester Museum, University of Manchester. We jointly published a research article entitled “An Umbrella of the Chinese Labour Corps in the Manchester Museum Collection” in China Eye in 2018. As we have been working together to develop a permanent Lee Kai Hung Chinese Culture Gallery at our museum, Bryan recently advised me to join SACU to draw inspiration from SACU’s events. How to tell a good story of China is the mission of our Chinese Culture Gallery. Also, I learned that Michael Wood, Professor of Public History at the University of Manchester, is the current President of SACU. From his The Story of China both television series and book, I have been learning more about my own Chinese history, culture, and people from the eyes of a British historian.
Finally, I formally became a member of SACU on 4th July 2022, and I just regretted that I did not join SACU earlier. Meanwhile I was so glad that I joined SACU in time as I was able to join my first SACU event on 16th July 2022, and it was also an event which recalled my childhood wish, though very vague, to be a writer.
Su Tong in conversation with Dr Frances Wood
This cross-oceanic literary dialogue between the Chinese writer Su Tong 苏童and the British sinologist Dr Frances Wood吴芳思, was jointly held by the Chinese People’s Literature Publishing House and the British Chase Publishing House. Through a video link, these two famous cultural masters discussed the creation of literature, and the translation, introduction, and dissemination of contemporary Chinese literature in the UK.
It was a hybrid event online and onsite organised by Sinoist Books, China Exchange and SACU. I joined on Zoom and soon found out so many pages of audience on my computer screen. Later I learned that the People’s Literature Publishing House had simultaneously broadcast the event, which attracted nearly 30,000 domestic and foreign viewers to watch the live broadcast online in just one hour. On screen I saw a large live audience at the dialogue at China Exchange, Chinatown, London. I wish I could join in-person for my next SACU event.
Dr Frances Wood is a big name for a book worm and a museum professional now focusing on Chinese culture. Whenever I visit the British Library and appreciate its Chinese exhibitions, I am thinking of the driving force and wisdom “behind the scenes”.
Su Tong is one of China’s most acclaimed writers. I learned about Su Tong through watching the films Raise the Red Lantern by director Zhang Yimou, and Rice, both adapted from his books. This SACU event provided me with an opportunity to virtually “see” Su Tong, a successful writer who a very young Chinese girl once had a dream to be.
Book cover of Open Air Cinema: Reminiscences and Micro-Essays from the author of ‘Raise the Red Lantern’
During the dialogue, Frances expressed her appreciation for Su Tong’s works. From the perspective of British scholars and readers, she asked Su Tong many questions about his works. Su Tong specifically talked about the English version of Open-Air Cinema just published in the UK, because this is the first time that his collection of essays has been translated into English and published overseas. I have not read this book yet, though simply through the title I remembered my childhood experience of enjoying many open-air films in China. In my imagination each essay is like a slide show reflecting fragments of his memory about changes in China.
Shadow of the Hunter (English edition)
Shadow of the Hunter (Chinese edition)
Shadow of the Hunter (English and Chinese editions)
Also, Su Tong spent much time talking about his long novel Shadow of the Hunter, an English edition of which was published in May 2020. Its translator James Trapp, and editor David Lammie, were also present at the event. This urged me to know more about this novel, and so I searched its Chinese version and was astonished to see its book cover design with the distinctive yellow Winter Jasmine drawing and elegant inscriptions for the book title in Chinese Seal Calligraphy. I thought they are so much like the artworks of my Chinese tutor, Professor Chen Lyusheng. He is a senior art critic, curator, painter, calligrapher, photographer, collector, and a former Deputy Director of the National Museum of China. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Arts and Sciences, and Museums, of the University of Science and Technology of China, and a guest professor in art and museum study for many universities, including Nanjing Art Institute, Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, the City University of Macau, and Taiwan Normal University. He also has close relationships with cultural institutions in the UK.
Professor Chen Lyusheng in front of his painting “Winter Jasmine”
I checked with Prof. Lyusheng about this book cover, and he admitted that it was his artwork which had been commissioned by the book publisher, Writer’s Press. He admires SACU’s mission and what we do and would like to collaborate with SACU. Later I attended SACU’s China Connections/Chinese Heritage Working Group meeting on 23rd July 2022, and recommended him to the Working Group for future SACU events such as comparisons of museums and arts between UK and China etc. SACU Working Group members were very interested in him and what he would bring to SACU. I would very much like to make the link between him and SACU, and to help to coordinate potential related events, to make my contribution to SACU as a new but dedicated member.
