Sightseeing, family and SACU Business – a trip to China 2017

Our Chair, Zoë Reed was on holiday and visiting family in China in October 2017. Zoë and her husband, Richard Poxton, spent a week in Yunnan before travelling to Lanzhou. In Lanzhou they visited Zoë’s sister Sun Kun, her husband Geng Xiaohu and their daughter Geng Chanjuan and her husband Qu Deye. After Lanzhou they travelled to Beijing. During the trip Zoë also carried out SACU business and this is reported here (Editor’s note)

Lanzhou City University (LZCU) Opening Ceremony Rewi Alley Memorial Hall

As part of the celebrations of 120 years since Rewi Alley’s birth, the LZCU had built a Rewi Alley Memorial Hall. The Opening Ceremony started on 29th October in the evening. Mr Yan Xiaohui LZCU Party Secretary and Zhang Leitao Director of International Relations met us in our hotel where we had dinner. Richard and I plus my sister Sun Kun and husband Geng Xiaohu were at the top table. I sat next to Party Secretary Yan Xiaohui. On his other side was Li Jianping – we weren’t expecting to see one another and were very pleased that we could meet again. Since retiring from CPAFFC 3 years ago, where he had been Vice-Chairman, Li Jianping has joined Gung Ho and we hope to work together on matters associated with SACU’s George Hogg Cooperative Education Fund. I was introduced to several other people including Shi Hong Director Publicity Department LZCU and Secretary General of the Rewi Alley Research Centre. She was very grateful that I had introduced Sun Hua, Professor and Executive Dean Yuanpei College, Peking University to them. Sun Hua is a great friend to SACU and a speaker at our events. After the meal we were taken to the LZCU Music Hall for the Opening Ceremony Performance. Students and teachers had prepared a number of music, dance and poetry pieces. The Music Hall was full of students who welcomed us on arrival. I sat in middle of the 3 rows set aside for guests and happened to be next to Liu Tielin from the Bailie Old Students Association. He lives in Chungdu and had met my sister many years before. He had been asked to give me a special present by Nie Guang Tao, one of George Hogg’s adopted sons, who knew KC Sun, my father, when he had been his teacher. I was presented with a heavy glass plate celebrating 2017 activities to mark 120 years since Rewi Alley’s birth. He also gave me a book compiled by the Alumni association containing photos of many old Bailie Students including KC Sun and his wife.

Rewi Alley was of course, a New Zealander and a contingent from his home country arrived shortly after; 17 people who had been on New ZealandChina Friendship Association Silk Road Tour lead by Dave Bromwich the Association’s Chair. The two representatives from the NZ Embassy in Beijing also attended and we were introduced. Back at our hotel I was able to have a meeting with people from Shandan Bailie School. Ma Guohua Director of International Relations and Party Secretary Zhang Youwu from Shandan Bailie School had previously been in touch asking for a meeting. They have had considerable investment at provincial level to transform Shandan Bailie School into Shandan Bailie International Technology College (for 18-21 year olds). They want to secure national level funds to complete the construction of the campus which will include another Rewi Alley Memorial Hall to contain the several thousand relics/artefacts left to the School by Alley. They plan to do this by offering technical training and studying opportunities to all the countries along One Belt One Road route. They were looking for help to (a) promote their plans; (b) connect them to suitable colleges/universities in U.K.; (c) form a sister city link to Harpenden in Hertfordshire. George Hogg, the first Shandan Bailie School Head in the early 1940s, was born in Harpenden. He is also buried in Shandan alongside Alley.

Mr. Zhang Youwu, Richard, Zoë, Prof. Sun Hua

The next morning we left the hotel after breakfast to take the 20-minute drive to the LZCU Bailie Campus for the formal part of the Opening Ceremony. It started at the statue of Rewi Alley where Yan Xiaohui and Hamish McCardle, from the NZ Embassy, straightened the ribbons on the flower arrangements either side of the statue and then all the participants placed a flower in front. We then moved to the nearby George Hogg statue and I had the honour, with Yan Xiaohui, of straightening the ribbons.

Formal speeches were also held in the open air. Because the celebration was for Rewi Alley only the New Zealand representatives were asked to speak – however I was given a place next to Yan Xiaohui as part of the formal line up which also included Li Jianping.

After the formalities were over, we were taken on a guided tour [one for the English speakers and one for the Chinese speakers] of the Memorial Hall. This was an impressive display over two floors telling the story of Rewi Alley. There was also a large section devoted to George Hogg. It was very up to date with photos of SACU’s Vice President Jenny Clegg when she attended an event there last year. My sister and I were surprised to see they had included a photo of our father when he was Bailie School boy on the trip with Joseph Needham and Rewi Alley to Dunhuang – so we had a photo taken of us together in front of it.

We were then shown some of the Students and their work. The LZCU has been formed from the former Bailie School so still operates on the Rewi Alley principle “Hands and Mind Together Create and Analyse”. The pottery and tapestry was very impressive as was the modern art exhibition.

The Opening Ceremony concluded with a fine lunch back at the hotel. Richard and I were on the table which included Yan Xiaohui, NZ Embassy officials, Li Jianping and Dave Bromwich. This was the first time I had met my equivalent from the NZ-China Friendship Association and it was great to hear all about his experiences. He travels to Lanzhou quite often and will continue discussions about further collaboration. Hamish McCardle although from the NZ Embassy clearly still felt connected to his Scottish roots as he produced bagpipes after the meal and played a tune! The NZ delegation also sang us a few traditional NZ songs – not something I think SACU delegations have yet been called upon to do! Several of us were made Consultants to LZCU Rewi Alley Research Centre. Standing between me and Sun Hua, who was made an honorary research advisor, in the photo below is Tan Xiutian former Consul-General of Christchurch NZ and also of Edinburgh. I’m afraid I didn’t catch the names of the other two people either side of Yan Xiaohui.

