Step­ping Out Of the Box

Bri­tish peo­ple are un­der­stand­ing China through in­no­va­tive ways

Beijing Review - - CULTURE - By Li Fang­fang

Bri­tish pro­fes­sor Hugo de Burgh dons a flow­ery T-shirt as he sits com­fort­ably in his of­fice at the China Me­dia Cen­ter, which is af­fil­i­ated with the Uni­ver­sity of West­min­ster, where he told Bei­jing Re­view there are many things about Chi­nese so­ci­ety that at­tract him.

Flex­i­bil­ity is one ad­mirable trait de Burgh at­tributes to Chi­nese peo­ple. In his opin­ion, Bri­tish and U.S. peo­ple are very of­ten bound by rules and conventions.

“Chi­nese peo­ple are more flex­i­ble,” he said. “This also has its dis­ad­van­tages, but I think this is the prag­ma­tism and flex­i­bil­ity of Chi­nese think­ing.”

“This is why China is so suc­cess­ful economi- cally,” he added.

De Burgh started his ex­plo­ration of China as a reporter in the 1970s, mak­ing him the envy of many Euro­peans. At the time, how­ever, China left him with an im­pres­sion of be­ing very slow.

“The driv­ers drove slowly. Ev­ery­body bi­cy­cled slowly. Ev­ery­thing was slow, com­pletely op­po­site to to­day,” de Burgh told Bei­jing Re­view.

This im­pres­sion lasted un­til the 1990s when he went back to school to study Chi­nese me­dia, a sub­ject that at­tracted few schol­ars at the time. With more ac­cess to China, he be­came more in­ter­ested in the im­mense coun­try and in 2005, he started the China Me­dia Cen­ter.

Mul­ti­cul­tur­ally nur­tured

Usu­ally, de Burgh starts his day by spend­ing about an hour watch­ing Chi­nese TV pro­grams and read­ing Chi­nese nov­els to prac­tice his Chi­nese. And then, the English part of his day be­gins.

De Burgh said he thinks he’s lucky be­cause he learned to adapt to dif­fer­ent cul­tures ever since he was young. He spent his early child­hood in Turkey and Italy, where he be­gan to re­al­ize there were great differences be­tween peo­ple from dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

“I slowly learned that there were dif­fer­ent ways of look­ing at the world. So when I started to be­come in­ter­ested in China, I sup­pose what I

Pro­fes­sor Hugo de Burgh gives a lec­ture about China’s im­age in the West­ern world in Novem­ber 2018

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