SACU dinner in Manchester August 2022
Shortly after my first SACU event, I was invited to a dinner meeting with some SACU members in Manchester Chinatown where I met Iris Yau (Council Member), Walter Fung (China Eye Editor), Cilla Hollman (Manchester Branch contact), Jenny Clegg (Vice President), Hanxin Yang (President of Xinhua Chinese Association) and Kevan Nelson (Unison Northwest Regional Secretary). Iris gave me a copy of her exhibition document Opium, Silk and the Missionaries in China, Jenny kindly gave some China-related books to us, and Walter brought me several copies of China Eye magazine. All these will be beneficial to my work for the Chinese Culture Gallery. From these SACU members I learned more about SACU, its history, mission, and future. I was so moved by their long-term passion and dedication to carry out SACU’s mission.
Books from Jenny Clegg (photo by Fang Zong)
China Eye magazines from Walter Fung (photo by Fang Zong)
Catalogue of Iris Yau’s exhibition, “Opium, Silk and the Missionaries in China”
My first SACU event was a good kick start for my future journey with SACU and opened my eyes to a wider vision to promote understanding between the peoples of China and the UK.
Again, thanks to Iris Yau for organising this wonderful event and encouraging me to write down my personal experiences of it. Also, thanks to all other SACU members who helped to make this event so successful. Thanks SACU.
by Dr Fang ZONG, August 2022
Dr Fang ZONG is currently a Curatorial Research Assistant for the Lee Kai Huang Chinese Culture Gallery at the Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, working on Chinese collection research and gallery content development, and establishing / maintaining relationships with local Chinese communities and museums in China. She graduated from Karolinska Institute, Sweden, with a PhD degree in Medical Sciences, previously worked as researcher in Biomed and Public Health in China, Sweden, and University of Manchester. She has been learning museum practice, Chinese history and culture for many years.
Shadow of the Hunter (English and Chinese editions)
此外，苏童还花了不少时间谈论了他的长篇小说《黄雀记》，该小说的英文版已于2020年5月出版，其译者 James Trapp和编辑 David Lammie也到了活动现场。这促使我对这本小说想要有更多的了解，于是我搜索了它的中文版，惊讶地发现中文版的封面设计，其独特的迎春绘画和优雅的中国篆书书名， 似曾相识， 很像我的中国师长陈履生教授的作品。陈履生先生是中国资深艺术评论家、策展人、画家、书法家、摄影师和收藏家，曾任中国国家博物馆副馆长。他现任中国科学技术大学艺术与科学研究中心主任和博物馆馆长，是南京艺术学院、上海美术学院、澳门城市大学、台湾师范大学等多所高校艺术与博物馆研究的客座教授。他还与英国的文化机构有着密切的联系。
Professor Chen Lyusheng in front of his painting “Winter Jasmine”
SACU welcomed the Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable for a discussion on his new book, The Chinese Conundrum: Engagement or Conflict.
Fred Hobby (SACU)
Fred is currently a Global Affairs MSc student at King’s College London specialising in Chinese and Middle Eastern Politics. He graduated at the University of Manchester in History and Politics, whilst focusing on Chinese history.
How does the West wish to view China in the next 50 years? Ten years ago, it was seen as a land of opportunity, sadly times have changed. In Europe, the importance of a working economic relationship with China is often acknowledged through gritted teeth. In reality, how can a prosperous world for the United Kingdom and broader international community be successful without the inclusion of China? In short, it cannot.
To begin with, we must take note of the shared problems that both the West and the Chinese face; Nuclear proliferation, Issues of development in areas of Africa, Climate change and pandemic management (to name a few). Benefits of greater economic inclusivity and cooperation between the two will help to solve these issues. However, if friendship continues down a spiral of disrepair, we may fall victim to the problems at present and many more to come.
Former leader of the Liberal Democrat party, Sir Vince Cable came to talk to SACU about his new book, The China Conundrum: Engagement or Conflict. His first visit to China was 30 years ago, whilst working for Shell as their Chief Economist. At the time he was sent out to take part in some due diligence work looking to help Chinese firms make decisions on the future of their economy. Practically, his approaches and understanding of China and politics have not strayed far from his background as an economist. He studied a PHD at Glasgow in economic integration and industrialisation.
