The 9 differences and 1 similarity between the Korean War Museum in Pyongyang and Seoul

195 different coloured shapes across seven continents make up the world map today. The shapes and the shades of each have been contested over time, in part to the consequences of war. One of the most contestable, and most divisive lines is the one that divides North Korea and South Korea (hereafter, ‘DPRK’ and ‘ROK’ respectively), named the 38th parallel.

This division came about due to the conclusion of the surrender of Japan after the Second World War in 1945 and then was subsequently fought over by the Communists in the North and U.S/ UN troops in the South in the Korean War of 1950-53.

In today’s society, to understand the configurations of worlds maps and the public representation of history, the role of a war museum acts as a crucial component to inform the public of its past.

A visit to both war museums in Seoul and Pyongyang offers a unique insight into the parallel cultures and views on history that these two sides have. Here is a list of the differences each side as observed in the experience of visiting both museums:


  1. Korean War Outbreak. Who invaded who?

Both sides agreed the war started on 25 June 1950 and that the aggressor attacked unannounced as the other was caught unaware. Both though had an alternative view on who was the aggressor. In Pyongyang, we were asked to sit as we watched a video of ROK forces attacking unannounced as DPRK’s children picked flowers in a harmonious state on the other side of the mountain. In ROK, there were two floors of detailed analysis and footage of such things as the type of tanks that were used (the Russian T-34), the preparation and negotiations between Kim Il Sun-Mao- Stalin, the ‘Attackers at Dawn’, the locations that were hit and more.

Western thought is based around receiving data and from that deducing a logical theory. It strangely rankles with me that a state even as aloof and repressed as DPRK can give an alternative story to the public and tourists.

  1. The tour guide experience

In Pyongyang, we were taken around and lectured to by a nice enough, but rather stiff and stubborn lady in army attire. ROK, we had the option of a tour guide but we had the freedom to learn for ourself.


  1. A statue of consolidation.

In this touching statue in Seoul, where two brothers from opposite sides are embracing, ROK War Museum posed questions about consolidation, brotherhood, love, recovery, and ultimately unity in war. DPRK did not really address this softer element but rather focused on the brutality of war.


  1. Link to present day leader

One of the most bizarre exhibits in Pyeonyang was a Greek god style image of Kim Jong Un. Given that he was not involved in the war, it was a sort of self celebratory, John Terry-esqe triumphalism. In South Korea, there was a part of the museum dedicated to previous leader Park Geun Hye’s offering of repatriation to the fallen Chinese soldiers, but statues were left for the soldiers.

  1. Captured vehicles/ neutral-state vehicles

In both museums there were displays of army tanks and war vehicles from either side. In DPRK, the enemy vehicles were claimed to having been captured or shot down. In ROK, the enemy vehicles were on display alongside the other. There was no story of them being captured, so in a way they were in a neutral state.

  1. Acknowledgement of others

DPRK was chauvinistic in showcasing its achievements in pushing back the Allied Forces, giving little accreditation to the Chinese or Russians whose men and arms were essential. ROK on the other hand is grateful for the 67 other nations (a Guinness World Record) who supported them as part of UN Security Council army. That said there is a bit of a sore point that ROK were not able to sign the Armistice Agreement and push for the full unity of the country.



On a side note, how on earth did the 1950’ Chinese Peoples Liberation Army who allegedly carried flute and drums push back a 67-nation UN force? Mad props to the Chinese

  1. Korea is more than one war.

The DPRK museum focused purely on the Korean War. A lot of the museum in ROK was dedicated to the same war, but it also had exhibits detailing the wars throughout the Joseon dynasty and the Japanese occupation. ROK was therefore a more comprehensive take on war and the development of it in Korea.

  1. Information

As previously mentioned, DPRK sources of information came through the tour guide, a video and some antagonising displays. ROK had displays, pictures, videos, artefacts, costumes, troves of information with Korean, Chinese and English options allowing a freer flow of absorption and understanding.

  1. Resentment

North Korean war museum was very heavily anti-imperialist/American. The Korean War had the most lasting impact on both countries, ROK have acknowledged it and moved on, DPRK appear to bear this grudge.

