By Xu Hao
“Seeing is believing,” gasped Thepchai Yong, president of the Thailand Confederation of ASEAN Journalists, at the end of the 2019 ASEAN-China Journey on the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road attended by a delegation of heads of mainstream media organizations from ASEAN countries. “The rapid progress of China we have seen on this trip should serve as an inspiration for ASEAN member states.”
The journalist tour took place from May 16 to 20, during which time 25 delegation members from 18 ASEAN media organizations traveled from Beijing to Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwestern China, and then Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province in southwestern China—two important nodes on the Belt and Road. It was the fifth such event sponsored by the State Council Information Office (SCIO) and ASEAN-China Centre (ACC), and organized by China Report Press under China International Publishing Group (CIPG).
Earlier, the ASEAN delegation attended the 2019 ASEAN-China Media Cooperation Forum in Beijing on May 14. On the morning of May 15, they attended the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, at which President Xi Jinping delivered the keynote speech. They also joined a discussion in the sub-forum “Sharing Experience on Asian Governance” in the afternoon and then the Asian Cultural Carnival in the evening.
“Twenty-five media professionals from 10 ASEAN member states and different cultural and religious backgrounds worked together with our Chinese friends on this journey,” declared Fan Zongding, local news editor and reporter of World News of the Philippines. “Although we speak different native languages, we have endeavored to communicate in the same English language, with different accents though, to enhance our mutual understanding and friendship.”
Learning from Chinese Experience
“Why has administrative approval been so efficient in Yinchuan?” “What other new measures will be taken in the future?” After a visit to the YinchuanCitizen Hall (municipal administrative center), the delegation had an array of questions for Ma Bin, deputy director of the Yinchuan Municipal Bureau for Administrative Approval Services.
The bureau was established by the Yinchuan Municipal Government in 2014 to streamline administration and delegate government power. Establishment of the bureau made it possible for local residents and businesses to receive administrative approval with a dozen official stamps from one government office, which marginally reduced the administrative institutional cost and improved efficiency. With this arrangement, the local government downsized its administrative approval staff from 600 to 60, a 90 percent decrease with an 86 percent increase in efficiency. Nearly 70 official stamps for administrative approval became obsolete, which are now sealed in a display cabinet for visitors.
“Chinese businesses used to need more than 100 official stamps for administrative approval, but now they only need a dozen, and all the formalities can be completed in just a few days,” explained Thonglor Duang-savanh, president and editor in-chief of Vientiane Times, Lao PDR. “This development evidences China’s determination to streamline administration and delegate government power to improve efficiency, bringing convenience to residents and businesses.”
At the Chinese Wolfberry Pavilion of Yinchuan Desheng Industrial Park, Khemthrong Phennapam, mass communication officer of the Thailand National News Bureau of Thailand Government Public Relations Department, seemed impressed with the development of the specialty industry. “Thailand has industries similar to the wolfberry in Ningxia,” she said. “Large-scale artificial cultivation of specialty crops can improve farmers’ economic situations. But unlike China, in Thailand, the government has not invested so much in the development of specialty agriculture, so the scale is limited.”
“I hope we learn from Chinese experience in poverty alleviation through specialty agriculture and promote the cultivation of wolfberries in Thailand,” she added.
Buzz about New Land-Sea Corridor
In Chengdu, the delegation visited the Chengdu International Railway Port to learn more about the development of interconnectivity between ASEAN and China. It was Thepchai Yong’s second visit to the railway port. “When I was here three years ago, construction had just started,” he recounted. “This time, I’m quite impressed with the development in scale and function. I see many state of-the-art facilities at the port. I think this is an outstanding sample of China’s economic development.”
The New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor officially opened in September 2017 as a major international trade and logistics route for multi-modal transportation involving highways, rail roads and sea ports between China’s western regions and ASEAN countries, which effectively connects the Silk Road Economic Belt with the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. In November 2017, regular freight train service connecting Chengdu with Europe and ASEAN was launched at Chengdu International Railway Port.
“The New Land-Sea Corridor started with the Southern Transport Corridor jointly built by Singapore and Chongqing,” commented Sim Tze-Wei, editor of RedAnts of the Singapore Press Holdings. “Lianhe Zaobao and other Singaporean media have often reported on the corridor, which has drawn widespread attention from Singapore’s business community. During this visit to Chengdu, we have become up-to-date on its latest development. We will continue to follow its progress in the future.”
“I hope we learn from the experience of Chengdu International Railway Port and strengthen our bilateral exchange and cooperation in transportation and logistics to improve the living standards of the Indonesian people,” declared Mellani Eka Mahayana, executive editor of Rakyat Merdeka Daily of Indonesia.
Media Exchange for Closer Ties
“I didn’t expect media technology developed to this level,” exclaimed Fan Zongding at the Hub of the Ningxia Daily Media Group.
“Has digital media improved efficiency? Has it caused downsizing of editors and reporters?” “Is this digital media system ingenuously developed or ready-made?” These are just some of the 15 questions asked by the delegation during a 20-minute Q&A with leaders of the Ningxia Daily Media Group.
“The Hub of Ningxia Daily Media Group is very impressive,” admitted Azman Bin Abdul Hamid, editor of Malaysia’s New Straits Times. “Its advanced system greatly improves the efficiency of media.”
The delegation was interested not only in the latest media technology, but also in a rare but globally famous species.
At the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the delegation was mesmerized by the cute animals in the conservation program. They had extensive questions for the local guide: “How long is their pregnancy?” “How many pandas are in the wild now?”
Ngo Thi Bich Thuan, head of the Representative Office of Voice of Vietnam in Beijing, observed, “What surprised me most is that everyone I know has always believed that pandas only eat bamboo. I have just learned that pandas are omnivores and can eat meat. But I’m most of awe of how cute pandas are in-person.”
“This journey has been quite meaningful,” commented Chua Chim Kang, chief editor of Chinese News and Current Affairs of Mediacorp Pte Ltd of Singapore. “I will inform the people and businesses of my country with a series of reports on the developments and opportunities in China.”