Mosaic of China Season 02 Episode 03 – The Streetwise Sinologist (CHANG Chihyun, Professor)

Oscar Fuchs
There are some professors who can justifiably be accused of living in their own little academic bubbles. But Professor Chang Chihyun is not one of them.
Oscar Fuchs

There are some professors who can justifiably be accused of living in their own little academic bubbles. But Professor Chang Chihyun - who specialises in history and sinology - is not one of them.

Original Date of Release: 22 Dec 2020.

Mosaic of China Season 02 Episode 03 – The Streetwise Sinologist (CHANG Chihyun, Professor)


CC: University bureaucracy is probably the most useless one.

OF: You can't say that!

CC: I can say that. I'm a part of them.

OF: OK good.


OF: Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I'm your host, Oscar Fuchs.

So you probably know by now that the way this podcast works is that the guests of this Season are supposed to be nominated by the guests from last Season. But you might also know, if you are very astute, that 2020 has been a somewhat turbulent year. And it turns out that not everyone who said yes to this project in 2019 were still keen - or even able - to do so in 2020. This was for a number of reasons: some of them found themselves trapped outside of China, and decided not to come back; some of them found their lives to be quite different, and no longer felt inclined to talk about it on a podcast; and so on. So the bad news is that the link between Season 1 and Season 2 has been broken in some cases. But the good news is that it has given me the opportunity to include some new voices in this Season that might otherwise not have been heard.

Today's episode is one of these new tiles in the Mosaic, and there will be many more to come over the coming weeks. Despite this breakage in the link, I've also included a catch-up interview from one of the guests of Season 1 at the end of the episode, and in today's show it's with Tom Barker, the New Zealand diplomat from Episode 25 of last season. So please stick around until the end to hear what he had to deal with in 2020. But first, let's not waste any more time and get on with today's interview. And you'll hear straight away why I haven't mentioned his name until now.

[Part 1]

OF: Well, thank you Chihyun. And so I should give you your proper introduction now. Sure. So you are Chihyun… are you 'Chang' or Zhang', which is it?

CC: Zhang.

OF: What's the difference then, Zhang and Chang?

CC: As a Sinologist and a historian, I love to explain this issue. This is about the alphabetical system for the pronunciation of Chinese characters. In the 19th century, a British diplomat and Sinologist called Thomas Wade, he actually created a universal alphabetical system for Europeans to pronounce Chinese characters. So that's called the Wade–Giles system, and my name is spelt in the Wade–Giles manner. The Wade–Giles system had become the global way to spell Chinese characters till the end of the 20th century, I would say. But for the Chinese people here, they are not familiar with Wade–Giles.

OF: Right. So in the 汉语拼音 [hànyǔ pīnyīn] system you would be Zhang: 'ZH'.

CC: Yeah, ZH.

OF: And in Wade–Giles, you're 'CH'.

CC: CH, yes indeed. And Taiwanese has another alphabetical system. I hate it. It's called 通用拼音 [tōngyòng pīnyīn].

OF: Oh right.

CC: Yeah. And that's not a 'CH', it's 'JH'.

OF: Well I'll just call you Chihyun, shall I?

CC: Sure, please do.

OF: It's gonna be easier. And then before we go any further, the first question I want to ask you is, what object did you bring that in some way describes your life here in China?

CC: I brought my really crappy old watch. It's really crappy. I'm not even sure it is workable today. So I brought it out, and fortunately, it is still working.

OF: So what does that say about your life?

CC: OK, I bought it before I was enrolled to the army, the Taiwanese army. Every Taiwanese guy has to go to the compulsory service for two years. And if you dare to be late for one minute, it's martial law, it's serious. So we had to buy a watch. And there is an extremely crappy little world map on this. And I think "I need to get this", because I need this watch to remind me how big the world is and how small I am. I joined the army in 2002, and then I left the army in 2004. And I went to Leeds in 2004.

OF: That's Leeds in the UK.

