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My sojourn in China

Nov 14 2015 | 07:38 pm

By Rosha Basnet

Kathmandu: Having been to the Indian capital and its financial hub three times already the prospect of a visit to the northern neighbor has always intrigued me. I have had numerous accounts of that mystic land which is still fascinates me.

China1A 10-day media workshop organized by the Hunan International Business Vocational College in sponsorship of China’s Ministry of Commerce in Changsa, Hunan province towards the end of July  this year offered me a chance to not only understand the development of media culture there, but also to unravel the mystery of the giant mass of land known as China.

A month has elapsed since I was in the world’s most populated country, nevertheless I will make a humble effort to immortalize the grandeur and splendor of the beauty of modern China with its rich cultural heritage and more than 4000-year old history.

Four participants represented various media from Nepal in the event which saw 37 other participants from 16 countries.

No sooner we landed at the gigantic Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, the first stark difference I noticed between Nepal and China was the landscape although the sky looked the same. I gasped in awe as I entered the airport and saw the glittering skyscrapers in the distance.

The ultra-modern airport could not be compared to our one and only international airport- the TIA. It was one of the busiest airports in China with a record of handling over 31 million passengers annually.

Although we missed a few initial sessions which dealt with Chinese reforms and the opening up of its economy by Prof. Xie Jun from Hunan University owing to adverse weather conditions delaying our flight, the subsequent sessions exposed us to first-hand information on related issues in depth.

The saying that ‘Society is the biggest university’ rang true as the evening strolls taken around the city after the workshop offered us a chance to get familiar with China’s various facets that the workshop’s PowerPoint presentation would barely do!

China2Joining the Square Dance of the elderly Chinese in the public places was fun. I had read that the communities there encourage the elderly to organize such dances in public places to introduce them to entertainment, exercise and social interaction all rolled into one activity. As I came across the old ladies’ dancing, I did not give a second thought to join them as music soon became a universal language and I became a member of their troupe.

Another amusing scene was the two-wheeler riders riding without helmets on the cutting-edge main road. It contrasted with the mandatory regulation for the riders in our country to wear helmets for safety. I later found out that they too had such a rule, but since the riders would mostly ride in compliance with the regulations the chances of road accident stands slim unlike in Nepal where road accident claims some five persons a day.

During the workshop, I chanced to attend a lecture by Hu Zhengrong, Vice Principal of Communications University of China on ‘Media Convergence and Consolidation in Transitional China’ offering a wide range of information about Chinese broadcasting culture and technologies.

For a person exposed to the online and print media since the beginning of my career, this experience exposed me to the other dynamics, which was like a breath of fresh air. It was extremely enriching and eye-opening opportunity for a person like me who is pursuing a career in journalism.

The last minute change in our itinerary brought cheers to the Nepali hearts as we came to know that we would be going to Beijing instead of Shanghai, which automatically veered our mind towards the one of the great wonders of the modern world- the Great Wall of China.

A trip to Chairman Mao’s village and his humble mud hut in Shaoshan in Hunan on the fourth day of our trip brought back memories of Tharu villages in Nepal. It inspired me to see that such great game changers rose from earthy beginnings.

Having seen me wearing a long face during a trip to Orange Island in Changsa, the Deputy Minister for Information, Media and Broadcasting of Zimbabwe, Monica Mutsavangwa, asked me what was bothering me.

“I dreamt a bad dream. I saw my mom dying,” I shared to which the mother-of-four counseled me affectionately, “Do not worry, we have a belief in our country that when we see our beloved dying in the dream that person gets longer life.” We Nepali also believe likewise. Later, it sank in to me that humans share many common cultural beliefs irrespective of nationalities.

While wandering in the Orange Island in Changsha, my interactions with the youth gave me a different impression as they were more inclined and excited by gadgets and gizmos than its rich cultural heritage.

Moreover, I was struck by their fancy western names such as Andy, January, Isabella and so on. When asked the reason, they felt that those names provided easier introductions (especially to foreigners) than the tonal intricacies of their original Mandarin names.

Having seen the youngsters glued to their smart phones and tablets in the public places, it validated the fact we were told during workshop that the Chinese urban youths spend over four hours gazing at their (screens) smart phones, tables and laptops. The fact was shared by Prof Zhengrong of Communication University of China.

This has a bearing on the popularity of the TV and booming social media. Compared to radio, the TV has higher penetration in Chinese population, which we were told, was mostly preferred by the elderly section of population. The government is integrating television with internet in its new policy so as to attract the wider section of youth. This was further elaborated by the CCTV high-ranking officials during our visit to the office of this major state television broadcaster in China.

I recall the Chinese cuisine at Huatian hotel, the first five-star hotel of Hunan province that ranged from everything that walks and crawls on earth! Say, frog, turtle, snails, oyster and the like. Perhaps it has a bearing on the great famine plaguing China in late 50s and Chinese adaption on various kinds of food.

A citation from a Pakistani government representative would throw more light on the Chinese delicacies.  He shared with us that he had remarked with his family-‘We have everything here yet nothing to eat!’

The description of the architectural wonder of the Forbidden City, supposedly the biggest imperial complex in the world, and Temple of Heavens in Beijing is beyond my words. These buildings, built during the imperial era, were highly revered by the elderly Chinese and seem to be equally valued by the Communist Parties of China, by preserving their rich heritages for the future generation.

Through the workshop, we came to acknowledge that the Chinese government was heavily investing for the film industry’s rapid development so as to enhance its cultural competencies and communication capabilities in the international markets.

Although the second biggest economy of the world in recent times China has been engrossed in bringing its economy in par with the western world. China continues to maintain its cultural heritage and has harmonious relations with its fourteen neighbors, aligned with its ancient policy of helping neighbors also become prosperous.

This is illustrated by its sincere willingness to help Nepal in its all-round development, including a recent announcement of offering 1,600 scholarships annually for Nepali students to study in China’s various universities.

This was further elaborated by the Nepali Counselor, Ram Prasad Subedi, during our interaction at the Nepali embassy in Beijing. He went on to highlight the importance of Nepal-China relations which was reinforced due to Buddhism and the marriage of Bhrikuti to a Tibetan Prince, resulting in near-family ties since centuries.

China’s belief in collective and practical wisdom is further expounded by Confucian philosophies which it has always adhered to in day-to-day life. This, combined with its development policies has helped China continue to demonstrate aggressive growth rates each year.

My visit to China can never be expressed by pictures and words. Bewildered by the China’s runaway development and ancient marvels, most of the participants, including me concluded that China was so big and beautiful that a single visit was certainly not enough to explore its beauty!

Soon the 9 days’ of wonder came to an end and we flew back to our respective countries. As we came back, the country was rejoicing with the celebration of 60 years of Nepal-China diplomatic ties. Perhaps China too observed the day, making time from it despite being engrossed in furthering its runaway development.

Panipokhari

Kathmandu, Nepal

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