Our People

A global community of proficient, second language Chinese speakers.

Over 1000 members, linked by a common interest in Chinese Studies, have spent considerable time learning Mandarin Chinese as a second language and have obtained recognised degrees and qualifications to evidence their advanced language skills. 

Acquiring the ability to speak Chinese as a second language requires passion, commitment and tenacity, all hugely transferable skills.  We have an international membership of 30 different nationalities, including those who read Chinese in the late 1970s to those who have recently graduated. 

James Kynge Jeremy Sargent Sam Northey James Halstead Giles Blackburne Frances Weightman Guy Dru Drury Isabel Hilton Sarah Dauncey Kay McLeod

A committed board of ten voluntary members with significant experience of using their Chinese in a professional context and extensive knowledge of a wide range of industry sectors fulfil the following roles:

  • Our two Honorary Presidents set the overall strategy for the Association. 
  • Our two Co-Chairs focus on promoting and supporting members, developing new partnerships and initiatives. 
  • Our Advisory Board helps to promote the Association and shape its aims and priorities.

Our Board

James Kynge 金奇

Honorary President

James is global China editor for the Financial Times, based in Hong Kong. He has spent over two decades as a journalist in Asia, initially for Reuters and then as China Bureau Chief for the Financial Times between 1998 and 2005. He won the 2016 Wincott Foundation award for Financial Journalist of the Year. His prize-winning 2006 book, “China Shakes the World”, was a bestseller translated into 19 languages.

Jeremy Sargent OBE 赵利民 

Honorary President

Jeremy moved to Guangzhou in 1998 as a newly qualified lawyer to assist a major London-based international law firm open its first office in Mainland China.  He was instrumental in building up the firm’s China practice, assisting clients from across the world with many of the legal aspects of establishing and operating business in China. In 2010, Jeremy opened his first bar, The Happy Monk, near the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou. Over the years, The Happy Monk has grown to become an award-winning brand in the hospitality industry in Guangzhou, with a team of 200 employees, operating five busy downtown locations. 

Sam Northey 美莎

Co-Chair

Sam graduated in Chinese from Edinburgh and moved to China in 2003, where she was based until 2017. She work for the British Chamber of Commerce promoting international trade before joining a leading UK private equity house, 3i plc to lead regional marketing. Following this she worked in public policy focused on food safety and primary production as well as EPC construction projects for global corporations before completing her MBA at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and University of Cape Town in 2016. She currently works in Corporate Venturing in the Transport and Energy sector with a focus on technology and innovation. 

James Halstead MCIL CL 何雲驍

Co-Chair

James Halstead is a Chartered Linguist and member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists; originally graduating with a BA in Chinese from the University of Leeds, James went on to complete the UK Civil Service Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s highest language examination in Mandarin Chinese. With over a decade of China experience, James dedicated a sizable majority of his professional life in China to the UK Government’s FCO China Network, initially for the British Consulate General in Shanghai, and later based out of the British Embassy in Beijing. James has also previously worked for private companies based in the UK and in China, and is currently a Manager at the global LSP thebigword. 

Giles Blackburne 翟乐思

Advisory Board Member

Giles graduated in Chinese Studies from the Polytechnic of Central London in 1989, spending two years in China – 1986-1987 at Zhongshan University, Guangzhou and 1987-1988 at Fu Jen University, Taipei. Between 1991 and 1994, Giles lectured in Chinese Politics & Economics at the University of Glasgow, before leaving to set up China-Britain Business Council’s Glasgow office. He left CBBC in 2001 to set up a Chinese Studies programme at the University of Abertay Dundee. From 2005-2016, Giles was back at CBBC as its Director in Leeds, providing advice to UK companies about doing business with China. Having completed a PhD in International Business in 2015, Giles then joined the University of Leeds to teach international business as an Associate Professor. He also heads up the University’s Business Confucius Institute.

Frances Weightman 蔚芳淑

Advisory Board Member

Frances graduated in Chinese from the University of Edinburgh in 1993 before reading a PhD and moving to the University of Leeds in 2001. Currently Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at Leeds, she teaches a wide variety of courses including language, contemporary literature, literary translation, politics and modern history. Her research interests have also expanded to cover Chinese fiction from all periods as well as contemporary Chinese politics. Frances leads on the ‘Writing Chinese: Authors, Authority and Authorship’ initiative, based at the White Rose East Asia Centre in the University of Leeds, and is Chair of the Expert Panel for Mandarin Excellence Programme, an intensive language programme for schools in England, which aims to get at least 5,000 pupils on track to fluency in Mandarin Chinese by 2020.

Guy Dru Drury MBE 刚毅

Advisory Board Member

Guy qualified from Leeds University with a BA in Modern Chinese Studies in 1991 and has a post graduate diploma in Advanced Chinese from Teachers University in Taipei. Guy has been the Chief Representative of the CBI (www.cbichina.org.cn) since establishing the office in Beijing in 2006 where he uses his Chinese on a daily basis. For his services furthering UK-China business, he was awarded an MBE in 2017 and has served as an Executive Committee Member of the British Chamber of Commerce in China since 2005.

Isabel Hilton OBE 希尔顿

Advisory Board Member

Isabel graduated in Chinese from Edinburgh in 1978 and was part of the first batch of British students to be admitted to Chinese universities and spent a year in Beijing and a year at Fudan University in Shanghai. Throughout her career as a journalist she has kept in contact with China through regular visits and, in 2006 launched a fully bilingual website on environmental and climate change issues that is now read in all regions of China and in 150 countries around the world. Since 2010 she has been a Board Member of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, and since 2017 she has been a visiting professor at The Lau Institute, Kings College London. Isabel was appointed an OBE in the 2009 for services to promoting environmental awareness in China.

Sarah Dauncey董莎莎

Advisory Board Member

Sarah graduated in Chinese Studies from the University of Durham in 1993 and quickly followed this up with an MA in East Asian Research and PhD, also at Durham, although her Chinese language-learning journey also took her to Renmin University in Beijing and Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. Currently an Associate Professor in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Nottingham, Sarah started her career at the University of Sheffield where she helped to established, and then directed for 15 years, the Chinese programmes. This is also where she co-founded the Sheffield Confucius Institute and served as Deputy Director for five years.

Kay McLeod 刘凯琴

Advisory Board Member

Kay took Chinese Studies at the University of Edinburgh, and has been committed to helping other learners access Chinese language and culture ever since. She has lived, studied, and worked in China, first as a student of Chinese language and literature in Dalian, and later for two years as in-house translator and liaison interpreter at the Jiangsu Province Kun Opera Theatre in Nanjing. In 2012 she graduated with an MA in Sinology from SOAS, closely followed by a PGCE at Goldsmiths and six years of teaching Mandarin in the UK classroom


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