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The Friendship Arch

A celebration of Shanghai and Liverpool


The Friendship Arch

Lew Baxter & Guy Woodland

A celebration of Shanghai and Liverpool


The Friendship Arch A celebration of Shanghai and Liverpool by Lew Baxter and Guy Woodland

ISBN: 0-9531995-3-3 Vice President & Publisher: Guy Woodland Editor-in-Chief: Lew Baxter • Lew Baxter and Guy Woodland are hereby identified as the authors of this work in accordance with section 77 of the (UK) Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise – without prior written permission of the publisher. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors alone, apart from where specified. Chinese translations/graphics: Alan Ho-Ying Seatwo Design and layout: Tynwald Design Principal language consultant: Judy Tasker Printed and bound: Bookprint SL, Barcelona, Spain First published in 2005 by Guy Woodland in association with cities500 as a 21st century cities publication 71 Prenton Road West Wirral CH42 9PZ, England, UK Tel: +44 (0) 151 608 7006 e.mail: info@cities500.com www.cities500.com A collaboration with Barge Pole Press www.bargepolepress.com © cities500 June 2005


This book is dedicated to the memory of Xiao Qian: writer, mentor and friend who was a true ‘traveller without a map’. And to his wife Wen Jieruo: together they mentally wrestled with the stream of consciousness that was infused into Ulysses by James Joyce – and they prevailed.

‘I am part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch where through Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades For ever and for ever when I move.’ Alfred Lord Tennyson – Ulysses


The Friendship Arch

Celebratory Partners The University of Liverpool Liverpool John Moores University The North West Development Agency Liverpool City Council The Mersey Docks & Harbour Company

Additional Research Andy Green, Billy Hui, John Keen, Barbara King, Luise Schafer, Kate Spark, David Tinsley, Vicki Treadell, Brian Wong, Wu Kegang, Zhang Xin

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Additional Photographs Neil Grant, (Lao) Hu Gong, Angela Hurren, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool John Moores University, Hal Mullin, Roger Quayle, Geoff Roberts, Bernard Rose, Fiona Shaw, University of Liverpool Photographs on pages 18, 24, 25, 29 & 41 courtesy of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo


Contents

Contents

Introduction and Acknowledgements .

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Forewords Lord Heseltine

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Lord Chan.

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Zha Peixin – Chinese Ambassador to the UK .

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Han Zheng – Mayor of Shanghai.

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Councillor Mike Storey – Leader of Liverpool City Council

Forging Links With China: From Early Days to Twinning

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The Shanghai Arch of Friendship: The History

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A Tale of Two Cities: Shanghai and Liverpool .

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Liverpool’s Chinese Community: A Home from Home .

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China-Britain: Friendship Across the Seas and the Centuries

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150

Bibliography

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The Friendship Arch

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Introduction and Acknowledgements

Introduction and Acknowledgements This book was conceived out of an enchantment with China that started partly because of the very train of events and circumstances that are depicted in its pages. Yet it really belongs to the people who are portrayed in it – those whose lives and actions have overlapped to make the story of the building of the Chinese Arch in Liverpool’s China Town such a fascinating one – as is the twinning of Liverpool and Shanghai. It is also a reflection of the close friendship that exists between the people of China and Britain. It is a modest chronicle of a unique collaboration between two nations – and two cities – and by no means can it be regarded as a definitive history or a ‘dry as dust’ reference work. Hopefully, it is a joyous celebration of these two vastly different cultures that have connected, cooperated and occasionally clashed over several centuries. Shanghai is styled these days the ‘Dragon’s Head’, as it is driving forward China’s reforms and economic development and has been transformed almost overnight into a 21st century city. Liverpool is basking in the glory of UNESCO’s decision to confer on it World Heritage City status, and will be European Capital of Culture in 2008. The dealings between the two cities can be traced back in time and memories through the annals of trade, academic and civic exchanges, as well as social interaction – such as the tales of Shanghai sailors who landed up in a foreign city on the far distant reaches of western Europe. It was while pottering around Guy Woodland’s studio a few years ago that I stumbled across a box of photographs depicting the building and final triumphant unveiling of Liverpool’s superb Chinese Arch. They had been taken throughout the construction period as an official record, perhaps for an undisclosed future use; a number were used for publicity purposes by the Rope Walks agency that coordinated the Arch project, others as personal mementoes for those involved. The majority were then filed away and largely forgotten, as was the fascinating tale behind the Arch – and the twinning of the two cities. This was surely a fabulous story that needed to be told and here were the images that could enhance it. As it turns out they are the defining essence. Other photographs and contributions, so generously made by many friends and acquaintances who share a passion for China, have expanded the dimensions and ‘ownership’ of this book – which has been a labour of love, for me in particular. When we tentatively pitched the idea at Drummond Bone and Michael Brown, respectively vice chancellors of the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University, there was barely time to catch a breath after the first few sentences before both of them threw their wholehearted support behind it. As did Peter Mearns at the North West Development Agency along with Frank Robotham and Eric Leatherbarrow in the

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The Friendship Arch

Mersey Docks & Harbour Company. There was a similar reaction from Liverpool city council leader Mike Storey, who enthused about his time in Shanghai signing the historic twinning document, as did the city’s chief executive Sir David Henshaw. And, in his dual role as chairman of the Liverpool Capital of Culture Company, Professor Bone brings an added dimension and wider agenda to this support. It is doubtful if the book would have happened without this terrific encouragement and I hope they all find as much enjoyment in leafing through the pages as we did putting them together. Finally, it must be mentioned that without hesitation – and with clearly a certain relish – Lord Heseltine agreed to contribute a foreword, as did Lord Chan of Oxton. We were even further delighted when Zha Peixin, the distinguished Chinese Ambassador to Britain, penned a marvellous tribute supplemented by best wishes from the Mayor of Shanghai, Han Zheng, both of whose kind comments confirm the strength of UK-China bilateral relations. Lew Baxter (Lao Hu Gong) June 2005

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Further Acknowledgements

Further Acknowledgements Such was the enthusiasm and encouragement for this book that it would probably need a volume of equal proportions to thank everyone. Some of those who have played a memorable part in the unfolding story, but not in any order of seniority, include: Ben Chapman, Zhang Xin, Zhang Limin, Wu Kegang, Wai Sang Wong, Chung Choi Cheung, Brian Wong, Owen and June Doyle, Jayne Casey, Barbara King, David Tinsley, Janet Martin, John Keen, Polly and Andy Green, Emma Degg, Adrian Thompson, Taryn Rock, Angela Hurren, Kate Spark, Alan Ho-Ying Seatwo, Colin Hunt, Tony Hall, Yan Ming, Trevor Smith, Zhou Ruwen, Tu Anyu, Judith Gordon, Shonagh Wilkie, Fred O’Brien, Richard Martin, Angela Hind, Tseng Chihkao; Collette Gill for having the inspiration to commission the Arch photographs; and Henry Woodland, aged 12, who is learning Mandarin and smiles indulgently at my tortured tones. We would also like to thank the Sister Cities Office of the Shanghai Municipal Government and the International Relations Office of Liverpool City Council; the Chinese Embassy in London; Jim Hollington of the British Council in the British Consulate in Shanghai; Vicki Treadell, head of the north west arm of UK Trade & Investment; Luise Schafer, vice chair of the fabled ‘48 Group Club’; Pier Productions; Dong Boqing, former Chinese consul general in Manchester; the current consul general Gong Jianzhong and Liu Xiaodong, vice consul; Simon Jones and his team at Chinese Marketing & Communications in Manchester; Lee Kai Hung, chairman of the North West Chinese Council; the Liverpool China Town Business Association; and finally, but by no means least, the Tai Pan and Far East restaurants in Liverpool where several animated discussions brought the book to life – and the China Palace, where Guy Woodland and I foolishly took part in a karaoke session at the Chinese community’s New Year celebration party. People were kinder than we deserved. Lew Baxter (Lao Hu Gong)

When I was commissioned to take photographs of the Chinese Arch in Liverpool by Rope Walks, I had no idea that one day they could be used in such a special way to promote and extend good wishes between Liverpool and Shanghai, and China and Britain generally. It was a marvellous experience watching this amazing structure rise up day by day and seeing the Chinese craftsmen so obviously taking great pride in their work, and this stunning creation. I am delighted and proud to have been a part of the project, even in such a limited way. I hope this book truly reflects the splendid efforts of all those involved in creating The Arch of Friendship in Liverpool. Guy Woodland

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The Friendship Arch

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Foreword

Lord Heseltine It has been my privilege to be a ‘friend’ of China since my time as President of the British Board of Trade in the early 1990s and I am delighted that following the launch of the UK-China Forum a few years ago bilateral relations have continued to progress from strength to strength. As the largest single European investor in China, the UK has an important role to play in China’s economic transformation. But we have also forged strong cultural, civic and academic links that benefit both our nations. This book puts the focus on just a few of those friendships; not the least symbolised by the magnificent Chinese Arch in Liverpool, the largest of its kind out of China and marking the legacy of the oldest Chinese community in Europe. The UK is a small country, minute in comparison to the People’s Republic of China, but in many respects in our trade and cultural relations we punch well above our weight on the international stage. The same can be said for Liverpool. Its sister Chinese city Shanghai is now recognised as one of the most dynamic powerhouses in Asia. Yet at only a fraction of the size of Shanghai, Liverpool still manages to attract global attention: its recent accolade as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its glorious waterfront is just one example. I have been associated with Liverpool for close on a quarter of a century and was very proud of my title Minister for Merseyside at a time when the city and the region didn’t have that many friends either in government or business circles. The city’s relations with Shanghai mirror Britain’s own hopes and aspirations for ongoing friendship with the PRC. There can be no more exciting time to work with China. I want to see our two countries take as much advantage as possible of the areas where we share strengths, and where we complement each other’s capabilities. I was impressed during my many visits to Liverpool at the entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese community – many of whose origins are from Shanghai – and its reputation for hard work. At a time when Britain had over three million unemployed I was informed that there wasn’t anyone out of a job in the Chinese community. I have never forgotten that.

Michael Heseltine, Lord Heseltine of Thenford

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The Friendship Arch

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Foreword

Lord Chan There is no argument that China is experiencing the most exciting period of change in its long history, a transformation that is at a mind boggling pace. Britain and Liverpool in particular have long enjoyed a close relationship with China, and certainly with Shanghai; both cities are major seaports of worldwide renown and also share so many other striking and similar characteristics. The construction of the Chinese Arch in Liverpool’s famous China Town is a celebration of those ties and a symbol of the civic and cultural links that have forged even more permanent friendships from those that reach back into the mists of time. It is also exciting that increasingly Chinese students are now choosing to study in the UK, and in Liverpool at the city’s distinguished higher education academic institutions. In fact, Chinese students now form the largest, single group of foreign students in the UK. The Chinese community in Liverpool – and in Britain – has shared in each other’s talents and ambitions for several generations and these new student links will ensure that there are even more lasting friendships in their future professional lives. And it is an extremely positive aspect of the relationship between the two countries that so many UK students are keen to learn about China. As chairman of the Chinese in Britain Forum, a national body, I am aware that the UK Chinese community, mainly made up of British citizens, is very pleased with the strengthening of ties between the UK and the People’s Republic of China. The twinning of Shanghai and Liverpool is one of the most significant aspects of that friendship between our two nations. However, the Sino-British relationship is much more than a political vehicle. Its power comes equally from the cultural and academic fields just as much as from trade and investment. I am sure that Liverpool and Shanghai will continue to enjoy enormous benefits from this twinning. We are all the better for that relationship.

Michael Chan, Lord Chan of Oxton

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The Friendship Arch

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Foreword

Zha Peixin – Chinese Ambassador to the UK The Chinese arch, pailou or paifang in Chinese, is usually made of fine wood or stone and is a unique Chinese architectural form. It used to be erected either in memory of outstanding figures or as the landmark of a community. These structures usually stand in downtown areas, or at the entrances of mausoleums, temples, bridges and parks. The magnificent Chinese Arch in Liverpool is the largest outside of China. It was an outcome of cooperation between Liverpool and Shanghai and stands as a symbol of friendship between the two cities. Since twinning in 1999 the exchanges and cooperation between Liverpool and Shanghai have become more active. The close links between the two cities epitomise the relations between the UK and China. In recent years, our bilateral ties have witnessed a rapid expansion. Both countries attach great importance to this relationship. There have been frequent high-level visits. Consultations and discussions on world and regional issues are held on a regular basis. Trade and investment have increased by a big margin. Educational and cultural exchanges are very active. Cooperation in the fields of science and technology is also expanding. Mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples have been further enhanced. The establishment of the China-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership last year marked the latest major step in the development of a closer relationship between the two countries. There is great potential for further cooperation between the two sides. I am convinced, with joint effort, the Sino-British ties will become even stronger in the future. The Friendship Arch is an album with beautiful pictures and enlightening articles. Its publication will help further improve the understanding and deepen the friendship between our two peoples. I warmly congratulate the authors for their painstaking work and I sincerely hope readers will find the book interesting and informative.

Zha Peixin Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the United Kingdom

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Foreword

Han Zheng – Mayor of Shanghai As two important maritime cities in the world, Shanghai and Liverpool were twinned in October 1999. Since then, diversified exchange and cooperation have been carried out in such areas as personnel, culture, education, science and technology, economy as well as trade. And there has been better mutual understanding and closer friendship between the citizens of the two cities. The ‘Shanghai Arch’ in Liverpool – a symbol of traditional Chinese culture and a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture – reflects the fact that Shanghai’s closer ties with Liverpool and China’s with Britain have embarked on a new stage in the new century. The publishing of The Friendship Arch book bears witness to the ongoing friendship between Shanghai and Liverpool. We are so gratified to see that Liverpool, a famous international maritime city and Shanghai’s twin city, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, Liverpool has made outstanding achievements in tourism, culture, education and sports. Recently Shanghai has been committed to becoming a modern international metropolis and a global economic, financial, trade and shipping centre. So both cities will enjoy promising perspectives of cooperation on the way to common prosperity and development. I sincerely hope that we will intensify our exchange and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefit for the citizens of Shanghai and Liverpool. I would like to take this opportunity to express my best wishes on the occasion of the publishing of The Friendship Arch book.

Han Zheng Mayor of Shanghai


Foreword

Councillor Mike Storey – Leader of Liverpool City Council Great port cities like Shanghai and Liverpool usually have a different perspective on the world to other cities and regions. We tend to be more outward looking and ready to face challenges – to grasp the opportunities with both hands. Shanghai is a magnificent, modern city that has redefined itself in recent years, just as Liverpool has also enjoyed a renaissance and regeneration lately. We are proud to be the European Capital of Culture in 2008 and to have been recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for our waterfront. Many people regard Shanghai and Liverpool as very much alike and when you actually compare the waterfronts the similarities are obvious. I know that we in Liverpool also share Shanghai’s dynamic approach to the future. Given that Shanghai is the undoubted ‘engine’ powering the financial life of China, the twinning of Liverpool and Shanghai is something that we cherish and I hope that feeling is shared by the people of both our magnificent cities. We have forged a bond that goes beyond the civic links to engage in commercial, cultural, sporting and academic exchanges that are hugely beneficial to us both. We are proud to be a sister city to what has become the most dynamic city in Asia. The wonderful Arch in Liverpool's China Town is a constant reminder of our ongoing friendship.

Councillor Mike Storey

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Forging Links With China: From Early Days to Twinning


The Friendship Arch

The dazzling and spectacular Imperial Arch that stands sentinel over Liverpool’s China Town is symbolic of a new era of friendship and cooperation between the world-renowned British maritime city and the equally, if not more so, famous Shanghai that is rapidly transforming itself into the most dynamic conurbation in Asia: a truly hi-tech 21st century city whose pace of development is phenomenal. After several years of planning and negotiation Liverpool twinned with Shanghai in October 1999, only weeks after the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The sister cities agreement underpins the close and historical ties that Britain has enjoyed with China’s largest city – 24

Shanghai mayor, Xu Kuangdi, at the twinning ceremony with Councillor Mike Storey, leader of Liverpool City Council

conservative estimates put the number of people working and living in this throbbing, stimulating metropolis at 15 million, and expanding. It is claimed with an element of reality that Liverpool’s Chinese community – whilst at 3,000 people quite small – is the oldest in Europe; its history can be traced back to wandering seafarers from Shanghai making the bustling seaport their home in the 1880s – although the exact date of the earliest settlement is shaded by age and misty memories. There is also perhaps a hint of destiny that UNESCO’s decision in the summer of 2004 to award Liverpool World Heritage status for its magnificent waterfront should have been announced in the ancient and lovely canal city of Suzhou – a relative neighbour of Shanghai.