CC: Yes, Leeds in the UK, I always put it in front of my desk to remind me that even I'm doing OK in my academic life, this sort of memory should always be remembered.

OF: So does it keep you somehow disciplined today, does it?

CC: Not disciplined. To understand people's difficulties. Because it's the army, so you would meet all sorts of people, and everyone is hopeless and helpless in some sense. So it just reminds me of this. Everyone's success is basically, as a historian, it's by chance. It's simply because we're lucky. Or privileged.

OF: Well, through parts of your story, you've already given hints about what you do today. But we haven't actually said what it is. So I mean, what is your title today?

CC: I'm a professor of international trade history in the Department of History, School of Humanities, Shanghai Jiaotong University. I'm also the Assistant Dean for International Strategy and Recruitment.

OF: OK, there's a lot going on there.

CC: Yeah.

OF: So tell me about the state of humanities education in China.

CC: I think we are confronting a universal challenge. Even in the U.S., even in Japan, humanities education is actually declining, I have to say. It's less practical, less pragmatic, it does not help you to find a well paid job. Education is not for becoming an enlightened person, it's for you to get a better job. In this country, China has a very long history for examination, we have a very short history for university education. So I'm fighting against the endeavour of Chinese people to get a better life. And how can that be easy? Because over 600 million people's monthly income is less than 1,000 Renminbi. That's one thing, being pragmatic is hard. And secondly, so if you want to be a researcher in natural science, it's basically laboratory research, right? There is a very, very clear protocol for you to do it. But if you want to become a researcher in humanities, oh, that's hard. Because we always say that if you can read and write you can study history and literature and philosophy. But there is no textbook to spoon-feed you how to consolidate your argumentation, how to make words flow. That's hard. I think the biggest problem is always the joint examination for the university entry: 高考 [gāokǎo]. But I have to say China has to have 高考 [gāokǎo]. What my slogan is that, as a university worker, we have to undo the damage that the 高考 [gāokǎo] has already done to our students.

OF: Right.

CC: To remind them, it is actually fun to study.

OF: Yeah, because until then, it's just pressure and there's nothing else in your life apart from…

CC: It's only about money! It's only about the illusion that once you get a good degree, you can become a millionaire. It's… no! I'm offering them the possibility to know more. And the possibility to know more would lead to the joy.

OF: And this is universal, this is not just in China.

CC: Yeah, yeah yeah, it's definitely universal. It's in the UK, too.

OF: So when you look through your China lens, do you see anything specifically with your Chinese students that you didn't experience elsewhere?

CC: I'm teaching at Shanghai Jiaotong University. And I asked my students "Have you read a book, from the first word to the last word?" The percentage is pathetic, it's less than 10. It's sad.

OF: I wonder if it's that… when you were in the UK, it was ten years ago. And young people all around the world now, they don't read.

CC: Yeah, probably.

OF: Could be, right?

CC: Yeah, definitely.

OF: Because I find myself, having not been used to being a student for many years, and there's just so much reading, I feel like I am the child that you're describing. 哎哟 [Āiyō]. Your attention span in the last 10 years has shrunk, even you would admit that, right?

CC: Yeah. But I think China definitely is more serious. Why? Because the 高考 [gāokǎo], you don't have to read a book to get good results in 高考 [gāokǎo]. It's always about the questions, and right answers, and they don't care about how you get your answers. And that's cheap education. There's no right answer in the world. Period.

OF: This is a funny thing because Jiaotong University, where you are, it is more famous as a scientific university…

CC: Engineering, not scientific.

OF: Oh, engineering, right. So you being in the humanities department of that particular university, how do you feel that your status is in that university?

CC: Fortunately, this university is very ambitious, it wants to be a Chinese MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Since they have this sort of ambition, they need a humanities sector. Although they don't care, they don't understand. So I have to use their logic to convince them.

OF: Yeah, that's an interesting skill, which I think not everyone in academia has. In my career, I would work one day with a bank, the next day with pharmaceuticals, the next day with fashion, so I'm used to dealing with different types of decision makers. But my sense is that, even though these are often the seats of learning where you're supposed to be thinking about big things and be very open, I find the administration to be extremely conservative.

