I was sat across from four Americans on Shanghai’s Bund waterfront when China was beat into second place at the last Olympics.
Along with hundreds of locals we crowded around a giant outdoor screen to witness the moment. Slow motion shots of American gymnast Gabby Douglas vaulting through the air offered visual confirmation of her and her country’s victory.
The gathered expats dotted around the restaurant’s patio expelled a small breath of relief, celebrating respite from the national sense of hubris accompanying what seemed like China’s unassailable journey at the Games.
For us Douglas’ routine represented a melodious art form, the human body conquering its physical realm. For them it represented a missed opportunity for China to project its strength through sporting triumph.
China doesn’t usually do soft power well. During President Xi Jin Ping’s UK visit full page print adverts were taken out by the country’s information ministry to broadcast the leader’s presence. The country’s prowess at Olympic sports is one of the few tools in the box it can, and has successfully, wielded.
For so conflated with a sense of place in the world are the Olympics for China, that the fragile reaction to the prospect of it coming third at this year’s Games is little surprise.
Xinhua news agency, the ruling Communist party’s mouthpiece, tweeted pictures of a splayed and dejected gymnast You Hao to its 5 million followers, accompanied by a choice word: “flop”.
You Hao has, inadvertently and unwillingly, become the poster boy for the impending national sense of shame should China not resume its ‘rightful’ position in second, or indeed first place.
The historical significance of the offending nation being Britain is not lost on the arbiters of state control.
“The country which has never finished above China is about to,” complained Xinhua. This is in spite of China sending its largest ever Olympic team to Rio.
This small nation of quaintness, a forlorn power beating a machine which seizes its athletes at the youngest of ages, moulds and rote trains them to be both medal winning engines and devices of state propaganda will dent the delicate Chinese psyche.
A brief stint as an English teacher in Beijing during the last Olympics quickly taught me the sense of victimhood which still lingered following the ‘hundred years of humiliation’. A century of intervention by Western powers, notably the British, had prevented China from assuming its rightful place as a world power. So the textbooks read.
Remedying this tragedy has been a hallmark of President Xi’s Chinese Dream — an attempt to galvanise the populace behind a vision of a powerful, uncompromising nation. Bonnie Glaser of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a US based think-tank, articulates this vision succinctly: “China will be at the centre, and every other nation will have to consider China’s interests.”
Third place is not one which China sees itself having in the world. But maybe this loss, and it will be perceived as a loss, will force China to re-examine its fragile national ego. Perhaps it will teach the nation that strength can sometimes be best demonstrated in dealing with defeat. And humility in victory is a trait to which we all aspire.
For if President Xi is to have his Chinese Dream, a China with these qualities will be an easier one to live with.
I was sat across from four Americans on Shanghai’s Bund waterfront when China was beat into second place at the last Olympics. Along with hundreds of locals we crowded around...
Re-building trust in the economy is essential to a successful post-Brexit future
by Sonny Leong CBE, Co-Founder SME for Labour and Chair, Chinese for Labour and Tom Watson MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
There is no doubt that the 23rd June 2016 was a watershed moment for our country. But what type of watershed will it be? Will Brexit signal the decline of the UK as a global power, a potential break-up of the Union and a voluntary resignation from the world stage with a shrinking economy and a divided population?
Or will it force us to confront some stark realities and bridge some of the deep fissures in our society and in our economy? Can we use Brexit as an opportunity to think afresh about how to create a more united society, a more just economy and forge a new role in the world?
Re-building trust in the economy is essential to a successful post-Brexit future by Sonny Leong CBE, Co-Founder SME for Labour and Chair, Chinese for Labour and Tom Watson MP, Deputy... Read more
Post EU-Referencum, reports of racially motivated attacks and abuse have increased exponentially. An anti-EU campaign that relied heavily on anti-immigration rhetoric has allowed racist language and racism to become normalised.
