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What I learned from CPPCC members

By Guan Xiaomeng ( chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-03-16 10:15
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As a rookie reporter at the two sessions, I was struggling with what questions to ask and how to ask them. I sometimes got lost in the crowd of attendees: high-level officials, renowned scientists, business tycoons, sports stars and artistic big names. What would I pick up from a gathering of so many celebrities?

By chance, an acquaintance with a CPPCC member named Xiao Yan gave me the first lesson. I casually walked into a group discussion room and saw she was in tears after talking about the severe drought in her home province of Yunnan. She pleaded for advice. Those present applauded her before journalists crowded in to talk to her. I was in that crowd, but waited until most had left and then arranged for an exclusive interview with her.

Instead of an interview, it was a very cordial talk with an amiable elder. Xiao comes from a village in Kunming. As a rural collective prosperity leader, she runs a water theme park there. Everything she talked about – her session proposal, her water theme park and her NPC deputy husband -- conveyed her emotional attachment to her village and its people. She has proposed a special day to honor China’s peasants. She broke down in tears again while talking about her big close-knit family.

When I telephoned her husband, an NPC deputy, for a separate interview, he said, “We are peasants and not good at talking.” But after I managed to meet him, I felt I found the right person. They talked about building a warm family, in a harmonious neighborhood, in a united country at large, and of being supportive and tolerant of others.

If there were more attendees like this grass-roots couple, journalists would not have to scramble for VIP interviewees. People like Xiao can make for eye-catching headlines, too.

Big names do not always make for the best interviews and the best headlines. They are not media-unfriendly, but at the two sessions they must be treated as people in politics instead of stars.

I learned the above lesson from a meeting of the CPPCC sports group, where I dreamed of getting a glance at some super-stars I’ve seen on TV. But something a sports official said grabbed my attention.

“Friends in the media, please make room for them (star athlete members). They are attending the sessions and they’re not a target for gossip at the moment”.

I suddenly remembered a fellow reporter once told me that she saw Liu Xiang being dogged by a swarm of reporters for 20 minutes when he went to the restroom during a break in a group discussion.

What was the point of this interruption? I guess nobody managed to get anything from him under those circumstances.

And then I began to imagine what I would do if I met Liu Xiang. I would say something like “(CPPCC) member Liu, what do you think of the sports industry development plan approved by the State Council?”

Would it be a ridiculous question for a superstar like him? I think it might make him stop and say something, because I respected him as a CPPCC member and not as a star.