CC: I think university bureaucracy is probably the most useless one.

OF: You can't say that!

CC: I can say that, I'm a part of them.

OF: OK good.

CC: Why? Because academics are the worst group of people to manage. They're smart. They are critical, because we are trained to be critical. And we like to argue everything. And the worst thing is, we think we are smart. And apparently, most of the time we're not. And protected by tenures. You can't fire their arse. You can't raise their salary. You can't just say, OK, 50% of your bonus is off. No, you can't do that!

OF: So your point is, you have to have very strict conservative rules, because otherwise, every one of these teachers will find a chink in the armour. Right?

CC: Yeah. And to administer a university is about zoology, right?

OF: Mm hmm. So when you are dealing with the administration - not as one of them, but as someone who wants to push forward with your agenda - and you were saying that you know how to speak the language of the engineers…

CC: Yeah.

OF: Can you give an example? Like, when did you last use that tactic to try and push things forward?

CC: Right. They believe in math. You like math? I give you the numbers.

OF: Yeah.

CC: So I just asked one of our pro Vice-Chancellors, if you want to get one SCI - Scientific Citation Index - journal article, you need to buy several sets of machines. You have to hire technicians, you have to have a corresponding author. If you want to publish one paper, one journal article, you have to spend, say, half a million Renminbi.

OF: And that's the currency they look for, it's how many citations you can get.

CC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But if you invest in us, you're not going to buy any set of machines. And you're not going to hire a lot of people. And you can get journal articles. And so the investment is like 2,000 Renminbi. Why not?

OF: Cheap.

CC: Yeah, it's cheap. It's humanities, it should be cheap. Cheap to me, for humanities, is a good thing. Not in quality, in price.

OF: Yeah.

CC: Because we can deliver this to every corner of the world without a high cost.

OF: What is your agenda then?

CC: I arrived in China 2013. I always think I'm Chinese. My parents were born in China before 1949. I came here - I liked my UK life, I have to say, it's… I liked it very much - but if I did not come to China, 10 years later I wouldn't. So I thought, OK, let's try. And after two years, I started to think "Ah, everything is so different. It's simply different". And I'm a curious person. I like to know how to work everything out. And China is the place filled with all sorts of obstacles to overcome. And that's just interesting.

OF: Yeah. And that's what keeps you here, I suppose.

CC: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

OF: Well, let's talk about what you do. And I should now come clean, and admit that actually, the reason I know you is because you are my professor.

CC: Mm hmm.

OF: And I am studying a Masters of Modern China Studies at Jiaotong University, and you are my course leader.

CC: Yes.

OF: So when you think of modern China history, how do you characterise it?

CC: I would say it is filled with a lot of controversies. Right now, I wouldn't say it is the best time for historians. Yeah. But it is still important, the so-called Century of Humiliation.

OF: Well, when we've discussed this in the past, you said one of the things that maybe we could talk about in terms of the debate would be the 乾隆 [Qiánlóng] Emperor.

CC: Yes.

OF: What is the debate about him?

CC: He was the person who at that time, at the end of the 18th century, could have the opportunity to open China up. The 乾隆 [Qiánlóng] Emperor's answer is, the short answer, is "No, bugger off! We have ruled ourselves perfectly for thousands of years. Consider your history, 1,000 years ago, you were just a bunch of monkeys jumping on the tree!" Actually, think about Robin Hood, right?

OF: [Laughter]

CC: So… of course I don't agree with that.

OF: And it's funny because you see people like that today, of course, in China.

CC: Yes.

OF: And they almost fetishise that they have this long history, in a way that is "OK, well, I can justify my superiority because there is this line back to X B.C."

CC: It is completely ********. As a historian. Most of the Chinese people's historical knowledge is little, they simply know several very prosperous dynasties and days. It's not history.

