Ms. Jo Hawley, the new British Consul-General in Guangzhou, officially took office in the week of July 15th, 2019. SJL had the pleasure of being the first English-language media platform to interview this approachable and influential female leader.As the new Consul-General, Ms. Hawley shared the future plans of the British Consulate General in Guangzhou concerning the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA). She also unveiled some interesting details of her life in Guangzhou.
When did you visit Guangzhou for the first time?
The first time that I visited Guangzhou was in 2014. During my time working in Hong Kong, I visited some of the cities in Guangdong and I enjoyed my time here very much. This is one of the reasons why I chose to work in Guangzhou. I find that people here are so friendly and welcoming. Wherever I go, people want to take photographs of me and my adorable 10-month-old baby boy. They want to know why I am here, what my thoughts are about China, and they like to hear how much I enjoy the dim sum. It is nice to connect with people and it definitely strengthens my passion for coming to work here.
Could you share some interesting experience you have had in Guangzhou?
Last night, I went to the Guangzhou Opera House – designed by Zaha Hadid. We saw Matilda, which is based on a children’s book written by a British author, Roald Dahl. I was delighted to learn that it had come to China. There was a lot of cheering, laughing and clapping. I think people really enjoyed it and it seemed to transfer very well in China.
Aside from working, one thing I really like to do is travel. Before arriving here, I had been to Beijing and Shanghai many times. Now that I am settled in Guangzhou, apart from studying Chinese, taking my baby to soft play and exploring restaurants around the area, I also plan to do a bit more traveling such as going to Nansha for a weekend break and go hiking at the Maofeng Mountain. I also enjoy practicing calligraphy. Calligraphy is a kind of meditation to me. It gives me a moment for reflection and as a leader, I benefit from taking the time to slow down and think.
I am also a keen sports enthusiast. Last Friday, I was invited by my Chinese teacher to see a football match between R&F (富力) and Suning (苏宁). Funny enough, the new coach is Terry Butcher, who is a former England legend. It is nice to see this kind of exchange happening in sports.
What’s more, we also have football programme here called “Premier Skills” which are jointly run by the Premier League and British Council. The most important part is, we bring professional footballers to schools. Since 2007, Premier Skills has reached more than one million young people globally. It has trained more than 5,000 coaches and referees in 23 cities across China.
You served as the Director of Department for International Trade at the British Consulate General in Hong Kong from 2014 to 2017. How has your previous experience prepared you for your current work?
在香港工作期间，我与中国其他地区的使领馆一直保持着密切的联系，共同致力于增进中英两国的贸易投资合作。这份工作也让我更了解英国外交部的各种业务。同时，我也有机会协助了许多英国公司进驻香港，随后拓展大陆市场，这是一条非常常见的商业规划路线。我个人非常喜欢与Monica Vinader, Jenny Packham等英国时尚品牌合作，实际上我知道这些品牌是源于凯特王妃，她是我的时尚偶像，她的穿衣打扮永远引领风潮。可以和这些品牌合作，帮助他们进驻亚洲我感到非常高兴。如今，我们仍然保持紧密的联系，共同商讨如何能深化在华的商业合作，毕竟中国大陆拥有庞大的时尚市场。
During my time in Hong Kong, I worked very closely with our team across China to promote trade and investment between China and the UK. This role gave me the opportunity to look at the wider services at the Foreign Office. It offered opportunities to encourage more of the companies who were set up in Hong Kong to branch out into mainland China. It’s a very traditional route. What’s more, I always love working with fashion companies, such as Monica Vinader and Jenny Packham. Actually I got to know these brands because of Kate Middleton, who’s my fashion icon and always look very fashionable. It’s great that I was able to work with these brands and help them come to Asia. Now, we are continuing conversations on how they can be doing more in mainland China, where there is such a huge fashion market.
From your perspective, what role does British Consulate General in Guangzhou play in the development of the Greater Bay Area?
在中英贸易份额中，广东约占三分之一。作为华南的发达地带，粤港澳大湾区在增进中英关系中起到了非常重要的作用。这是一个非常好的国际合作契机。教育是其中一个重要的合作领域，通过不断促进大湾区和英国的学生间的交流，能有效增进中英人文关系。许多英国优质学校有意在中国建立分校，大湾区的建设规划给予我们一个契机，为英国学校介绍这个区域的合作机会，也使得我们对于他们把这一区域纳入未来发展的战略规划的建议更有说服力。除了北京和上海，英国学校还可以在大湾区建立分校，抓住当地的市场和机遇。目前久负盛名的英式学校哈罗公学和坎特伯雷国王学校，已经在大湾区选址办校。教育合作意义重大，因为教育对人一生的影响是深远的，同时也令两个不同的国家可以保持持久的沟通。Guangdong accounts for around one third of UK-China trade. As a prosperous area of Southern China, the Greater Bay Area strengthens the link between the UK and China as a whole. It is an excellent opportunity for international collaboration. One key area of collaboration is education. This involves encouraging more exchange of students between the Greater Bay Area and the UK. We’ve got many good schools in the UK that are keen to come and set up in China. The Greater Bay Area gives us a good opportunity to talk with them specifically about this region, and gives us a reason to convince people that they need to take this area into their strategic planning for future development. Apart from Beijing and Shanghai, British schools can also set up in this area where there are so .We have Harrow School and King’s School Canterbury, both very prestigious British schools, setting up sites in this region already. Education collaboration is kind of a gift that keeps on giving as education will last in a person’s lifetime; it’s an opportunity that keeps ongoing engagement between two different countries.
We have been looking at the blueprint of the Greater Bay Area to find out where we can help. In the Greater Bay Area, there is a large focus on green living and sustainability. This is a big focus of the Consulate as well. The environment is a global issue and you simply cannot solve this problem on your own. Some of the challenges that are being faced in the UK also exist in China. In the UK, we have already been separating our rubbish and recycling. This practice is only just starting to take off in China. It is a difficult change at the beginning, but people will soon get used to it. We cannot ignore the environmental problem and we need to find a solution. We should join forces, learn from each other, and share the best practices and most successful innovations.
What kind of efforts will the British Consulate General in Guangzhou make in the future to deepen mutual understanding and cooperation?
The UK government is encouraging more exchanges between China and the UK in terms of tourism, business trips, and studying. Last year, we issued 730,000 visas to China, and 98% of all the visas applied were granted smoothly. The whole process is in the streamline and we also have fast-track services, particularly when it comes to welcoming the students. Subsequently, we are interested in this visa work so that we can strengthen the mutual communication of both countries.
It is crucial to change the traditional image of China and promote the China-UK link. British business people know this area because of the long heritage of trading, but most of the ordinary people in the UK still have the traditional image of China as it was 20 years ago. People in the UK don’t have a current image of what China looks like. Ultimately, I think we need to update the public understanding of China in the UK.
Furthermore, we also work with the British Council here, who help to promote British culture overseas. Recently, an exhibition of Maggi Humbling, a British artist, has been running at the Guangdong Art Museum. Unlike traditional openings of art exhibitions, which are typically full of art elites, Guangdong Art Museum held a fantastic opening which engaged a lot of families through WeChat. I was touched by the family engagement and there were lots of children in the audience. I think that we should learn from it and bring this experience back to the events in the UK. Ultimately, children are the future generation who will inherit art and culture. Engaging the future generation ought to be the theme of cultural exchanges in both countries.