After the speech, a point that was quickly raised among the SACU team members was his levelheaded approach to fostering international relations. He breached subjects like the UK’s past relationship with China, Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and ‘the New Cold War’. In his time in government, Sir Vince had the responsibilities of dealing with Chinese companies and officials building up trade in Xi’s Golden Era. Further abroad, he also worked on Xi’s new BRI at the time in Africa, alongside a group of Nigerian businessmen. Years worth of exposure and work led him to write a book on how he sees the progression of the East Asian powerhouse from the past to the present day.
Sir Vince Cable talks to SACU about his latest book
One interesting point he ended on was his comparison between where China has been and where it could be in the future. Sparta, Ming and Davos were used as examples in explaining relationships between security and economics in China. The first favours security over everything. In this instance, there is little need to further mutual interests as threats of invasion are very real.
As we go further down the list, Ming China was described through the example of Zheng He’s powerful fleets that ruled the waves in the 15th/16thC. Their tribute system connected the Middle East, Sri Lanka, parts of Southeast Asia and more to China’s southern coastline. It was by far the most powerful fleet the world had ever seen, towering in size and wealth of Magellan and Columbus. However, almost overnight the emperor decided that these were not in China’s best interests and swiftly closed their doors to the outside world making China focus its attention domestically. Finally, the example of Davos China, a place he stated we were in 10 years ago. Here, businesses from China and the United Kingdom were creating win-win deals with one another. Security is less of an issue between the two as a level of trust is maintained. The economic benefits are in the mutual interests of all involved, this is where the countries should seek to return.
Historically, wounds still affect Chinese politics and social mobilization to this day. Arguably the most prominent of these is China’s 100 years of humiliation. It is something that countries negotiating with them must remember vividly, Donald Trump’s brash rhetoric towards China set back the US-China relations by decades. There have been other mishaps, but none more damming particularly in a period when trust must drive economic integration. Sadly, as we can see from recent situations such as Hong Kong, the UK’s scepticism of Huawei and the most recent COVID crisis, this trust has been distorted by geo-politics. In the case of many Westphalian states the past can only take you so far, but in the case of the civilisation state that is China, the past is the key to the present and future.
Sir Vince made a very compelling argument for the reintegration of UK-China relations, he highlighted some very pressing economic arguments. SACU benefited greatly from the insights he had to offer, and we recommend you all to read his new book! It came out last September and it is available to buy online.
The book talk with Sir Vince Cable was a great success on Zoom and face-to-face. We thank Sir Vince Cable for sharing his valuable experience and thoughts with us; we also thank our brilliant SACU Council member Iris Yau 丘靜雯 for organising this event and all the other members who volunteered to help Iris (Arron, Jiaxi, Caroline, Fred, Ros and Zoë) to make this book talk happen.
Thank you to all participants for joining us online or in person at The Exchange, St Marys University, Twickenham.
The Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable was the Leader of the Liberal Democrats 2017-2019; He served as Member of Parliament for Twickenham 1997-2015 and 2017-2019; Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade (2010-2015); Deputy Leader of the Lib Dems 2007-2010; and Shadow Chancellor 2003-2010.
Vince is currently a Professor in Practice at the Institute of Global Affairs, London School of Economics (LSE); A Visiting Professor at the School of Economics, University of Nottingham; A Visiting Professor at the Institute of business, Law and Society, St Mary’s University.
About Iris Yau
The talk was chaired by 丘靜雯 Iris Yau FRSA FHEA. Iris is a member of the Council at the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU); a fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA); a fellow of the Higher Education Academy UK (Advance HE); Iris has curated and produced exhibitions including ‘Iris’s Silk Route’ at University of the Arts London, ‘Opium, Silk and the Missionaries in China’ at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London.
SACU held a follow up members-only discussion meeting. SACU ChinaChats enable members to discuss and develop their own understanding of issues. The meetings are not recorded and are for SACU members only.
Victor Gao is Vice President of CCG (Centre for China and Globalisation), the Chair Professor of Soochow University, and the Chairman of China Energy Security Institute. He has extensive experience in government, diplomacy, securities regulation, legal, investment banking, PE, corporate management, and media.
