China-ASEAN Youth Camp 2011 : Who What Where When & Why?

The China-ASEAN Youth Camp 2011 was held from 3 Nov to 10 Nov, and I’m really glad that I was one of the delegate representing Singapore for this trip. This camp brings together young journalists from 10 ASEAN countries, along with young Chinese journalists too.

Our Singapore delegation team comprises of 7 people, whom you will find out more below. We have delegates from Straits Times, Lianhe ZaoBao (Singapore Chinese Newspaper), Youth.SG, and a founder of a 100,000 strong Facebook Fan page.

China-ASEAN Youth Camp 2011 Singapore team

The delegation is led by 2 top civil servants from National Youth Council. I would say that I’m really privileged to be part of this amazing group of people, which made our whole trip fun and meaningful.

This 7 day trip began in Nanning. A 4-hour flight brought us from Singapore to Guangzhou before an hour-long domestic flight landed us in Nanning. On the third day, we travelled to Beijing on a 3-hour domestic flight and upon arrival, we hopped onto a coach for a 2 hour ride to Tianjin. We returned to Beijing on the fifth day via  a 40-min ride on the Beijing-Tianjin bullet train.


 Main Highlights

Our trip itinerary was filled with cultural exchanges, conferences, discussions, shopping and visits to tertiary institutions and prominent private and government establishments. While we had fun touring and learning China, the main highlights of the youth camp is the gathering of the China and ASEAN young journalists.

On the second day of our trip, representatives from each nation sat down in a round table to discuss on the topic of “How Media Can Help Boost Free Trade Agreements”


China-ASEAN Discussion Nanning

Suggestions raised includes playing the responsible role of a journalist, the using of both online and mainstream media, and partnership between journalists from different countries. The host of the discussion is a TV host from GuangXi Television (I forgot his name!), but he also shared his experiences when he travelled to every ASEAN country.

On the last day of the trip, all the journalists sat down again to discuss about the roles and responsibilities of young journalists.


China-ASEAN Discussion Beijing

Many topics were discussed, including the comparison between online (alternative) media and mainstream media, how young journalists can help to boost bi-lateral ties, and the suggestion of creating a strong network of journalists from all 10 ASEAN countries. Elyn (in white), along with delegates from Vietnam (right) and Thailand (left) shared our discussion with the rest of the audience.


Learning Points

While listening to what other young journalists share, I also participate as much as I can to contribute to the discussion. Here are some of the notes I have taken down, and some strong points mentioned by delegates from the Chinese and ASEAN journalists.


1. Journalists should be Professional, Ethical, Independent and Objective.

Though I did not study any course in journalism in university, I kind of know that there’s a certain code of conduct journalists should follow. Journalists play a very important role in reporting news and facts. The things they write can affect how others make their decisions. Journalists should always remember their main role of being journalist.


2. Stronger emphasis of Accuracy in reporting.

Young journalists should place more emphasis in reporting accurate news and facts. This is important, especially in this ‘internet age’ where information are all over the internet. Carelessness may result in the journalist reporting a rumor/lie as a fact. Cross-referencing and verifying news sources are really important here.


3. Building a Network of journalists

This is a really good suggestion that journalists from different countries can come together, form a network to report news on different countries. This allows every journalist to clarify and follow up news in other countries easily.


4. New (Alternative) Media vs Mainstream Media

When this topic was mentioned, my antenna was up immediately. And little did I know this topic was one of the hottest topic discussed on the table. Most of the journalists there mainly works in the mainstream media, while only a handful of them, are like me, who operates in the ‘alternative’ media.

An intense exchange of ideas was observed on whether ‘Mainstream media should compete, or compliment each other’. For me, I strongly believe they should compliment each other, and there’s really no point in ‘killing’ each other (both will still be alive in the long run).

However, other counterparts believe that mainstream media should only be public source of news, as the alternative media allows the spread of   lies / rumors / gossip, in which the mainstream media has to be called later in to report the true facts to stop the ‘fire’ from spreading further. (maybe I can write more on this in future post)


Cultural Differences

Before I embark on this trip, I blogged about taking this opportunity to apply what I have learned about cultural intelligence in NTU, into this cultural exchange trip. And yes I did! I tried to observe and note down as much as I can. While I’m not able to name all, here are some of the more significant ones.


1. Nanning people are very hospitable

Nanning is located is GuangXi, the southern part of China, and it’s our first place of visit. The reason I say they are very hospitable, as they would want to ensure that you feel happy and enjoy your stay there. They like to ask for your feedback on Nanning. And whatever you say, they will reply with “if you need anything, just tell me, I will settle for you“.

I experienced this during an interview with a GuangXi reporter. Other delegates are also asked about their experience in Nanning. They are really friendly, and will help you when you need help.


2. A typical Chinese banquet serves 15 dishes.

This happens on a lunch banquet in Nanning where we wondered why we were constantly being served with dishes, even though we know we couldn’t finish all of them. Singapore banquets usually serve till the 7th or 8th dish. There, we heaved a sigh of relief, when the serving finally ended, with desserts.


