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Feature: Award-winning U.S. TV producer shares 10 things he loves about China

(Xinhua)    14:00, October 21, 2020

Undated photo released on Oct. 3, 2019 shows Josh Selig, CEO of Little Airplane Productions, in New York, the United States. (Little Airplane Productions/Handout via Xinhua)

"These days my preferred country for making co-productions of all kinds is, hands down, China," says Josh Selig.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Trust, patience, humility, discipline, progress, getting around, caring for the poor, respect for the elderly, safety, creativity are 10 things an award-winning U.S. animation producer has shared about his love of China, with an aim to inspire Americans to visit and get a clear perspective of the fast-evolving Asian country.


"Many of you already work with China, and have a good sense of the country. For the rest, I imagine my list may surprise you," said Josh Selig, founder of Little Airplane Productions, an animation studio headquartered in New York City, in his article Ten Things I Love About China just published by the October/September issue of Animation Magazine.

The inspiration for writing the article followed a talk between Selig, who has received 12 Emmy Awards for his writing and his musical compositions, and a friend who does not travel much and who has heard mostly negative things about China.

"I decided to spend a few hours and write down for him five things that I love about China. Before I knew it, my list had become ten things," he said. "Today I'd like to share this list with you, my colleagues in the animation industry."

"My hope is that it might inspire some of you to visit China, because seeing China for yourself is the only way to really get a clear perspective on this unique nation," said Selig, who travels to China several times a year working with a variety of media, toy, and theme park groups.

"Now, don't get me wrong. I also love the United States. I am grateful for the many freedoms and opportunities we have here. I also love Brazil, Egypt, Belgium, and South Africa. I love many countries, who doesn't? But this article is about China," he said.

"In this era of internet noise, distortion and misinformation, the only thing I trust is my own direct personal experience. And my experiences over the past 30 years in China have impressed me. I'm not saying China is perfect - no country is - but I am saying China is a great country that deserves our deep respect," he said.

Selig paid his first visit to China in the 1990s when he worked on Zhima Jie, the Chinese co-production of Sesame Street.

"This project was a revelation for me as it was the first time that I truly understood that Western culture was simply one approach to life and art, and that Chinese culture offered a different and equally valid approach," he said.

On one of their "training trips" to Shanghai, Selig recalled, it became clear that "we American 'experts' had far more to learn from our Chinese colleagues - among them one of China's most revered poets - than our Chinese colleagues had to learn from us."

With Little Airplane Productions, a Studio 100 Company, Selig has co-produced some animated shows with his Chinese partners. The first was "Super Wings!" with Alpha, which premiered on Sprout, and the second was "P. King Duckling" with UYoung, which premiered on Disney Junior US and China Central Television.

A screengrab from shows the title, brief introduction and picture of the article "10 Things I Love About China," written by Josh Selig, founder of Little Airplane Productions. (Xinhua)


"I'm certainly no expert on China - and I fully agree with Pieter Bottelier from Johns Hopkins who said, 'Anyone who speaks with great certainty about China needs to have their head examined' - but these days my preferred country for making co-productions of all kinds is, hands down, China," said Selig.

"Trust" tops the 10 things that Selig loves about China. At first, he didn't understand why his Chinese colleagues wanted him to fly 14 hours to have a meeting that could easily happen over the phone or through video conference.

"Now I get it. You cannot look into someone's eyes over the internet. You need to sit across from them, you need to have dinner with them, and you need to drink together. Only in these ways can trust be established, and it's trust that ensures lasting business relationships," he said.

Selig said he used to be a restless person and he wanted everything right away. "China taught me that waiting is a good thing. It's while you're waiting that you learn about your colleagues, a new company or an opportunity. If it happens quickly, it may not last. But if it happens over time, it just might. Anything of real value takes time."

Selig found that most Chinese people are quite humble. "The Chinese listen very closely when someone is speaking and they very rarely interrupt. It's uncommon to hear a Chinese person bragging about his or her accomplishments."

"My wife is from Harbin and I asked her about this. She said, 'Our personal achievements are important to us, but we always hope these will also help our family, our community, our country and the world," he said.

As for "discipline," Selig said, "there is a focus and a determination in China that I've not experienced anywhere else."

"You can see this in the work ethic of the Chinese people who have, in just 50 years, built China into the world's second largest economy. And you can see it in how quickly and effectively the Chinese halted the spread of the coronavirus. When the Chinese set their mind to something, they work very hard, they work very smart, and, most of the time, they succeed," he said.

Selig was very much impressed that everything in China is improving quite rapidly, from their education system, to the rule of law, to respect for intellectual property rights.

"There is no doubt in my mind that China is steadily moving towards a more open society, and international business standards are already a fact of daily life. If this weren't the case, would companies like Little Airplane - as well as Disney, LEGO and Universal - even be in China?" he said.

The infrastructure in China is second to none, said Selig. "The bullet trains run fast and on time. The bridges are modern, architectural marvels. And the subways are squeaky clean."

A screengrab from the website of Little Airplane Productions shows the photo and biography of Josh Selig, founder of the animation-producing company. (Xinhua)

"Most of you have probably seen images of the new Beijing Daxing Airport which uses 5G technology to expedite check-in and baggage claim. Designed by the late Zaha Hadid, this airport is a stunning work of art," he said.

China's success story of poverty alleviation also made to Selig's list.

"The quality of life in China has been improving for decades. In the past 70 years, 850 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. Think about it, that's over twice the population of the United States," Selig said.

"As one Chinese journalist in New York told me recently, 'Some people think we Chinese want to take over the world. We don't. We actually just want to be sure we can feed and take good care of our 1.4 billion people," he said.

"Any morning in China, in any city or town, you can go to the park and see elderly people flying kites, playing mahjong, singing opera, and talking proudly about their children and their grandchildren," Selig said of Chinese people's respect for the elderly.

"In many countries, older people are largely hidden away in nursing homes and have little contact with their extended families. In China, one's grandparents are revered, and this has a powerful and positive impact on their society," he said.

Moreover, Selig said he feels much safer in China than he does in any other country in the world. "This may surprise some of you."

"There is almost no street crime, gun violence nor illegal drug use in China. I'm a jogger, and I like to wake up early and go for a long run. In New York, I'm always watching my back. In China, I just enjoy the sunrise," he said.

As to creativity in China, Selig cited one of his favorite places to visit in Beijing -- 798, a thriving artists' community.

"There are scores of galleries, cafes, and graffiti murals that are as good as anything you'll see on Miami's Wynwood Walls. This neighborhood reflects the vibrancy of the contemporary art scene in China in 2020," he said.

"There is great talent here, real innovation, and, yes, there is open political expression. The teams we work with in China - the writers, directors, designers, and animators - are as gifted and as up-to-speed on popular culture as anyone I know in Europe or the US," he said. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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