Victor was Deng Xiaoping’s English interpreter in the 1980s. He holds a J.D. from Yale Law School, a M.A. in International Relations from the Political Science Department of Yale Graduate School, an M.A. in English from Beijing University of Foreign Studies, and a B.A. in English from Suzhou University, and is a licensed attorney-at-law in the State of New York.
Dr Wang Qi is Minister Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in the UK. He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in 1995 where he worked in the Department of North American and Oceanian Affairs, and in the next 18 years had served alternately and twice at the Department and the Chinese Embassy in the United States. From 2013 to 2019, he worked at the Office of the Foreign Affairs Leading Group of the CPC Central Committee. In 2019, he was assigned to London to take up his current position and first posting in Europe.
Dr Jenny Clegg is an independent writer and researcher, a long time China specialist, and a lifelong member and now a Vice-President of SACU. A former Senior Lecturer in International and Asia Pacific Studies, her published work includes China’s Global Strategy: towards a multipolar world (Pluto Press, 2009) and Fu Manchu and the ‘Yellow Peril’: the making of a racist myth (Trentham Books, 1994). She has published articles in various journals, both academic and non-academic, and has taken part in numerous public events and webinars. She is active in the peace and anti-war movement in Britain.
Martin Jacques is the author of the global best-seller When China Rules the World: the End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, which was first published in 2009. It has since sold over 350,000 copies and been translated into fifteen languages. The second edition of the book – greatly expanded, revised and updated – was published in 2012.
Martin is a Visiting Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and Fudan University, Shanghai. Until recently, he was a Senior Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University, and was previously a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at IDEAS, a centre for diplomacy and grand strategy at the London School of Economics. He was also a Fellow of the Transatlantic Academy, Washington DC.
John Gittings is a journalist and author who is mainly known for his work on modern China. John first travelled to China with SACU in 1971 and has kept in regular contact with the organisation over many years. After teaching at the University of Westminster, he worked at The Guardian (UK) for twenty years as chief foreign leader-writer and East Asia Editor (1983-2003). He is currently a Research Associate at the China Institute, School of Oriental & African Studies, London University, and an Associate Editor of the Oxford International Encyclopaedia of Peace. His book The Glorious Art of Peace: From the Iliad to Iraq, was published in 2012.
Konstantinos Tsimonis is a Lecturer in Chinese Society at the Lau China Institute, King’s College London. He is a member of the editorial board of the People’s Map of Global China, and of the Advisory Editorial Board of the Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of International Relations (IIR), Athens and a Fellow of the Mediterranean Programme for International Environmental Law and Negotiation (MEPIELAN), Athens.
His books include a monograph titled, The Chinese Communist Youth League: Juniority and Responsiveness in a Party Youth Organization by Amsterdam University Press (Amsterdam: 2021); and Belt and Road: The First Decade by Agenda Publishing (Newcastle: 2022), co-authored with Dr Igor Rogelja (UCL). He is currently working with Dr Fernanda Odilla (Bologna & KCL) on an edited volume titled Corruption and Anti-Corruption Upside Down: New Perspectives from the Global South for the Political Corruption and Governance Series, Palgrave Macmillan. His articles have appeared in Modern China, Europe-Asia Studies, the Chinese Journal of International Politics, the Chinese Journal of Political Science, and the Journal of Youth Studies, among others. His research has been funded by various organisations, including the British Academy and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
Keith Bennettis a researcher and consultant on China’s international relations and a long time SACU member.
Pride (of Lions) and Prejudice (#standuptosinophobia) – Saturday 19 March 2022
On the 19th March 2022, 10,000 people took to the streets of London as part of the global day of protest for UN Anti-Racism Day. SACU stood with them, spreading awareness of the rise in Sinophobia and anti-southeast Asian sentiment.
Photo by Hiu Man Chan
We were also accompanied by a Chinese dancing lion, much to the delight of passers-by both young and old. This lion was the hit of the march, providing joy and movement to an otherwise serious affair. Its inclusion was a superb idea, blending our sombre message of anti-Asian hate with a living example of the joy and culture that Chinese people bring to British society. The lion is the true topic of this article, but first I would like to talk about something a little more serious: prejudice and hatred.
