The video’s title read: Some Good Samaritans helped a woman pick up her money, which had been blown away by the wind in Jinan City, east China’s Shandong Province on October 9.
The woman scampers after currency notes scattered into the street by an errant gust of wind. Cyclists stopped, and pedestrians ran after the notes, bringing them to a male passerby who counted out the money for the weeping woman, to make sure they had recovered it all. The caption explained that the woman had brought 2,300 yuan in cash, to take with her for an appointment at the hospital.
I found the video on the Youtube channel of the China Global Television Network, CGTN, which is available on MCTV in Barbados.
Other CGTN video clips featured on that day included a morning staff meeting in China’s Guangxi Region that was interrupted when a six-foot python fell from the ceiling; a new glass bridge for tourists in Guilin City, and the travel crush for China’s National Day “Golden Week” holiday.
The following day there was a story on Chinese Premier Li Keqing’s visit to the Netherlands, and the Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry speaking about the China International Import Expo in Shanghai.
CGTN is the world’s window into the daily life of the Chinese, at all levels of the society.
A THIRD WORLD PERSPECTIVE
As recently as five years ago, my principal sources of world news were the Financial Times, which I still read every day, and the BBC. Nowadays the BBC has given way to CGTN, which provides me with an alternative view of the news.
We are not usually aware of it, but we see the world almost exclusively through Western eyes. A few years ago, when the dispute over Chinese claims to uninhabited atolls in the South China Sea first captured headlines, I shared the indignation of most Western nations about this flagrant flouting of the international law of the sea.
I viewed as legitimate the US challenge to the Chinese claim, which the US supported by activating their naval forces in the South China Sea. But then the thought hit me: suppose the Chinese were to deploy warships in the Caribbean, in international waters in the neighbourhood of US naval bases? Viewed from the Chinese perspective, US naval deployment in the South China Sea is the equivalent of Chinese naval exercises in the Caribbean, as viewed by the US.
Perspective colours our interpretation of the facts, and our views of what is just and unjust, sensible or unreasonable.
A WINDOW INTO ORDINARY LIVES
CGTN network has a separate documentary channel which tells unusual Chinese life stories. In Hello, Mr Nemo a diving instructor from Beijing is disturbed by the impact of pollution on marine life; there are fewer and fewer sites along China’s coasts that are suitable for recreational diving. A Job Like No Other is about “bird scarers” who have the unenviable task of keeping Beijing Airport free of avian interference.
A Biz date with the World tells stories of Chinese who are involved in global commerce “from a cotton-picker in Xinjiang to a supermodel in London, from a village firework plant to a world- renowned enterprise”. My Solo ‘Tour de France’ tells the story of Li Guoming, who sets out to do a solo ‘Tour de France’, because he’s bored with life in Beijing.
Wang Fang, the protagonist of Wildlife Photographer, sometimes chooses urban wildlife as his subject.
THE ARMCHAIR TRAVELLER
CGTN’s Travelogue programme offers Youtube videos with titles such as, Lhasa: Life inside Tibet’s scared capital, Dandong, the northernmost point of China’s coastline, How China transformed its desert into a fruit growing oasis, China’s Zen nuns, The bounteous hills of Yudu, A traditional Hakka wedding, and many more.
Also on Travelogue you will find a video that explains the preparation of “Drunken shrimp - the Sichuan shrimp dish that packs a fiery punch”. Chefs choose local freshwater shrimp, marinate it in Chinese wine (baiju), then season the dish with a special sauce. Also from Sichuan, are jihuo noodles, a breakfast broth made by slowly simmering chicken bones, pig bones and ham with rice noodles and a garnish of herbs.
CHINA’S PUZZLING CUSTOMS
On Youtube you will find a CGTN video of a discussion among four foreign residents of Beijing on unusual Chinese customs, hosted by CGTN anchor Wang Mangmang.
For example, the Chinese avoid the number 4, because, it is said, its pronunciation is very like “death”; in many hotels you will find no fourth floor.
If someone offers you a compliment in China, it is considered arrogant not to return the compliment. Symbolism is important in China: red is a celebratory colour, but you should avoid giving anyone a clock, because that says you think they’re running out of time. Lavish gift boxes are an expression of respect, which explains why Chinese packaging is so artistic. All this on CGTN programmes.
THE BEST OF AFRICA AND LATIN AMERICA
At 6am and 1pm Barbados time CGTN broadcasts a news magazine programme called Africa Live from their studio in Nairobi, one of three hubs of the network. (The others are in Beijing and Washington DC.)
On October 12 the anchor for Africa Live was Lindy Mtongana, a South African who says “My hometown of Capetown sits at the southern tip of our great continent, where two oceans meet. On a clear day you can just make out Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for so long.”
The items in the day’s news included the Tunisian Government’s negotiation with the European Union over African migration; researchers hoping to use gene editing to combat malaria; a Tanzanian billionnaire kidnapped in Dar-es-Salaam; a computer game that uses African superheroes and many more.
On October 14, CGTN’s Havana correspondent Nitza Soledad Perez reported on the Americas Now programme that the city’s most iconic attraction, the El Malecon boardwalk, is under threat from climate change.
She interviews Sally Gonzalez, a manicurist who lives on the Malecon. Sally shows how high the water rose in her apartment building. The building has now been condemned, and she will be relocated elsewhere.
Other stories on Americas Now included reports on Carlos Melen, a Guatemalan man who empowers coffee growers who have fallen on hard times; a rehabilitation programme for ex- gang members in El Salvador; and tilapia fish skin that is being used to aid burn victims in Brazil.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
In August 1965, I returned to Barbados on the MV Federal Palm at the end of my first year as an undergraduate at UWI Mona, Jamaica. When the ship docked at the Bridgetown Port, I was astonished when I heard the now strange and very pronounced Bajan accent, the accent with which I had grown up, without ever being conscious of it.
Your experience with CGTN will be similar; all our lives we have seen the world through Western eyes. Now CGTN gives us a view of reality as it is experienced by the Chinese, who are the majority of humankind. Drawing closer to China could be a recipe for success in the global marketplace.