In a bid to fight against the rise of xenophobia, Campaign Bootcamp has launched an emergency scholarship for those who want to fight back against racism and/or xenophobia. The scholarships are for up to seven people to come to the last Campaign Bootcamp of 2016. The scholarship covers the full course fee (including accommodation and food).
All applications must be received by 09:00 on Wednesday the 10th of August. To apply people need to apply at the website here: http://www.campaignbootcamp.org/apply
As well as this new scholarship, Campaign Bootcamp has funding for activists of colour (working on any campaign issue), environmental activists, mental health activists, international development activists, refugees and migrants and much more. All the information needed to apply is on the website here:http://www.campaignbootcamp.org/apply
Post EU-Referencum, reports of racially motivated attacks and abuse have increased exponentially. An anti-EU campaign that relied heavily on anti-immigration rhetoric has allowed racist language and racism to become normalised. ...
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jo Cox. A beacon of a person who was compassionate, and fought tirelessly for social justice and fairness.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jo Cox. A beacon of a person who was compassionate, and fought tirelessly for social justice and fairness. Read more
On Wednesday 24th February 2016, Chinese for Labour celebrated Chinese New Year with their annual banquet at the Phoenix Palace. Over 200 people attended the event including British Chinese guests from business, the arts, students, public services and charities. Many members of Labour's Shadow Cabinet and fellow MPs and peers were also represented.
Sonny Leong, Chairman of Chinese for Labour, praised the diversity of Britain and emphasised the vital need for the Labour Party to continue reaching out to ethnic minority communities. Sonny also gave special thanks to Raymond Siu, owner of the Phoenix Palace for hosting the event.
Other speakers at the event include Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party; Tom Watson, Deputy leader of the Labour Party, and Hilary Benn, Shadow Foreign Secretary.
Jeremy Corbyn thanked Chinese for Labour for its support and contribution to the Labour Party. He welcomed the British Chinese community's contribution to British society, called for more Chinese to be taught in our schools and for the Government to stop its negative attitude to international students.
Hilary Benn spoke of the need for Britain to remain part of Europe especially in an increasingly globalised world. EU membership gives the British people jobs, investment and growth, and leaving the EU brings great uncertainty and risk.
Highlights of the event include a Lion dance and auction, the proceeds of which will help support British Chinese people into politics.
Chinese for Labour wish everyone who attended the event a prosperous Year of the Monkey and best wishes for the future.
On Wednesday 24th February 2016, Chinese for Labour celebrated Chinese New Year with their annual banquet at the Phoenix Palace. Over 200 people attended the event including British Chinese guests...
Click HERE for photos of the Reception.
Last Tuesday, Chinese for Labour held their annual Chinese New Year Reception at the new Labour Headquarters. Almost 200 people attended the events, including Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Deputy Leader, Tom Watson and several other Labour MPs.
It was Jeremy Corbyn's inaugural attendance at a Chinese for Labour event. He praised the contribution that the Chinese community had given to Britain and looked forward to working with Chinese for Labour in engaging with Chinese voters.
Many in attendance included the East London Chinese Community Centre, the British Chinese Project and Islington Chinese Association, an organisation that Jeremy Corbyn has had a long and fruitful relationship with over the years.
Chinese for Labour was also proud to invite Chinese Ambassador Liu Xiaoming to speak at the reception. This was the first time an official representative from China has spoken at one of our events.
Ambassador Liu reflected on what may be coming in the new year. He emphasised the resilience of the Chinese economy, the continuing progress of Chinese/British relations and the importance of Labour's contribution between our two countries. You can read more the whole of Ambassador Liu's speech here.
Chinese for Labour Chair, Sonny Leong celebrated the diversity of Britain and the Labour party as well as warning the party not to take the ethnic vote for granted. The full speech can be read here.
Speeches were also given by Iain McNicol, General Secretary of the Labour Party, Kate Green, Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities and Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Party. Tom's speech can be read here.
