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Camera Eye on the Prize

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If Li Xiaoping has not influenced your image of China yet, she will soon. She is a senior producer for the 24-hour English-language television network CCTV-9, which is the only network originating in China that is broadcast in the United States. (The network is available in Richmond via DirecTV satellite, and original content on CCTV-9 is often rebroadcast on Fox affiliates nationwide.) As the 2008 Olympics draw closer, chances are you will see more stories about the extensive preparations in progress in Beijing, and chances are that Xiaoping will have had a hand in what you see. She spoke to Style from Washington, D.C.

Style: What do you do for CCTV-9?

Xiaoping: I am responsible for researching, planning and booking resources. For instance, China's Party Congress will be held in a half-month, so I am talking to advisers from around the country. I organize concentrated coverage, like the 10-year anniversary of Hong Kong's independence [from Britain] this past July.

Can you discuss some of the challenges China is facing as preparations proceed for the 2008 Olympics?

The central government is making a great effort to make the Olympics successful. But we are in a transitional period in China. While economic development has been very fast, people's concepts and lifestyles have not developed. Western correspondents come to China to see sports, but they see other things as well. We are trying to give a good image to the world, but it's very difficult.

If you come to China, you will find that people are very divided. The local governments still take a very traditional approach; they are not as open to change as the central government. This makes the situation very complex and there is a lot of conflict. People are trying to do their best and cooperate in preparation for the Olympics. But the result, I'm not sure it will be so successful.

Where did you work before CCTV-9?

I started in 1976 working for CCTV-1, China's mainstream television channel. I worked there for more than 20 years in the international news field, then went to Washington, D.C., as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute. When I returned to China, I transferred to CCTV-9 and helped develop a new English-language current-affairs show called "World Insight." After two years, I transferred to my current job. We have a big bureau in Washington, D.C., and are developing a bigger bureau to cover more news and current affairs.

There has been a lot of change over the years. Television has become more complicated in China. The focus on marketing has become stronger and stronger. Now we need to do stories that appeal to the marketplace.

What is your perception of Sino-American relations right now?

China and America have been in good communication for many years, and it has been good for the two nations to come together. China has been so closed to the world community. But the economic angle is very important; our countries are becoming more and more interdependent. Most Chinese people do not realize that the relationship has become so interdependent.

But I think we need to let Americans understand China better. How the world sees China largely depends on China. Some opinion-makers [in my country] realize how important it is to do this better. We need to explain to the world what challenges we have and what we would like to do to handle these problems. If we are careful and try not to hurt others, we will have good relations with other countries.

What do you see as the media's role in this process?

The media plays a key role by providing a forum for arguing and discussing these types of questions. It's a good thing for media to do things rationally, and not support extreme nationalism. There was recently a football [soccer] match between China and South Korea, and the Chinese commentator strongly supported the Chinese team, which made the Koreans angry. The media must listen and avoid this type of thing. China should have equal respect for both teams. S

Li Xiaoping will be a panelist for a special discussion about media in China Saturday, Oct. 6, at 9:15 a.m. in University of Richmond's Jepson Hall as part of the China-America Festival of Film and Culture this weekend. Visit www.therosegroup.org.

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