OF: In their defence, when I think about my education in English history, we never concentrated on the failures, we always looked at how great we were, in terms of the wars that we had won. So I wonder if it's just what happens with education systems.

CC: Yeah, I think that's universal as well.

OF: The thing about China is that it specifically focuses on the uninterrupted culture that you can stretch back to before the Common Era. So how do you even define what China is, right? Because who…

CC: Great question.

OF: What is China?

CC: China - to me, it's my personal historical understanding - is an empire, it's not a nation state. If you want to be a Chinese, everyone can be a Chinese in our understanding. As long as you like the culture, you like the way we think, you like the flexibility and the grey zone of our culture, you can be a Chinese. So that's another very interesting thing. So Vietnamese, Koreans and Japanese people used to think they were 'Real China' for a long period of time. Because in their eyes, the Manchus were not Chinese, because they did not respect Chinese culture and tradition.

OF: Right. Because, just for anyone who doesn't know, the last Empire, the Qing Empire, they were not Han Chinese, they were Manchurian.

CC: Yes.

OF: Well, this is where we come on to the study of Sinology. It's the China that exists in people's heads at various points in history. And it's not really always about China itself, right?

CC: No, let me tell you, the whole world is interested in China, and didn't really understand what's going on there. So when we study Sinology, the first thing we confront is that, why would that particular group of people examine China from that perspective? It is a study plan or study blueprint - since the Medieval era all the way down to today - about how they want to use China to understand what they are really interested in.

OF: Yeah, exactly. It's like a mirror to reflect what they're thinking about their own societies.

CC: But I think I use another interesting word: it's a piñata. For you to achieve your political, religious, philosophical, economic, whatsoever goal. Donald Trump is the best example. He is creating a lot of very interesting stories. I say "Yeah, China is not perfect, but it's not as imperfect as what you just said."

OF: I mean, it's fascinating. And I'm looking at your watch, the object that you brought, and I can see a kind of linear progression from being in the army in Taiwan, then studying, then becoming a professor. Was that always meant to be? Like, you had always been a professor in waiting?

CC: No. I am the black sheep in my family. I was never a good student. Since day one. I was extremely unsuccessful in my college life. I was… I actually opened a bar, involving local union and factions and probably gangs. Those sort of different things.

OF: Did you say gangs?

CC: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

OF: So, wait, let's go to the gangs element then, because this is where I think you have an interesting background now for somebody who is a professor today.

CC: Yeah, I think I understand the Taiwanese underworld quite a lot.

OF: Oh, you do?

CC: I do. Yeah. I experienced that. It's always involving a lot of liquor, a lot of pretty women and a lot of drunken guys. And cash.

OF: I can see how that would have given you some of the skills that you use now.

CC: Yes! It's exactly the same, how I deal with my vice-chancellors and pro vice-chancellors… Powerful guys are all the same.

OF: Chihyun, thank you so much.


OF: OK well let's move on to Part 2.

CC: Great.

[Part 2]

OF: Are you ready?

CC: I'll try my best.

OF: OK, what is your favourite China related fact?

CC: Compared to the size of continental Europe, the variety in China is little. Because I know it is diverse, but it's 1.4 billion people. And the scale is as big as continental Europe. So it should be as diverse, but the truth is it's not. Yeah.

OF: OK, well that should raise some questions, because I think some people would argue with that.

CC: Yeah, definitely, please, yeah.

OF: Question two, do you have a favourite word or phrase in Chinese?

CC: Yeah. Especially in mainland Chinese, there are a lot of terms that we don't use in Taiwan. 给力 [gěilì], 'to give power', and 过硬 [guòyìng], 'it's over hard'. And the first time I heard this, I simply don't understand. But it's so vivid.

OF: Okay, let's unpick that, so what does it actually mean then, in what context?

CC: 奥斯卡,给点力吧 [Àosīkǎ, gěidiǎn lì ba], do the homework better, for God's sake, 给力 [gěilì].

OF: Oh, right. So is it like a 加油 [jiāyóu], is it?

CC: Yeah, yeah. But it's more rough.


