YANG RUI – China is going to become a political and cultural superpower
BEIJING – No other media figure has helped to accommodate –if not shape- China’s rise more in the recent decade than YANG Rui, the famed CCTV International Presenter and host of ‘Dialogue’, an English-speaking political TV program.
The Larry King of China
Mr. Yang has been called the Larry King of China, and his show ‘Dialogue’ is watched –apart from the foreign expat community- by millions Chinese in the country who adore his boldness and head-on style, and who are eager to practice their English listening skills.
Back in 2012, however, Yang Rui drew heavy criticism in particular for his anti-foreign, xenophobic remarks on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. He demonized drinking and partying foreigners and their illegal activities in Wudaokou (and Sanlitun in Chaoyang district, but we leave that now), the famed university district in Beijing, China’s political and cultural capital:
“Behead the snake heads [human traffickers], the unemployed Americans and Europeans who come to China to make money, trafficking in people, misleading the public and encouraging them to emigrate. Identify the foreign spies, who find a Chinese woman to cohabitate with, while their job is to collect intelligence, drawing maps and perfecting GPS [coordinates] for Japan, Korea, Europe, and America under the guise of being tourists.” —YANG Rui
Mr. Yang urged local authorities to clean up the place. This was followed by a huge wave of discontent in the foreign community in Beijing in general. Meanwhile, a crackdown started on drug-dealers, prostitution, and illegal employment in the district. Mr. Yang was blamed and criticized by members of the foreign community – in particular the blogger community – in Beijing and elsewhere for stirring up anti-foreign resentment in a country where nationalism is already boiling dangerously high. Some even asked CCTV to dismiss Yang. Immediately, national newspaper such as Global Times jumped to his defense, although they, too, condemned his insensitive comments.
In his defense: fact is that Wudaokou –during the last ten years maybe- has changed dramatically. A decade ago Huaqing Jiayuan, a posh living complex just across Wudaokou metro station, was family-friendly and open for the public. Back in those days, foreigners were mostly highly selected exchange students (many who were serious about studying, mind you), well-paid expats or visiting professors. Foreigners were highly respected. This isn’t always the case now.
Today, Huaqing Jiayuan is a fenced community, most families have left. Its high rising apartment buildings resemble student dormitories. Bars and nightclubs in this area have tripled. Young locals have adopted a Western life-style of going out, dancing, drinking, and having fun. Beijing is swamped with all kinds of foreigners now: adventurers, thousands of language learners, jobbers, but also unemployed risk-takers, backpackers, prostitutes, drug dealers, and people who left their countries because there were no opportunities for them back home. Naturally, many don’t want to leave Beijing, even after their visa long expired. So, Yang Rui and many other xenophobic observers saw the danger of ghetto-building in Wudaokou. When the crackdown on illegal immigrants materialized during 2012, the Beijing’ authorities insisted it had nothing to do with anti-foreign sentiments. Few believed this.
Western Media Bias Against Russia And China
Yang Rui recently attended the Beijing Forum 2013 and joined a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, a United Nations think-tank. In a brief speech, he described to us China’s rise from the point of view of journalism and the media world. For example, he noticed that US media constantly pointed to Mr. Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, past employment as KGB-man. So when Westerners see Putin on TV, they think KGB. When it comes to US presidents, however, the US media would always refrain from calling former US president George H. W. Bush a CIA-man. More examples could be given. Obviously, Western media was and still is preoccupied with negative images of Russian, but also Chinese top leaders, who it perceives as threat to Western global hegemony.
Mr. Yang Rui argues that China should be presented in a more positive way, and the Chinese government and the Chinese people should be more respected by international journalism. He sees the role CCTV in conveying a more realistic China image from the point of view of the majority of the Chinese, which is naturally very different from how the West depicts China.
Yang Rui agrees with the general mood and spirit in his country that China will eventually become the leading economic and political superpower of the 21th Century. [SEE YANG RUI AT CCTV]