In Shanghai: the Liverpool City Council team – Barbara King, Cllr Mike Storey, Lord Mayor Joe Devaney and Chief Executive Sir David Henshaw


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

The origins of Liverpool’s China Town Arch actually go back to informal discussions in the 1980s but took on a real lease of life in 1992, when general talks about twinning with Shanghai were also first mooted. The structure formed part of the Liverpool Rope Walks initiative aimed, in part, at regenerating the China Town area of the city. After an international competition to choose the best design it was officially unveiled in the February of 2000. It was the undisputed star attraction of Liverpool China Town’s first New Year celebrations of the new millennium – as luck would have it, the Year of the Dragon. Later that year the Arch was bestowed with the Architectural & Design Trust Award, a deserved accolade for its talented Chinese designer, Zhang Yong Lai, who lives and works in Shanghai. This striking gateway is also considered to be a work of art and is recognised as an architectural gem and tourism icon for both Britain and Liverpool, which will be European Capital of Culture in 2008. It can be argued that Liverpool’s serious consideration for ‘sister cities’ status with China began when Ben Chapman arrived in the city early in 1990 to head up the government’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). He had earlier worked as commercial counsellor in the British Embassy in Beijing. Although Liverpool had been engaged in continuous maritime trade through the Port of Liverpool with Shanghai and China, stretching back for maybe hundreds of years, there were effectively few – if any – civic or cultural bilateral relations at the time. 25

Shanghai mayor, Xu Kuangdi, signs the Sister Cities agreement with Councillor Mike Storey, leader of Liverpool City Council


The Friendship Arch

After four years in China, Chapman – like so many foreigners (laowai) before and after – had been enthralled by its energy, vitality and contradictions. Liverpool seemed ideally positioned on several levels to take advantage of the cataclysmic changes being forged in what is now the world’s fastest growing economy. Only a little over 10 years previously Deng Xiaoping had launched China’s new ‘opening up’ policy and, by the early 1990s, under the guidance of Jiang Zemin – who in 1997 as president and chairman of the Chinese Communist Party announced even more modernisations – it was clear that the country was once again on track as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. Chapman was determined to assist in pushing open that door to Liverpool’s advantage, and later the whole north west of England, with a much wider DTI brief. He was instrumental as director of the DTI Liverpool in organising the city’s first civic mission to Shanghai in spring 1993, when the first real talks about twinning began. That mission was ‘officially’ led by Liverpool’s then Lord Mayor, Councillor Rosemary Cooper, and boasted a weighty delegation of key figures from the city’s business sector. They included the late Arthur Rothwell, chairman of the then recently formed Mersey Partnership and former plant manager at Ford Motor Company’s prestigious Liverpool-Halewood car factory; Trevor Furlong, managing director and chief executive of the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company and, significantly, John Entwistle, chairman of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, 26

Dedicating the site of the Chinese Arch: representatives of the Chinese community and the city council


Mr Wai Sang Wong, Chairman of the Liverpool China Town Business Association at the start of the Arch construction


The Friendship Arch

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Chinese craftsmen meet with the Liverpool architects, builders, city planners and twin cities team at the start of the project

who was later to become president of the British Chambers of Commerce. Other delegation members, apart from Ben Chapman, included the Lady Mayoress of Liverpool, Ms Lesley Hill, DTI official Richard Watson, and this book’s author, Lew Baxter. That first Shanghai expedition was, as Chapman recalled later, an adventurous occasion filled with excitement, promise, enthusiasm and the occasional ‘surprise’. However, despite the attentions of the Shanghai Municipal Government, at the time Liverpool City Council did not, apparently, consider it politically expedient to take forward that alliance; it was put on hold for several more years. Instead the city’s links with Shanghai were to be spurred on from another quarter. John Entwistle had quickly grasped the potential of a formal commercial relationship. Once back in Liverpool he was to urge the Chamber’s officers and committee to explore the opportunities with haste and eagerness. He had been impressed a year earlier – in the November of 1992 – by a trail-blazing Shanghai delegation to Liverpool led by the Chinese city’s commanding mayor, Huang Ju. The high-level mission – visiting three UK regions – was regarded as a considerable coup for Ben Chapman’s Merseyside DTI office. The mayor’s two-day fact-finding tour saw him meet with civic leaders and industrialists from across Liverpool and the Merseyside area. At the time Mayor Huang said he was keen to encourage closer economic


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

ties between Shanghai and the UK per se, and Liverpool in particular, where his visit took in the Wavertree Technology Park, Pilkington’s Float Glass plant and the Liverpool Freeport. While stressing the historic links between the two ports there was no hiding his pleasure at touring the famous Liverpool waterfront. Gazing across at the floodlit Liver building Mayor Huang commented warmly on the similarities with his home city. At the time Ben Chapman pointed out that the opportunities for local businesses in Shanghai were tremendous. During his visit Mayor Huang had talks with Geoffrey Piper, chairman of the then Business Opportunities on Merseyside organisation – and chief executive of the North West Business Leadership Team, chaired by the Duke of Westminster, whose city centre Paradise Street project in Liverpool is currently one of

Former Mayor of Shanghai Huang Ju at Liverpool’s Pier Head in 1992

the biggest building programmes in Europe. He also met the group marketing director of Littlewoods, Prodip Guha, who revealed that the well-known Liverpool based firm was taking ‘measured steps’ towards establishing retail outlets in mainland China. Mayor Huang pledged that, on his return to Shanghai, he would encourage businesses there to look towards Merseyside for trading links. Mr Huang Ju was mayor of Shanghai from 1992-97. Today he is vice premier of China’s State Council and a member of the Standing Committee of the 16th CPC Central Committee. Yet the Shanghai mayor’s visit – although clearly an important milestone – wasn’t the first occasion that Liverpool had had the chance to explore Mayor Huang Ju with, left, Geoffrey Piper and Arthur Rothwell, Liverpool 1992

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Ben Chapman Old China Hand ‘extraordinaire’


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

contemporary opportunities in China. A month before Huang Ju’s visit the Liverpool based Sino-Asia Resources – which had been operating in China for more than a decade – had helped organise a British Week in Harbin, a city in the north east of China. It involved 20 UK companies attending the event in Heilongjiang province, the largest industrial region in that part of China, with a population exceeding 30 million. The Merseyside contingent comprised the Liverpool Water Witch engineering firm, whose managing director Joe Caddick took along as China advisor Tseng Chihkao from Liverpool, who is originally from Sichuan province near the Yangtze river. The party included the St Helens based Vale Conveyors whose project manager Owen Doyle – the son of one of Liverpool’s great lord mayors, and bearing the same name – was keen to discuss possible joint operations with Chinese factories. There too was Peter Blackburn, the secretary of the newly formed Liverpool John Moores University, who was in China to have talks with the heads of senior academic institutes about future student exchanges. Sino-Asia’s managing director, John Keen, who has maintained his links with China through other organisations, explained that their role was to help British and European companies find a toehold in the growing market of China. The event hit the headlines and the influential China Daily – the nationally distributed English language newspaper – reported on its front page the ‘biggest ever’ British trade delegation to the city and province, close to the Russian border. The then mayor of Harbin, Suo Changyou, told the British delegation that they were laying the foundation for future joint economic ventures and trade with Britain. At the British Embassy in Beijing the commercial counsellor, Allan Kerfoot, revealed that the event – which he regarded as a very serious initiative – actually preceded a significant British trade mission under the auspices of the DTI that was heading for China later that month. Ben Chapman remarked that the Harbin visit also complemented his own plans for a fledgling Liver-China trading link. This was confirmed when, in January 1993. he organised a Chinese trade seminar in Liverpool – albeit with a North West of England focus. The keynote speakers included the then Chinese Ambassador to the UK, Mr Ma Yuzhen, along with Allan Kerfoot who had flown over especially from Beijing. Kerfoot urged businesses in the region to ignore the political wrangles that were erupting between the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, and China. Concentrate on the advantages of the trade opportunities, he told the delegates. This was endorsed by Britain’s trade minister Richard Needham, who made a ‘flying’ visit to attend the seminar, extended into a week-long cultural tradefest. Chapman is now the MP for Wirral South and chairman of the UK All Parliamentary China Group, amongst other China connections, but still remembers those ‘heady’ days in Liverpool when he decided to use the knowledge he’d gained in China to benefit the city. Apart from the important commercial focus, one of his keenest initiatives was to develop a Chinese cultural festival that could demonstrate other more cerebral aspects of links with China. He had

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The Friendship Arch

already supported the existing Chinese youth orchestra, based in Liverpool’s Pagoda Centre. He thought it high time for a celebratory festival to mark Chinese New Year that could involve the whole city. He quickly initiated a collaboration with the newly formed Mersey Partnership to drive the idea forward. He sought the help of local festival doyenne Jayne Casey, who had been involved with the arts and cultural zeitgeist of the city since the 1970s. She is still involved in promoting events like ‘Africa Oyé’. Jayne recalls being briefed to work with the city council in defining a proper boundary for China Town along with Andy Green in the council’s planning office; although Green and his wife Polly – herself Chinese – had already 32

Ben Chapman on a mission to China meeting with former President Jiang Zemin

set the benchmark for an active Chinese community over preceding years. Jayne Casey acknowledges the role that Green played when she says he was ‘absolutely vital’ for the important redesign of China Town, although he has always displayed a reluctance to take any credit. Thus, early in 1991, the first of what has become a cultural focal point for the whole region was launched to mark Chinese New Year, attracting 80,000 people. Casey believes that Chapman was the one with the earliest China vision for Liverpool and was amazed at his almost ‘magical’ ability to unlock funds from the business sector. He had persuaded Marconi’s (GPT) Liverpool operations – then involved in installing a major public telephone system in China – to help fund that New Year jamboree, along with the Wirral based

Ben Chapman on a mission to China meeting with current President Hu Jiantao


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

Candy organisation. A consequence of the DTI support was the formation of the Chinese Business Association by Brian Wong, one of the community’s leading lights, the founder of the Merseyside Chinese Youth Forum, as well as the Liverpool Wah Sing School, and today a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside. China was, therefore, finally figuring on Liverpool’s commercial and cultural agenda and the political scenario was to take a sudden and rather intriguing lurch forward when, in the January of 1992, the then Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Trevor Smith was invited to visit Harbin, a city which had – as we have seen – already established firm links with John Keen’s Sino-Asia Resources. A semi-formal delegation from China’s major energy organisation SINOPEC had also visited Liverpool in the summer of 1991, when Keen hosted an exhibition attended by more than 50 UK companies. Lord Mayor Smith’s eight-day trip was to turn out to be both historic and event filled. He was treated on a par with royalty in the West and met the leaders of the People’s Government of Harbin, Mayor Li Jiating and Vice Mayor Ma Shujie, whose jurisdiction covered seven districts and five counties with a population of 5.4 million. It was a clear overture on the part of the Harbin officials for Liverpool to consider twinning, particularly as the two cities – they believed – shared much common g round in industry and culture. Even though not entrusted with a formal council brief Lord Mayor Smith was given the breakdown for twinning procedures

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by his Chinese hosts. He presented Harbin’s mayor with official greetings from Charles Myers, the then chairman of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, and set about gathering information to put in the hands of the city’s chief executive, Peter Bounds, with a view to studying potential twinning links. Five months later a reciprocal visit to Liverpool – coordinated by Sino-Asia – was made by Harbin’s vice mayor Ma Shujie and a five-strong delegation keen to firm up trade and cultural exchanges. The top-level team included Ms Jian Hua, director of Harbin Foreign Affairs; Mr Yang Yidian, director of Harbin Foreign Investment Service Centre; Mr Zhu Xue Fei, vice director of Harbin Commission for Foreign Economic 36

Former Lord Mayor of Liverpool Trevor Smith on a ‘civic’ delegation, 1991, meeting Harbin’s Deputy Mayor Ma Shujie

Relations and Trade and Mr Yan Ming, section chief of the Harbin Foreign Affairs Office – who was later to be involved in many of the delegations from Harbin, and as both guide and mentor for the British missions to China. They met senior chamber of commerce representatives, Mersey Docks & Harbour Company chiefs and key players in the Merseyside Development Corporation; an organisation that had been set up by Michael Heseltine. The group was also actually warmly welcomed by Liverpool’s new lord mayor Councillor Rosemary Cooper, although the vagaries of the British local government political system were understandably beyond their comprehension. In China, mayors have extensive executive powers and hold office for a number of years. The delegation was, perhaps, bemused to discover that Liverpool’s high office was honorary;

Foreign Affairs official Yan Ming with former Lord Mayor of Liverpool Trevor Smith in Harbin, January 1991


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

and that the mayor’s only ‘political’ power – despite the showy gold and glitzy chain of office – extended merely to keeping control of rowdy council chamber sessions, and attending social functions as a titular leader. Over the ensuing years representatives from Harbin met Liverpool’s various lord mayors on three separate occasions. There is little doubt that Harbin was keen on establishing formal links with Liverpool, but as Shanghai was to discover, the political inclination in Liverpool in that era was to err on the side of extreme caution. No such formal relationship was ever pursued between Liverpool and Harbin. In the meantime, Ben Chapman was anxious to take advantage of any potential Shanghai relations with Liverpool following the visit by Mayor Huang Ju and set about organising a civic and trade summit in the Chinese city. Within hours of the eight-strong delegation arriving in Shanghai in the April of 1993 its economic chiefs had promised to carry out a major study into investment and cultural links with Liverpool and other areas of Merseyside. This was revealed by Dr Zhang Xiang, the head of Shanghai’s important Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Commission. Other elements of the plan included possible support for the regeneration of Liverpool’s China Town. This was later to become a reality through the North West (England) Development Agency and funding from the European Union through the Rope Walks agency, operating under the auspices of Liverpool City Council. 37


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

At a civic banquet in her honour, Lord Mayor Cooper told the Shanghai officials that Liverpool was very anxious to develop stronger trade and cultural links, a view endorsed by Britain’s consul general in Shanghai, John MacDonald, who had coordinated the trip. And Ben Chapman confirmed that the proposal certainly had the backing of the DTI. It showed – he said – that the two cities were focusing on the right issues to develop, even though relations with China were strained because of Hong Kong governor Chris Patten’s plans to introduce ‘more open democracy’ in advance of the hand back to China in 1997. This stance was considered rather explosive, if not fickle, as throughout Britain’s tenure the issue of democratic innovation for the ‘colony’ had been repeatedly shelved. However, as a result of further political deliberations in Liverpool, the delegation returned empty-handed, despite Chinese enthusiasms in the first instance for the exchange of a memorandum of understanding. Further entreaties by the urbane – yet of course hugely authoritative – figure of Shanghai’s Mayor Xu Kuangdi were extended to Liverpool in subsequent years. It has to be said that many experienced British ‘China hands’ viewed it as more a matter of a ‘mouse being courted by a lion’ – some, including Ben Chapman, were bemused that Liverpool hadn’t apparently taken on board that they were dealing with a global economic powerhouse which was frantically constructing a 21st century city at breakneck speed. It was literally vibrating with drive and energy – and pushing to be linked with Liverpool. In the May of 1996 Xu Kuangdi visited Britain as leader of a 10-strong fact finding mission, which included senior officials from the Shanghai Stock Exchange along with members of the city’s important planning and investment commission. A former research fellow at London’s Imperial College, Mr Xu told Britain’s consul general in Shanghai, Warren Townend – who was on the trip as advisor – that he was keen to travel to Liverpool because of its similarity with Shanghai. Indeed, Mayor Xu’s visit followed on the heels of another high level delegation to Merseyside a month earlier, when five Chinese mayors from some of the country’s major cities, including Beijing, Qingdao and Jilin, came seeking closer trade and cultural ties with the UK. Mr Xu toured the Vauxhall Motor Plant in Ellesmere Port and the Unilever Research Laboratories and met Merseyside Development Corporation chief Chris Farrow. His visit was not, however, listed as a priority in the city council’s diary of commitments, although twinning was clearly on his mind. At a ‘private’ dinner in his honour in China Town, attended by David Tinsley, the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce vice chairman, and the city council’s assistant chief executive Alan Chape – along with various regional business leaders and members of the local Chinese community – Mayor Xu said that, while Britain was still a formidable industrial power, its trading pattern with China was not commensurate with its status as a world leader in science and technology. He urged Merseyside’s business community – and the UK generally – to speed up the level of bilateral trade.

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In late May 1997, Liverpool council leader Frank Prendergast led a week-long mission to Shanghai hoping to further the ‘friendly’ ties and trade relations that had been instigated by Xu Kuangdi and his predecessor. He signed a ‘letter of intent’ with Shanghai that indicated a more positive attitude on Liverpool’s part. In 1998, the vice mayor of Shanghai, Zhou Muyao, led a delegation to Liverpool to press home the intention. He met the various Liverpool city partner organisations that had proposed or enjoyed existing projects with their counterparts in Shanghai. These included: the University of Liverpool; Liverpool John Moores University; Liverpool National Museums and Galleries; Liverpool Football Club and the Royal 40

Former Shanghai mayor Xu Kuangdi in Liverpool, 1996

Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Those meetings helped develop the growing relations with China and planted the seeds of the vitally important ‘guanxi’ with Chinese organisations: a word that describes the personal connections that are essential in any Chinese relationship with any substance and longevity. The following year, on 18 October 1999, Mayor Xu Kuangdi welcomed a civic delegation from Liverpool – including council leader Mike Storey and lord mayor Joe Devaney and (now) Sir David Henshaw, council chief executive – to authorise the official twinning agreement between Shanghai and Liverpool. Today Xu Kuangdi is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and vice chairman of the 10th CPPCC National Committee.

John Keen, Sino-Asia Resources, with a delegation from Harbin in Liverpool in the early 1990s


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

If the civic negotiations were rather protracted it was back in the summer of 1993 that moves were made to establish proper commercial links with Shanghai. Following the spring delegation to Shanghai, John Entwistle was ‘fired up’ by the opportunities. He invited industry chiefs from the Chinese city to formalise relations as they had already indicated their enthusiasm for an association. That agreement was signed at a special ceremony in Liverpool by Lu Guoxian, chairman of the Shanghai Chamber, and John Entwistle, his Liverpool equivalent, on 28 August 1993 – the first Shanghai had signed with any British city. With encouragement from Entwistle, the Liverpool chamber embarked on a series of trade missions that were to cement ties between the two cities and be influential in the eventual ‘sister cities’ pact. The chamber’s David Tinsley became a China champion and was largely responsible for boosting those bilateral ties with the setting up in July 1999 of the China Link office. Headed up by Dr Wu Kegang – a former University of Liverpool lecturer – while based in Liverpool, China Link now has a regional and national UK profile. David Tinsley – now retired as chairman of the Liverpool Chamber – has also maintained his China associations. He explains that there had been a China Committee of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce since the 1860s, although between the 1950s and 1980s it hit a rather moribund period. At the ‘private’ dinner in Liverpool 41

Twin cities celebrations begin: Councillor Mike Storey and Mayor Xu Kuangdi


The Friendship Arch

during Xu Kuangdi’s visit, Tinsley recalls being impressed how well informed he was about the city, Britain and the world in general. Mr Xu was, he d e c l a res, very interested in establishing trade and building bridges. “He even recognised the part tangible symbols such as the Archway, planned but as yet unbuilt in Liverpool’s China Town, could play. He managed to convey to me the culture of social and partnership building, which can strengthen understanding, and aid confidence building, helping trade links to flourish. I met him several times over the next few years as he supported our trade missions and twinning efforts. Xu Kuangdi was to find time to ease the path of the sister city relationship and the parallel 42

path of constructing the magnificent Archway.” In fact, that ‘informal’ gathering enabled the early concept of China Link to be turned into a business vehicle to drive forward the open door policy for all British businesses. As China Link grew into the

Dr Wu Kegang, head of China Link

Sir David Henshaw, chief executive, Liverpool City Council


The Friendship Arch

well-respected China-Britain support service it is today, it was, remarks Tinsley, continually supported by the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce board, Royal & Sun Alliance – the first UK insurance company to secure a licence to operate in China, Ben Chapman, the city council and many others, including the Chinese consulate general in Manchester. A few months after the formation of China Link, Wu Kegang was in Shanghai witnessing the historic twin cities signing ceremony, a date he says is imprinted on his memory. He raised his glass at the celebratory banquet to mark the event and proposed a toast that called for the twinning to act as a true bridge of friendship, trade, investment and cooperation 46

between the two cities, and the two countries. He reflects that many people have asked: ‘Why Liverpool and Shanghai?’ Well, he says, that agreement has been hailed as a model of twinning, which is quite an achievement considering Shanghai is twinned with close on 50 cities worldwide. And, apart from Liverpool, 30 British cities are also linked to Chinese equivalents. Soon after it was launched China Link opened an office in Shanghai, and this has helped contribute to Liverpool being recognised as one of the key UK cities attracting Chinese companies keen to visit and do business. Every year, hundreds of Chinese organisations and trade delegations visit Liverpool and the UK, thanks to China Link’s services; and so far more than 300 British companies are plying their trade in China thanks to support from Dr Wu’s team.