CC: You can see I'm quite a rough person, right?

OF: And then 过硬 [guòyìng], So I understand it separately, so 过 [guò] is 'too much', and then 硬 [yìng] is like…

CC: Hard.

OF: 'Hard and stiff', right?

CC: Yeah.

OF: So it's 'too stiff'.

CC: It's too stiff. But it means 'really, really high standard'.

OF: Okay.

CC: Yeah.

OF: So give me an example.

CC: 学术力量要过硬 [Xuéshù lìliàng yāo guòyìng], your academic achievement should be 过硬 [guòyìng].

OF: How funny. What is your favourite destination within China?

CC: I would say Shanghai.


CC: It's very cosmopolitan.

OF: Yeah.

CC: There's no real Shanghainese.

OF: Right.

CC: They were from Ningboo and Suzhou. So the Shanghainese are actually the combination of Ningbo-nese and Suzhou-nese.

OF: And then all the foreign influences on top.

CC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And actually, Shanghainese collect a lot of Western languages like: "laokala": it means an old gentleman who knows how to enjoy his petit bourgeois life. "Kala" means 'white collar'.

OF: Oh 'collar', how funny.

CC: Yeah, and when we say "xiaolaji", 'xiao' is 'little', 'laji' means 'undisciplined woman', it's… But anyway, 'laji' is 'laissez faire'.

OF: Oh, right. How funny.

CC: So it's from French and English.

OF: Mmm. And I guess because it is a city of immigrants, everyone here, from day one…

CC: Yeah, no-one can claim that "I am a real local Shanghainese". No.

OF: OK, next question. If you left Mainland China, what would you miss the most? And what would you miss the least?

CC: I would miss the culture. That's an abstract thing. You can see I'm quite westernised. The way I think, the wine, the scotch, whatsoever. But I still like to live this sort of cultural context. I wouldn't miss the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy of China is interesting, it can be extremely efficient, and it can be extremely outdated and slow.

OF: Yeah.

CC: At the same time.

OF: Mm Hmm. Is there anything that still surprises you about life in mainland China?

CC: Oh, yeah, definitely. OK, let me put it this way, using university education. We know that for the past 20 years, Chinese universities are forcing university lecturers and workers to publish academic papers or journal articles. When we evaluate our colleagues, they still use how many papers you have published. Oh my god, yeah.

OF: Yes. So it engenders a society which follows these KPIs.

CC: Yeah, because China is gigantic. So it's understandable when we need to manage this country, and this scale of people, or universities, through a very quantitative way. But I am a person who is in charge of evaluating people's talents. Every day, I have to recruit foreign talents. I don't believe in quantitative standards, because it's impossible.

OF: Where is your favourite place to go out, to eat or drink or just hang out?

CC: I still like my petit bourgeois French Concession nightlife. The bars, the cafes, the western restaurants are the best in China. There's no comparison.

OF: And do you have one particular place that jumps out?

CC: There's great Spanish cuisine on Panyu Road. They have a great gin & tonic selection, that's the best.

OF: OK, I'm going to mysteriously say "yes, I have been to that Spanish place on 番禺路 [Pānyú Lù]". And I will also not name it.

CC: Yeah.

OF: What is the best or worst purchase you have recently made?

CC: Oh my god, I can tell you the best. It's just happened four days ago. A butchery, a Swiss butchery, a western butchery. I used to have my favourite butchery on 五原路 [Wǔyuán Lù]. But that butchery closed, and I was pissed off. I finally found a good one. A proper butchery. I'm very happy.

OF: Well done. I know where it is too, it's just down my street.

CC: Yeah.

OF: What is your favourite WeChat sticker? Okay, what's going on here?

CC: I love to use myself to create WeChat stickers.

OF: OK, and what does it say? It says…

CC: Over my dead body. And I am the body.

OF: Yes. It's a funny way of saying…

CC: No.

OF: What is your favourite song to sing at KTV?