Chinese for Labour wish everyone who attended a prosperous Year of the Monkey and thank those who spoke at the event.
Click HERE for photos of the Reception. Last Tuesday, Chinese for Labour held their annual Chinese New Year Reception at the new Labour Headquarters. Almost 200 people attended the events,...
Thank you Mr Ambassador. And thanks you for that truly incredible welcome.
It’s an honour to be here amongst so many distinguished guests.
Chinese New Year is a time to celebrate with friends and family. It is also a time to reflect on the year that has just passed and look forward to the year to come.
As we mark the start of the Year of the Monkey, it is also right that we celebrate the many contributions of London’s Chinese community, which continues to enrich the economic and cultural life of this great city – and that of many other cities across the UK.
That’s why it is so important we continue to strengthen the friendship between the UK and China.
We can do that by working to promote economic and trade links with China and East Asia.
And by working with Chinese organisations and charities to promote understanding between our two nations and help bring communities together.
We don’t agree on everything – in fact, there is much we disagree on - but friends are allowed to disagree.
We must continue to foster a harmonious relationship with the Chinese community in the UK.
That’s why it’s absolutely vital that we pursue a zero-tolerance approach to racist hate crimes, wherever and whenever they occur. I know this is something that the Chinese community in our country is concerned about. The Labour party will do all it can to ensure the police have the resources they need to tackle crimes of this nature.
We also need to see more Chinese Parliamentarians in the Commons, Lords and our devolved assemblies – of every political hue. And the Labour Party is taking steps to address that as we reform our party.
Finally, I want to make it clear this evening that I'm a passionate supporter of the Chinese community’s campaign for a memorial in London to the 95,000 members of the Chinese Labour Corps, whose contribution to the First World War has still not been properly recognised or commemorated.
The service they gave on the front lines in France and Belgium, and the suffering they endured, was immense. It must be formally recognised. It is wrong that, a century after the War ended, no memorial exists. Let’s resolve to do all we can to change that this year.
Thank you once again for coming. It’s wonderful to be amongst friends on Chinese New Year.
Gong Hey Fat Choy!
Thank you Mr Ambassador. And thanks you for that truly incredible welcome. It’s an honour to be here amongst so many distinguished guests. Chinese New Year is a time to...
There was a game I would play with Beijing taxi drivers when asked where I was from. I gave one of three answers: America, the UK or Iran, to see how their reaction differed.
To the latter I received a thumbs up, and gesticulations of a nuclear bomb going off. “Boom kapow!” the driver would rejoin, in a curiously sympathetic onomatopoeia.
“English gentleman” was the response to saying I was British, followed by a conversation never not about fog.
To being American I received a longer more considered riposte, but ending without fail in the observation that China should be wary of its foe across the Pacific, and by association me.
Were I to hail a cab now, things might be a little different. Our Prime Minister’s recent red-carpet kowtow to China’s visiting President has, according to a recent survey, improved the UK’s standing with the average Chinese person. I wonder what Donald Trump might have done for America’s.
Of the Chinese friends I asked on the matter of “Chuan Pu” (the Chinese nickname for Trump), the results were instructive. To those who spoke little to no English, Trump was an unheard of quantity. Telling, if unsurprising, given how tightly Chinese language media is controlled in the country. To those who did, and for whom outside media sources were more accessible, the results presented a rare pin hole into the complex and sometimes fragile psyche of Chinese nationalism.
“He is jealous of China stealing opportunities from Americans,” a friend argued. Another commented on how scared he felt by just how many Americans seemed to sympathise. “A big joke,” one declared, pausing before adding, “although he probably hates us”.
These comments are perhaps not misplaced. At the end of last year, the Republican favourite asserted that “China has gotten rich off us”. “They’re killing us,” he added, but not before proclaiming that the country would soon “be in trouble”.
Despite persistent reminders from Communist Party apparatchiks that China does not concern itself with the “internal affairs” of other countries, a seemingly credible President Trump will have pricked wily ears in Beijing.
