As one of the most important events in the global political calendar, the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) drew 3,068 domestic and foreign reporters to cover the meeting. There is a growing interest from the international community in China, and reporters on the frontline are the “eyes” that observe the rising Asian power. The Global Times interviewed several reporters with foreign media outlets who have either been in China for several years or covered the Party’s past congresses. They shared their observations on the last five years of changes in China’s politics, diplomacy and economy.
At 4:00 pm on October 17, Xu Jingbo, head of the Japan bureau of the Asian News Agency, sent a brief piece of news through his cellphone: The 19th CPC National Congress will be held from October 18 to 24. For him, the moment brought back memories from 20 years ago when he first came to China to cover the Party’s congress: at that time, he had to rush to the post and telegraph building in Chang’an Avenue to send the message.
“In 1997, I came to China to cover the 15th CPC National Congress and about 100 foreign reporters could be seen at the Great Hall of the People,” Xu told the Global Times. After the opening ceremony ended, dozens of reporters with foreign media outlets rushed to the post and telegraph building, which provided international telephone and fax facilities, said Xu. “I had to wait two hours to send my message back to the news agency.”
Back then, it was hard for foreign media to get access to the congress delegates, and many reporters were only allowed to attend the opening and closing ceremonies at the Great Hall of the People. This time, however, the organizers arranged a series of special news conferences and interview activities for them to get access to more information. According to Xu, it was also the first time in the history of the Party’s congress that a “passage for Party delegates” was established.
“The congress has become more and more open… time brings changes and so does China,” said Xu, adding that he will focus on the new ideas put forward during this congress.
Macarena Vidal, chief correspondent in China of Spain’s largest newspaper El País, told the Global Times that she attached great importance to the members of the next Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, as she is able to observe clues for future development through the composition.
“It’s interesting for us to know what type of orientation they will give and how this will be reflected in China’s political life. It can point the direction in which Chinese politics will go in the next five years or even more,” said Vidal.
When Xu looks back to the time he had to rush to the post and telegraph building to file stories, he acknowledges that a lot of changes have taken place in the past 20 years in China’s politics, economy and society, and the country has stepped from the world’s margins to its center.
Economy: To many reporters with foreign media outlets, maintaining stable development in the future may not seem like a hard task, but the country still faces many challenges and needs a new mode of growth.
Jeremy Koh, senior China correspondent from Channel NewsAsia, recently visited Northeast China. “For the past three years, I have witnessed great changes in Beijing. Living in the central business district, I had a feeling that a new building would be built up every couple of months,” Koh told the Global Times.
However, he felt a distinct gap between the capital and the northeast. “I have talked to local residents there and felt that the local governments have made a lot of efforts to attract investment and business, but the results are not ideal. Perhaps it takes time to see the achievements,” said Koh.
Koh said that turning to a new development mode is a choice that must be made as “the old, low-level growth mode clearly did not work out” and many difficulties would emerge during the process. “In Northeast China, I saw problems, such as the workers being laid off, and the replacement of old modes. However, the achievement cannot be made overnight and it is the only way that China must proceed. It is painful, but the country cannot rely on the old mode,” said Koh.