They are big topics. They are also evils that unnecessarily divide humanity and blight the lives of countless individuals. According to government statistics, anti-Asian hate crimes have spiked since the start of the pandemic, with a trebling of instances where the victim identified as Chinese.  Sadly, increasing hate-crime statistics like these are seen for many different cultural and ethnic groups today, both in the UK and beyond. Furthermore, these statistics rarely paint a complete picture – hate crimes are notoriously under-reported and fail to consider numerous smaller instances of abuse. By one statistic online anti-Chinese ‘hate-speech’ has increased by as much as 900% since early 2020. 
I am not qualified to make broad social commentaries about the causes of the state of the world today or blame anyone (other than the perpetrators) for attacks against Asian people. In fact, I think I am not alone in feeling confused by the thought of such hateful sentiments. I have never met a person who did not consider themselves to be reasonable, someone who (at least to their own judgement) evaluated the world and responded to it in a correct and proportional way, barring the occasional slip-up. Does this mean that racists are somehow exceptions from the norm? Are they deranged individuals who truly believe that an innocent Chinese person could cause them or their loved-ones harm, and thus they need to lash out in defence? I sincerely doubt it. I think it is far more likely they fail to consider the personhood of those they hurt. They fail to realise that this person is not an appointed representative of a regime or a group or a way of life. They are not Covid Patient Zero. They are simply a human being trying to get on with their day. They likely share almost every possible commonality with their attacker: they want to be happy and loved, they want to provide for themselves and their families, and they want the British weather to be a little more consistent. We are all human first and foremost, regardless of our external appearance or the cultural heritage we carry with us. Which brings me back to our lion.
As mentioned, the lion was the belle of the ball during the anti-racism march. Its striking appearance meant that SACU got continuous publicity, as everyone wanted a picture with the lion! It was a particular hit with children, with one girl in particular spending as much time as she could playing with the lion. At first, she was afraid of it (which is probably an understatement, she was wailing with tears streaming down her face, it seemed like genuine existential terror), but, after pretending to feed it and some encouragement from her father, her face became a beacon of joy. She was also rather amusingly calling it a dragon, and of course no one had the heart to correct her. In the little girl’s defence, I believe this is a very common error, as the lion dance and the dragon dance are both popular Chinese cultural exports, and the lion does not always look particularly lion-like to a western audience. This girl’s mistake is completely forgivable (and adorable), but it serves as a metaphor for the cultural preconceptions we all have, and the costume we all carry with us. The little girl only saw a dragon, which was actually a human being (trying to be a lion). Similarly, people with extreme prejudices might not see the person they hurt as a person. Instead, they see a costume. A costume possibly coloured and decorated by the actions of a government on the other side of the world, but more likely coloured by the media and messaging they were exposed to here in the UK. They see the dragon of their preconceptions, not the human being in front of them.
The message of understanding and friendship between people of the UK and China has been at the forefront of SACU since its inception, but it has never been more relevant than today. We must always strive to remember that, like the Chinese lion, underneath the costume of culture and difference and exoticism, we are all human beings.
by Arron Van Rompaey, 1 April 2022
Arron is the Project Teams Coordinator for SACU. He is a recent Master’s graduate from the King’s College London Global Affairs programme, specialising in China’s International Relations and Politics.
On Saturday the 26th February 2022 Young SACU held their first event, a hotpot social dinner in London for China-interested people looking to make new friends and expand their network. The event was a resounding success! All 23 tickets were sold, and all attendees were eager to express how much they enjoyed themselves. The overwhelming feedback was that they were grateful to have had an opportunity to meet like-minded people, and I am confident everyone walked away having made at least one new friend. The delicious food was also appreciated!
This event also succeeded in increasing the awareness of the work of SACU as a whole, and at least two new members have joined because of the event! Discussions are in place to make this a regular (possibly annual) event. The next Young SACU event will be a webinar entitled ‘Living Anglo-Chinese Relationships: Experiences of SACU Members Young and Old’ sometime in Spring 2022. More information will be coming soon.
The Hotpot event was organised by Jacob Holliday, SACU Secretary, and Arron Van Rompaey, SACU member.