In Korea, there is a culture of Han, allegedly a purely Korean characteristic that leaves recipients carrying a deep long-lasting sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution. Regarding the Korean War, this Han is more evident in the North.


  1. Long lasting dream

DPRK had a dream for curing its sick brother, ridding them of their imperialist occupiers and securing unity. ROK’s governmental message does switch between the ‘sunshine policy of consolidation to more conservative messages of retaliation action depending on who is in power. The ROK museum message hoped for ultimate unity and peace between the two.

So overall, there are more differences than similarities, for instance in the method of portraying information and in the overarching tone of the message. War museums aim to give us an idea of how the war had footprint in its citizens lives, DPRK use it as a way to antagonise its citizens that they are the victims, that they are courageous in battle and one must hate America, ROK uses the war museum as a source of information, as a way of telling its people how ROK fits into the global community and as a call for peace.


With heightened tensions following DPRK’s missile tests, what can we learn from the Korean War for today’s climate?

It is striking to note that Stalin gave his backing to the Korean War in 1950 after the Soviet Union became nuclear armed. Nuclear weapons give a country a large bargaining chip. The family in power in DPRK would clearly be happy to remain in the stale mate that is currently ensuing as long as they have nuclear weapons capability in their armoury. Will the U.N forces act before DPRK is fully nuclear armed?

There have been countless incidents concerning DPRK that have not led to a stronger retaliation yet, barring trade sanctions. How much of an effect will falling Trump approval ratings and the orange leaders’ irrational behaviour have in the U.S pursuit of intervention? Furthermore with U.S banning its citizens from entering the DPRK, how will the DPRK citizens ever be able to have any peer-to-peer dialogue, form of debate and internal idea changing surrounding American people?

China enjoys a strong trade relation with ROK. Will they learn to alienate their Northern brothers? Would they ever intervene? With the strength of the Chinese army, is there a need for the U.S troops to be stationed in ROK if this is indeed provoking China who would not like to share a border with the U.S forces and also ROK who are now an advanced nation and would like to seek self-determination?


North Korea

In mid April this year I booked myself in for a 3-day tour of Pyongyang, the capital of the secluded and misunderstood state of North Korea. During this time tensions were at a recent high following discouraging shows of force by the DPRK, the trip was held also while the late Otto Warmbier was still held following his drunken incident. My motivations for going there were based around adventure and my own inquisitiveness, as well as the thrill of running a half-marathon a little off the beaten track.

The journey started with an overnight train to Dandong, a Chinese border city, where I arrived in the morning and spent the day walking around. North Korea here was very much a novelty- memorabilia of bank notes and totalitarian-rule items like badges were on sale. A DPRK restaurant I visited for lunch also had a stream of TV showing past celebrations in DPRK, served by watchful waitresses.

In this border city the main sight to see was a half-blasted bridge where visitors could get an eerie look in on the city’s cross river neighbours.

I was the first to arrive at the meeting point. A gigantic imposing statue of Mao. The tour was filled with young professionals, mainly male, culturally interested, respectful types who were after a good time.

Initial sights of DPRK was of the customs check. We were asked to remove all electronics. Quite the bagful collected of kindles, phones, cameras etc. I find it hard to believe that they went through all of it within the time that they returned the bag. I’d heard stories of people finding pictures of Team America style King Jong Il photos and had their phone confiscated. Not on this trip though, even a copy of George Orwell’s classic 1984 got in.

Never have a tour group I’ve been on been so obsessed with what was happening outside. Through the bus window you could see pastel coloured block housing and everyone, man, child or woman working- hoeing the field. All with badges on marking their famed leader Kim Il Sun. Were these people’s movements rehearsed?

We took a domestic flight to the capital. The plane was a bit dated but the experience was nice. The airport on arrival was shiny but completely empty.

We met our North Korean tour guides who were nice but clearly tense and had a strained sense of humour.