F o r g i n g L i n k s W i t h C h i n a – F r o m E a r l y D a y s t o Tw i n n i n g

In the summer of 1999, the long running proposal to twin Liverpool and Shanghai was given the green light when the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries approved the Shanghai municipal government’s application. Within a week of that announcement a delegation of business leaders from Shanghai arrived in Liverpool and the following month China Link hosted a UK-China trade seminar and pre-mission clinic to prepare civic officials and local companies for the planned twinning ceremony in October. In tandem with the civic event, China Link had organised a DTI sponsored trade mission to China, and the under-18 side of Liverpool football club had also agreed to join the excited civic squad, along with the club’s chief executive Rick Parry and youth academy director Steve Heighway. It was, however, rather piquant that representatives from Harbin were also expected in Liverpool during the August of 1999 to promote that city’s companies and wares in Britain. And it was planning to stage another British Week to coincide with the Shanghai mission, demonstrating a true affinity and affection for Liverpool. That event in the north east Chinese city was eventually to become a joint Anglo-French festival that focused on trade and cultural matters. So it was, on 18 October 1999, that Shanghai rolled out the red carpet in typical Chinese style for the Liverpool delegation. They arrived in China’s fastest growing city – jet lagged after a 10-hour flight but delirious with anticipation – to sign the historic document that would officially join the two cities at the hip. Important civic ties would be bolstered by sporting, cultural and academic exchanges that would benefit both populations. There was even a pop concert by the Liverpool group Space, a performance that perhaps reflected the city’s musical traditions, although the Beatles and even Gerry Marsden’s heroic anthem for the river Mersey – itself a sister to the mighty Huang Pu river that divides Shanghai’s famous Bund from the new space age area of Pudong – don’t have as much of an impact in China as elsewhere, no matter the passions and beliefs of their fans. There was also, perhaps, a moment to ruminate on China’s fast changing social mores when the Liverpool youth football team – playing against a scratch Shanghai youth football eleven – lost the game 2-1 after a dramatic penalty shoot-out. It left lord mayor Joe Devaney devastated. While the lord mayor was also overawed by the level of his reception – he was whisked from the airport in an escorted convoy with police outriders – it was left to council leader Mike Storey to set the tone. He commented: “We are literally taking China by storm and that is tremendous for Liverpool. With civic relations, football and culture we have a winning formula and we are advancing on all fronts. The spin-off will be a real boost for Liverpool. Shanghai is a real powerhouse and for us to have the opportunity to twin with this amazing metropolis is incredible. It will bring us many economic, cultural and social links. But we cannot merely twin as two cities and leave it at that. We must build on these links. We have to work at it from now on.” It was significant, though, that the Shanghai municipal

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government later stressed that it did not regard the twinning agreement as being a solely profit-making mechanism, involving inward investment. In their opinion, just as important were the educational, cultural, sporting and tourism aspects. At the ceremony a smiling Mayor Xu Kuangdi greeted the party from Liverpool. Then, with much jubilant applause as encouragement, Councillor Storey leaned forward and addressed the mayor in Chinese – roughly translated he said how everyone in Liverpool was delighted with the twinning and the prospect of the Chinese Arch being constructed in Shanghai, and how it would become a symbol of the eternal friendship between the two cities. Later he and chief executive Sir David Henshaw toured the Shanghai Yin Li Garden Building Company, which was assembling the elements of the Arch in prefabricated units for later shipping to Liverpool. 48

Once they had arrived, the company sent a team of its highly skilled craftsmen to Liverpool. They arrived in the UK city three months after the twinning ceremony and helped construct the Arch. In 2003 the friendship ties were further strengthened when the current mayor of Shanghai, Han Zheng, led an official delegation to Liverpool and took time to visit the Arch in China Town. He was also taken on a tour of the city in the lord mayor’s ceremonial coach powered by a team of horses. The event was coordinated by Liverpool city council’s international relations manager Barbara King, who was also at the twinning ceremony in Shanghai; indeed she helped coordinate that event in Liverpool, and maintains close contact with the Shanghai Sister Cities department. In China there is an appropriate nautical saying: yi fan feng shan – which roughly translates as: ‘have a pleasant journey’, which surely epitomises the long-term friendship that now exists between Shanghai and Liverpool.


The Friendship Arch

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Tseng Chihkao, Jiang Hua, Harbin Foreign Affairs and Joe Caddick at the British Promotion Week in China, 1992

Joe Caddick, managing director Liverpool Water Witch Co, Tseng Chihkao and David Tinsley, former chairman of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce in China, 1999

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The Shanghai Arch of Friendship: The History


The Friendship Arch

Do not fear going forward slowly, only fear standing still Chinese proverb There is a poetic and extremely apt homily braided in Chinese characters into the iron lattice fencing of the public space in front of Liverpool’s Chinese Arch. It translates into English as approximately: four seas, one family, all races cohabit peacefully, wealth, resource, abundant business and trade, thriving and booming – si hai yi jia minzhu gonghe caiyun shengli yulong. A more literal, liberal interpretation might be: ‘we all live in peace; a world is one family; wealth and prosperity’. While clearly a joyous evocation, and mildly innocuous, fengshui master Man Ho Kwok was required to hand down his seal of approval – as he had for the whole of the Arch project, his wisdom and expertise vital if the elements involved were to be balanced. Today, huge numbers of westerners are in thrall to the ancient Oriental traditions of fengshui that ensure harmony and peace of mind. Mr Man Ho Kwok – who was born in Hong Kong but has lived in Manchester in the UK for more than a quarter of a century – is considered to be one of the finest exponents of fengshui operating in Britain. He has published over 30 books on the subject and his annual almanac is much sought after by 54


The Shanghai Arch of Friendship – The History

those keen for their days and lives to run smoothly. He commented: “The archway is a gate and passing through this gate you are entering another region. It is the main door to a place and, therefore, the yin and yang must be balanced.” The idea of an archway in Liverpool was first raised in the early 1980s but there were then few resources to tackle the scheme, or indeed a coordinated plan which, considering its ultimate cost of almost £500,000 is hardly surprising. It was to take 20 years for it to be realised. Today the Chinese Arch in Liverpool is compared for grandeur with the Tate Modern in London and the Eden Project in Cornwall, but must rank as the most spectacular new structure in the UK. The sheer scale of the Arch, which stands 15 metres high – over 50 feet – is impressive but only up close can the dimensions really be perceived properly. The white marble blocks on which each of the four supports stands are two metres high – that’s well over six feet – and as the eye is inevitably drawn to the five roofs it is the complexity of the joinery, combined with the exquisite exuberance of the decoration that transforms it into a work of art. It is the largest Chinese Arch in Europe and the largest outside of mainland China, its closest rival being in San Francisco, USA. There are 200 hand-carved dragons painted and gilded onto this dazzling structure which is protected on its eaves by eight – the luckiest of numbers in China – fearsome looking dragon heads, as well as a

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squadron of other creatures. such as the phoenix, that throughout Chinese folklore have represented guardian creatures. There are also 188 ‘ordinary’ dragons and 12 pregnant dragons, signifying good fortune between Liverpool and Shanghai. The dragon is important in Chinese mythology because it is associated with royalty and represents power, majesty and longevity. In the very centre of the Arch are three Chinese characters, and these alone are close on a metre high. From left to right they read: Zhong Guo Cheng – which in English simply means China Town. Two Chinese lions sit on white stone plinths almost majestically guarding the entrance, supported by four others: two at each end of Nelson Street and the 58

others protecting the approach to China Town from the city centre. The distance from the Arch is dictated by fengshui requirements and is critical to ensure a good ‘energy flow’ around the structure. Unlike other China Towns in Britain and elsewhere, the lions in Liverpool are not made of stone but of bronze. The practice of using stone lions – in Chinese shizi – to guard important buildings and temples stretches back into antiquity – perhaps even the third century AD. In accordance with yin and yang, the right lion is male and the left female. The Liverpool Arch is predominantly northern Chinese in style and considered to be extremely auspicious. Such arches are identified by their elaborate, bright colour scheme. The red coloured columns and golden coloured roof tiles, for example, are both features of royal buildings.


The Shanghai Arch of Friendship – The History

Each colour on the Arch relates to one of the five Chinese elements: green for wood that symbolises growth, longevity and harmony; red for fire that represents good fortune and happiness; yellow for earth and a ‘royal’ colour used by Chinese emperors symbolises power, authority and growth; black for water that symbolises darkness; and white, the gold element that represents mourning. Each of the five essential elements is also used in the ‘events space’ around the Arch: the trees, the uplighters beneath them, the yellow/brown stone paving, the black slate paving and granite seat, and the 27 gold symbols cast in the paving. These represent the flowers adopted by the three cities of Shanghai, Hong Kong and Guangzhou with nine symbols for each city – three times three, as that number is also considered lucky in China. According to Brian Wong, the founder of the Liverpool China Town Business Association and a board member of the newly formed Ethnic Minority Business Forum, a DTI body, the consultation with the fengshui master was necessary because a public project like the Arch would have profound influences on the future prosperity of the Chinese community. Indeed, an auspicious day early in September was also selected for the start of the construction work – chosen according to the ancient art’s principles. The Arch was also given full approval by the Chinese consulate general in Manchester, whose responsibility is to represent the PRC across the north west of England and further afield. The Arch was created by Zhang Yong Lai, who is based in Shanghai, and built by the Shanghai Yin Li Garden Company in conjunction with the British construction firm Dow High; the landscaping that surrounds it was designed by Liverpool architects. The Wilkinson Hindle Halsall Lloyd Partnership worked in collaboration with the Chinese community and, of course, the fengshui master Man Ho Kwok. The Arch was the key element in a masterplan drawn up in September 1994 entitled A New Future for China Town, a study funded by Liverpool City Council, Liverpool City Challenge and the then Granby Toxteth Task Force and conducted on behalf of the Liverpool China Town Business Association. That study came on the heels of developments that were to see the dreams of the Chinese community realised. Early in 1994 Liverpool City Council was awarded a grant of £110 million from the European Union – through its Objective One programme – to engage its Rope Walks project in a major regeneration of a neglected 35-acre area of Liverpool around Duke Street and Bold Street. It encompassed a large portion of China Town and its environs. The project’s former marketing and communications chief Colette Gill remembers that the EU in Brussels identified the Rope Walks designation as a site of historical interest. It was so called in recognition of what local historians believe was its important role as a rope-making centre towards the end of the 19th century. It envisaged its development into a creative quarter suitable for working and living – as one of the first regeneration schemes in

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Liverpool it was to help kick start the city’s renaissance. “We also wanted to offer something to the Chinese community which up to that point didn’t have a monument to its historical legacy in the city. It was quickly recognised that the Arch could be seen as a shining beacon for future development. And it did subsequently become one of the icons of the Rope Walks programme.” Wisely, Rope Walks invited onto its board Polly Green, who heads up the Pagoda of Hundred Harmony, the Chinese community centre in Henry Street that runs parallel to Duke Street. She is persuaded today that the project has marked out a distinctive area for Liverpool, to the benefit of the whole community and the businesses that operate there. Brian Wong concurs and explains that they were energising the future. “We had a vision, a landmark to identify the oldest China Town in Europe. We talked to the city council and explained how much we wanted an arch, but there was no money in those early days.” In 1992 the community held discussions with Urban Splash – the innovative private sector developer whose founder Tom Bloxham had already made such an impact with his Liverpool Palace emporium, and is now recognised as one of the foremost developers in the UK. They also held early talks with architect Adrian Thompson and China consultant Richard Kirby. But the frustrations continued until that breakthrough a few years later with the EU money. The grant was channelled through Liverpool City Council and was matched by the North West Development Agency and there were small elements of the National Lottery Fund injected into the scheme. It was a £5,000 donation from the Lottery in 1991 that actually launched the campaign for the Arch. In 1991 Ben Chapman, then head of the Liverpool arm of the DTI had – as we have observed – drafted in Jayne Casey to work on developing a Chinese cultural and New Year festival. She recalls that he wanted to invest money that had become available from the EU into raising the profile of the Chinese community. Working closely with the city council’s planning office – and in particular Andy Green, who is Polly Green’s husband – a scheme to define China Town was devised. This involved changing road signs into both Chinese characters and English, along with an initiative that installed a set of Chinese style lampposts. The team also introduced Chinese dragon lights to illuminate the area and began to smarten it up and give it a Chinese flavour by putting Chinese frontages on derelict and empty buildings. While working in tandem with the city council Jayne was to an extent acting independently to organise the cultural festival, and was involved with the community at various levels. She was very conscious of the strict traditions to be observed in understanding Chinese culture and admits that the community was, in some ways, finding it difficult to come to terms with her own rather forthright manner. “I needed to pull off a little coup that would make them open up to me more.” She had realised, of course, that the Chinese – and certainly those from Hong Kong or British-born – quite enjoyed gambling, although in mainland China the government has only recently launched a crackdown on

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what it perceives as a corrupt activity. Around the early 1990s in Britain the National Lottery was new and exciting and was inclined to offer sums of money to charitable organisations. Jayne Casey took to hounding the BBC – who televise the Lottery draw – and eventually persuaded them to invite Brian Wong onto the show to talk about the Arch. Brian has been living in Britain since 1962. He was born in Kaiping City in Guangdong Province and was brought up in Hong Kong. It was only the third Lottery ever and Brian was chosen to press the button that launched the draw that evening, watched by most of Liverpool’s Chinese community, who had set up a massive syndicate and bought hundreds of tickets. He then made a national appeal for support for the Arch and found himself holding a cheque for £5,000. That donation from the Lottery was to pay for the foundation stone of the Arch in Liverpool. Once the funding had been secured the Arch project moved on at a 62

reasonably fast pace. A competition was launched to choose the best and most appropriate design – although what is probably not generally known is that a few years earlier the People’s Government of Harbin in northern China had not only expressed an interest in twinning with Liverpool but had also suggested the construction of an arch in the city. There were even draft plans drawn up. Six arch designs were eventually nominated by the Liverpool based architects and pitched at the community – through the offices of the Liverpool China Town Business Association – to make the final decision. They chose the stunning creation of Shanghai architect Zhang Yong Lai who worked with the Shanghai Yin Li Garden Building Company. The firm’s director Zhou Ruwen was to play such a prominent and pivotal role during the building and assembly schedule in Liverpool, and she describes the project as truly exciting. The component parts of the Arch had been made in Shanghai in prefabricated sections, rather like the pieces in a giant jigsaw, over a three-month


The Friendship Arch

period and then shipped to Britain in five 40-foot containers. A team of 20 Chinese craftsmen was despatched to Liverpool to complete the Arch, including stonemasons and carvers, painters and construction engineers. None spoke any English and they were placed in the capable hands of consultant Dr Wan Hong, the project’s bilingual coordinator who is now working in Beijing. With winter approaching – which was not a good time for painting, especially when the temperature dropped below a certain level – this multi-skilled Chinese team arrived in Britain on 26 October 1999 ready to tackle the amazing contract in a foreign land that many had only read about or seen on television. 64

Zhou Ruwen, director, Shanghai Yin Li Garden Building Company

They set about unloading the containers and storing the thousands of parts that belonged to the Arch in a warehouse close to the site. In the interim the British Dow High firm had completed the foundations: the masonry columns in place and scaffolding erected. There was a palpable buzz of excitement amongst the Chinese community – as there was within the ranks of the actual construction workers – as they watched this incredible structure rising from the ground. A week after Christmas 1999 and just before the Western New Year was due, on 30 December the final roof was placed on the Arch – a memorable time, recalls Brian Wong, that marks such a unique achievement between the Liverpool Chinese community and a number of local partnerships. He is convinced that it could never have


The Shanghai Arch of Friendship – The History

happened without the huge cooperative effort that was involved: Liverpool City Council; Liverpool Chamber of Commerce; Adrian Thompson from the Liverpool architectural consultants; Dr Richard Kirby from the University of Liverpool’s department of civic design; the Mersey Partnership; English Partnerships; Rope Walks and others, not least the Shanghai municipal government and the Shanghai Yin Li Garden Building Company. He believes that this is a symbol of unity and genuine partnership between the private and public sectors, and is one of the triumphs of Shanghai twinning with Liverpool, while opening up a new gateway for China into Europe. The Shanghai Friendship Arch was the star attraction of Liverpool’s China Town for the first Chinese New Year celebrations of the Millennium when it helped bring in the appropriately themed Year of the Dragon in February 2000. The square around the Arch echoed to the crackle and bang of Chinese fireworks as city council leaders, hosted by lord mayor, Joe Devaney, cut the red silk ribbon to declare officially the Arch open. In 2003 the Sino-Anglo friendship ties were further strengthened when the current mayor of Shanghai, Mr Han Zheng, led an official delegation to Liverpool, taking time personally to visit the Arch, his endorsement putting the finishing touches to the scheme.

