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Guangzhou Dreams - Mr. Alastair Morgan: The dreamer Behind the Diplomat
As the British Consul General, Mr. Alastair Morgan is busy meeting people, attending events and nurturing the UK's relationship with South China. Beyond his duties, he's had time to explore and appreciate the city and pursue his own Guangzhou Dreams.

Updated:1356684399Source:GZ Morning Post

Alastair Morgan is a very British Gentleman. Not wanting to indulge in stereotypes, you can't escape the fact that he is polite, well-spoken and exudes a casual wisdom that has long been associated with those hailing from the United Kingdom.

This is probably fitting as he may well be the most important Brit in Guangzhou, except of course when Elton John came recently. His role as the Consul General means he is the face of the UK in South China and he divulged more about the role, as well as the man, and the dreams, behind it.

Morgan, has held the British Consul General post since December 2010 and his passion for collaboration between the UK and South China is clearly genuine. He really believes in the mutual benefit of the two countries working together in culture, trade, investment, and science and innovation.

The British diplomat explains that "Even though they are geographically apart, compatibility between the UK and South China is very great - Guangzhou is reminiscent of some European cities and people here have very similar dreams and aspirations to those in the UK."

Morgan had been overseas on and off for the last thirty years. He spent a lot of time in Japan (where he met his wife) but only first set foot on Chinese mainland in 2006. Like many expats, he was immediately struck by "the growing importance of China" and explains that this "meant it was a central and interesting place to be working in the world."

The country clearly made a great impression on him. So, when his stint in Beijing was up, he elected to stay in China. At this time, the role of Consul General in both Shanghai and Guangzhou were available. Needless to say, Morgan chose the latter. He was enticed by the size and importance of the role in South China compared to Shanghai. He also admits that he was enticed by the Cantonese people, who he finds "particularly lively, interesting and interested." He has never looked back.

"Guangzhou is a much more interesting city than I had realized," says the ambassador, speaking passionately and extensively about why he likes the capital city of Guangdong Province. He also mentioned the heady mixture of old and new, how surprisingly green the city is and the unique color of the Cantonese culture and language.

On initial trips to the city, he saw only the large freeways and shiny skyscrapers, but is now sure that it is the combination and contrast between these and Guangzhou's older areas that provide the city's real charm. He explains, "You've got the very modern stylish architecture that went up around the time of the development of Zhujiang New Town. But it's the mixture that appeals. If it was just the glitzy new it wouldn't be half as interesting as it is with the old as well."

He clearly has a soft spot for the history of the City of the Five Rams, saying: "I love how much is preserved in terms of the buildings and the culture of the people inside them." It is delightful to see how interested and knowledgeable the diplomat is when he speaks of Guangzhou's living history as a trading center, citing the continued existence of the "qilou" houses as an example.

The Consul General has done a lot of his own exploring around the city, either on foot or braving Guangzhou's traffic on his bike. Immersing himself in the virility, diversity and excitement of the city has made him laugh with glee as he strolls around with wide eyes. He explains his love of exploring Guangzhou alone. "One of the reasons I like walking around is that you get away from the fact you are a formal person representing your country." He also has his own blog in Chinese and English, which give him unique chances to reflect and share on his experiences in the city.

Also a proud family man, he notes that sharing the city with his family has given an extra depth to the area. The gentleman spent a lot of time exploring Guangdong with his son before he left to study in the UK. The father of three describes how in some ways he is living in a different city from his youngest daughter, who is still in school here. She uses Weixin and other communication apps to meet her friends and explore the city, an interesting development to someone who did not grow up in the internet generation.

His wider network of close friends and colleagues is also very important to him. He speaks very fondly of the local staff at the consulate and of the teamwork between British and Chinese members. He also counts his Chinese teachers as dear confidants. Learning Mandarin is extremely important to the diplomat: he enjoys reading articles in Chinese to extend his knowledge of the language, as well as learn about Chinese society.

Morgan's Guangzhou dreams, therefore, are a mixture of both the professional and the personal. The first part, he explains, involves being a respected ambassador for the UK and a great leader at the consulate. "The key is to have a consulate where people are empowered, motivated and inspired. For me it's a great privilege, but also an opportunity."

His childhood dream, however, was to become a writer: "I would have loved to be a writer, but I never had the courage." This dream was forgotten and Morgan admits he almost unintentionally found himself as a civil servant. He describes his initial unease in the role, "for a long time I thought it wasn't me, I was just doing it as a job. But, over the years, I have grown into it."

To conclude, the Consul General himself describes the culmination of the professional and the personal in his pursuit of his Guangzhou dream: "Despite the difficulty, I am able to bring myself to the job. I have to be personable, react and think for myself. I don't just stick to my circle of diplomatic friends and I'm not just mechanic. I believe being myself and including personality is the best way for me to represent the UK and achieve my dreams, both personally and for the UK in South China."

(By Rik Glauert)

The story above is contributed by our media partner GZ Morning Post.
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Editor:Lynus Tan
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