Born in Inner Mongolia, a largely poor and underdeveloped area, Bai Yansong has overcome his humble roots to become one of China’s most popular television personalities. Bai is the Chinese news anchor with CCTV, China’s national television network. He is known for his articulate and confident style and is sometimes referred to as the Chinese Larry King.
He has hosted the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, the world’s single most watched TV event. Bai is also famous for his coverage of the Sichuan Earthquake in 2008 – when he anchored round-the-clock reporting on the disaster.
He loves rock music. In fact, after interviewing Vice-Premier Wang Qishan – the former mayor of Beijing – he lobbied him about the need for more live music venues in the Chinese capital. He argued these go hand-in-hand with fostering a creative culture.
Why is he in the news?
Bai recently visited the US to film a special programme dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the establishment of US-China Relations (which officially date from December 16, 1978).
At a speech at Yale University he noted: “In the past the Chinese people seemed to look at America through a telescope. Everything that was good in America was magnified by this telescope. Chinese people frequently asked: when can we be like that?”
Of course, he added, “nobody knew that the market economy could also have a subprime crisis.” Bai went on to suggest that Americans must try to understand modern China better. “Over the past decades, Americans also seemed to be looking at China through a telescope – but I am guessing they held it backwards. Because what they saw was a diminished, always-doing-wrong, full-of-problems China.”
Bai told the Yale students that this view sometimes fails to acknowledge the enormous and positive change that have occurred in China, and transformed the lives of so many ordinary Chinese.
He says it’s time to ditch the telescope: “I only hope that more and more American friends will go to see the real China.”
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