The first couple of days were a whirlwind of sights: the National Science Museum, Kim Il Sung’s birth place, the Torch tower, the War Museum, the Kim Il Sung/ Kim Jong Il statue, the Square, we even had time to go to a local brewery for a local pint. One thing that was apparent was that it felt like the Korean War happened yesterday, there is such a victim approach to this war and they cannot stand the imperialist Americans. There is also a huge want for a One Korea. Also the leaders are absolutely adorned in every single way here.

The big day was Sunday 6:30am, we woke up from the hard bed and I prepped for the half-marathon with a packet of skittles.

The 20-30 minutes when we arrived into the stadium were quite extraordinary; we arrived and paraded around the track. This was a complete novelty to almost all 600 odd runners who had phones out and ran up to the crowd to receive large cheers. There was one Chinese guy who had kahuna style balls to go for a run off from the pack towards the other crowd who were down the other end. Dealt with swiftly.

One of the great images was of the North Korean young athletes impeccably lined up, next to this great swath of foreign runners who were not in a straight line but more a big mass of seemingly chaos.

And then we were off! What an experience running through the streets of Pyongyang. The public who had been so reticent to us in the previous days, were a lot more welcoming, cheering us on our way. We as runners felt like the frackles of a tour group had been taken off, and we were interacting gleefully with the Pyongyang locals.

I got to 10K with no qualms, 15K was manageable but the last 5K my internet bought running shoes had given way and the pain shuddering up my legs left me almost crawling my way to the finish line. Alas I made it and the great cheer of the gathered crowd was one to behold.


After we had some post run celebrations in the capital that involved Karaoke, beer and some sake like drink that was quite fiery. I remember meeting one Chinese guy who worked in importing goods to DPRK- he was off his trolley. Infact most of the Chinese on this trip were all also adventurous, thinking this was as bat sh*t crazy as the Westerners do too. So Monday morning we left the crazed state and reflected on the the train ride to the border. A sense of freedom, is something I would not label North Korea with having. The question I think is, is whether they actually want it or whether the concept they have of freedom is different. From my time there I got the sense it was a painfully disillusioned family run-totalitarian playground, but that people were perhaps trying to make it work.


Chaos on Streets of BeiXinQiao: Update

Since writing about the chaos brought on the street by February’s great swath of workers and accompanying security guard here. The street has carried on its path of “beautification” or gentrification with Chinese characteristics. The street as a whole has lost character and that certain buzz generated as passers by are unable to see the activity going on inside a restaurant due to their bricked up exterior.

The ugly brick exterior has now been plastered over, and grey, Hutong-like tiles have been put on the outside of the row of buildings. The slick feature is replicated all up the street. It is uniform and a little tourist like.

The biggest casualty has of course been the small businesses that have not being able to welcome customers off the street. Some have left a window open and bricks outside to climb up to the small entry hole to lean in and make an order. Others have pointed customers to their shop back entrance. Others have ceased to exist. That said an indoor market place has welcomed in some of these street vendors including my favourite frut seller and that area is more lively.

The Hutong ‘beautification’ project has been the story of Beijing 2017 so far, the move has been cited to be a political one. The new Mayor who came in during February was under clear instructions from Xi Jinping to make the city international, remove it of its untidiness and make it safer to live.

It is the migrant workforce who makes up 35% of the city’s population that have lost out and had to be relocated. This mass dispersement of people also corresponds in the Government plan to expand Beijing in creating the mega city of Jing-Jin- Ji- this 110 million mega city that is meant to encompass Beijing, TianJin and the province of Hebei.

It can also be seen as an economic policy.  These small businesses do contribute 35% of the city’s revenue, yet they only make up 7.5% of the tax. Replacing them with large chains can help provide them with that extra source of income for the local government.

On the most part, the local Beijing people are quite satisfied. The migrants leaving the city create extra space for them to take back the Hutongs. The project is meant to restore cultural values to the Hutong- only time will tell if this is the case or if it is another advertised policy with a sinister undertone.