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Chinese Arches Through the Ages – the Differences Between Then and Now by Zhang Xin The Chinese arch – known as paifang or pailou – can be traced back a long way into the history of the Middle Kingdom, as so many Chinese matters do considering the 5,000-year record of history. It is also an architectural form that is uniquely Chinese. An arch is actually a door-like monument, although it is not really a door as its values are mainly symbolic. They first appeared in Chinese culture about 2,000 years ago and have since served many purposes. They are usually located in downtown areas or at the entrances of temples, mausoleums, bridges and parks. The structure is considered to be a perfect representation of the harmony between ancient Chinese cultural forms of architectural modelling art and sculpture, and is imbued with important artistic value. 68

In feudal times the inscriptions carved on the beams of the paifang reflected people’s aspirations and they were also erected in memory of virtuous people. They also sent out other messages, such as: • These magnificent premises belong to the Emperor, Kowtow! • This is the Ministry of Law. Beware! • This is the Temple of Heaven and Earth. Solemnity, please • This is where the Great Battle took place. The very place! • I live here and I am wealthy, as you can see from the arch’s opulence in design and structure! • This woman hanged herself to be with her late husband. Ladies of virtue, follow her example It is clear from these traditional messages that the Arch had a certain significance in older times that does not apply today. An arch honouring a woman of feudal virtues, for instance, is no longer erected in this day and age. And it probably never will again, as Chinese society wheels irreversibly towards democracy, human rights and equality. But there is no doubt that arches continue to be important in Chinese culture, notably serving as landmarks, as the great Liverpool-Shanghai Arch does for the city’s China Town, and as a potent symbol of Sino-British friendship. However, foreign association with the Chinese arch did not, of course, begin with the Liverpool monument, nor any of the others in Britain and other countries – even one of the earliest built in Philadelphia in the USA in 1984. In fact, it all began in 1903 with the erection on January 18th of the Kettler Monument in China. Few are now


Chinese Arches Through the Ages

familiar with the goings on at the time, but the arch was part of a dramatic saga with a bizarre twist. Baron von Kettler was the German envoy to China. He was killed in 1900 during the well-known Boxer Rebellion, a grassroots uprising aimed at chasing western colonialists out of China. For a time, the Chinese government, then the Qing Dynasty run by Manchurians, sided with the rebels to vent its own grievances on the arrogant foreign powers. It soon found itself on the wrong side of the ensuing battles. The allied forces, with soldiers from eight imperial powers – Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States – and enjoying the advantage of the 1900 version of weapons of mass destruction, overpowered the Boxers who were in

Spring festival time at an arch in Beijing

reality groups of fist-fighting, spear brandishing peasants. The Qing kowtowed to foreign demands and signed a ‘back-breaking’ treaty with the allied powers; it agreed to compensate the allies with a sum equivalent to US$335 million, payable over 40 years with interest, an important clause which would effectively double the original amount. This proved too much for the Qing to bear, and in 10 more years, the Qing itself was to be overthrown. But the twist of this treaty is that it also agreed to erect an arch by way of apology for the ‘assassination’ of Kettler. Still more bizarre is the fact that a ‘prostitute’ suggested the proposal. The said ‘prostitute’ was none other than the top courtesan of the time, Sai Jinhua (Golden Flower). A gateway in the Forbidden City in Beijing

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Among her patrons were Kettler and fellow German, Alfred Graf von Waldersee, commander in chief of the Allied Forces. To cut a long story short, Jinhua knew that an arch could bring lasting fame. So she made the proposal to von Waldersee, who ensured the plan was carried out. But he also listened to Jinhua’s pleas for the allied forces not to use force on civilians, thus saving many lives. Even today Beijingers still hold this Golden Flower in fond regard on account of this action. The trouble with the Kettler Monument was that in the feudal mindset, a prostitute was the last woman to merit an arch! The opinion was – and probably exists to this day – that if someone is involved in prostitution and then expects to have an arch erected in their name, it means they are hypocrites and con artists of the highest order. Whether Golden Flower actually lent a bad name to Kettler’s Monument, or vice versa, is up for your judgment. What is beyond doubt is that Kettler’s Monument was one of notoriety and infamy for a considerable period of time. Instead of showcasing the ingenious, mesmerising and positive side of Chinese culture, Kettler’s Monument stood, even though briefly, as testimony to China’s humiliating past. Later, it was removed from its prominent position and, in 1952, relocated in Zhongshan Park close to Tiananmen Square. Today, visitors can read atop the arch the inscription: Safeguard Peace. 70

The Chinese Arch in People’s Square, Chongqing


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Kettler has long been consigned to the past, buried in the dustbin of history. But the arch as a cultural phenomenon has survived – it even survived the ‘Cultural Revolution’ in the 1960s-70s when many arches, together with other cultural institutions that evoke memories of China’s feudal past, were destroyed. Today, the arch is being revived. In some places they appear to be thriving, and to such a degree that experts are beginning to curb the number of new buildings. Some arches are found to be ‘jerry-built’ while others are too costly for upkeep. But the Liverpool Arch is afflicted by none of these concerns. In many ways quite similar to the general mood regarding a present day arch in China itself, the Liverpool Arch is seen simply and largely as a

The Chinese Arch in Washington, USA

truly magnificent symbol of China, an icon of New China – one that is reasserting itself in the international community as a strong, independent and capable trading partner, and a power to be reckoned with. Kettler’s Monument was a product of war, corruption, bad colonial experiences and a symbol of a time when China was oppressed by foreign powers. The Liverpool-Shanghai Arch is a different memorial altogether; it is a symbol of the growing Sino-British mutual accord. Indeed, times have changed.

Zhang Xin works in Beijing on the international on-line edition of China Daily Entrance gate to the pagoda gardens at Shibaozhai, Sichuan

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A Tale of Two Cities: Shanghai and Liverpool


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Those romantic folk with poetic passion and fervour flowing furiously in their veins will assert that all truly illustrious cities coexist alongside major rivers; energised by dynamic waterways that are the very life force of the communities they serve. They will enthuse that such rivers embrace the perpetual bonds that link generations, while frequently acting also as the motor of economic vitality. Liverpool’s magnificent waterfront is arguably one of the most memorable anywhere in the world, rivalling New York and Cape Town or Sydney and perhaps for that matter even Shanghai. This is largely for the imposing architectural trinity of the elegant ‘Three Graces’, buildings that dominate its river-facing Pier Head area. It is an exciting, breathtaking vista that holds people in its thrall: those arriving by ship are often astounded at the panoramic views and it conveys a feeling of space and freedom for those gazing out towards the estuary and the Irish Sea, and hence on to the great seas and oceans that cover large tracts of the planet. Over the last 300 years Liverpool’s waterfront and the river Mersey have been the main arteries for trading links that spread the city’s fame and influence across the world. They also helped cement Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Once upon a time that waterfront was the ‘gateway’ to the new worlds of America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, amongst other exotic ports of call, for millions of people who uprooted from their homes seeking 76

success or sanctuary in far-off lands. And, of course, it was the main channel to China and the Orient and, since the early 1840s, to Shanghai, when that former sleepy fishing port emerged as an eminently desirable destination on the maritime map. In the days of colourful sailing ships the river Mersey was pivotal to the rise of Liverpool as probably the most dynamic seaport in the world. Throughout the 20th century the waterfront became a definition of the city’s visual identity, an instantly recognisable image both at home and abroad. Although it is reckoned that there were some prehistoric settlers scuttling around the site of Liverpool, it was King John who established the city proper with the grant of a Charter in 1207. The waterfront was dominated for centuries by the church of St Nicholas, the Tower of Liverpool and Liverpool Castle. The city’s early trade was predictably with Ireland and Scotland, but by 1550 there were also dealings with Spain, Portugal and France. By the middle of the 1600s there was increasing sea-borne traffic between the new colonies in America, carrying initially tobacco and sugar but later cotton, and controversially the despicable slave trade, now rightly acknowledged as a slur on human rights. The opening of the Old Dock in 1715 further boosted the growth of Liverpool’s trade and this was a key to the city’s success as an on-going programme of dock construction through the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries helped continue the boom. Thus, Liverpool became the principal transatlantic port of Europe for the shipment of a wide variety of goods and for the mass emigrations to America, in particular from Ireland.


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Towards the end of the 19th century Liverpool’s docks stretched for seven miles along the east bank of the river Mersey. They were served by a commercial district of port-related offices, banks and commodity exchanges unrivalled outside of London; and the ‘Three Graces’ at the Pier Head were the city’s most impressive showpiece, as they remain. The vast wealth generated by the mercantile trade was used to create a cultural quarter around William Brown Street where the buildings – museums, art galleries and civic libraries – and their contents remain a testament to the city’s more cerebral values. These have a contemporary blush with the accolade of World Heritage status and the city’s European Capital 78

of Culture reign in 2008. In the 21st century, as Liverpool itself undergoes a renaissance, that same river – as well as the 70 miles of coastline that skirt it – and its scenic waterfront are acknowledged as the area’s ‘jewel in the crown’. There is a palpable new mood sweeping Liverpool as never before, boosting the feelings and emotions of the people of this often wildly anarchic city: a rich mélange of cultures, races and creeds. The river still has the potential to generate powerful economic momentum and the Mersey waterfront is a genuinely unique asset and the envy of many cityregions the world over. Other cities such as Toronto, Melbourne and Cape Town are also capitalising on their waterfronts, attracting investments and erecting splendid buildings, like the Guggenheim in Bilbao.


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There is no argument that Shanghai is a leader in this kind of development, as witnessed by the springing up in the last 10 years of the Pudong New Area that has transformed the skyline of the city into a truly 21st century metropolis. In Liverpool there are plans for a £10 million cruise liner berth to be completed by 2007, a facility that will attract some of the world’s greatest liners to the waterfront that once welcomed their predecessors; like Cunard’s majestic Britannic that easily – almost contemptuously – battled the stormy Atlantic. The planners are determined that Liverpool’s familiar waterfront skyline will undergo quite a dramatic change over the next five years. The Beetham organisation’s thrusting development on Old Hall Street is the springboard for a series of proposed tall buildings, including a 30-storey tower on Chapel Street and a 28-storey residential block hopefully earmarked for the northern edge of Princes Dock. If Liverpool is to shake, rattle and roll into the 21st century like Shanghai, it has to take chances with new buildings – the architects, and even the people, know this. Council leader Mike Storey believes the new skyline bursting forth over the river perspective is the definitive proof that Liverpool has regained its status amongst those in the premier league of world cities. He is persuaded that Shanghai’s distinctive waterfront buildings were modelled on Liverpool’s ‘Three Graces’, while that very Bund – stretching along one of China’s most stunning metropolitan waterfronts

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– is now framed by awesome modern buildings testifying to the city’s commercial vibrancy and sense of the future. Mike Storey believes that Liverpool’s waterfront must embrace an equally eloquent statement of ambition. That vision is almost the mission statement of the Mersey Maritime organisation, a network of nearly 600 businesses that thrive as a result of Liverpool’s ports. It is the first body of its kind in Britain, welding together the disparate maritime sector, with a combined worth of £1.3 billion and employing 6,000 people. Meanwhile, nearly £100 million has been invested in the Port of Liverpool over the past five years by its operators, the Mersey Docks & Harbour Company, the descendant of the Mersey Docks Board that for decades was the maritime powerhouse that ruled the waves from its headquarters in the prestigious Port of Liverpool building. Through the turmoil of wars and unrest ships still ploughed the seas carrying cargoes and passengers and contemporary trading relations with China were ongoing throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s. China was then developing its own shipping infrastructure, effectively taking over from the likes of the ‘Blue Funnel Line’; still affectionately regarded as one of the grandest in the merchant fleets, and one whose associations with Liverpool and Shanghai verge on the glorious. In those days, recalls the Mersey Docks marketing manager, Richard Martin, there were regular visits to China for negotiations on rates and to develop relationships (the all-important guanxi again). 82

“We were encouraged to travel and meet the people who were running the expanding China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO).” There were no overseas representative offices then and COSCO was split into regionally operated subsidiaries around coastal China, with the headquarters in Beijing. Thus, delegations from the Port of Liverpool – including high-level ones led by the then company’s chief executive Jim Fitzpatrick – found themselves visiting Tianjin Ocean, Dalian Ocean and, naturally, Shanghai Ocean. When COSCO opened a Hamburg office, the first of its European bases (it was later to set up in London), those delegations began to tail off, as deals could be struck over much shorter distances. Martin explains that in the 1980s Britain would ship a lot of man-made fibre – Courtaulds had a considerable Far East interest – and steel in big volumes to China, as it couldn’t cope with its domestic steel demand due to the country’s burgeoning ‘opening up’. On the import side Liverpool’s general cargo berths were teeming and busy unloading tea, walnuts, peanuts and huge quantities of animal feed, refractory minerals, and even musical instruments from China. On the quaysides, what dockers and stevedores colloquially referred to as the ‘China Berth’, was in fact originally used exclusively by the ‘Blue Funnel Line’. Once containerisation became the norm in the late 1980s those general cargoes dropped off, but there is an interesting twist in trends as China now exports vast amounts of steel. In a complete reversal of the pattern of trade 20 and 30 years ago, bulk carriers now regularly arrive in Liverpool from China with enormous quantities of steel in all formats, from beams to coils and plates.


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Shanghai is, of course, China’s largest port and accounts for more than 30% of the country’s foreign trade, probably much more. When, early in the 1990s, the country and city was focusing on economic expansion it was towards Liverpool’s well-established Freeport that it looked for advice on setting up tax free zones. The Mersey Docks marketing director Frank Robotham – Liverpool Freeport’s first manager – was in China in 1992 delivering a paper on that very topic to an international conference. The following year the director of Shanghai’s Freeport visited his equivalent in Liverpool, keen to exploit that experience and expertise. Today the Mersey Docks company – along with others within the port community – has enhanced Liverpool’s prominence as one of the UK’s major maritime hubs. It handles over 30 million tonnes of cargo every year – more than at any time in its distinguished and long history – and operates the UK’s largest grain facility at the Royal Seaforth Dock. Late in 2004 it opened a representative office in Shanghai after winning a contract to advise on the development of a new £40 million – RMB540 million grain terminal to be built on a Chang Jiang (Yangtze river) site. Its international port consultancy arm, Portia Management Services, has hung a brass plate on a door in the new Pudong business district of Shanghai as the base to carry out the two and a half year contract, and also to drum up new business in China. It liaises with the Chinese trading group, Shanghai

Shanghai – the past merges with the future

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Liang You, and the terminal – due to open in 2006 – will handle a projected annual volume of around five million tonnes of grain and one million tonnes of oil. Now located at the estuary end of the river Mersey, the Docks Company once ran its business out of the imperial looking Port of Liverpool building, an almost over-indulgent edifice designed by Briggs, Wolstenholme and Thorneley following an architectural competition in 1901. The Edwardian baroquestyle structure was completed in 1907 – the first of the ‘Three Graces’ – and is now Grade Two listed. When it was finished the building was regarded as a symbol of Liverpool’s national importance, reflecting the critical role of the Docks & Harbour Board in the service of 86

Britain’s global trading endeavours. The grand, imposing entrance hall boasts an Italian marble mosaic floor depicting the points of the compass, while around the frieze leading to the first floor, painted in gilt letters is the unforgettable and apposite Psalm 107, almost a leitmotif for Liverpool: ‘They that go down to the sea in ships that do business in great waters, these see the works of the Lord and his wonders of the deep. Anno Domini MCMVII’ It is, though, the grandeur of the Royal Liver building that strikes an emotional chord with natives of Liverpool and the millions of tourists and travellers on the sturdy ferries, or those who in times past set sail – often fearfully – from the waterfront to embark on brave new lives. Designed by Aubrey Thomas the Grade One listed building was fully open for business in 1911


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as the head office of the then all-powerful Royal Liver Friendly Society. He, of course, was also the architect for one of Shanghai’s iconic buildings on the Bund. Perhaps the most dramatic element of the building, embodying Liverpool’s own patriotic mascots, are the two, 18-foot high copper Liver Birds that squat with wings half flapping atop the clock towers of the Liver building. One faces towards the river and the other inland, gazing over the city. Folklore dictates that if every they fly away the city will fall on desperate times, which probably explains why they are fixed solid on a steel armature. It is a mark of Liverpool’s astonishing renaissance in recent years that it should even be considered as a candidate for World Heritage status, which is bestowed by UNESCO on sites – and increasingly cities – considered of outstanding universal value to society. The decision was based on Liverpool’s historic importance and its existing architectural, technological and cultural assets. UNESCO’s conclusion is enshrined in the title Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City, recognising that the city is taking its rightful place as a first rank global player again. This is endorsed by Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage, who says that it confers on the city what English Heritage, Liverpool City Council and the people of Liverpool have always known – it is beyond question one of the great cities of the world. “Liverpool’s historic buildings are instantly recognisable and are a proud reminder that this was a

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hugely important maritime and mercantile city on the world stage; as a gateway to the new world, Liverpool was likewise the greatest seaport of the old. Today we see Liverpool’s future intimately bound up with the celebration of its distinguished past. Twenty-first century Liverpool is undergoing an extraord i n a ry period of development that will change the way the city looks forever. It is only right, therefore, that Britain’s world famous industrial past be recognised, p re s e rved and protected as the city embraces the great opportunities for regeneration and prosperity. However, it is our duty to ensure that we do not unknowingly lose the very things that make Liverpool special place. 88

All great cities go through cycles of growth, decay, and hopefully revival. Liverpool’s acknowledged decline in the latter part of the 20th century has been reversed through a vigorous and enthusiastic renaissance that is being driven by all of its citizens and those who realise its potential.” In World Heritage City – a colourful photoessay book (published by cities500) to celebrate the UNESCO success – British prime minister Tony Blair wrote: “Liverpool is a vibrant city. It continues to flourish as a resonant and resourceful place and owes much of its regeneration and success to the spirit and tenacity of the people in its communities. The city’s rich maritime history has left a legacy of historic docks, cultural buildings, and collections including one of the finest and most complete Victorian commercial districts