Event report by Arron Van Rompaey, 28 February 2022
SACU’s AGM 2021 took place on Saturday 2nd October at the Wesley Conference Hotel, Euston Street, London. A new Council of 12 members was appointed and the meeting voted unanimously to convert SACU into a Charitable Incorporated Institution. Thanks to members who attended this ‘blended’ meeting either in-person or by Zoom.
“Railways and Reunions” took place as SACU’s public event before the AGM on Saturday 2nd October 2021. Consul General Zheng Xiyuan of the Manchester Chinese Consulate proposed this joint event to mark the 110th Anniversary of the Chinese Revolution. We brought together family members of Dr Sun Yat-sen and Sir James Cantlie who played a critical role in helping Dr Sun escape imprisonment by the Qing legation in London in 1896.
This was SACU’s first in-person event since 2019, presented as a ‘blended’ event with people attending both in the room and by Zoom, held in the morning because of the time difference and to accommodate the availability of Sun Yat-sen’s family in China. Several members of the Manchester Consulate and SACU Council collaborated to organise this highly successful event. The expert technical help provided by the Consulate was invaluable in linking attendees in the room and on Zoom with Madam Alexandra Sun in Guangdong, her son Justin Sun in Beijing, and Sir Hugh Cantlie, son of Kenneth Cantlie, with his son Charlie Cantlie in Oxford, and facilitated by SACU Vice President Dr Frances Wood.
We started with a video film made by the Manchester Consulate at the York Railway Museum which set the scene for our event. The museum houses a KF Class No.7 steam locomotive designed by Kenneth Cantlie and donated to the museum where it was restored and has been exhibited since 1983. Kenneth Cantlie was an expert railway engineer and the son of Dr James Cantlie who had taught the young Sun Yat-sen when he trained as a doctor in Hong Kong. Dr Sun recognised the worsening situation in China and proposed reforms to the Qing government in the early twentieth century but when they refused, Dr Sun started to think of revolution as the only way forward.
We then met Madam Alexandra Sun, granddaughter of Dr Sun, who showed us around the Sun family mansion, now a museum, in Zhongshan, Guangdong, built in 1892 when Dr Sun was still a student. Dr Sun Yat-sen became the provisional first President of the Republic in 1912 and later became Supervisor of Chinese railways. Kenneth Cantlie worked in China in 1930s, designing steam engines especially suited to the difficult terrain and available type of coal. So, the friendship between these two families has continued through the generations, and it was an honour for us to meet these distinguished guests.
“To Change the face of China”: SACU President Professor Michael Wood talked about the early development of the railways in China, at first built by foreign powers and not welcomed by the Chinese government. Guo Songtao was the first Chinese ambassador abroad, arriving in Britain in 1877. He realised China needed to understand foreign affairs and develop a proper foreign policy whilst establishing prosperity at home and railways were crucial to this. He had talks with the railway engineer Rowland Stevenson who drew up plans for the future of the Chinese railways. Guo recognised that China’s technology needed to be reformed along with a wider openness to ideas of modernity. Gradually, railways were laid, 9,000 km by 1911 by foreign concessions and the first railway by the Chinese in 1909 from Beijing to Inner Mongolia was engineered by Zhan Tianyou, now regarded as the father of China’s railways.
Prof Michael Wood referred to his films on Deng Xiaoping’s reforms and opening up, when Deng called for modernisation of Chinese technology. Michael’s films included one on developing the railways and he described the high-speed train journey of his film crew from Beijing to Guangzhou, travelling over 1,500 miles in 8 hours. He commented that, although the surge in high-speed railways has slowed in the last two years it is likely to pick up again. China’s railways are an amazing achievement, now the second biggest and most up to date in the world – and what would Zhan Tianyou make of this progress?
Consul General Zhen Xiyuan made concluding remarks from Manchester, noting that the friendship between the Sun and Cantlie families was not just friendship between two families but symbolised the friendship between the UK and China.
“China at High Speed”: At 6.00pm we streamed a lively and colourful film from the China National Tourist Office which concentrated on individual experiences to show how the network of high-speed trains across China is helping development.
“1921” film screening: SACU was a partner with Friends of Socialist China and other organisations to screen this critically acclaimed film about the formation of the Communist Party of China in Shanghai one hundred years ago.
The video recording of “Railways and Reunions” is available on SACU’s YouTube channel here