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 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
SACU’s Public Education Working Group assembled an excellent speaker panel to discuss multiple aspects of this vital collaboration.
Tim Clissold is a well-known writer on China, author of Mr China: a Memoir (2005); China Rules (2014); and most recently Cloud Chamber (2021). He is a Senior Research Associate at the Cambridge University China Centre and a champion of introducing the study of Chinese civilization in schools.
Professor David Law is Academic Director, Global Partnerships, at Keele University and the author of the Higher Education Institute’s (HEPI) report on UK higher education institutes export to China.
Theresa Booth is Co-Director of Chopsticks Club, whose ‘Engage with China’ initiative focuses on building ‘China literacy’ across all ages in schools. The China Enrichment Programme (run as a charity) feeds specifically into A Levels (History, Politics, Economics, Geography and Philosophy).
Dr Lucy Yang is a Senior Language Tutor and Language Co-ordinator, supporting Chinese teaching and learning at four Confucius classrooms and link schools at the Confucius Institute, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester.
Barnaby Powell is a SACU member who has been involved in private sector development in the Chinese world for over 40 years living in Asia for 20 of these.
SACU member Michael Sheringham was to have been interviewed by SACU Archivist Dr Linxi Li for “Your Stories with China” SACU ChinaChat series. Unfortunately, Linxi was unable to make a connection from Beijing and so Michael gave a slide presentation of his teaching experiences in China at Beida (Peking University) in the 1970s. His many photographs were fascinating; they showed how things have changed. They were in black and white as colour film was not readily available at the time.
Michael’s task was teaching spoken English to Chinese students. Other teachers taught written English and grammar. He lived in the Friendship Hotel in Beijing, but eventually moved into the students’ accommodation building. He had a single room, whilst students had to share. Michael preferred living close to his students as he was able to get to know them better and socialise. Some of his students were from North Korea and North Vietnam.
We launched the fifth SACU-PKU Essay/Art Competition online on 5th December, this year online due to the unprecedented global pandemic. SACU members, schoolteachers and students as well as some non-members from both China and the UK attended the event.
The event opened with remarks by SACU Chair Zoe Reed and Professor Sun Hua of Peking University. Both expressed their encouragement to the younger generation of the UK to learn more about China and to promote further understanding between the two countries in the future. Professor Sun Hua also took the opportunity, with the forthcoming 120th anniversary of Joseph Needham’s birthday on 9th December, to express his admiration and gratitude to the founder of SACU for his foresight and pioneering perspective on the importance of building bridges between the two nations. Through his exploration of China’s science and civilisation, Needham not only revealed the secrets of such an ancient nation but also initiated research into it for the benefit of humanity.
The launch ceremony was hosted by SACU Vice President and historian Dr Frances Wood. The highlight of the event was the talk by Richard Morel, Curator, The British Library’s Philatelic Collections, entitled “Paper Ambassadors from China: The Life and Stamp Designs of Mrs Lu Tianjiao (from 1955 to 2001)”. Richard Morel described the amazing life of the designer who worked for over five decades, producing hundreds of brilliant artistic designs for postage stamps. He presented many illustrations of her work, which encapsulated the history of China after 1949, its public policies and foreign relations. Richard’s interpretation of Lu Tianjiao’s work inspired the audience to better understand China and Chinese history from her stamp designs. The Q&A session enabled interaction between the audience and the speaker and some of the audience presented their stories with China through their stamps and collections.
A recording of the event is available on SACU’s YouTube channel here
Professor Sun Hua’s Speech at the Launch Ceremony in full:
THE MAN WHO LOVED CHINA
Dear Zoë, Dear Frances, Dear friends,
I am very honoured to be here with you. It is very pleasing that we set out today on the 2021 SACU/PKU Essay/Art competition. We have cooperated on the essay competition in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020. We have reached out to more than 50 schools for this 5th competition starting this month. The aim is to encourage and consider ways of promoting friendship and understanding between the peoples of the UK and China, by providing young people with the opportunity to think about how they might contribute. I would like to thank you all for your hard work.
I would also like to thank the co-founder of SACU, in whose steps we just follow: Joseph Needham, the brilliant Cambridge scientist who unlocked the most closely held secrets of China, once the world’s most technologically advanced country.
In Science and Civilisation in China, Volume IV, Part 3, Joseph Needham wrote: “Foreign admirers of Chinese bridges could be adduced from nearly every century of the Empire. In AD 838 Japanese Monk Ennin never found a bridge out of commission, and marveled at the effective crossing of the Yellow River. In the 13th century Marco Polo speaks at length of the bridges in China, though he never mentions one in any other part of the world……the early Portuguese visitors to China in the 16th century found most extraordinary bridges existed along the roads often far from any human habitation, just like Gaspar da Cruz, the Dominican wrote in 1556.”