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in Britain. The outstanding universal value of this legacy has been formally recognised with the inscription on the list of World Heritage sites.” “Liverpool is not a provincial city; it is an imperial city.” This rather grandiose statement by England’s North West Development Agency chief planner, Ian Wray, paradoxically sets the modern scene. Only by accepting this proposition can one begin to understand the city’s uniqueness, its cultural history and architectural inheritance. As a capital of European culture, a city of World Heritage status, and a city of the creative classes, Liverpool has once more rediscovered its old strengths. Certainly there is a new mood about, not unlike the confidence of the 1960s when the heady era of ‘Merseybeat’ symbolised by the Beatles and a host of other musical outfits reigned supreme on the world’s stage, quite literally. Perhaps Liverpool is defined in many ways by the words of Daniel Defoe, the English author and adventurer, whose travels brought him to the city in 1708: “Liverpool is one of the wonders of Britain: a large handsome, well-built and thriving town. It still visibly increases in both wealth, people, business and buildings: what it may grow into in time, I know not.” There is little doubt these same words can apply today with equal fervour and astonishment to Shanghai. In the 1930s Shanghai proudly boasted the epithets ‘The Paris of the East’ and the ‘Queen of the Orient’ – and another 90


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more ribald nickname – and was indisputably the most glamorous, cultured – and also decadent – city in China, and probably all of Asia. It was remarked by those shocked at its antics: “If God allows Shanghai to endure, he will owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.” During that pre-World War – and preLiberation – era Shanghai was about opium dens and swish art deco architecture; the rank inequalities of its society starkly evident with sheer wealth and opulence rubbing shoulders with crushing poverty – the former flourished usually by the foreign element, the latter by the native Shanghainese. Today it is about skyscrapers, the power of big business and a determination that when the World Expo hits town in 2010, Shanghai will be more than ready to deliver for this new age. After decades in the doldrums, in less than 20 years Shanghai has rapidly regained its reputation as a cosmopolitan city – a bustling, 24-hour conurbation of 15 million people that is now acknowledged as the financial heartland of China. It is a breathtaking, progressive, enterprising and hugely entertaining city, continually welcoming and open to new ideas. In many ways it has already eclipsed Hong Kong and is the world’s fastest growing metropolis. The bewildering speed at which Shanghai has dashed headlong into the 21st century can barely be appreciated. Skyscrapers seem to spring up overnight, and the vista of frequently surreal architecture resembles a science fiction movie. Pudong’s new £1 billion airport, for example, boasts an undulating ceiling impaled by porcupine quills of white

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fibreglass, while other buildings, both sides of the Huang Pu river, are topped with what resemble pineapple fronds, pagodas, Doric columns and assorted eye-catching decorations. Twelve years ago the futuristic Pudong of today was a dream – a concept on a drawing board. Early in 1992 this author – bemused, a tad sceptical it has to be confessed, and not a little nervous – clung to the swaying steel skeleton of a planned bridge high above the swirling waters of the Huang Pu. Relaxed Shanghai city officials promised, with a casual yet all embracing wave of their arms, that from the flat marshlands and monochrome reaches that stretched before us, would arise a modern urban centre that would mesmerise the 94

world – Pudong. That vision is complete. Yet, it was only in 1990 that the central government in Beijing declared the former farmland a special economic zone, determined even in those fledgling days of ‘capitalism with Chinese characteristics’ that it would become the focal point for business, trade and finance in the new emerging China. Who could but not acknowledge any ‘we told you so’ remark – but that’s not the way they do it in Shanghai. Instead of the ‘regeneration’ schemes that have become all pervasive in Britain as we strive to inject new life into the old, the Chinese ‘generate’ – as their passion is for the new, unexpected and feisty, and certainly in Shanghai. The city can point to its 49 cultural sites of interest, 31 public libraries, 50 archives, 11 museums


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and 30 performing arts groups – never mind its growing reputation as the unofficial home of ‘night-life’ in China with its discos, dance halls, karaoke bars, myriad restaurants and several fabulous symphony orchestras. Facing both opportunities and challenges in the 21st century, Shanghai has already set its middle and long-term development goals. It will undoubtedly achieve its aim of building the city into a ‘socialist modern international metropolis’ – if indeed it isn’t already that – and one of the foremost economic, financial, trade and transport centres in the world. The origins of Shanghai – which means ‘by the sea’ – can be traced back to the seventh century AD when it was known as Shen or Hu Tu, named after the local bamboo fishing traps. It adopted the name Shanghai in the Sung Dynasty of the 11th century and became a relatively important Asian trading port in the 13th century. During the Ming Dynasty of the 16th century, when it became a walled city, it grew into a national textile centre famed for its cotton. But its international role was barely significant until it was opened up by the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842; its advantageous location on the banks of the Yangtze river delta would propel it to global prominence. It can be argued with some conviction that western influence launched Shanghai on its phenomenal growth path at the time – while others might contend that it was to be the ruination of traditional and classical Chinese 95


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cultural values as defined by the philosophers Confucius and Mencius. A greater part of the city was entrenched in the British Concession in 1843, just north of the old walled town. Until 1842 relations between Britain and China were frosty to say the least, as Britain was routinely smuggling opium into China in order to make a financial killing. It was the Chinese, though, who were dying in reality, thousands wiped out by addiction and the consequential social decay and degradation that followed in the slipstream of opium’s agents provocateurs. The Qing Dynasty rulers were in despair and responded by dumping British opium into Hong Kong, which set off the two infamous opium wars between the nations. The British empire and its armies were in their prime and the much weaker, and less well equipped, Chinese were no match for the ruthless ‘redcoats’ and ‘jolly Jack Tars’ who manned the British warships. In defeat, China was obliged to concede sovereignty of Hong Kong as well as other treaty ports – including Shanghai. Soon, other foreign powers had jumped on the bandwagon and land grabbing became rife – the port of Qingdao, for example, falling into German hands, Macau into Portuguese and foreign concessions ringed around Shanghai. These zones controlled by the British, French and Americans were independent of Chinese law and each imposed their own colonial influences on the city that can be observed to this day: the buildings on the Bund and the old French Concession in particular. 96


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When the Japanese first arrived, in 1895, Shanghai was neatly sectioned into completely autonomous settlements outwith Chinese regulations or mores, and by the 1920s and 1930s the world’s financial and commercial entrepreneurs and ‘bloodsuckers’ descended on the city in droves. It soon boasted the tallest buildings in Asia and had more cars on its streets than the rest of China combined. The growing riches of the foreigners (waiguoren in Shanghai parlance) – and their greed – were kept safe by battalions of American, French and Italian marines, British ‘squaddies’ and Japanese ‘bluejackets’. In 1932 the Japanese attack on Shanghai took most people by surprise, although the British, Americans and French, while apprehensive about the growth of Japanese power, were mainly interested in preserving their special privileges in China. Thus they limited their overt actions to a refusal to recognise the Japanese collaborationist regime of Manchukuo (based in Manchuria), symbolised by the installation of Pu Yi as effectively the ‘puppet ruler’ of China, as picturesquely – if distortedly – depicted in the Bertolucci movie The Last Emperor. The full-scale war between China and Japan – which would ultimately involve all the foreign powers – grew from an apparently trivial incident in July 1937, when Japanese troops were digging emplacements near the Marco Polo bridge in Beijing. Shots were exchanged and rather than withdraw, as they had in the past, the Chinese stood their ground. Japanese reinforcements were despatched from the north and by August the two nations were in open and mortal combat – a state of affairs that really only ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945 by allied forces operating on an international scale. When Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Shanghai’s reign as the ‘Queen of the Orient’ abruptly ended. The communists began eradicating the slums, rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of opium addicts and stamping out slave labour – the party was well and truly over for the indulged westerners. The city became once more, to a large extent, introspective until the rise of Deng Xiaoping. In 1979 he introduced a programme of reforms and ‘opening up’ policies that was to transform and revitalise not only Shanghai but also China overall. In 1990 Shanghai was selected as the city to drive forward those reforms and the wheel began to turn full circle again. Capitalist business expertise was once again courted as the leaders in Beijing looked for foreign investments to fuel the reinvention of this whirlwind metropolis. By the mid-1990s more than half the world’s cranes were looming over Shanghai and altering its skyline forever. It is now the showcase of modern China.

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A Meeting of Minds The University of Liverpool Enjoys a Unique Relationship With China A long and close relationship with China and its people has been enjoyed by the University of Liverpool, and its reputation there is notably high. Indeed, the university’s Chinese student population has grown thanks to this reputation, from just six in 1931 to nearly 700 today. These links with China can be traced back to the late 19th century when one of the founders of University College, William Rathbone VI, was involved in trade with China through the family firm – known as Rathbone Brothers. By the 1860s, the Rathbones had become one of the largest China tea importers in the country, handling a weight of as much as 11 million pounds in one season. The university’s botanical links with China were established in 1904, when Arthur Bulley commissioned the first of many expeditions to collect samples of plants and seeds from China’s scenically dramatic western areas. Bulley, who established what later became the university’s Botanic Gardens at Ness on the Wirral peninsula, enlisted a legendary plant hunter, George Forrest, to visit the Yunnan region. There he scaled heights of over 16,000 feet and explored deep valleys to collect some of the most beautiful and rare plant life in China. Over a period of 28 years, 98

Professor Drummond Bone, vice chancellor of the University of Liverpool

Professor Percy Roxby, a great friend of China


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The first Chinese Students’ Society was formed at the University of Liverpool’s Guild of Students in 1972

Forrest and his team collected over 30,000 plant specimens, including a unique collection of rhododendrons that were shipped to the UK to be grown at Ness. They continue to thrive there to this day. The university’s first formal link with China was an honorary readership in Chinese, created in 1896. It wasn’t, however, until the 1920s that the first Chinese students came to study at Liverpool, attracted by the friendly, cosmopolitan nature of the city. Medicine, science and architecture proved popular with early overseas students but it was geography that attracted the Chinese students in particular. The university owed its reputation in this subject largely to Percy Roxby, professor of geography in the first half of the 20th century, who had a particular affection for China and travelled extensively in the country to further his research. He wrote numerous articles to promote Anglo-Chinese relations and gave many lectures in China – one of these was broadcast from Shanghai in 1946 on the subject of ‘the development of friendship and understanding between Britain and China’ – the promotion of which he described as one of the ‘chief ambitions of his life’. A pioneer of human geography, his welcome to foreign students brought the university many new students and he was invited to become a member of the Chinese Education Commission in 1921. He died in China in 1947, three

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years after the British Council invited him to become its chief representative in the country. The university’s links with China remained strong throughout the 1940s and 50s and the Chinese student population continued to grow steadily. In 1944 university students produced the first Chinese newspaper in the UK – the Hua Chow – and a Chinese Students’ Society was formed at the Guild of Students in 1972. Professor Sir Harry Fang, a distinguished orthopaedic surgeon who graduated from the University of Liverpool in 1955, and his niece, Anson Chan, the former chief secretary of the Hong Kong Government, were also awarded honorary degrees in 1996. Another Liverpool graduate, Professor Hou Ren-Zhi – a senior

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academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is especially known for his studies of desertification – was awarded an honorary degree in 1984. More recent graduates include Professor Wenji Lin, deputy director of the Standing Committee for the Beijing People’s Congress, the minister for education, Zhou Ji, and Tung Chee Hwa, the former chief executive of Hong Kong, who is now vice chairman of the Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). Mr Tung was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Liverpool in 1997 and is the founding member of the university’s Graduate Association in Hong Kong, which runs a scholarship scheme for Chinese students planning to study in Liverpool. The association recently The first Chinese newspaper in the UK – the Hua Chow – was produced by University of Liverpool students in 1944


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donated £35,000 – RMB450,000 ($500,000 HK) – to the University Foundation, which raises funds for key strategic projects. Liverpool’s reputation in China for innovation and excellence has grown over the past 100 years, in line with its international student population, and academic links with Chinese universities are particularly healthy. There are strong links with Guangdong University of Technology and Shenzhen University, and Liverpool is a popular postgraduate destination for students from both these institutions, especially in electrical engineering. Such partnerships also allow junior academic staff from China to spend time at Liverpool to undertake research training and to benefit from

Qin Sun, a Shanghai student at the University of Liverpool

exposure to frontier developments in their discipline, with funding provided by the University of Liverpool. The university shares close links too with the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications and a unique MPhil programme has been developed between the two institutions, enabling students to spend a year studying in Beijing and a year at Liverpool on an integrated programme. It also works with Beijing University of Chemical Technology in the area of chemistry and materials science. Other research collaborations in a wide variety of areas include urban planning. A strong relationship exists with Tongji University in the fields of regeneration, regional and spatial planning, and staff from both universities benefit from mutual expertise. Wang Xiaodan, a Chinese student during a university fashion show

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Liverpool has attracted a number of well-respected visiting academics from China and many Liverpool staff hold visiting lectureships at top Chinese institutions, including Professor Michael Fang, from Liverpool’s department of electrical and electronic engineering who is a visiting professor at Beijing’s prestigious Tsing-Hua University. Turning to the Shanghai area in particular, young Chinese professionals from Shanghai deemed capable of high achievement can take advantage of a scholarship scheme, run by the university in collaboration with the British Council, which enables Chinese public servants to spend a year at Liverpool and further their professional training. The Shanghai-Liverpool Chevening Scholarship is open to individuals from government, industry, commerce, finance, law, education, science, technology and culture. One example of such success is Qin Sun from Shanghai who successfully applied for one of the scholarships in 2004 and is studying for a Masters degree in public administration (MPA) at the university’s management school. She says: “Liverpool has an extremely high reputation for teaching in China. Its advanced facilities and excellent academic resources mean it is a very popular choice for Chinese students wanting to study overseas. I was delighted when I found out that I had won one of the scholarships. Liverpool’s MPA is highly respected and I think it will prepare me well for a career in government. I hope to pass on the management theories I am learning in my studies to others 102

in my organisation. I am thoroughly enjoying my time at Liverpool. There are lots of opportunities to make friends from different countries and different parts of China. I also love the city and its cultural history. In the future, I would really like to increase the cooperation and links between Shanghai and Liverpool.” Meanwhile one of the most exciting developments in Liverpool-Chinese links is planned for Suzhou, a mere 90 kilometres north of Shanghai. With the University of Xi’an Jiantong, the University of Liverpool is at an advanced stage of planning jointly a new university that will introduce the most advanced international curriculum and teaching methods to students in mainland China. This will mark another stage in the long tradition of the University of Liverpool’s friendship with China.


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Reaching for the Stars Together Indeed academic associations between China and Liverpool extend across a wide spectrum of interests. Scientific relations, for example, are at an all-time high with a company established by Liverpool John Moores University (JMU) involved in building China’s biggest astronomical telescope. The £3 million-RMB39 million contract is with a state-owned observatory in Yunnan and the telescope stands some 10,000 feet up on a mountaintop near the historic city and tourist resort of Li Jiang in south west China. It was designed and built by Telescope Technologies Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of JMU, and at 2.4 metres is the world’s largest robotic telescope. The Astrophysics Research Institute in the

Professor Michael Brown, vice chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University

university developed the much acclaimed advanced robotic scheduling software. According to Dr Chris Moss, research fellow at JMU, China has embarked on an ambitious programme to establish modern astronomical facilities which are at the leading edge of international research. There are currently five observatories in the country and the Yunnan telescope – located at the new Gao Meigu Observatory, and part of the Kunming branch of the China Academy of Sciences – is the first of its kind to go operational. Observations are due to begin in 2006 and the telescope will be used by astronomers from every part of China, and as far afield as Thailand and Japan. Tang Jixiang, a first-grade master in fine arts at the Guangdong Painting Institute at JMU

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Professor Mike Bode, Astrophysics Research Institute, vice chancellor Professor Michael Brown, His Excellency Mr Zha Peixin and Aldham Robarts at Telescope Technologies Limited on Wirral


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It will be linked to three other similar telescopes, all designed by JMU’s Telescope Technologies, located in Maui in Hawaii, La Palma and Australia to form a global network capable of monitoring variable objects 24 hours a day. As part of the groundbreaking Yunnan deal – which was brokered by China Link – the university will have a share of the telescope for 20 years, enabling exchanges between scientists of both countries. The telescope is positioned on the high mountain to ensure that air and light pollution do not spoil its stargazing abilities. In what can only be considered a remarkable example of synchronicity, a comprehensive study of how China is tackling the multiple issues of environmental pollution has been published in Beijing by a state publishing house – and co-authored by a lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. Professor Ian Cook – programme leader in geography and head of the university’s Centre for Pacific Rim Studies – has been a frequent visitor to China for the past two decades and has once again teamed up with British author and journalist Geoffrey Murray, who is an ‘Old Asia Hand’ of 40 years, the past 15 in China. Murray is also a research associate at JMU’s Centre for Pacific Rim Studies. The two had previously written a detailed but more academic study on China’s environmental issues, published in Britain in 2002. But the China Intercontinental Press, the publishing arm of the State Council Information Office, suggested an entirely new book in much simpler terms for the more general reader. The result is The Greening of China which is available in English and Chinese. “We approached the book in a positive way, wishing to give China credit for the work that has been done in recent years on reversing environmental degradation, while also revealing some negative points and stressing where we think more work needs to be done,” explained Cook, whose university has also added Mandarin Chinese to its portfolio of modern languages studies, with programmes including a period of study in China. And JMU’s school of art and design has encouraged a valuable cultural interchange with the fine art department of Shanghai University, which has included an exhibition attended by academics from Shanghai. Product design students have also witnessed special calligraphy and Chinese painting demonstrations delivered by masters of the ancient Chinese art form from Guangdong province. He Shanxin, director of the Guangdong Province Government Culture and Research Institute, gave the students a brief history of Chinese painting and calligraphy, while Tang Jixiang, Wu Jingshan and Chen Yongzheng were among the artists who showed different styles of calligraphy, painting individual pieces to represent their experiences of Liverpool. The masterclass was part of a cultural exchange arranged by leaders of the Chinese community and the Liverpool Culture Company.

