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

Xue Zhan­hai,

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.

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