A good story that has come out of it, from a purely selfish point of view, is the relocation of Israeli popular food chain, Moxi Moxi. Once a beacon of FangJia Hutong- as I rode back home last night I saw it beginning to set up shop just 200 metres from my house. Bring on the Falafel diet!

So overall, this project has made me realise the true unexpected force of the government. They really give its citizens no notice at all, and very little reason before diving into remaking the city. There is little scope for organic growth here and a development of a business has to really fall in line with the government’s vision.

Stuck in the middle with Chu

The days are warmer now and walking with someone is a much better option than meeting to do face-to-face conversation. Reasons being: if you are with a good listener then its like thinking out loud and keeping the body active can surely only activate the mind!

Plus an evening walk always throws up items worthy of blog material. The orderly chaos of the day ceases, and the crazy lax rules of night-time begin.

Tonights walk around Liang Ma He river, a personal fave, was memorable not just for the conversation but for the actions of the owners of two vehicles who brought the walk to 15-minute and the on coming traffic to a halt.

As we approached Liang Ma He river bridge in the middle of a busy 6-lane road , the scene we witnessed was of a white new looking car stopped with two men out the front full-on brawling.

The car was in the middle of the three lanes and vehicles, bendy buses, electric bikes were all making their way around this fracas.

The deal was that one man who was on a scooter and wearing orange overalls would not let a short man go further on. So the short man would go in and out of his car wanting the orange overall dude to get on and move, while orange overalls would incandescently remonstrate his views at him.

There is only so long you can stare at this situation and it was unbelievable that it did not change in like 15 minutes of observation. Two guys were quite literally on a busy road pushing each other around. The only change that really happened was that a few peacekeepers advised for them to at least move off the middle lane to the outside one. After quarter of an hour, we really chose to move on eventually because it got a bit boring after a while!

The idea of not backing down is so prevalent in the idea of ‘Face’ in China. Chinese are very stubborn when it comes to these situations.

I think in this situation there were certainly instances of orange overalls feeling he would not get defended anywhere else so it had to be dealt with right there or then or short man for whatever he did would get away with it. The idea of Law is historically and probably still very much now done and dealt with mano el mano

To be fair it does make for a better spectacle than someone shouting ‘I’ll sue you’ at eachother!

10 Lessons from Organising a Birdwatching Trip

Having organised a number of events in Beijing, I kind of get a little bit critical of myself over how they are managed and turn out. However yesterday’s trip to YeYaHu Wetland National Park to go bird watching with Terry Townshend, was properly kick-ass.

People had a lot of fun and gained a lot from it, which is what it is all about!


So here are my 10 reasons why:

  1. Invite an expert

Beijing is fortunately blessed with one of the world’s renowned birders, originating from Norfolk, Terry Townshend, runs a Birding Beijing Blog, consults the Chinese Government on Climate Change and is also a really nice fellow. The initial date of the event depended completely on his schedule. He chose a day that coincided with the start of a 3 day Chinese holiday. Not great for traffic leaving Beijing, but he provided the intellectual knowledge that enabled attendees to learn something from coming. Terry’s expertise was the marketing and the focal point of the day.

  1. Power of WeChat

Baring three cash payments, all 50+ transactions for the day (accumulated worth: RMB 5030) were done through this messaging app, as well as that: communication to attendees, marketing the event, sharing pictures was all over WeChat- it goes without saying to organise an event in China- you 100% need a solid WeChat game.

  1. If it is niche enough, then there is no need to over promote, people will come

Me organising a Birding event even a month ago is laughable. I’ve never given two hoots about the art. However because it is such a peculiar hobby, it was perfectly engaging for the British Young Professionals and the Beijing Energy Committee (two groups I’m a part of) for one day people to give it a try. I was confident it would fill up so there was no need to over share. Over promoting raises expectations, people get sick of reading about seeing this event advertised and allows the people who have found the event to feel like it is more valuable and almost edgy!

  1. Building a Tribe

People want to feel special upon joining the tour group before coming. A simple message welcoming each member into the WeChat group goes a long way. It encourages people to feel comfortable and confident to speak out and allows for better cohesion amongst each other. A friendlier tour group makes for a more memorable time.