Yes, for now, he is a bothersome curiosity for many in the country. Netizens on China’s Twitter – Weibo – did not take kindly to him calling their government out for a lax attitude to the North Koreans. The 2,522 fans of the “Chuan Pu” Weibo page, however, didn’t seem to mind. A few have quipped that Americans made history only seven years ago by voting in the country’s first black President; they may make it again by voting for its first orange one.
Yet minds far greater and guileful than ours in the Zhong Nan Hai (China’s Communist Party’s central HQ) will be watching Trump closely. For in him the perfect bogeyman presents itself.
To understand why, one must look to the Chinese classroom. Children’s textbooks point to a century of great shame at the hands of world powers. Successive governments have imbued three, perhaps four generations with a sense of victimhood: a bitterness held not just towards the Japanese and the British who occupied the country, but also to “imperialist” Americans who carved up the world for their own benefit. So the argument goes.
Current President Xi Jinping has shone a light on a new fork in the road of this narrative – China regaining its rightful place at the head of the world’s table. A reminder to all of the Chinese name of his country: “the Middle Kingdom”.
A bellicose, obdurate President Trump would provide more hawkish factions within the Party leadership with the opportunity to cool what has so far been a polite détente. The finger could be pointed more easily than against Obama. Why should China stop its land grab in the Pacific? Trump’s America engages in a combative foreign policy, it would be argued. How can America criticise China’s repression of indigenous Muslims in its restive Xinjiang province, when gun-toting Trump is “getting tough” on Muslims back home?
Trump’s belligerence now, and god forbid in power, might well suit the strategic designs China has on aggrandising its sphere of geographical influence. For there are fewer things the Communist Party loves more than a case study in what it regards as hypocrisy from foreign governments.
The Party knows all too well the visceral power of demarcating a foreign threat as a way of distracting its own citizens. I saw this personally in 2012 when Beijing’s police, in an unprecedented move, allowed public protests against Japan’s claim over a small set of islands in the South China Sea. Thousands took to the streets, throwing stones at Toyotas and a branch of Uniqlo, and forcing the closure of Japan’s embassy in the city. Many argued it was a calculated move to allow current President Xi to dispose quietly of his main political opponents and solidify his grip on power.
This now forgotten episode holds a chilling forewarning of the Party’s reaction to what is only now emerging as the slowest period of economic growth in 25 years. As China’s masters prepare for a hard landing, with painful readjustments to its economy in the pipeline, a foreign bogeyman is just what they need. And in Trump, they may have found the perfect candidate.
Paul Afshar ran a successful e-commerce startup in China, selling it last year to return to the UK. He now consults for corporations looking to improve their reputation in the region. He can be contacted @paulrezaafshar
There was a game I would play with Beijing taxi drivers when asked where I was from. I gave one of three answers: America, the UK or Iran, to see...
SONNY LEONG | CHINESE NEW YEAR SPEECH (Reception)
Thank you so much.
First of all, on behalf of Chinese for Labour, I want to say a very warm welcome and happy New Year!
Welcome to Jeremy Corbyn, H E Ambassador Liu, Tom Watson and everyone
Xin Nian Kuai Le.
It is good to see so many old friends here as well as some faces that will hopefully become new friends!
What our new friends don’t yet know is that I give one of these speeches every year.
Given that this is our New Year and a time of renewal, I often look at the year just gone and reflect on what’s happened.
So I sat down to write tonight’s speech and thought about the last year.
And then I got up and poured myself a drink!
Don’t worry – I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account.
I think just remembering how I felt on the 8th May – well, I’m not ready to cry in front of you tonight!
From all of our various perspectives, backgrounds and histories,
we have all been trying to figure out what everything means;
what the party will become in the next four years and most importantly whether we can win in 2020.
Tonight, I am going to keep it short – but I would like to share two observations about what I hope the party will do in the next months and years to give us a real shot at winning in 2020.