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Academic and civic links apart, it was inevitable that the lively s p o rting interests of Shanghai and Liverpool should overlap – not withstanding the defeat of the Liverpool football club youth team by a Shanghai squad during the twinning week celebrations in 1999. Future sporting links between the two cities are on a formal footing after the president of the Shanghai Sports Federation, Mr Jin Guoxing, ratified a protocol in Liverpool, accompanied by the chief of Shanghai’s foreign affairs office, Zhang Yan. Mr Jin is also a leading member of China’s Olympic Games 2008 national organising committee, which is busy preparing for the global event to be staged in Beijing. The deal was struck a few years ago when Liverpool’s then lord mayor Councillor Gerry Scott countersigned the historic sporting document. The agreement followed a visit to China by Liverpool city council’s dedicated sports development unit who toured a number of cities in a bid 106

to establish long-term sporting exchanges; and made Shanghai, naturally, the first and last port of call. One of the highlights of the visit to the UK by Mr Jin and his delegation was the chance to walk on the ‘hallowed’ turf at Anfield football ground where they met representatives of the Liverpool FC youth academy. “It was a wonderful experience but this agreement is much more than football,” said Mr Jin, almost parodying the comments of the legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, who once reputedly remarked when asked if football was a matter of life or death: “No, it’s much more important than that.” While amused at the quip, Mr Jin believes that bilateral agreements are actually more focused on cementing cultural relations, education and academic exchanges, and ensuring that the friendship between the two grand cities of Shanghai and Liverpool lasts for many, many years.


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Liverpool’s Chinese Community: A Home From Home


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It is received wisdom that the formation of the ‘Blue Funnel Line’ in 1865 by Alfred Holt was perhaps the earliest conduit for Shanghai sailors and other Chinese seafarers to land up in Liverpool and eventually settle. There is, however, an understanding amongst historians that informs of a small gang of sailors recruited in Shanghai and working for the East India Company – the British Empire’s de facto trading arm – who turned up early in 1834, although none is likely to have stayed. Transporting mainly silk and cotton wool the company – which was actually rather poorly managed – lost its trading monopoly later that year following a revision of its charter. The Brian Wong, founder of Liverpool China Town Business Association

floodgates were opened for private enterprise. A few months later on 12 June 1834 the Duchess of Clarence, a clipper owned by John Bibby & Co, was the first ship to sail into the port of Liverpool from the Far East. It was carrying a cargo of tea and its crew included a contingent of Chinese sailors. The first ship to return to China left Liverpool towards the end of that year. Some of the Chinese sailors – so

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folklore tells – stayed behind and the grocery and provisions stores they established around Cleveland Street were apparently the germination of Europe’s oldest China Town. However, the importance of the ‘Blue Funnel’ steamships cannot be The next generation, keeping Chinese culture thriving

over stated – as related by Maria Lin Wong in her excellent book ‘Chinese Liverpudlians’ – as it was without a doubt the largest employer of Chinese sailors, and quite a benign one at that. This was, though, hardly a philanthropic endeavour but one based on economic practicality. The Chinese seafarers were, bluntly, cheaper than their European counterparts. Founded by engineer Alfred Holt – whose family were in shipping anyway – its headquarters were in Liverpool’s India buildings and it was to become one of the biggest shipping companies in the city, if not the UK. The famous fleet’s ships were affectionately known as ‘The China Boats’ and sailed continuously between the mid-1860s and the early 1980s. Despite its familiarity, the name ‘Blue Funnel’ was never registered and the ships were

Li Kiu Hsiung, founder of the Liverpool Pagoda Youth Orchestra


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Liverpool China Town Business Association: Brian Wong, vice chair; Wai Sang Wong, chair; Chung Choi Cheung, vice chair

always owned by Alfred Holt or later the Ocean Steamship Company – yet even into the 1960s and 1970s were universally known as the ‘Blue Funnel Line’. Holt’s first purpose-built ship – the Agamemnon – powered by his recently developed new steam engine, established strong, fast trading links with the Far East. In those days Holt’s Chinese crews were hired through the services of compradors – essentially labour agents whom the sailors also paid to find them jobs – who were operating up until the 1970s, when it was estimated the ‘Blue Funnel’ ships employed some 3,000 Chinese crewmen. By the late 1860s direct shipping services between Britain and China – with Liverpool the primary port for the trade – were regular occurrences and the level of activity persuaded China to establish an embassy in Britain in 1868. It transpires that the officials arrived in Liverpool in the September of that year and made their way from the quaysides to the even then famous Adelphi hotel – where they were staying en route to London – in a spectacular procession that attracted the attention of thousands of passers-by. Liverpool’s China Town – then located around Cleveland Square, Pitt Street and Frederick Street – was becoming quite cohesive, just like London’s Limehouse area, which had first been dubbed with what was regarded as the derogatory tag of ‘China Town’ in 1902 by an investigative journalist called George Sims. He took this tack

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because of how it was luridly portrayed in newspapers and popular fiction, and continually so for decades afterwards, until it disappeared; destroyed during the air raids of World War II. A similar demonisation erupted in Liverpool in 1906 when an inflammatory article by Claude Blake entitled ‘Chinese Vice in England’ was published in the Sunday Chronicle. The city corporation immediately ordered an inquiry and it actually turned out positively for the Chinese community, reporting that ‘from the earliest years of their settlement, the Chinese have been regarded as the embodiment of public order’. In more modern times, when inner city riots tore parts of Liverpool apart in the early 1980s, the government of the day’s deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine – now Lord Heseltine – spent three weeks walking the streets trying to get a grasp of the aspects of modern, urban lifestyles that were off the graph for most politicians. He met Afro-Caribbeans in Toxteth, many Asian people and a number of Chinese, to discuss the issues. He recalls that at the time Britain had three million on the dole – but he has never forgotten how he was told, very proudly by community leaders, that there was no unemployment in the Chinese community as the work ethic was an integral part of their make up. Indeed from the start relations between the Chinese and other races in the area appear to have been very 114

cordial, no doubt because they were living cheek-by-jowl with an extensive mix of different nationalities: Scandinavian and African seafarers shared the houses and streets with European Jews, Irish immigrants who had fled the Great Famine and Scots and Welsh families, and others who had arrived in the bustling port looking for a new life. According to Maria Lin Wong the size of the Chinese population fluctuated quite a bit, especially during the years when the British shipping industry was at its height. The ‘Blue Funnel Line’, and like-minded shipping firms, provided well for them, making sure they were fed and housed – even to the extent of setting up a communal hostel which supplemented the boarding houses and occasional bordellos that these thousands of men lived in when ashore. According to Mr So of the Wah Sing Chinese community centre by 1871 there were 202 Chinese settled in Liverpool, although many would not have registered their presence. So, the official census returns for 1881 indicate that there were only 15 Chinese-born residents in the Merseyside area – then comprising just Liverpool and Birkenhead – and that by 1901 this had increased to 76. In 1911 the community was over 400, more than fivefold its previously recorded size. Over the ensuing years the community grew considerably and a report compiled by the Ministry of Shipping in 1918 said there was a total of 3,200 Chinese men on shore, with some 2,850 associated in some way with seafaring. Billy Hui of the Liverpool China Town Business Association tells that it was at the end of the 1800s that the first Chinese settlers began to demonstrate their innate entrepreneurial talents, opening up businesses and supplying


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services to their countrymen who found themselves in a strange city with alien language and customs. They opened boarding houses where men could talk in their own dialects, cafés so they could buy cooked foods and shops where they could buy the groceries necessary to prepare their own meals. Marriages between Chinese men and local women were becoming quite common, particularly as the Oriental seafarers were regarded as more responsible than their British counterparts, who were frequently drunk and prone to beating up their wives. These women were more than willing to help establish the new shops and laundries set up by their Chinese husbands. 116

After World War I the settlement spread slowly inland into side streets such as Cornwallis Street and Dickenson Street, Kent Street and Gretham Street. Within a short time there were some 14 premises in Pitt Street where Chinese food could be eaten or bought, five of which were restaurants. As there was little other entertainment, a number of gambling houses opened along these streets, mainly visited by those Chinese seamen who were required to stay on shore for short periods, varying from two weeks to a month. During the war, the British government had sequestered vessels from the ‘Blue Funnel Line’, some of which were sunk or badly damaged. Whilst waiting for their next ship the seamen were compensated with vouchers worth £5 each – and nicknamed the ‘white duvet cover’. These vouchers were used as gambling chips,


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with the value of each bet estimated by measuring the thickness of the wad with a ruler. Strenuous efforts were made to try to stop the seamen gambling away their wages and, in 1917, the Chinese Seamen’s Welfare Centre opened in Bedford Street. It provided a haven for them to gather, socialise, and hopefully distract their attention away from the lure of the gambling dens. In the early 1930s the demolition of the original area known as China Town began as part of a corporation scheme to replace the old unsanitary courtyards and warehouses with modern buildings. Understandably, this plan met with some resistance from members of the community. It was at this time, due to the general economic depression and immigration restrictions, that the Chinese community in Liverpool witnessed a marked reduction in its population size – like others in Britain. The census showed that there were only 529 Chinese nationals in the area, and these apparently included a number of British-born wives. Later the Luftwaffe ‘Blitz’ of Liverpool in the 1940s destroyed much of the Pitt Street and Cleveland Square area and hastened the demolition of old China Town. In 1944 a plan was drawn up in an effort to attract members of the community back into the heart of the city. A Chinese architectural student planned a new 12.5-acre China Town, including a pagoda and a Chinese garden. This idea was rejected on the grounds of cost by the corporation, although it was likely that the decision was part of a more widespread policy to restrict the gathering of minority groups.

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As World War II continued furiously through the early 1940s, Liverpool was the headquarters of the Western Approaches that monitored and defended the Atlantic, guarding vital supply sea-lanes. After years of arduous warfare and lost ships and crews, the merchant navy was desperate for seamen and embarked on a worldwide recruiting drive among Britain’s allies. Thus the city also became home to the Chinese Merchant Seamen’s Pool, which resulted in thousands of Chinese sailors turning up in the port. At one stage it is estimated there were around 20,000 registered Chinese sailors, a considerable number hailing from Shanghai. They worked as part of the British merchant fleet and the convoys were vital to Britain’s survival in those war-torn days. Of course, the life of a merchant seaman, deep in the bowels of vulnerable ships was uncomfortable and dangerous, to say the least. Many were torpedoed and thousands of Chinese sailors lost their lives in the cold waters of the Atlantic, as the ships were under constant deadly attack from German submarines. However, despite their sacrifices the relationship of the sailors with Britain was later to evolve into a particularly dark and shameful episode. Soon after the war ended, over a two-day period in the September of 1945, thousands of Chinese men were rounded up by British police – under the control of Special Branch – and forcibly put on board ships and repatriated to China, many leaving distraught wives, children and families behind. The harrowing story was highlighted in a BBC 120

Radio 4 documentary – The Shanghai Sailors – made by the independent Pier Productions from Brighton. The programme was nominated for a Peal Award, the annual event that celebrates Chinese culture and achievement in the UK. It was produced by Angela Hind and narrated by Ivan Howlett who had interviewed a number of the children and grandchildren of these men. It was a difficult project, admits Angela, as many of those involved were reluctant to talk about the situation; the hurt was still evident. As World War II went on it seems harmony between the British officials – who had previously been so keen to employ these foreign sailors – and the Chinese representatives began to sour. The initial reason was money – the Chinese were paid much less than their British counterparts and this had begun to rankle. Perhaps the most difficult issue for the Chinese sailors to stomach was the ‘war risk bonus’ that was paid to British sailors the moment hostilities broke out. All seamen were entitled to it and at first it was £3 a month and in 1940, as matters worsened in the Atlantic, it was boosted to £5 a month. But this was not the case for the Chinese, who were risking their lives as much as the British sailors. Morally, their resentment and objections were justified – they were actually paid only £3 in wages a week as opposed to the £10 paid to British men. As friction between the British and the Chinese worsened, fundamental attitudes also changed – the British authorities began to regard them as troublemakers. But their labour was vital in Britain’s war struggle and they knew it, but despite this the old British ‘class’ prejudices were beginning to resurface, the idea of the plucky Chinese sailor was fading.


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In Liverpool the Chinese society had bonded closely – through necessity – and with Communist trades union officials working in the background to organise them the Chinese seafarers were no longer prepared to accept such conditions. There was also a knot of Chinese sailors in Liverpool who had already begun to assimilate into the local society; they had English girlfriends, and frequently married them. They were also becoming quite entrepreneurial and were opening small businesses and buying property, mostly around China Town. Four years into the war and the Chinese seafarers were well entrenched in their adopted homes and the Liverpool community. Yet the British authorities were growing increasingly apprehensive that they wouldn’t be able to keep a handle on these people. They wanted rid of them as fast as possible. So, one September day in 1945, when the war was barely over, it was no surprise to anyone in the area when vans arrived to pick up the Chinese sailors, much as they had done almost every day to transport them to the convoy ships throughout the war. It was business as usual and no one so much as batted an eyelid – even the sailors themselves were largely taken in. But this time they weren’t going on an Atlantic convoy, they were being sent back to China. It was a sudden and ruthless swoop that was to leave a dreadful gap in the lives of so many children and wives – fathers vanished never to be seen again, and without any explanation. These seamen, who had risked their lives for Britain, 121

Committee members of the Liverpool China Town Business Association


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were not given the chance to stay in Liverpool after the war or even to discuss the deportation. In reality, by then there weren’t that many – the vast bulk of those who hadn’t given their lives on the convoys had returned to China anyway. Officially there was a hardcore of 800 sailors still in Liverpool and others scattered around the country. Overall, there were around 2,000 Chinese men in the city, many married with children or owning their own businesses, and some of these were also to be netted in the imminent trawl for ‘aliens’. Their domestic status was not to be a consideration; to the authorities it was an irrelevancy. They were scouring the UK for men of Chinese origin and bringing all of them to Liverpool for repatriation to China. In 2002 BBC Radio Merseyside broadcast a programme that hinted at this incredible and generally hidden tale, although it is recorded briefly in The Encylopedia of the Chinese Overseas first published in 1999. Suddenly, calls came flooding in to the radio programme from Chinese and other mixed parentage people whose fathers had mysteriously disappeared; they had just gone missing – some walked out of the door to the shops or on an errand and never came back. A large part of the actual ‘unearthing’ of this story is down to the work of Chinese sociologist Li Ling, who was collecting stories on old Shanghai seafarers for Shanghai University. In 1949 other Chinese sailors had signed on


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British ships just as the War of Liberation was coming to its conclusion. Few were aware that they wouldn’t be able to return to China for 50 years or more, some never. British ships were banned in Chinese ports for a long spell after the communists took control and these sailors were – in a direct reversal of the earlier incidents – forced to abandon wives and children back home in China; there was no way home. They settled in Liverpool and many worked for the ‘Blue Funnel Line’, some married and raised families in Britain. For many years these old Shanghai sailors – now few in number – would meet every week to talk over their lives and Li Ling met the men to record their stories. Eventually some returned to Shanghai to trace their roots, but their families had long since disappeared. Back in the immediate post-war years in Britain it seems forced repatriation was something of an establishment trait. People who were not British citizens were returned to their homelands no matter that they had fought valiantly for the country. It was simply g o v e rnment policy. Of course, it had suited their purpose to encourage and welcome Chinese, and Commonwealth, sailors to put their lives at risk for the Empire during wartime. If later they wanted to settle permanently in the UK, then it wasn’t acceptable for a variety of reasons, many spurious. Indeed, there was a considerable amount of paranoia around Liverpool at the time, but the nefarious conduct of the authorities was clearly nothing to do with Holt’s ‘Blue Funnel Line’ who had, as usual, behaved with decency, although

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obliged to toe-the-line. These deeds were carried out usually in the dead of night – and the streets simply cleared. The only explanation for the clandestine nature of the operation is that the authorities knew this wouldn’t be popular locally; many of the Chinese seafarers were settling down in Liverpool and many were married with kids. In fact, once they were married they were entitled to stay in the UK, and generally the men knew this. A few years ago a woman found a batch of letters from her father, whom she had always imagined had just deserted the family; in them he wrote of how desperately he missed his Liverpool family. But tragically knew he would never get back. It was heartbreaking stuff. So where did the order for such a callous deportation originate? It was an official government

Liverpool-born Yu Ying Ying and Yu Bing, crossing the cultural divide

decree sent to the chief constable of Liverpool to act upon. With Special Branch in support he was ordered to detain the men and take them to the docks and the waiting ‘Blue Funnel’ ships. The authorities, by using a clever legal ruse, took the men outside the harbour limits and thus exposed their credentials for residency. A few years ago a document was unearthed in the Public Records Office that shed light on this incident. Dated 23 March 1946 it confirmed earlier reports that detailed how, since November 1945, some 4,531 Chinese seamen had been repatriated. Special Branch had been instructed to conduct an intensive search of the 150 boarding houses and hostels in Liverpool over the two-day period to roust out the men. Former Lady Mayoress Eileen Devaney proudly shows off Liverpool’s gold chains of office

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Indeed, all Britain’s chief constables were circulated with orders to round up Chinese sailors ‘to secure a maximum repatriation’. Those involved included the Home Office, the Ministry of Transport, Liverpool’s chief of police and the Foreign Office. And worse was to come, according to Ivan Howlett’s radio documentary. The official government report claimed that amongst the estimated 2,000 Chinese men still in Liverpool there was an undesirable element – so called because over the previous three-year period there had allegedly been 1,000 convictions for opium smoking and 300 for gambling and, it declared moralistically, over half were suffering from venereal disease and TB. It transpires that Liverpool corporation was also keen to have use of the accommodation occupied by the Chinese – and owned by many of them – as it claimed that before the war there had only been 200 or 300 Chinese in the city. The report also insisted that of those 2,000 Chinese men, only 117 had British-born wives – with, it said, ‘many of these wives of the prostitute class who wouldn’t wish to accompany their husbands to China’. This despatch was clearly manufactured to make the situation look worse. It was, though, a travesty of the truth and was merely compiled – we can only presume – to justify the repatriation order. During the war these very same Chinese sailors were regarded as heroes, but this was omitted from the Home Office communiqué. 126