  1. Hire people who are reliable

In terms of the logistics planning, hire people who you have a prior relationship with and you know are reliable. First impressions are not so important in China, it is developing a relationship which really ensures rewards. Our long term relationship with one bus company has ensured we get a decent rate with friendly, punctual drivers and comfortable plush buses. My 100% reliable man, Li ShiFu, never lets me down.

6. Give honest communication

The traffic to YeYaHu Wetland National Park was seriously  jam packed. We’d left at 6am and it was now 9:00am, I’d stated we’d get there by now but instead we were in a big jam on the G6. Pressure was rising. People needed to receive verbal communication in times of uncertainty. So I got on the mic and told the bus honestly that the initial estimations were off but also promised hope from receiving the (real) news that a person in the group who travelled by car had arrived and the traffic would subside. Soon enough it did!

    7.Always value your group

During this mega jam, we had two people asking for a bathroom break. The thought crossed my mind to open the doors and get people to relieve themselves at the side of the road. We were moving pretty slow and that is what we’d do in my family car!

Thankfully the thought subsided, I acknowledged the calls for the bathroom, and after trundling on for a little longer, we pulled up at a roadside toilet. If overall the day is a great experience, people forget that you arrive 20 minutes or even 2 hours late to a place, but they would never forgive someone showing a lack of respect by asking them to pee behind a tree!

  7.1 …...but especially value your guest speaker/tour guide

Without a doubt, your guest speakers or tour guides are the most important part of a trip or event. They are giving up their time (usually for free) and to ensure that you as an organiser are seen positively for future events, it is imperative that a thoughtful gift is prepared (a card is more personal). The day after all must not be a chore for them but an enjoyable, mentor-led experience.

   8. Networking is most important

Despite the education that took place: to do with bird watching and a wetlands ecosystem; the biggest gain from any event is meeting new people. Allowing time for breaks, picnic lunch, extra time at ice cream stalls and the countless spottings of birds gave people ample time to chat with each other which when you compare that to typical panel/speaker-led events, is a rare and valuable thing.

   9. Altruistic marketing

The day in itself was pretty budget- the cost of a ticket was RMB120 ( I even sold some for RMB80-100), overall that included a 6 hour bus ride, Terry’s expert advice and a flat RMB 50 entry fee. That said all proceeds from the profits (of which there were some!) went to the environmental charity volunteering group- Jane Goodall Roots & Shoots. This attracts attendees who are conscious of where there money goes.

  1. Pictures sell

First off, to my delight birding is actually a very subtle art. We spotted over 25 different species during the day and experienced some great sights. Everyone shared their photos at the end of the day which allowed you to create a bank of great photos from which to market the next event whenever it comes 🙂

Wetlands - 1

At the end of the day, organise things that excite and interest you, and quite honestly going bird watching was one of them! Beijing Birders For Life!

Education and Innovation: How the two are linked and can unearth Chinese student’s hidden potential?

There is nothing better than seeing words put into action.

In a space of a week I’d turned from audience member, to mediator, to finally a mentor all within the area of Chinese innovation.

I’d heard from top minds talking about innovation and educations role within it, and then saw it put into practice with China’s next generation of leaders.



Monday saw Steve Hoffman, CEO of Founders Fund speak on Innovation, which he explained is formed when people fumble around in the darkness instead of going to straight to the end goal. To take things to market in China, the seller has to be innovative nowadays. The market is saturated and domestically there is a higher quality of product.

Tuesday as Chair of the British Chamber Young Professionals, it was a pleasure to hold a talk with Zhu Bei– Co-Founder at TSL Education, and serial tech entrepreneur Rich Robinson directed at answering the question of innovation through education, centred around the principle of learning how to fail. Education’ as Zhu Bei observed is best attained by a student when they are cognitively focused and passionately interested into a subject. Innovation, Rich stated is formed by embracing the suck and the creation of a new category. The connection starts with coaching parents and the students to embrace the idea of failure to allow yourself to come up with new ideas and concepts.