Joseph Needham was a man highly regarded for his ability as a builder of bridges: between science and faith, privilege and poverty, the Old World and the New, and, most famously of all, between China and the West. Next Wednesday, December 9, is the 120 years anniversary of Joseph Needham’s birth. In China 120 years means two cycles transmigration or two sixty years rotation in traditional Chinese chronology. Needham lived a life of grand adventure, as he said: “I had at one time hoped to be with you when the last volume of Science and Civilization in China was published, but I promised that even if I was not on the bridge the ship would sail safely into port……I am sure that day will come”.
His concluding thought is that by an extraordinary series of events modern science was born, and swept across the world like a forest fire. All nations are now using it, and in some measure contributing to its development. We can only pray that those who control its use will develop it for the good not only of mankind but of the whole planet.
Through his extraordinary achievements in helping the world understand the enigma that is China, Needham should by rights be a vastly famous man. But most people would look back blankly on being asked what do you know about Joseph Needham? I have come to realize the magnitude of the task that lies ahead of us: to help to make him just as well-known as his achievements suggest he deserves.
That is the task of the essay competition. Please join us. Thank you all again.
Professor Sun Hua joined from Beijing
The Opening Ceremony was reported by Peking University:
The opening ceremony of the competition was a success by inspiring the audience with another way to understand China and to echo the mission of SACU.
THE ESSAY COMPETITION
The theme of the competition 2020-2021 is “How can we achieve a better understanding of China?” We aim to invite the students to explore the development of the two nations through any aspect that is of interest: culture, art, science, philosophy, literature, social practices, etc. We are looking for responses with wide ranging perspectives that have considered views, grounded analysis and imaginative responses.
Further details of the competition are as below:
The submissions could be an essay or an artistic form, which could involve for example photography, other visual art, choreographed dance, etc.
We suggest essays should be a maximum of 2, 000 words and videos no longer than 5 minutes.
THE ENTRY PROCESS
Entries will be considered in two categories: 16 years and above; below 16 years.
Each school will run its own internal process in order to select up to 3 entries for each category – 16 years and above; and below 16 years.
The closing date for submissions for judging will be the end of April 2021.
Each school will be encouraged to forward their views on their entries via their SACU member link to the judging panel.
Schools will be asked to submit the email addresses for all entrants [not just the shortlisted 3 for each category] as all entrants will be given a free student membership of SACU for one year as a thank you for entering.
The awards will be sponsored by Peking University with three prizes of £100 / £50 /£25 in each category.
The judging panel, chaired by Dr. Frances Wood, renowned author on China and former head of the British Library China Collection and SACU Vice President, will give their views on the entries.
There will be an Awards Event for all the shortlisted entrants on 15 June 2021 hopefully in London but if not on-line, involving Dr. Frances Wood and Prof Sun Hua of Peking University – an expert in historical figures who have contributed to building friendship between the peoples of China and the West.
SUPPORT FROM SACU
With the mission of SACU to improve understanding of China and its culture, we would like to offer talks to the schools in the UK 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 the talks on China will bring more thoughtful and insightful perspective to the students who are interested not only in the competition but in the promotion of UK-China relationships in the future.
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
All competition entries and any accompanying material submitted to SACU will become the property of SACU, which endows SACU to use it for the purpose of promoting the friendship between the UK and China in the future.
Wang Fang as Essay Competition Co-ordinator will be happy to talk through the entry process with any SACU members interested in becoming a school link and she can make school visits either physically or virtually to introduce the competition.
Michael Wood, SACU’s President, gave a special online talk to the joint HSBC China Connect Group and SACU members on 19th November 2020 on the subject of his new book The Story of China.
Michael has the gift of summarising not only his own book but the whole history of China and its people in a short vivid talk, gripping our attention by focusing on some key episodes and outstanding characters in the long saga of Chinese history and culture.
In the discussion, he mentioned that he is basically a film-maker, which is obvious when he ‘zooms’ into these scenarios and animates these personalities. He is also like a classic Chinese painter who paints his Chinese-style ‘painting’ in a few bold brush strokes. His history is rooted in the inspiring writing of the early classics, such as the ancient ‘Book of Songs/Poetry’, the wisdom and humanity of the still-acclaimed philosopher, Confucius, the ‘Records of the Historian’ by the Former Han Dynasty historian Sima Qian, and the poetry of his favourite Chinese poet, Du Fu of the later Tang Dynasty.
He admires the outward-reaching, eclectic culture of the famous Emperor of the last Dynasty, Kang Xi, of the Manchu Qing Dynasty. He waxes lyrical about his treasured town of Kaifeng, a medieval capital which was illustrated in the famous Qing Ming Spring Festival scroll. He opens the scroll of Chinese history up to present days, but hesitates to respond to questions about China’s future trajectory and role in the world.
Michael’s enthusiasm for the world of China and its peoples permeates his talk and equally his book, which should become a landmark film
– Report by SACU member Michael Sheringham, December 2020 –
The Story of China: A Portrait of a Civilisation and its People, by Michael Wood (2020), published by Simon & Schuster
A video recording of Michael Wood’s talk is available on SACU’s YouTube channel here