CC: I have a really good knowledge about Taiwanese gangster songs. So I sing all the Taiwanese gangster songs. For example, one song is 'Being Lonely'. It's not that sort of romantic 'being lonely', it's how he works alone, his criminal life, by himself.

OF: And it's sung in the Taiwanese dialect?

CC: Yeah.

OF: What's the Taiwanese title?

CC: 孤單 [Gūdān].

OF: Gūdān, ah right, right. Well, you've shown us a really amazing window, Chihyun, thank you so much for sharing that with me.

CC: My pleasure.

OF: And finally, the last thing I'd ask everyone in that chair is, for the next season of Mosaic of China, Season 3, who would you recommend that I interview next?

CC: I have a friend who is very interesting. His name is Sun Yang. He is the best Balkan specialist…

OF: Balkan, so you mean like Serbia, Croatia, that area?

CC: Yeah.

OF: Right.

CC: Compared to all my friends in the UK, in the U.S., in the whole Western world, I think his knowledge of the Balkans is the most distinctive.

OF: Wow, that's not the kind of person I would have imagined on a Mosaic of China podcast, but I love it.

CC: Yeah, you should talk to him.

OF: I can't wait to meet him. Thank you so much Chihyun.

CC: No problem.


OF: Well there you have it, there are some professors who can justifiably be accused of livingtheir own little academic bubbles, but Professor Chang is not one of them. Sadly that doesn't mean that he isn't still quite strict when he needs to be. He knows, for example, that I should be writing my thesis right now, rather than releasing this episode, which is one of the reasons why this will be the last one of 2020, and we'll be back again in the new year.

In case you would like to get yourself a Christmas present before then, now is the time to remind you about the PREMIUM version of the podcast, which includes an average of 15 extra minutes per episode. Here are some clips of what you can hear there from today's conversation.

[Clip 1]

CC: I was a sort of bodyguard for a gentlemen's club.

OF: Oh right.

CC: Yeah.

[Clip 2]

CC: So they used China as the bad example, not like what Voltaire did in the early 18th century.

[Clip 3]

CC: 我是老师 [Wǒ shì lǎoshī].

OF: Yeah, that means 'I'm a teacher'.

CC: Yeah. And in Taiwanese it's 'Waxilaosu'


[Clip 4]

CC: You are going to suffer, mate.

[Clip 5]

CC: I know there are a lot of restrictions and limitations, but trust me, I have gone through the restrictions in the late 80s. It's exactly the same.

OF: In Taiwan, right?

CC: Yeah.

[Clip 6]

CC: It's a gigantic cluster**** with Chinese characteristics, for ****'s sake.

[End of Audio Clips]

Please head to for information on how to subscribe, and in the meantime add us on @mosaicofchina_* on Instagram, or @mosaicofchina on Facebook or WeChat, to follow the images from the series. Today's include Chihyun and his object, the watch from his days in the Taiwanese army; a photo of him from those days; and a whole bunch of others.

Mosaic of China is me, Oscar Fuchs, with artwork by Denny Newell. Coming up is a shortened version of my catch-up interview with Tom Barker from Episode 25 of Season 01 - there's a longer version of this also available in the PREMIUM version of the show - and I'll see you again in January. Here's hoping 2021 will be a little less eventful than 2020.

[Catch-Up Interview]

OF: Hello, Tom.

Tom Barker: Hi, how are you?

OF: I'm well. All the better to see you.

TB: Yes, no you too, it's been such a long time.

OF: Well, I think with all of these update chats I'm doing, it's been at least a year since we did the recording, right?

TB: That's right. Probably a little bit over, maybe a year and a half.

OF: Yes. Well, first of all, so you are at the forefront of what was happening during the early days of Coronavirus because you, of course, work in the New Zealand consulate.

TB: That's right. So, yeah, it was a really weird, crazy time. I was in New Zealand on holiday for our summer holiday in January. And I flew back in, the day before Chinese New Year, which I think was also roughly the same day that Wuhan sort of went into full lockdown, or possibly the day after it went into full lockdown. And wow, what a crazy year since!