It was after this talk that Andy from Centre for Youth Business Facilitation asked if I’d like to be a part of one of their mentor weekends happening in Tianjin. I would certainly be down.

The innovation workshop put six teams of Chinese high school students against each other. Their task was to reimagine a business idea from a real company in China and adapt it to the Western market. I was brought in to sit in and mentor the students as they devised their plans. I was genuinely impressed by their rich capabilities, energy and inventiveness throughout the day, as well as their teamwork.


Innovation is a buzzword in China. The State’s message of ‘Made in China 2025’ aims at delivering innovative world leading technology to China that focuses on new technological business. In many ways the State’s initiative to innovation is protective but then also quite forward thinking, it has protected Chinese companies from global competitors allowing them to expand and they are different on their own terms. China’s famous tech brands (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent- BAT) would not have achieved such growth if restrictions had been put on their Western counterparts- Google, Amazon and Facebook. Great article by Niall Ferguson on this here.

The State realises though that for this grassroots innovation to follow, it needs more international minds. One policy for instance in Zhongguancun, a tech hub in Beijing, allows foreigns to attain resident visas a bit easier. It now needs to learn how to grow these international mindsets domestically by implementing more of these CYBF educational initiatives that get the students to think more rather than recite.

Education is inextricably linked to the characteristics that the graduate leaves University with. For graduates to show creativity and willingness to make decisions and potentially mistakes they need to be brought up this way in school. Despite this and the common held belief that China has a copycat culture, I believe innovation is certainly apparent in China but internationally minded brains mostly fuel it.

Chaos on the Streets of BeiXinQiao

Monday 9:10am

Coming outside for the first time in the day is a great part of living the nomad life. You’ve just woken up and lo and behold you are in this chaotic, characterful and compulsive fast-paced place.

This Monday morning was a bit more chaotic and fast-paced than most.

Today the routine route to work by bicycle was anything but. Cycling out on to BeiXinQiao San Tiao- the truly non commercialised, local Hutong I reside upon, most famous for its lamb legs, had some noisy, disruptive visitors.

img_4405An assembly of workers were all flanking the street, spades in hand, ready for action. What action I was by no means sure. Big diggers were trundling up towards me. It may have just been a routine project had it not been for the large amount of security personnel. Some armed with riot shields and batons. Trouble was expected.

My bike weaved between the masses of people all congregating at 9am on a Monday. Behind my smog mask I was aghast with the mess and noise the diggers were causing, as they tore into a used to be salon at the bottom end of the street. Gathered crowds watched on.

Coming from a home back in England, which has been painstakingly worked on for the last 4 years. I found the whole operation initially quite refreshing albeit mental. This was a clear indication of things getting done with a quite a large force.

I had read something about second rate service based businesses in Beijing being moved out to provincial cities to make room for new-age technological industry. Perhaps it was that. It is also well known that the Hutongs have experienced a lot of redevelopment in the past so many years to make way for more space or for tourists. Perhaps people like me are to blame.

It was at work that I found out that the Government does do routine destruction jobs on properties which have been built on Government land. The property prices are so high in Beijing it is not surprising though. Luckily my house sits on the 5th floor of a building off the street, surely they can’t tear this down I thought!


 Monday 6:30pm Update: Post work the hutong has changed pretty dramatically there was shards of grass on the floor, there was piles of rubble outside buildings. Workers smoking, smiling post work happy with their days demolition. A lot of the places were bricked up. I am not sure if this is paid-for-workmanship by some atrocious bricky or they are closing off a shop.


Tuesday 22:20pm Update

I had initially thought that the work was being done on just a collection of businesses. As I returned tonight it appeared that most if not all buildings have been severely affected. Any businesses that stray out into the road have been dramatically cut back. Grotesque brick jobs that would make my lime loving, cement hating Mother shake in her boots have been replaced.

I am actually quite furious. It’s quite extraordinary how ugly this job is. I am sure it has happened before but to see it done so quickly and emphatically is just mind-blowing.


I regularly go to the fruit and veg stores, seen above, and other convenience stores, and it broke my heart to see the owner shrug his shoulders and laugh at my shocked expression. ‘Xi JinPing’ he said.