3. Foreigners are impressed with Singapore’s bilingualism

I’m not saying this to boost our own ego, but from what I observed, the Chinese are impressed that we could speak both good English and Mandarin. We are also somehow the ‘bridge’ for our Chinese and ASEAN counterparts. Communication with the Chinese or ASEAN delegates, especially during the conferences, were also much easier.

(To Singapore parents who think that Chinese is a useless subject, or learning to speak good Mandarin is a waste of time, please think twice!)

4. Taking Pride in Cultural Performances

While we were traveling from cities to cities on the road, one of the best ways to get the passengers to cheer up, is to SING! On the bus trip from Beijing to Tianjin, my bus consists of delegates from 3 countries – Singapore, Laos and Vietnam, there’s once the Vietnamese started singing their cultural song, soon everyone of us followed! I can see that every one of their delegates sang with passion and everyone started clapping to their song.

On a visit to Tianjin Foreign Studies University, students from TFSU showcased some Chinese cultural performances, like playing the ‘Pi Pa’ and a XinJiang (West of China) cultural dance. Our delegates from Laos, also put up a cultural show for the TFSU students, and invited everyone to dance together.

Tianjin Foreign Studies University Pipa

The Chinese Instrument, "Pi Pa"


Tianjin Foreign Studies University Xinjiang Dance

Cultural Dance by TFSU student from XinJiang


5. Collectivism in victory and privacy – Chinese.

In my NTU cultural course, I studied about the high collectivism trait observed by the Chinese. Into China, I observed it myself. I was told by our Chinese student tour guide, an undergrad from TFSU, that a school hostel room is shared by 8 -10 students. 10 persons sharing a room, and this brings me back to my national service days. Back in NTU, our rooms are just shared by a maximum of 2 students.

My delegate leader then curiously asked “what about personal privacy?”. The student tour guide answered that they believe in shared privacy. However, over to their international lodge for international students, theirs are single rooms, much like those in NTU.


Interesting Stories?

On top of all the things I mentioned, I also have many interesting encounters in China, which taught me many life lessons. Such as the lesson of appreciation, the pain/joy of 7 ‘Facebook-less’ days and valuing something before its gone. These stories are quite though-provoking , and I thought it would be better to share them in separate posts.


The Wonderful Singapore Delegate!

Last but definitely not the least, I would like to thank the awesome Singapore delegation team for making this trip so fruitful, joyful and meaningful.

Eric Chua – Singapore Delegate Leader


Eric Chua Singapore Delegate Leader

Eric is by far the best (and funniest) leader I have known so far. He’s a top civil servant from Ministry of Home Affairs. He’s a Council Member in National Youth Council. He held positions in committees and clubs. Looking at his huge profile of records, I never thought he can be such a lame and funny guy to hang around with. I also like his leadership style, and take good care of every delegate during the whole trip. He has good fashion sense too!


Angelene Dorai – ‘Mother’ of the Delegation


Angelene Dorai

Angelene is like our ‘mother’ for our whole trip. Ask her for anything, she will have it. She’s also a top civil servant from the National Youth Council. I would have to thank her for enduring all my lame jokes throughout the trip, and that almost made her want to kick me out of the bus. Haha. Oh yea, thanks to her, we are able to shop at the Beijing Outlet Mall before we depart!


Elyn – Zao Bao Journalist


Elyn Hoi


A really nice person to talk to, and also someone I have to thank for enduring all my lame jokes. She’s been to China a few times, and thanks to her knowledge about China, we can get around (and shop) easily. I also thank her for helping me to bargain from an auntie in Silk Street Market!


Estella – Welcome The World!


M Hema Estella


She manages a Facebook page of over 100,000 fans! Go like her page if you haven’t : Welcome The World. She’s the youngest in this trip, and probably the whole China-ASEAN Youth Camp. Despite her age, she has already accomplished many things her peers didn’t. She might be in Indonesia now covering news for SEA Games 2011! She took amazing pictures with her Cannon, in which one picture made me look like a brand model. LOL.


Vina Sim – My Youth.SG Boss


Vina Sim Youth.SG


Many thanks to Vina, if not, I wouldn’t be able to make it to this exchange trip. Not really my boss, but we worked together in Youth.SG’s Ultimate Campus Spy Network.  She’s kind of a ‘cool’ lady, and she can really drink. Thanks to her, that I get to try different wines and beers in China. She can really bargain too.


Joe En – Straits Times & My Trip Buddy


Chong Joe En


Joe writes for Straits Times, YouThink session way back when he’s in ACJC. Back then, YouThink was the only section I read in ST when it was published on every monday. He’s a nice guy to be with, and we shared a lot with each other throughout the whole journey.

We even shared a unique experience in Beijing’s Wang Fu Jing shopping street together, one which we will never forget. A really good buddy who might be the next big lawyer in Singapore. He came in second for the China-ASEAN essay competition which earn him the chance to be part of the China-ASEAN Youth Camp 2012 next year!


Of course, I would also like to thank Felicia from National Youth Council for organizing and doing all the administrative work for this trip, and the organizers and student leaders who brought us around Nanning, Tianjin and Beijing for these 7 days. I would say this trip is definitely a success. Everyone, including delegates from ASEAN and China will continue to work with each other, and bring our corporation to a higher level.



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