Hosted by Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (BPAFFC) on September 6-8, 2011, this forum had a total of 85 delegates from 25 countries in attendance. The forum was to commemorate the 30th anniversary of BPAFFC’s foundation.
New Zealand China Friendship Society was represented by Vice-President Dave Bromwich and Christchurch Branch committee member Deborah Rhode. For Deborah, it was a chance to meet some old friends from BPAFFC and from around the world who had met on an extensive overland trip from Yunnan through Tibet and back to Beijing in 2002, organised by BPAFFC.
For both Dave and Deborah it was a chance to meet representatives from other China Friendship organisations, and to learn what they are doing.
The Forum had three half days of speeches from BPAFFC and other Chinese speakers, plus nearly 20 speakers from other countries. Topics covered a broad field, from speaker’s experiences with education exchanges to promotion of Taiji. All had themes of cooperation and friendship. The overall focus was diplomacy through friendship and understanding to create a harmonious world.
Dave delivered a speech titled “New Zealand China Friendship Society’s Experience of International Cooperation”. In this he took the opportunity to outline the foundation of the society 60 years ago in Rewi Alley and Kathleen Hall, and then introduced our current project work based in this legacy. He also showed how tours are providing opportunity to visit our project sites and meet our Kathleen Hall scholars. For the speech see here.
For the tour options, both Ds selected the tour of Chaoyang district, which took in the new 798 Art district, a disused factory that has been converted into a number of art galleries and studios. We also visited the new Beijing Municipal Museum. Chaoyang district is an extensive and growing new part oif Beijing which incorporates the CBD. Many of the modern new buildings are in this area, including the ‘zigzag’ CCTV building with its unique cantilevered upper section.
In the break following his speech, Dave was approached by an excited Dagmar …, a delegate from the Berlin CFS. As a young reporter, she had been researching a story about Agnes Smedley, who had spent some time in Germany. During the visit to Beijing in 1982 she had gone to the Youxiew compound in Taijichang for an appointment when she saw a man she knew as Rewi Alley. She approached him, and organised an interview. So, in 2011 she was excited to hear about Rewi Alley again. Dave Bromwich was dining later that week with Lu Wanru, so invited Dagmar to join him. They had a great time together talking about the people they had in common. Another foreigner in China at that time was Hans Mueller, who was married to a Japanese woman. Dagmar had known them in Germany. Lu Wanru is still acquauanted with Hans Mueller’s widow in Beijing and will reconnect the two.
This story shows that many people from around the world are linked through China, and enduring friendships made. After the conference was over, Deborah and Dave visited Song Qingling’s house museum. There, the message of International Peace through Friendship was very strong through the work of Song Qingling and many international friends, of which of course Rewi Alley was a key figure. The BPAFFC friendship forum of September 2011 shows China’s continuing role in developing a harmonious world through friendship.