The Party Secretary sneezes and the country shudders.


Visiting Factories in TEDA

On Friday 17th February, myself and my team arranged for CRCC Asia Beijing Program Participants to spend a day away from their company internships to visit two food & beverage factories in the Tianjin Economic Development Area (TEDA).

TEDA was one of China’s first state-level development areas. Since being set up in 1984, it has welcomed investment projects from 84 different countries. Of the many different companies present in the area, we visited Otsuka Holdings Ltd and Ting Hsin Group to understand more about their food production process.


The Japanese firm Otsuka Holdings owned the first factory we visited. The factory was purposed to produce a popular ion rehydration drink, Pocari Sweat. The CRCC Asia participants received a warm welcome and were toured around the state-of–the-art factory.


The large Chinese conglomerate Ting Hsin group owned the second factory we visited. This factory produced Master Kong instant noodles. A food product that is so popular amongst a lot of Chinese people and a staple for anyone who has taken a train journey through the Middle Kingdom.

In both factories, the group were able to carefully observe the production process from start to finish and they were able to experience the true scale of both productions, which produced 1000s of products every hour.

The trip was planned for the students to experience and better understand one of the key economic drivers in China’s extraordinary growth. With a vast labour pool, less compliances and low production costs, China has become the ‘workshop of the world’ in the years following its opening up. As the world’s largest trading nation, China recorded a $509.96 billion trade surplus in 2016. The factory visits gave the students an opportunity to experience the scale of this operation.


Following the factory tours the group had lunch at a nearby local restaurant before venturing off to Taku Forts to learn about a battalion that was on the line of defence against the French and British imperial invaders during the Opium Wars. After that we all visited a park where some were lucky enough to win some prizes on the riverside activities. The group then finally headed back to Beijing, the nation’s capital.

The China Diet


A revolution is happening in me. Gone are the days of filling up a mug of phlegm by my bedside as i struggled to clear my lungs, of wheezing my way to the 100m finish line in the annual sports day and of feeling lethargic, droopy and weak throughout the day.

Its for sure a good revolution, in essence its a food revolution.  It is laughable to think cereal and toast were my staple breakfast,  a pack of donuts were a regular option on the way back from town and a meal deal sandwich with lettuce was what I’d consider a healthy lunch.

My diet has changed drastically over the past couple of years but over the past two months it has accelerated. Reasons being because I am in China and a book provocatively entitled ‘How Not To Die’ is having a little bit of an effect on me.

So I would like to use this blog to talk about the options available for Chinese people that allow them to live far healthier lives than people in the West and food that I’ve discovered whilst here and have began to include them in my daily life.

The Local Food Scene Caters for the Old

img_4377China is an ageing nation, there is an uneven amount of old people to young people. The age spike occurred because  Chairman Mao in 1949 proclaimed:

“Even if China’s population multiplies many times, she is fully capable of finding a solution; the solution is production. Of all things in the world, people are the most precious.” 

The old people in China like to keep their body healthy. This is evident from a flask of tea being an indispensable item,  by the proclivity of old people to use exercise machines in the park and the multitude of fruit & vegetable stores on any back street, see pictured. On the most part most old people are not rich, they missed the generation that got rich quick and were instead the ‘lost generation’ who were educated by Mao to work in the fields in the indoctrination of the Cultural  Revolution. So therefore the local food market scene in any neighbourhood in Beijing is cheap and healthy.

Understanding What to Get

Adopting a plant-based diet is a new phenomenon for me. Michael Greger’s aforementioned book ‘How Not To Die’ that essentially summarises the preventative food that can help reduce the initial effects of humans main killers, has made me realise the importance of what goes into you. I believe the Chinese have a far richer amount of options to sustain a vegan-style lifestyle. Here are some foods which i have incorporated into my diet so far:

Consumed in my morning Smoothie

1.Flaxseed 2.Goji Berries 3. Black Seeds


Cheap and great for you. Flaxseed that contains Omega 3 and Fibre. Goji Berries that better sporting performance, good for your eyes and for your sleep. Black Seeds repair hair loss, repair skin damage and prevents infections.