OF: God, yeah.

TB: We arrived back, we had almost immediately an evacuation flight that we had to organise from the consulate, to get all the New Zealanders in Wuhan out. And we did it from here, because obviously we're a little bit closer from Shanghai. And we teamed up with our cousins, the Australians, who cover Wuhan in their jurisdiction.

OF: Of course, things changed, and then things started to normalise in China pretty quickly right?

TB: It did. I mean, ironically for me, the normalisation actually made me more busy. So, you know, the New Zealand Consulate's very small - we've made jokes about that in the past - we got much smaller. We evacuated all non-essential staff, so we went down to two New Zealanders in the post. And then my boss, the Consul General, went back to New Zealand. That was about late March. And so for a very long period, it was just me alone in the post. But honestly, it felt like I was the only Kiwi in Shanghai.

OF: Well, because you would have been just in that place by yourself, handling everything.

TB: Yep, I was rolling around in a very large office, pretty much on my own. Even our local staff weren't coming in. So we had maybe, tops, one other person in the office with me. People still weren't travelling into the city as much. And so I'd have these wonderful cycles into work, and I'd pass no-one. And then I remember once in late April, getting passed by four cars and being deeply offended by it.

OF: Yeah. And here we are now, it's early 2021. And what is the situation like these days, then, especially personally? So you have a fully-staffed team now again, do you?

TB: So I have an almost fully-staffed team. I still have no Consul General, so I'm still the Acting Consul General. That will change hopefully very soon.

OF: And I'm thinking back to our episode, and we had a discussion about Confucianism. And it was about how the Chinese have kept the discipline side of Confucianism. And I'm wondering whether that was part of what explained how China was able to cope with this so well.

TB: It could be. I honestly don't have a particularly good story to tell around how some countries managed to do really well, and others didn't. I mean, it's not a story of a particular philosophy. I think it's a story of whether people believe their government, have trust in their government, and whether they have trust in the scientific process that the government uses to inform decision-making.

OF: Yeah.

TB: To be honest, it's been immensely rewarding.

OF: Right. Because I guess there'd be times when you would scratch your head and say "What good have I done today?" But this is not one of those times, right?

TB: Yeah, it was definitely a moment where you can go home from work most days, and I'd be able to actually look back and, you know, there'd be tangible things you've managed to achieve. Or if you haven't achieved it, you're making progress in the right direction. As compared to most of my life where you look back and go "Did that long bit of paper I wrote, or did those five messages I sent actually make any difference in the universe? Or am I just filling up the world with more junk?"

OF: Well, this hasn't been junk. I really appreciated it, Tom. It's good to know that there are people like you who have been helping. And, you know, you started off this conversation by saying how stressed you've been, and I think people would be very grateful for the work that you've been doing. Well, COVID has changed a lot of things, and one of them was the fact that the person you referred could no longer participate in the next season. But I found a good replacement. So I hope that there will still be some kind of connection between you and the future series of Mosaic of China. I was always really grateful that you participated in this project, and I hope that we can continue to stay in touch.

TB: Oh very much so. I mean, I'll always be listening. So at the very least, there'll be that. But hopefully we can do more.

OF: Thanks so much, Tom.

TB: Thank you.

*A different Instagram handled was mentioned in the original recording. That handle is now obsolete, and the updated one has been substituted.

Mosaic of China Season 02 Episode 03 – The Streetwise Sinologist (CHANG Chihyun, Professor)

Oscar Fuchs: Creator, Producer and Host of the Mosaic of China podcast

Oscar Fuchs was the Co-Founder and Managing Director of a global executive search firm dedicated to the Human Resources profession. He was born in the UK and has lived in Asia for 18 years, including 3 years in Hong Kong SAR, and 7 years in mainland China. In 2019 he sold his company, and launched Mosaic of China.

In China, the podcast can also be found at 苹果播客, 小宇宙 and 喜马拉雅.

Internationally, it can also be found at Apple, Spotify, and all other podcasting platforms.

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