It is absolutely clear now that the authorities wanted the Chinese population in Liverpool to be reduced to its pre-war level. This was an echo of a 1920s mindset reminiscent of the old colonial mentality that raised the spectre of a ‘yellow peril’. The deportations smacked of sharp practice, the legalities questionable and the morality unsavoury. The families of those lost seafarers are still devastated; they grieve to this day that they thought their fathers had abandoned them and found out too late that they hadn’t. There was never any hint of compensation for the property that was in effect stolen from the men and their families. These sailors had helped protect Britain and ensured the supplies flowed to keep the country going at a critical time. Yet there has never been an offer of restitution or rehabilitation, or even an apology to the men, their wives, children and grandchildren. Meanwhile China had itself, once again, been through a period of extensive turmoil that almost rent the country asunder from the 1930s onwards. Many people, mostly men, escaped the disruption or couldn’t return to China once the Japanese had occupied all the treaty ports in the late 1930s and 1940s. Others later also chose to flee from the political and social upheaval that swept the land as Mao Zedong led the Communists on a mission to free the people in a desperate civil war against the oppressive Kuomintang, now referred to as Guomindang in the modern Putonghua parlance. Andy and Polly Green, longstanding champions of Liverpool’s China Town


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A Personal View: That Feeling Called Home Early in 1945, a young Chinese man barely 20 years of age found himself in a war-battered Liverpool, a strangely exotic and wildly foreign city to his Oriental eyes. He spoke hardly any English apart from a few random words he had picked up in Calcutta. He had been transported in a troop ship – the Empress of Canada – from India to join the vitally needed pool of Chinese seamen who were to help revive Britain’s bruised merchant fleet. He was to escape the distress that afflicted so many of his countrymen and fellow seafarers in Liverpool a few months later. Despite the circumstances he was nervously excited to be in the country that he had heard so much about as a boy in his rural home close to the Yangtze river in the province of Sichuan. Now 80 years of age, Tseng Chihkao has spent all of his adult life in Liverpool; it is approaching six decades but it might be a year or two more as he admits official records are vague. He chuckles good-humouredly that even after all that time many of his British friends can’t pronounce his name; they know him familiarly yet with great affection simply as San. Young Tseng was forced to leave China when he was merely 16 or 17; his family scattered far and wide because of the Japanese war that had ravaged both the cities and the vast countryside, the cruelties now embalmed in the 130

darkest pages of history. After Pearl Harbour and the American intervention Tseng Chihkao was drafted into the Chinese army – then under the control of Chiang Kai-shek – that was joining forces with the British and American armies in the struggle against Japan in Burma. “I was flown to Nepal for six months’ training, although I must admit a little reluctantly. Then, along with thousands of other Chinese soldiers, I was assigned to the Burmese front line in late 1941,” recalled Tseng, who spent 18 months in the heat of battle. He was wounded twice and on the second occasion, after being discharged from a field hospital, he discovered his regiment had moved on, constantly seeking out the enemy in the jungles. “I was quite weak and couldn’t catch them up and I was invalided out of the army because of my wounds. Returning to China was still out of the question and I was flown to Calcutta, where I got a job as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. There I spotted an advertisement for the British merchant navy, which was looking for seamen. I applied, although I didn’t hold out much hope as I was quite small. But to my utter surprise I was accepted by the ‘Blue Funnel Line’ and shipped back to England,” commented Tseng, who reveals that, although he had no English, he spoke fluent Hindustani, Mandarin and several Chinese dialects; linguistic skills that have proved their worth in latter years. “I was so grateful to arrive in Liverpool, in England. Back in my home town we had often talked of this mysterious, faraway land but I never imagined I would end up here. And although there are a lot of Chinese in Britain,


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Sichuan-born Tseng Chihkao, with his Liverpool family

not so many come from my area of China, which is still mostly rural. Although I am, of course, very proud to be Chinese, I regard Liverpool as my home, even if my heart is still in China.” For 20 years Tseng worked for the ‘Blue Funnel Line’, traversing the globe as a seaman, visiting most countries but always returning to his British wife Joan and growing family in Liverpool; he now has six children, the oldest is 40 and the youngest 34. “Joan is from Yorkshire and was working in a factory in Liverpool during the war, that’s how I met her. My family are fascinated by my story and I do feel lucky that out of the millions of Chinese people who suffered from the wars and unrest of that period, I survived and thrived.” After being made redundant by ‘Blue Funnel Line’ in 1965, Tseng turned his hand to working part time in a Chinese restaurant in Manchester and as a casual docker on the Liverpool and Birkenhead docks, part of a shore gang as he recalls; a system of arbitrary employment that has thankfully long since been abandoned. At that time, in order to look after his family, Tseng opened a small café on the docksides rustling up the fiery yet tasty food of his native Sichuan, as well as the more homely and bland British fayre. Today San’s Café is a popular and regular haunt of an eclectic mix of customers: seafarers, lorry drivers, dockworkers and the local business community, all keen to sample his blend of Chinese and British food; he even provides a sandwich delivery service.

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“Of course, I have noticed many changes in Liverpool since I came here, as a very young man. And I am really proud that the city has taken off and that it has World Heritage status, especially as it was announced in China, and not that far from where I was born. I suppose now I am half Sichuanese and half Scouser,” added Tseng, whose English is delightfully infused with the guttural, nasal twang of the true Liverpudlian. Tseng first went back to China to trace his relatives in 1958, before the now accepted insanity of the Cultural Revolution closed the country down again, and did find most of his sisters and brothers. He didn’t return to the Middle Kingdom again until 1982 when 132

the political situation had calmed: although he regrets that neither his wife nor children have ever visited China. One day they will, he hopes. He tries to visit every couple of years and now also works as an advisor to several British companies doing business in China, notably the Liverpool Water Witch Company that makes marine pollution control vessels. And after 55 years as a member of the UK Chinese Freemasons, an important and influential networking group, Tseng is very proud of being deputy chairman. “I am delighted that Liverpool is twinned with Shanghai and now that China has really opened up I am able to go back freely and have made many new friends there. I am treated like a VIP. But I am always glad to be back in Liverpool.”


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As Liverpool corporation continued with its whole scale demolition of large swathes of slums, vast numbers of the Chinese community were eventually shifted into new tenements in Kent Street, Pitt Street and Upper Frederick Street. This was a period of great upheaval – and considerable upset for some – but the spirit of the people remained positive and the intervening years saw them launch many new projects to benefit the community. • 1939 – The first Chinese Language School • 1941 – The Chinese Republican Progress Club • 1944 – The first Chinese newspaper – the Hua Chow • 1944 – The first Chinese Bank in Liverpool • 1947 – The Chinese Seamen’s Welfare Centre • 1956 – The Liverpool Chinese Gospel Mission • 1961 – The Chinese Seamen’s Club Soon, though, the Chinese community no longer restricted its business interests to China Town and spread ‘organically’ throughout the Merseyside area. Later a number of shops and clubs reopened in Nelson Street and Great George Square and during the 1970s Nelson Street became the new hub of China Town, and gradually the business area extended into Berry Street, Duke Street and Upper Pitt Street. In the 21st century the city of Liverpool is home to little more than 3,000 people who came directly themselves – or have close family relatives – from a China that is determinedly proud of a cultural history stretching back 5,000 years, and a contemporary population estimated at 1.3 billion. But the proportionately tiny Liverpool Chinese clan – although across the north west of England there are possibly as many as 80,000 Chinese people – displays a unique and bonding pride in their joint ‘homelands’. The Chinese Arch in Liverpool can justifiably be compared to some of the finest neo-classical buildings that helped Liverpool win its World Heritage status. And, of course, China boasts numerous and grandiose World Heritage sites; some perhaps conceived when Liverpool was in the midst of metamorphosing from a little fishing hamlet on the river Mersey into a maritime city of worldwide prominence – similar to the rise of Shanghai.

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A Focal Point – the Pagoda Chinese Community Centre While Liverpool’s China Town remains an important centre for community and business it is no longer such an important residential centre. The community, now reckoned to number over 10,000, is spread throughout Merseyside and beyond. Although the catering trade is still very important with many families still based around the catering sector, the range of business and p rofessional activities has increased dramatically – family members helping out at the local restaurant may well be studying to be lawyers, accountants or doctors. According to Polly Green, manager of the 136

Polly Green, manager of the Liverpool Pagoda Centre

Pagoda Hundred Harmony – the wide distribution of the community, with family groups linked to businesses scattered throughout the city-region – meant that even in the late 1970s officials in Liverpool did not recognise the extent to which members of the community were isolated by language and culture from much of the mainstream welfare provision and economic life. There was no means, she reveals, to enable special needs to be identified and responded to, and no mechanism to link the Chinese community with the community at large, fostering the understanding and good relationships necessary for the evolution of a successful multicultural society. The Chinese community organisations that did exist were largely representative of the various groups within the community, and existed to give mutual support to community members, sometimes in the face

Children in a creche celebrate Chinese New Year in traditional style


L i v e r p o o l ’s C h i n e s e C o m m u n i t y – a H o m e F r o m H o m e

of prejudice. Thus, in a bid to change the situation, the Pagoda Chinese Community Centre was established in 1982 in Henry Street, within the China Town area. It was promoted by Liverpool city council and funded through the government’s urban programme. Today, the Pagoda centre stays open seven days a week and has five specific aims: • Articulate the needs of the Chinese community across Merseyside to local government, national government and its agencies and other service providers • Develop community services for the benefit of the Chinese community • Assist members of the community to participate fully in the social and cultural activities of Liverpool, Merseyside and Britain • Assist members of the community to participate fully in the economic activities of the city, Merseyside and Britain, through the provision of advice, guidance, training and other support in order to ensure access to the widest range of employment opportunities • Share Chinese culture with non-Chinese communities to foster good inter-community relations.

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It has become a key agency for delivering a range of services and activities, for a dynamic and changing community. A vital element of its acknowledged success is the provision of services from nursery to old age, and its valued relationship with other Chinese community organisations, Liverpool city council, the national health service and the various government agencies that contribute to its activities. And as China develops and ‘opens up’ further, the community is increasingly welcoming new arrivals, new opportunities and new challenges. One of the most fascinating of the activities in the Pagoda centre is the Chinese youth orchestra. As the crowing of the rooster heralded another Chinese New Year in February 2005 it was the young musicians of this highly regarded ensemble that ‘played in’ the celebrations across Liverpool. The highlight was a concert at the Adelphi hotel where the Chinese community has gathered en masse for a number of years at ‘spring festival’ to share a huge banquet and join in the fun and entertainment. Founded almost a quarter of a century ago by one of mainland China’s most renowned musicians and composers, Li Kiu Hsiung, it was the first Chinese youth orchestra of its kind in Europe and remains the largest to this day, with few rivals. The 20-strong orchestra has won a string of awards and performed at London’s Albert Hall and Royal Festival Hall, as well as making numerous television appearances, including BBC’s legendary Blue Peter show 138

and the corporation’s coverage of the new millennium. It was also a cornerstone of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture bid for 2008 and it is currently developing a programme, in tandem with the Pagoda’s dancing group, to play an active role in those celebrations. Since Mr Li left his home, in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, to take up a post as Liverpool’s first Chinese cultural officer in the early 1980s he has nurtured more than 300 students, teaching them – most aged between eight and 18 – the intricacies of instruments such as the ur wu, pipa, da wu and Chinese flute. Yet there was almost a crisis – and the orchestra was threatened with extinction – when he reached the age of 65. As Mr Li was technically employed by the city council it meant that officially he had to retire. That has now been put on hold and a special dispensation granted. Members of the orchestra include locally born Chinese children, as well as recent arrivals from China and others from Taiwan, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. They usually remain with the orchestra for an average of seven years, although some have stayed as long as 14 years. According to Mr Li, whose earlier career involved a spell at the Pearl River Film Production Studio and later with the Guangdong Symphonic Orchestra, the oldest member at present is 24 and the youngest a tender four years of age. “They are all very keen although I must admit I work them extremely hard, and rehearsals for New Year celebrations are held every weekend for months before,” explained Mr Li, whose wife Li Meixia teaches folk dancing and is in charge of the arts and cultural group at the Pagoda. Before


L i v e r p o o l ’s C h i n e s e C o m m u n i t y – a H o m e F r o m H o m e

she moved to Britain Mrs Li worked as a performance artist with the Guangdong television and broadcasting company and was director of the arts and cultural management committee for Laiwan district in Guangzhou. Apart from his post as conductor and mentor of the youth orchestra, Mr Li worked closely with the ‘revolutionary’ Liverpool Music Project that saw the development of a series of brand new instruments, essentially hybrids of those used traditionally in China and the West. “Several I have adapted include the da hu and gao hu and I have been teaching the students how to play them for a number of years,” said Mr Li, who explained that the gao hu is a two-stringed instrument which he has adapted to span the complete range of a violin. Mr Li also applied his skills to the soundtrack of the movie The Last Emperor, as well as working on musical albums such as Heaven and Earth and The Inspiration of William Blake created by his son-in-law the acclaimed bassist and musical innovator Jah Wobble. They also collaborated on the recent French film Fureur. His daughter Zi Lan Liao – wife of Jah Wobble – is a graduate of her father’s orchestra, although when she left China at the age of 15 she was already rated as a virtuoso performer, in particular on the Western harp and the traditional ku-cheng, a fantastic 21-stringed harp-like instrument. Within months of arriving in Britain she made an impact by winning the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen in north Wales. She continued her music studies at Manchester’s prestigious Chetham’s School of Music and later the Royal Academy of Music. She has captivated audiences around the world as a soloist with leading orchestras and as a recitalist. She also recorded music for the Oscar-winning The Last Emperor film and has collaborated with Peter Gabriel, Nigel Kennedy and her husband on a number of projects.

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Pagoda Youth Orchestra These youngsters are the latest generation of performers in the orchestra, which was established almost 25 years ago.

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The Inn of the Sixth Happiness – the Liverpool Connection There are many movie associations between China and the UK. One in particular had a surprising Liverpool input. Fifty years ago the Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman was joined by a gaggle of Liverpool-based Chinese children in the classic film Inn of the Sixth Happiness, a profile of the true-life story of the London-born Christian missionary Gladys Aylward. Whilst hailed as an epic – depicting Aylward leading a group of orphans to safety across the mountains in war-torn China – there were elements that were patronising in their stereotypical portrayal of Chinese people: not least the fact that the key mandarin was actually the British thespian Robert Donat and the male lead the German Curt Jurgens. Indeed, pundits at the time were divided as to the advisability of Miss Bergman accepting the role of a parlour maid yearning to be of selfless service in China. Yet many Bergman fans regard this as her best performance and the actress adored the role, considering it her most heartfelt. Directed by Hollywood veteran Robert Wise, and based on the book The Small Woman by Alan Burgess, most of the footage of the 1958 film that is set in China was in reality shot in the Snowdonia national park in north Wales, where the topography matches its supposed setting of Shaanxi Province in northern China. Other scenes, such as a 144

dramatic river crossing, were actually shot in Pinewood Studios. There is, in fact, a dual Liverpool connection because, in 1953, Gladys Aylward opened the Liverpool Chinese Gospel Mission at 20 Nelson Street in Liverpool’s China Town. The premises are now the Hong Kong Garden, a Chinese restaurant owned by Nicholas Liu. In the intervening years the mission has ‘graduated’ to become the Liverpool Chinese Gospel Church – run by Pastor Daniel Ng – housed in new-build premises on nearby Great George Square. The Liverpool Chinese children played the parts of Gladys Aylward’s charges in the mission’s orphanage whom she – allegedly – saved from certain death at the hands of an advancing Japanese army during the Sino-Japanese war in the 1930s. The Chinese community in Liverpool was reckoned to be an obvious place to find the extras required, as it was geographically quite close to Wales. So it was that 100 babies and toddlers – with their chaperones – were bussed out to the Welsh countryside to become tiny movie stars. In his first-ever film role Chinese actor Burt Kwouk – who later became better known as the manservant of Inspector Clousseau in the Pink Panther celluloid farces – played the part of the schoolteacher who sacrifices his life to save the children. Other modern day Chinese actors like David Yip were also in the cast. The film was actually premiered at Liverpool’s Odeon cinema but what many of the children


L i v e r p o o l ’s C h i n e s e C o m m u n i t y – a H o m e F r o m H o m e

never found out until years later is that their singing voices were dubbed over by Chinese kids from London, because it was felt their ‘Scouse’ accents would be confusing and hard to understand. Burt Kwouk was the guest of honour when a plaque to commemorate the filming was unveiled in Beddgelert in north Wales in the presence of 20 of the original Chinese children, all now adults. It was created by Fred O’Brien of the Liverpool-based Northern Design Unit, who believes it is also important that the film should be commemorated in Liverpool’s China Town by means of a plaque worded in Chinese and English. Meanwhile, a flash of patriotic fervour gripped China’s equivalent of Stephen Spielberg when he launched the first ever Chinese Film Festival in Liverpool. Beijing-based Feng Xiaogang was in town for the UK premiere of his multi-award winning adultery drama A Sigh, which stars his wife Xu Fan – one of China’s most famous actresses. But when news broke during his visit about China successfully putting its first astronaut into space, Feng unexpectedly and quickly – to the festival organisers’ obvious surprise – changed the agenda. He chose to show a more upbeat film – the comedy Be There Or Be Square about Chinese immigrants living in America. He felt it was a much happier vehicle to celebrate his country ’s scientific milestone.

Fred O’Brien and Burt Kwouk at the unveiling of the plaque for The Inn of the Sixth Happiness in North Wales

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Chinese New Year Welcome to the Year of the Rooster. The China Palace was the scene of much fun and laughter during Chinese New Year celebrations in Liverpool.