I managed a brief conversation with Liu Guozhong. He has been on secondment to LZCU to develop the Rewi Alley Research Centre and Memorial Hall – so was extremely busy with all the delegates. He is also working hard to identify potential co-ops that we could support through SACU’s George Hogg Cooperative Education Fund. He planned also to have further conversations with Dave Bromwich about the idea.

On 1St November we took the bullet train from Lanzhou to Beijing –covering nearly 1,000 miles in 9 hours reaching speeds of 305 km/hour! We reflected this was a far cry from the journey time my father and his family had had to make 20 years ago when they had come to Beijing to meet with us for the first time – some 36 hours! We were met at the Station by Helen Wang and Li Qian from Beijing Publishing Group. Li Qian is based at the Xin Hua Bookstore in Park Royal, London so it was a great surprise to see him. The last time I had seen them together was in July in London when we had been looking at copies of my book and the others launched at the Beijing Publishing Group’s Event, held at the British Library in September 2016 with Peking University and SACU as co-organisers.

The next day I had a meeting in the morning with a professor at Bai Da Institute of Mental Health and this was followed by lunch with another psychiatrist seeking to develop links with the UK. These meetings were to do with my work in the NHS. Helen Xue from UK Department of International Trade based at the British Embassy in Beijing was at the lunch and organised a taxi to take us to our next appointment with CPAFFC. Despite her best efforts we were about half an hour late – constant traffic jams seems to be a feature of Beijing life! Again a far cry from 20 years ago when there were very few private cars and traffic jams were caused by bicycles and the odd horse drawn cart!

The meeting with CPAFFC took place in the beautiful atrium between the Beijing Hotel and the Grand Hotel. The Deputy General Secretary of the European Department Ms Zhang Ruoning was a charming host and was accompanied by 3 of her colleagues including Ms Sun Chi – Kathy – who had accompanied Vice President Song when he attended SACU’s 50th Anniversary event. Kathy had been the link setting up the meeting and had been keen to entertain us to a CPAFFC lunch but we unfortunately didn’t have the time. Other members of the European Department – Ms Zhang Huali Division Chief and Ms Wang Fan Project Officer – accompanied Ms Zhang and Kathy Sun.

Wang Fan, Sun Chi, Zhang Ruoning, Zoë, Richard, Zhang Hualu. We had a very interesting and wide-ranging conversation with Zhang Ruoning and she was most pressing about her desire to support and help SACU. She was keen to be kept informed of our activities and was very interested to hear about our website development. She recognised the importance of tapping into the new social media world and CPAFFC was going through similar thought processes as SACU about the need to modernise and realising this required perhaps harnessing the capacity and skills of younger people which in turn might mean letting go of some control.

We discussed the sorts of things we might cooperate on and she suggested joint projects, visits, seminars including CPAFFC providing experts to talk at events organised by us. She was interested in a joint project around Joseph Needham and was personally very committed to his contribution to China. She was interested to hear about possible ideas around football and was keen to be involved in projects to do with young people. I briefed her on our GHF aspirations around cooperative development and the links to Xi Jinping’s 19th Congress commitment to tackle rural poverty and sustainable production of food, clearly of importance in China.

On the 3rd November we took another bullet train, but this time the short half-hour journey to Tianjin. We had been invited to visit Tianjin Radio and Television Station – World Channel. Kathy Chang Yin and David Lai had accompanied the SACU In the Footsteps of Joseph Needham 2013 Tour, together with a film crew, from Lanzhou to Dunhuang. We were excited to hear that the TV film they had been putting together was nearing completion and we were to have the privilege of seeing a preview!

Kathy Chang Yin Program Producer and David Lai Chief Director had been leading the production team for the series “China Right Here”. It will include episodes on Frances Wood and on Joseph Needham. I was interested to see that as well as a few shots from our trip to Dunhuang, the episode includes a section which explains that Joseph had brought my father to UK from China and tells the story of the help he gave my mother and me throughout his life. It also references Joseph’s role in establishing SACU and my role in continuing its development. Kathy and David are keen to collaborate with SACU in producing versions of the whole series that can be promoted through our website and social media.

Our final SACU-related activity was to have lunch with Michael Crook Chair of ICCIC – the International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives – and his amazing mother Isabel Crook. Sun Hua took us to meet them at their favourite restaurant close to the Summer Palace and we had a very convivial meal together. Isabel turns 102 shortly before Christmas and remains interested in the activities of all around her and firmly committed to China and its people. She was keen to hear about our travels in China this time and sent her best wishes to our daughter Kate who had accompanied me to lunch with her in 2016.

Michael Crook, Richard, Isabel Crook, Zoë, Sun Hua We returned home to UK on 6th November – enriched and amazed as ever by the things we saw and the people we met as well as the great respect for the work we are doing in SACU. It is valued and appreciated by people and organisations in China – and they are very pleased that we are planning to continue our work for the next 50 years!

If you are interested in finding out more about Zoë’s story including her father’s amazing life as a Bailie School boy and his journey to UK and back to China with the help of Joseph Needham, then you can find it in her book “A Bridge Between Hearts Anglo-Chinese Friendship and Understanding” by Zoe K. Reed available on Amazon and from Guanghwa Bookstore, Shaftesbury Avenue, London and Xin Hua bookstore, Park Royal, London. The book is in both Chinese and English. Available in China from online bookstore (Editor’s note)