Only by telling the rich, complex stories of its people can China and the Chinese media help foreigners understand this confident, capable nation, Guo Weimin, deputy director of the country’s State Council Information Office, said in a speech on Jan 28.
Speaking at a seminar to mark the first anniversary of Closer to China, an English-language show on China Central Television dedicated to tackling tough topics such as the Tibet autonomous region and the government’s management of the Internet, Guo said that international attention was increasingly focused on China as it plays a growing role in world affairs.
“In the past we were worried that people wouldn’t want to listen when we talked about ourselves, but now people want us to talk,” he said. “What to talk about and how to say it has now become the challenge.”
The key should be focusing on real stories and real people, as opposed to the dry, empty language of officialese, Guo said.
“We should also find out what the audience is interested in, build a bridge with them and discover the mutual interests that China shares with other countries,” he said.
Launched in January 2015, Closer to China is a weekly show broadcast at 9:30 am on Sundays that discusses some of the hot topics of the day with the country’s thought leaders.
Its host is Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an American commentator on China who describes the show as highlighting issues that are not normally talked about.
“People thought these topics would never be discussed on CCTV, but our show talked about them,” he said.
“Rather than hiding problems, we can highlight problems. That shows your confidence, and then you take control of the narrative.”
“We can show people that we know the problem, and we are working on it.”
Liu Cong, director of CCTV News, said Closer to China focuses on the country’s governance, as well as its reform, development and international relations.
“It is the first such show hosted by a foreigner,” she said. “We are trying to introduce the real China by using a discourse that people overseas can understand.”