The first is that this party is built on the strength of its diversity –
of background and of experience.
It is why I have always been so passionate about Chinese for Labour –
not just to give greater voice to people of Chinese origin in politics, but also to help the Labour party hear another perspective, gain another asset and become a richer, more diverse party.
Just as our diversity can be the strength of our party, I believe it is also the great strength of this country.
The Labour Party has always been the party of equality, of internationalism – of championing Britain’s status as a nation of immigrants – this we must never forget
The second point I would like to make tonight is that Labour has, tragically, taken the vote of ethnic minority people, like many of us, for granted.
And if we don’t act to correct that, we will pay a steep price – at the polls, in the make up of our party and in our leadership for generations to come.
The party hasn’t recognised that our approach to people from ethnic minority backgrounds has been backward looking – relying on past success and simplistic grouping
people of very different cultures together because it’s easier.
‘Asian’ comes to mean everything from Bangalore to Beijing. ‘Black’ comes to mean everything from Mombasa to Montego Bay.
In essence, Labour’s approach has failed to recognise three truths of today’s politics:
- That people always look to their future
- Voting does not simply and uncritically pass from one generation to the next
- People, more than ever, want to achieve their individual hopes and dreams
People who are the second-, third-, and fourth-generation of families who have come here from across the world don’t simply vote on the basis of what Labour did in ‘60s and 70s, or even in government in the 21st Century.
They want to know that Labour is working to create a society in which their lives are more secure and they have a better chance of making their individual hopes come true.
We know what we need to do – but don’t worry I’m not going to go through every policy point tonight – I’m not a politician!
So in the next year – in the new politics – I ask you this as you take your action to help Labour win in the May elections and work towards 2020 - let’s live our values.
Let us listen to each other, to people of every background and understand what they need from and can contribute to this Labour Party and our shared society.
What can we make possible for the next generation if we live our values to champion, embrace and build diversity again?
That must be the new politics.
Thank you so much and have a good night.
SONNY LEONG | CHINESE NEW YEAR SPEECH (Reception) FEBURARY 2016Thank you so much. First of all, on behalf of Chinese for Labour, I want to say a very warm welcome...
What is the Junior Doctor Strike about? Is it about patient safety? It is about tired doctors? Is it about pay?
The government has been attempting to frame the mass disquiet over the junior doctors contract as purely a pay and working conditions dispute between an employer and an employee. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.
The Tory government is like an employer who says, "from Monday, to improve productivity, we are going to employ an automated tannoy which shouts "work harder" on the hour every hour". Although this blue sky thinking makes no practical sense to anyone at all. You all know it is a disaster but no one wants to tell the boss.
Well the jig is up. This is the business of people's lives - you don't gamble over people's lives.
This contract is complicated. It is about patient safety. It is about tired doctors. It is about pay. It is about lots of important issues that when lumped together is so mind-bogglingly dangerous most doctors are so speechless and don't even know where to start. This is why getting a clear message out has been so difficult. Poor decision-making and planning is a certain path to catastrophic failure.
This week, as a junior doctor, I stand side-by-side with thousands of my colleagues up and down the country telling the government that Jeremy's Hunt is not fit for patients and it is not good enough for our NHS. The last few months have been rife with soul-searching for our profession. There is a grave responsibility that we always felt towards our patients coupled with the unspoken understanding that our goodwill and sacrifice would not be systematically abused.
Junior doctors already work in the early hours of the morning and in the weekend. They already provide the 7 day NHS service that the Tories advocate at the cost of our own personal lives. It is a personal choice that junior doctors have made that the government wish to exploit.
There have been a lot of numbers bandied around in this debate. For me there are a few simple messages that this contract says about what kind of society this government intends to build:
Jayne Lim is a executive member of Chinese for Labour and a junior doctor.
What is the Junior Doctor Strike about? Is it about patient safety? It is about tired doctors? Is it about pay? The government has been attempting to frame the mass...