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Soon after the late Deng Xiaoping introduced China’s ‘open door’ policy just a little over 25 years ago, it was predicted that early into the 21st century the country would be transformed into one of the world’s largest economies, with a huge global impact. It is well on the way to achieving that ambition. In the bad old days, shaded and shaped by ‘colonial powers’ and the odious opium dens and compradors that resulted, China trade with foreigners was largely conducted through the ‘melting pot’ ports of Guangzhou (formerly Canton) and, of course, Shanghai. Back in the 1960s and 70s the political climate precluded most foreign organisations from conducting business activities in mainland China. So Hong Kong traders in the then renowned British colony became the most important channel for making enquiries and doing deals in the Middle Kingdom. Today, Hong Kong is back in Chinese hands and, since being initiated late in 1978, far-reaching economic and social reforms have changed the face of business in mainland China. Foreign companies keen to trade and invest in the country’s vast resources must ultimately look to Beijing for the authority and answers to their problems and questions, while Shanghai is increasingly the ‘financial’ lure for foreigners after being chosen as the ‘dragon’s head’ for China’s reforms early in the 1990s. Yet there were many sceptics about this launching of ‘capitalism with socialist – and Chinese – characteristics’ 152

as down the ages the fabled ‘Silk Road’ – and every other trade route – to China has been littered with the frustrated expectations and mangled pride of foreigners. Indeed, one of Britain’s first forays to engage in trade and cultural exchanges was an ill-fated sortie led by Lord Macartney in 1793. The British envoy totally misunderstood Chinese policy and approach to negotiations and the trip wound up as an embarrassing fiasco, the Emperor Qianlong refusing all entreaties to trade. However, Britain’s history of relations with China has not always been peppered with misfortune – although on occasions the two cultures have clashed, and rather violently. The first proper trading rights were established by the East India Company way back in 1637. By 1700 the company – effectively an arm’s length outsource of the British government – had opened a trading house in Guangzhou. And not withstanding Lord Macartney’s thwarted, and rather humiliating, adventure on behalf of George III, for over 100 years the exchange of goods between China and Britain, albeit limited, steadily increased. Even so, these traders found it both troublesome and hard; the Chinese economy was largely self-contained and its rulers and people were not beguiled by western products – as per Qianlong’s contempt for what he described as ‘objects strange or ingenious’. There was also the occasional tragedy, in particular the death of Colonel Cathcart, who drowned in 1778 on his way to try and formalise relations. Later expeditions, in 1816 and 1834, never even managed to knock on the outer gates of Beijing.


China-Britain: Friendship Across the Seas and the Centuries

Over the years, the two nations bantered, occasionally bartered and quite frequently bickered, these conflicts erupting now and then into all-out war. In 1839 the first of the Sino-British ‘opium wars’ broke out. There is little doubt it was the British who fomented the trouble; the East India Company lashing the drug around China and the trade falling into the hands of unscrupulous and aggressive merchants. The Chinese were concerned at the damaging effect of the widespread and increasing use of such a debilitating drug. In an attempt to curtail the problem, the import and sale of opium was banned, and there were even incidents of stocks belonging to foreigners being confiscated – and the Chinese dumped large quantities in Hong Kong. The British reacted forcibly and the resultant loss of the struggle by the Chinese also saw them obliged to cede territorial rights over Hong Kong – along with other land grabs initiated by foreign powers. And so it continued, through to the Boxer uprising in 1900 when the foreign legations in Beijing came under attack. Again, subsequently the Chinese were humiliated into acknowledging the superiority of the allied armies and, in effect, this resulted in a form of semi-colonisation of the Middle Kingdom. Shanghai and other treaty ports had been virtually under the foreign yoke for many decades, and certainly throughout the 1920s and 1930s. These were largely the British, French, Germans and Americans, while throughout the ‘concessions’ in Shanghai refugee ‘White Russians’ wandered around seeking sanctuary from their ‘Red Nightmares’ – which was quite ironic as 153


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events were to turn out. Britain and the USA only finally surrendered their rights in cities like Shanghai – which they had enjoyed since 1842’s Treaty of Nanjing – when most of China was occupied by Japan; it was merely a ‘symbolic’ gesture of support for this by now oppressed ally. After ‘Liberation’ in 1949, relations between China and Britain were rather flaky, even though the UK was one of the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China in 1950. A breakthrough only came in 1954 at the Geneva Conference on Korea, when China’s premier and foreign minister Zhou Enlai found a ‘meeting of minds’ with British foreign secretary Anthony Eden. A year earlier, though, Lord 154

Boyd-Orr – the first director of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation – went on to form the British Council for the Promotion of International Trade (BCPIT). In 1953 he led a trail-blazing group of 16 companies to China that was tagged ‘The Icebreaker Mission’. It paved the way for a 1954 mission by 48 companies, which memorably became known as ‘The 48 Group’. Over the ensuing 43 years this commercially focused outfit – funded by its members – grew to become the most respected and influential name in China-Britain trade. As Luise Schafer, current vice chairman of The 48 Group Club, confirms, it earned a special place in the annals of international trade history – the first western group to open trade with the new China. Indeed, says Luise, who is also vice chairman of the


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Centre is Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, visiting the UK in 2004, pictured with, amongst others, Percy Timberlake, one of the founders and latterly vice president of The 48 Group Club. Left of centre Luise Schafer, vice chair of the club, right of centre Stephen Perry, the chair. Sadly, Percy died a few weeks after this photograph was taken

Sino-British joint venture Shanghai Abacus Lighting, the motto of the 48 Group ‘Equality and Mutual Benefit’ – or in Chinese, ‘pingdeng huli’ – echoes the words of Zhou Enlai, China’s much loved premier from 1949 to 1976, who first used that expression in public in 1953. “By taking up such a principle from its earliest days the 48 Group demonstrated how closely it would follow and seek to understand China’s developments and needs, and try to match them by introducing relevant British companies and products – often in the face of adversity and always with limited resources,” comments Luise. “The strength and success of the group and its forerunners were not financial, but lay in the work of a few visionaries such as Jack Petty, Ted Sloan, Roland Berger, Percy Timberlake, Professor Joan Robinson and the British companies which formed its membership. Equally important was the very close relationship with Chinese counterparts, for example the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, whose chairman Bo Yibo became Britain’s firm friend. Fifty years later, in the spring of 2004, his son, the dynamic Bo Xilai, was appointed minister of commerce. It took determination and hard work, but bilateral trade increased dramatically over the years so that Britain was China’s premier western trade partner right up until the late 1970s, and new challenges were faced once China’s


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‘opening up’ reforms began in the 1980s.” In the late 1980s, encouraged by the DTI, the 48 Group began to explore the potential of a merger with the Sino-British Trade Council, which had been operating as an area advisory group to the Overseas Trade Board. Thus, in January 1991, the two formed the China-Britain Trade Group, now known as the China Britain Business Council. The 48 Group Club emerged from that, taking on the networking and social functions while the ‘parent’ body looked after trade events. Today the chairman of the club is Stephen Perry from London Export and ‘fellows’ include: Lord Heseltine, a former British deputy prime minister; Lord Howe, president of the Great Britain China Centre; Sir Anthony Galsworthy KCMG, former ambassador to the People’s Republic of China; Sir Patrick Gillam, chairman of Asia House; and Ms Mee Ling Ng, chair of Chinese for Labour – amongst others. The present day Chinese ‘Icebreakers’ include Mr Ji Chaozhu, ministry of foreign affairs; Mr Ma Yuzhen, former ambassador to the UK; Mr Zhai Peixing, the current Chinese ambassador to the UK; Mr Wan Jifei, chair of CCPIT and – amongst other key members – Mr Liu Mingkang, chair of the China Banking Regulatory Commission. The handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 actually led to an increase in relations across a diverse and, increasingly, a wider range of interests: education, science and technology, cultural and sporting, development work and trade and, of course, civic links, with many British and Chinese cities becoming twinned.

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And the work of the China Britain Centre in London – founded in 1974 and supported by the Foreign Office – continues to cement relations on a cul-tural level, striving to promote understanding between the two nations, with its core activities focusing on exchange programmes with Chinese partners. The centre’s quarterly China Review magazine is a must-read for all those interested in China. Perhaps, though, there was a significant ‘breaking of the logjam’ in relations when Michael Heseltine as president of the Board of Trade led an historic mission to China in May 1995. It was notable in several respects: firstly because it was the largest British trade contingent to any country at the time, let alone 160

China. And, secondly, it came after a period of prolonged strained relations between China and Britain over the transfer of Hong Kong sovereignty. Many thought that the mission was a risky affair, but Heseltine was up for the challenge and swept into Beijing at the head of this top-level business group and won over both the Chinese officials and the general population. He was actually the first British cabinet minister to visit China for three years and the buzz in Beijing was palpable. Amongst the Chinese media Heseltine made a very positive impression and his characteristic features were plastered over newspapers and on television as he met Chinese leaders in the Great Hall of the People. The British were once again surfacing as major players in China. What it did, thirdly, was to set an agenda – and a trend – for future


China-Britain: Friendship Across the Seas and the Centuries

missions, representing as it did the key players in Britain’s industry and commerce. Heseltine had persuaded 130 chiefs from the top echelon of British business interests to join him, and had chartered a special British Airways jumbo jet for the journey. A massive banquet – organised by the then China Britain Trade Group and the British Chamber of Commerce in China – was attended by 600 of the ‘great and the good’ from a cross section of Chinese society and the foreign businesses and diplomatic corps in Beijing. The consensus was that the trip helped ‘revive’ Britain’s flagging political relations with China. It also ensured a return to ‘normal’ trade, which had suffered because of the political squabbles and the ongoing spats with Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong whom the Chinese government and media at the time demonised, criticised and lampooned, almost on a daily basis. In a rather delightful twist Patten admitted recently that ‘perhaps’ Britain did not hold the ‘moral high ground’ over Hong Kong during the handover. He made the remarks as a panellist on a groundbreaking BBC television broadcast of the controversial Question Time debate, chaired by Jonathan Dimbleby. It was transmitted live for the first time ever from Shanghai. Patten suggested that maybe Britain’s stance over democracy would have had firmer foundations if ‘we had implemented it ourselves years back in the former colony’. 161


China-Britain: Friendship Across the Seas and the Centuries

The editor of China Britain Business Review, Humphrey Keenlyside says that one of the factors that made the Heseltine mission a success was the breaking down of the party into different sectors. “Collectively the intention was to present ‘UK Inc’ as a unified force and there was high-level representation of the aerospace and financial services sectors, the automotive industry and power and telecommunications. And, if the £1 billion worth of business that was said to have been concluded during the mission was something of an exaggeration, undoubtedly plenty of business was on the table and completed.” Hence, few would argue that that first Heseltine mission, followed by another the following year twice the size, helped shift British business in China onto a much higher plane. It was a master class in political manoeuvring. In 2003 Lord Heseltine was back in Beijing to chair the fourth meeting of the UK-China Forum and told delegates that the strength of the Sino-British relationship is much more than a political one; it resides equally in trade and investment. There has also, he pointed out, been a burgeoning of interest between the two peoples on a more personal level, certainly in terms of student exchanges. It is estimated that the number of Chinese students now in the UK is well over 50,000 and at the ‘Forum’ meeting Lord Heseltine said that the links of student and alma mater can prove some of the most lasting in people’s professional lives. It is, he added, an extremely positive aspect of the relationships between the two nations that so many young Chinese are getting to know the UK, as are UK students learning about China. In general terms, the recent ‘opening up’ in tourism opportunities out of China are also expected to encourage even further and closer ties. In 2003, the British government launched a campaign in China called ‘Think UK’, in which it urged people to find out more about Britain. The campaign was probably the largest ever undertaken by the UK overseas. Later that year the July visit to China by British prime minister Tony Blair resulted in the setting up of a dedicated China Task Force, led by deputy prime minister John Prescott. A year later, the visit to Britain by the Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, resulted in a joint statement being issued about bilateral relations that called for a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’. One of the first regions in the UK to address that and draw up a China Strategy is the north west, where in 2002 the North West Chinese Council first showed the way in acting as a voice for the region’s Chinese community. Chaired by Hung Lee Kai, the Council acts as forum for Chinese people to air their views on policies and to establish links with government. But it is, perhaps, the north west outpost for UK Trade and Investment – the joint Foreign Office and DTI body – that has taken the lead in Britain on the ‘China Agenda’ outlined by the deputy prime minister’s China Task Force;

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and as a response to Wen Jiabao’s ‘call to arms’. Director Vicki Treadell is spearheading the region’s efforts to fully develop its trading relationship with China. Her department has drawn up a new strategy that involves key players such as the North West Development Agency, Business Links and chambers of commerce to coordinate activities with the British embassy in Beijing and the consulates throughout China, including the important Shanghai consul general. Vicki explains that the Asia Pacific Team based at the International Trade Centre in Manchester includes four fluent Mandarin speakers, as well as others competent in a number of Chinese dialects. It works closely with the Merseyside based China Link and the China Britain Business Council – which has

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offices in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, amongst other cities – to promote British interests. “The north west is the home of the UK’s second largest Chinese community outside of London and the region’s universities play host to some 7,000 Chinese students. We have identified six key connections to support our China activity, including encouraging the 10 municipal and civic links that exist between cities in the region and China, such as Wuhan and Manchester and, of course, Shanghai and Liverpool.” For those interested in learning more about Britain’s home-based Chinese community, the best reference source has to be Steve Lau’s China Town Britain handbook: it’s the first truly insider’s view of The late Xiao Qian, one of China’s highly respected writers who forged friendships with British writers like EM Forster


China-Britain: Friendship Across the Seas and the Centuries

the community, and for that matter all things Chinese in Britain today. There are well-researched insights into the five main China Towns in England – the book’s remit doesn’t extend to Scotland, Wales or Ireland – and it provides surprising and interesting details about the background and cultural attitudes that prevail. London is described as ‘The City of Ten Thousand Nations’; Manchester as ‘The City of Aspirations’; Birmingham as ‘The City of Renewal’; Newcastle as ‘The City of Hidden Beauty’; and finally Liverpool as ‘The City of Past Glory and Future Hope’.

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Ben Chapman MP, chair of the All Parliamentary China Group with Zhang Xiaokang, minister counsellor, His Excellency Zha Peixin and Gerry Hare, Port Sunlight site director of Unilever UK, during an ambassadorial tour of Wirral


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Vicki Treadall, head of UK Trade & Investment for the north west


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Focus on Sister Cities

Focus on Sister Cities Liverpool: Shanghai, Cologne, Dublin, Tallinn, Memphis and friendship with Odessa.

Shanghai: Liverpool, Barcelona, Hamburg, Oslo, Valparaiso, St Petersburg, Alexandria, Ho Chi Minh City, Haifa, Istanbul, Tashkent, Dunedin, Milan, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Osaka, Yokohama, Zagreb, Espoo, Mapito, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Casablanca, Marseilles, Pomorze, Piraeus, Montreal, Antwerp, Sao Paulo, Karachi, Puson, Queensland State – Australia, Windhook, Porto, Port Vila, Jalisco State – Mexico, Rosano, Metro Mamila, Kwazulu Natal – SA, Guayquil, Chiangmai Province – Thailand, Osaka Prefecture – Japan and Santiago in Cuba; amongst others.

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Bibliography

Bibliography The Encyclopedia of the Chinese Overseas, Lynn Pan, Curzon Press, 1999 China 100 Years of Revolution, Harrison E Salisbury, Andre Deutsch, 1983 The Encylopedia of New China, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1987 Chinatown Britain, Steve Lau, Chinatown Online, 2002 Chinese Liverpudlians, Maria Lin Wong, Liver Press, 1989 Shanghai, Harriet Sergeant, Jonathan Cape, 1991 The Chinese, Jasper Becker, John Murray, 2000 Traveller Without A Map, Hsiao Ch’ien, Century Hutchinson, 1990 East and West, Chris Patten, Macmillan, 1998 The Chinese Century, Annping Chin & Jonathan Spence, Harper Collins, 1996 Liverpool: The First 1,000 Years, Arabella McIntyre Brown, Garlic Press, 2001

Other reference sources: China Today, China Daily, Shanghai Star, Shanghai Daily, Beijing Review, Liverpool Echo, Liverpool Daily Post, Trident magazine, China Review (GBCC), Chinatown magazine, China Britain Business Review, the Xinhua News Agency.

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Editorial Support

Editorial Support Zhang Xin was born in Jinzhou, Liaoning Province and attended Beijing Foreign Studies University, where he studied English literature and journalism. He worked as a senior sub-editor at China Daily, the only English language daily newspaper in China. In addition, for a spell he was the featured social-commentary columnist on the weekly publication 21st Century. He is now Trainer at the international on-line edition of China Daily, or chinadaily.com.cn. He lives in Beijing with his wife Liang Ying, an architect. Alan Ho-Ying Seatwo was born in Hong Kong and continued his studies in Liverpool. He is a qualified librarian and for a time was co-editor of an award winning Chinese community newspaper. Later he set up a specialist Chinese library service in Liverpool public libraries. He has been involved in a number of projects focusing on British Chinese identity, as well as research into the Chinese community in Liverpool. He now works as an advisor with the Liverpool China Town Business Association.

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Guy Woodland was born in Karachi and has lived and worked extensively in Australia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Portugal, Brazil and the UK. He studied at Blackpool and Fylde College, earning a diploma in professional photography. He owns liverpoolphotos.com, an online global picture resource, and operates internationally as a photographer. He is co-founder and director of cities500 international publishers and an associate of Barge Pole Press, a worldwide collaboration of writers, photographers and graphic designers. He has previously published the popular photographic studies Shed KM, The Life of Chester, The Gateway Theatre and The Life of Liverpool as well as a profile of the sculptor Stephen Broadbent. Other books include Liverpool: Waterfront and World Heritage City, both photographic-essay studies, and a collection of Mike McCartney’s photographic memories in the critically acclaimed Mike McCartney’s Liverpool Life. As a director of Garlic Press, he was also co-author of Liverpool : The First 1,000 Years, The Grand National Quiz Book and Cross the Mersey; and was co-publisher and chief photographer for the Connections book.

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Lew Baxter is a writer and journalist stirred by clearly defined Celtic passions, stemming from a birthright connected to both Scotland and Ireland, and he has lived for spells in Wales. Currently overseas bureau chief of the Action Media agency he is co-founder of cities500 international publishers and an associate of Barge Pole Press, a worldwide collaboration of award-winning writers, photographers and graphic designers. He has over 35 years’ experience as a journalist, writing variously for the Sunday Times and Sunday Mirror, Daily Telegraph, the Scotsman, China Daily, the Shanghai Star and the Hong Kong Standard amongst others. He spent seven years working in China where he was latterly Asia bureau chief for the USA publishers Philips International, and for a period was consultant editor for the multi-lingual weekly magazine Beijing Review. He has also worked as a senior consultant editor at the Xinhua News Agency in Beijing. His books include The Fool on the Hill and My Beatles Hell; he worked with Guy Woodland on Liverpool: Waterfront, contributing the main essay, and was editor-in-chief of the UNESCO inspired photo-essay book World Heritage City.


The Friendship Arch  

The Friendship Arch: A Celebration of China-UK Links by Lew Baxter and Guy Woodland SHANGHAI is now one of the most dynamic cities in Asi...

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