Explore 'City of a Thousand Umbrellas'
Cecille El Beleidi [Women of China English Monthly]
"Hello everyone, this is Cecille El Beleidi, the newly appointed British consul general in Chongqing. I have transferred from my post in the hot and dry Middle East to Chongqing, the municipality covered by a forest in Southwest China. Chongqing is a vigorous city, which makes me feel fresh and energetic," Cecille El Beleidi wrote on the Weibo account of the British Consulate in Chongqing in July last year to greet the public in China. She wrote that post during her first visit to China. During the past year, Beleidi has continuously explored the culture, customs and people's lifestyles in China, especially in the country's southwestern region. She says she very much enjoys working in Chongqing, a municipality located in a mountainous area.
Beleidi began working for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom in 1983. She worked mainly in Middle Eastern countries before she assumed the post in Chongqing. Not long after she arrived in China, she participated in several important exchanges, including Tianjin Airlines' ceremony to officially launch the direct flight between London and Chongqing, and the commemoration of world-famous poet and writer William Shakespeare. "I hope, during the upcoming three years, I will have more opportunities to take part in friendly exchanges between China and the UK," Beleidi wrote in her message on the consulate's Weibo account.
One year has passed since Beleidi assumed her post in Chongqing. Women of China (WOC) recently interviewed the consul general, who shared her understanding of the municipality and its residents. The following is that interview, in question-and-answer format:
Q: During an interview with a media outlet in Chongqing, conducted one month after you began working in the municipality, you said you were impressed by the rain, which often fell suddenly, in the city. Now that one year has passed, what is your impression of this municipality and its residents?
A: Chongqing continues to surprise me. It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to deepen my understanding of this great municipality. I particularly like the hidden treasures in the municipality's grand, old buildings, which are tucked away among the shiny new ones. I enjoy seeing Chongqing people in their daily lives: The bang-bang men (porters) appear in the crowd of people who are on their way to the workplaces; the ladies who quietly and consistently keep the streets clean; and the daily dog walkers … The people in this city really offer the "spice" of life here! It still rains frequently here. Chongqing is indeed the "city of a thousand umbrellas," and it's a special place for sure.
Q: We know the British embassy and consulates in China launched (in March) the Be Yourself Campaign, as part of their celebration of this year's International Women's Day. Why is it important to promote gender equality?
A: The Be Yourself Campaign aimed to empower women to reach their full potentials and to challenge the stereotypes that persist about gender roles in society. The importance of (promoting) gender equality is recognized by the UK and Chinese governments. Both of the countries consider gender equality an important issue, because women have a significant role to play in (developing) a country's economy and (improving its) social reputation. Inspiring the next generation is a responsibility we all bear, and we must get right.
Q: During the past year, did the counties and villages in Chongqing, which you visited, impress you by their local customs and cultures?
A: The regional visits I have undertaken have opened my eyes to a wonderful, diverse and welcoming country. I will ensure that I have much more time to explore Southwest China, and get to know more about the people who make up the vibrant local communities.
Q: This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and China. Has the British consulate in Chongqing organized any events to celebrate this anniversary?
A: Celebrating the 45 years of formal diplomatic ties — at the ambassador's level — is an exceptional anniversary, of which the UK is very proud indeed. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of Chongqing having been established as a municipality. During the past two months, we have held a British Festival to mark the wide, varied and prosperous UK-SW China partnership. More activities will be organized to commemorate the 45th anniversary. The two countries, UK and China, have traveled far to get together. I believe the future of our friendly ties could not be better.
Cecille El Beleidi [Women of China English Monthly]
Umbrellas in a Chongqing shop [Women of China English Monthly]
(Source: Women of China English Monthly July 2017 Issue)
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