Chinese TV show explores big charm of small cities
Viewers have been hooked to Charm China since it was first aired on China Central Television on July 14.
Each episode of the show compares cultural elements and economic development in two different cities, giving a chance to local government officials and residents to voice their views on TV and become somewhat famous in the process.
In addition to knowing their cities very well, the mayors or deputy mayors who appear on the show also need to be eloquent. Sometimes, they are asked to join in the singing and dancing.
Others who appear are members of cultural troupes and chefs. Some celebrities also choose to back their preferred cities or hometowns on the show.
Xu Peidong, an established songwriter, has visited Yan’an, Shaanxi province, to create works related to the city that is considered the cradle of the Communist revolution in China.
He participated in the debut episode of Charm China that featured the city.
“The food there is also highly recommended,” Xu says in a recent interview. “It
is delicious and once fed pioneers of the Communist Party of China.”
“Yan’an is getting more fashionable,” he says. “While young people there have not forgotten the city’s original spirit, they are catching up with the times.”
He says that the positive energy of youth is reflected on the show.
Yan’an’s “competitor” in the same episode was a place with its own characteristics: Alxa in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, which is famous for its roasted lamb and desert scenery.
Liu Wang, an astronaut with the Shenzhou IX spacecraft, decided to back the city on the show because some Chinese manned space missions have been launched there.
Charm China will include 32 cities and run through the end of this year.
“These cities are either low profile or those that people have stereotypical views about,” says Tang Lin, producer of the show. “Small cities can also have big charm.”
He says local officials know their cities well and can act like “anchors” to guide each episode.
Tang says that the promotional ideas created by these China cities can be tested on air but due to time limits, city representatives must make full use of their best campaign methods.
Spectators in the studio and online viewers also poll to decide which cities might be appealing for future episodes, which will be shot in parts in such destinations.
He says the program was made to change the perception that many Chinese cities “look the same and lack individual features” because of similar urbanization plans.
“We can provide a banquet of different cultures from all over the country,” Tang says.
Yin Hong, a professor at Tsinghua University, says the show is a good attempt to promote a city’s tourism while exploring the cultural context. “It’s a new way of marketing,” he says.
The concept of “whole area tourism” was included in the annual Government Work Report of 2017 delivered by Premier Li Keqiang at the Two Sessions in March. It aims to expand tourism attractions from single scenic spots to entire cities to improve service and coordination between different sectors.
“China’s tourism needs new orientation,” says Yu Guomin, a communications professor at Beijing Normal University, adding that Charm China is an early advocate of the new approach.
mayor of Yan’an, appears on the TV show Charm to promote his city.