Interview with Dr. Dai Fan
Center for Philippine Studies, School of International Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China
DIVERSITY & FREEDOM
Dr. Dai Fan is the Deputy Director of the newly established Center for Philippine Studies, a sub-branch of the School of International Studies in Jinan University, Guangzhou China. He was initially introduced to the Philippines as a research topic when a government to government exchange scholarship was made available in 2006. He would become a research fellow in 2007 staying ten months in UP Diliman where his research topic focused on “New Chinese Migration in the Philippines” and “Philippine Foreign Policy”. Before taking a full-time position as a professor in the School of International Studies in Jinan University, he worked in Beijing’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council for three years.
While in the Philippines as a student, the hospitality of the Filipino left an indelible mark on Dr. Fan which would eventually mean traveling to the Philippines twice or three times annually (this routine was only broken in 2013 when he only visited the country once because his wife was pregnant at the time). He could not forget the kindness the Filipinos from all walks of like showed to a then simple research student— one professor took almost every week touring him, his wife, and two other Japanese scholars around Manila. He also recalls, with effervescent delight, how bloated he felt having to attend three Christmas feasts in 2007 (it is an unthinkable for a Chinese visitor to decline a friend’s invitation). When asked what he found most unique about the Philippines, his answer was immediate: “Diversity” and “Freedom”. The diversity of food, culture, people, and race and the freedom where all of these coexist continue to fascinate him. On this most recent sojourn, several noteworthy beginnings were in store: he was on a mission to establish networks for the newly founded Philippine studies center and for the first time, he brought along four undergraduate students (who are scheduled to pursue a Philippine Studies degree under the center’s tutelage).
When asked what he thought was the biggest misunderstanding the Chinese have on the Philippines, his answer was “most Chinese believe the Philippines is a really dangerous place” and with the heightened negativity surrounding the South China Sea media coverage, most Chinese have the notion that the Filipinos have a vendetta out to persecute Chinese travelers. Indeed it is in today’s complex world that people-to-people ambassadors such as Dr. Dai Fan play an ever indispensable role. In fact, he already has in multiple capacities: for example, Chinese news correspondents regularly ask for his views on the Philippines-China relations, and he takes extra effort to ensure the presentation of the former is more objective and based on “on-the-ground” data. In a more tangible role, when one of his Chinese friends was hesitant to take a vacation to Cebu, it was Dr. Dai Fan who gave safety assurances—this friend would end up going and returning to Cebu regularly.
Dr. Dai cherishes the simple, pure, and easy way to make friends that’s why he continues to come back.
One of his student’s reflections on his first visit to the country was:
"My first impression of the Philippines is surprise! I think the Philippines is more of an Occidental rather than an Oriental country. Filipinos are generally friendly, warm-hearted for they often help us when we found ourselves lost in Manila. I love the people here! Furthermore, I think the ecological environment is good. What impressed me most is the beautiful blue sky. Last but not the least, I hold the view that the Philippine education is a good model for China to study, which encourages its students to pursue knowledge based on his or her interest. All in all, I think the Philippines is an interesting country!"
Currently, Dr. Dai Fan is tracking the US-Philippines security cooperation and new Chinese migration in the Philippines. In addition, he is leading a student group to do a study about the identity of Tsinoys and the inter-ethnic relations in the Philippines.
During his trips to the Philippines, he not only works on some field research here such as conducting interviews, but actively engages in exchanges with counterparts in the Philippines to promote his understanding about the country and its people.
He also makes sure to find time to travel around the Philippines, especially to enjoy the ocean and beaches.
Jinan University (JNU) is a public research and comprehensive university based in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China. It is one of the oldest universities established on mainland China dating back to the Qing Empire. It was the first university in China to recruit foreign students, and is currently the Chinese university with the largest number of international students.