While enjoying my first China trip for this year, spending time in Beijing at the end of January and then celebrating the start of the Spring Festival in Wuhan, I made some interesting observations of the ongoing change occurring in China.
During my two week stay at the Regent Beijing, a professional, well serviced five star hotel, under the management of George Benney, one of our many Aussie hotel managers in China, I decided to watch the English CCTV channel and had to question myself many times, whether what I was watching was really the Chinese government TV or CNN by mistake.
How things have changed. China’s news service and other very professional programs consisted of controversial political information and discussions.
Dare I say, even the western style ‘way over the top’ exaggerated questioning was a regular part of their broadcasts.
I was impressed with regular shows about Africa and South America and various programs presenting professional in depth research and interviewing.
And the English version of China Daily reports daily at length about apparent government corruption issues in China, company and manufacturing disasters, and crime.
The old style ‘rosy’ editorial content has long gone and has been replaced with real news.
Certainly, the central government media department would know precisely the content of their CCTV channel and China Daily newspapers, but the old style of censorship is certainly less evident.
In addition, as a means of demonstrating that things really are changing in China – starting at the top, Xi Jinping was reported to have requested Chinese government departments, as well as the commercial and consumer population, to reduce the excess usually expected during Chinese New Year celebrations.
I was absolutely staggered by the immediate response. A very large number of government departments across China cancelled their annual end of year functions at restaurants. I was informed of a function of army generals at an exclusive hotel, which was reduced by 50 percent and I have spoken with many senior company executives, who substantially reduced their end of year staff functions.
And as expected, the hotel and restaurant industry, and their suppliers, in particular the liquor industry, across China were badly affected, resulting in staff reductions.
To create some balance, a company in Wuhan is taking their 80 staff to Thailand for a week, including the MD. When I asked him if he was taking his wife, he answered: “No, this is for my staff and their loyalty throughout the year.”
It is not unusual for companies to reward their staff with a day trip the end of the year, which may now more so replace the traditional end of year function.
China, its politics and people are changing as fast as it is growing into a Chinese style modern world. And this is only a starting point of more to come.
As China transitions to a more modern society I hope the country, and its people find the right balance between modernisation and remaining true to the unique characteristics of being Chinese.
Publisher, Australia China Connections ■