Meal time protein substance

  1. Beans


Such an amazing variety of different beans. Chinese people use red beans a lot in soup, lentils, chick peas, black beans, soy beans are also all popularly used.


5.Jujube Berries


Popular in China as a snack in a bag. Jujube is kind of like a date. Has skin, stress alleviation, immune systems and blood circulation benefits.

I am a 26 year old male expat living in Beijing involved in cricket and rugby teams. Society dictates for me to live off the burger and beer deal at RMB78 and the weekend pizza takeaway. Whether it is for budgetary reasons, but I am much more happier to look after myself first.

I would also like to add that it wasn’t just China influencing me, it was my relentless Mother and work experience with Motion Nutrition who specialise in creating protein powder made from superfood.

The crazy thing is that I feel I discovered this healthy nutrition life. Why is there not more education on this?


Sino Spiritual Sun Salutations

I would not describe Chinese people as religious. Yes there are plenty of Buddhist monasteries about but I think a lot of them have been rehabilitated post Cultural Revolution  for tourist purposes. That said, Chinese people are spiritual.

When one describes Chinese spirituality they often refer to Confucius beliefs. Now what does this pertain to?

Essentially having Confucius beliefs, is that one must lead not through laws or requirements, but by virtue. Confucius led his disciples to spread the word of moralism. So in modern day, Confucius followers are not religious, but more seeking to behave more morally.

Modern day China is seeing a switch of mentality in this moral ideal. Fitness is taking off in China and as one put it, ‘ While China was once about strengthening the mind, we now are looking to strengthen the body too’.

One company that is encapsulating this like any other is Lulu Lemon. I’ve been to a number of their events and the practice of sweating is seemingly their core belief. Their staff will ask me ‘ If I am ready to sweat’?. Originating from Canada, they are a global yoga apparel brand that has strong ‘better mentality, better life’ marketing. In Beijing they have grown their brand by hiring a fun-loving, fit, approachable team and they host love-filled, active and meaningful Party Yoga events.


In the summer, Lulu Lemon pulled off a killer launch event in the Forbidden City. It was attended by mainly Chinese female youth. I think me and the DJ (MC Yogi) were one of the few Western guys.

Here is the thing.

Why they are so successful is because they are filling the spiritual void that is so apparent in China’s increasingly materialistic world. This is so apparent in Chinese young people. The youth are looking to find a social community and willing to engage with this culture that Lulu Lemon generates. It helps that this culture is international-leaning and is good for your health. Forget that the Yoga Pants cost $80.

Lulu Lemon espouse values like ‘friends are more important than money’, ‘do one thing a day that scares you’, ‘the pursuit of happiness is the source of unhappiness’ which resonate so well with the current climate of Chinese youth who are searching for meaning, lack opportunities for decent wages and whose Chinese psyche is naturally hesitant.


Lulu Lemon is an example of company that has developed its brand expertly in the social context of China today, but I also think it is on a fine line with the elephant in the room, the Chinese Communist Party (‘CCP’).

Heard of Falun Gong?

Falun Gong were  a group of spiritual like practitioners, that closely followed the teaching of Qi Gong. Initially supported by the CCP, the Founder, Li Hongzhi, accrued 70 million followers rivaling the total CCP membership numbers.

In 1999, the CCP provoked by a Falun Gong peaceful protest to gain legal recognition declared a crackdown on the group. They saw it is as separate from the state, speaking different truths to the state-line and had by all accounts developed into a mass group. The crackdown by all accounts was quite severe.

The link with Lulu Lemon is through the spiritual awakening of Chinese people who have since forgotten the Communist ideals the party stood for. Lulu Lemon, being a company rather than an organisation, surely evades the same scrutiny and I do not think from memory that Chinese Restricted Companies include Yoga Apparel.

However just me making that link goes to show the deeply communal embracing brand that Lulu Lemon have developed and i hope will continue to their success in the Chinese market.