From mystery to fascination -- media leaders' changing outlook on China

20:13, October 09, 2009      

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China used to be "mysterious", even for David Schlesinger, who has a Harvard master degree on Chinese politics, when he came to Beijing in the early 1990s.

"There was almost no transparency; statistics could not be relied on; interviews were rare; the state of the economy was a mystery," Schlesinger said at the World Media Summit (WMS) on Friday as he recalled his days as Reuters' China bureau chief from1991 to 1994.

Now Schlesinger, as Reuters' Editor-in-Chief, has adopted a new outlook on China.

"Today we report on China's economy with the same intensity and professionalism as we report on any G7 economy," Schlesinger said.

Schlesinger was one of about 300 representatives from more than170 global media companies who gathered in the Chinese capital for the three-day World Media Summit to discuss the seismic shifts and challenges confronted by this industry.

For the global media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who claimed to have paid numerous visits to China, optimism shown by the Chinese people was most "striking".

"Everywhere I go in China, I talk to someone starting up a new enterprise, ... going to school to gain the advanced knowledge he or she needs to succeed, ... or building a better life for his or her family," said the 78-year-old Chairman of News Corporation.

"The optimism I see is striking -- especially in contrast to the pessimism echoing around other parts of the world."

The World Media Summit hosted by this Xinhua News Agency enabled Joseph Olewe, Principal Information Officer of Kenya News Agency, to make his first visit to Beijing.

Though still struggling with the jet leg, Olewe said he loved the greenbelts everywhere in Beijing, particularly the green stretches around the Beijing Capital International Airport.

Tarun Basu, chief editor and director of India's Indo-Asian News Service, said what impressed him most was the sense of national pride that Chinese people have demonstrated.

"Chinese people put their best foot forward," Basu said of the Beijing Olympic Games which he came to watch last year.

"Everybody got involved in this international event and felt really proud of it."

Joe Bankole, Assistant Editor-in-Chief of News Agency of Nigeria, said he didn't have much knowledge of the world's most populous country as this was his second visit here.

Bankole said he saw thousands of people flocking to Tian'anmen Square, taking pictures of elaborate floats, which were displayed on Oct. 1 to celebrate the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China.

"I can tell from their faces that they are satisfied with the life," he said.

Bankole acknowledged that his agency didn't afford to have correspondents stationed in China, yet its subscribers were really fascinated about the world's fastest growing economy.

When Frank Ching first came to Beijing to set up Wall Street Journal (WSJ) China bureau, he was alone and all he had was also his fascination with China.

Now the WSJ has grown into a group of more than 50 journalists in China, making it one of the biggest foreign media outlets in China, said Andrew Browne, editor-in-chief of WSJ China Bureau.

Browne, who speaks flawless Mandarin and Cantonese, dialect of south China's Guangdong Province, said that staying in China was like peering through a kaleidoscope, offering reporters a rich array of topics to cover.

"We focused on political and social news in the past, but now we have stepped up our efforts on reporting about China's economy, finance, markets, enterprises and others with the development of China's economy," he said.

Thanks to their extensive experience as journalists, media leaders developed a sharp understanding of problems facing China.

Basu, of Indo-Asian News Service, said he would like to go to most poverty-stricken areas of western China, as he heard that many people there were still struggling to meet their daily needs.

"China is both a developing country and a reluctant superpower. Even with the extraordinary success of economic reform, there are areas of great poverty in rural China and a striking disparity with the increasing wealth of the east," Rupert Murdoch said.

"China will ultimately decide its own fate, but unless the digital door is opened, opportunities will be lost and potential will not be realized." he said.

"As China emerges, it will be the subject of more criticism, in the true sense of the word," he said. "My personal advice is not to take it personally."

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