The Prince's secrets: behind the podcast exposing China's leader | Global Journalism Seminar with Sue-Lin Wong
12:30PM Feb 22, 2023
chinese communist party
Welcome to the Global journalism seminars. This is the briefing in October last year sesion, things secured another five years as general secretary and cpp. It is the seat of power he's occupied since. In the same month, The Economist released the prints and podcasts that sheds light on what fuels the ideology and politics of China's ruling. The podcast has been very well received since that time. In November, he faced student protests of his very COVID policy. In December he scrapped the policy and at least some of the few 1000 people died of Omicron Hong Kong and Taiwan continues to be a thorn in his side. And now pensioners are protesting in Wuhan before 12 of our journalist fellows about what the greatest threat to sesion things power has been from the past five months of 2% student protests 16.7% of COVID deaths 25% with Hong Kong unrest. Joining us to discuss her podcast is economist, journalist and post season one. That's the briefing. Let's begin.
Well, hello, and welcome to another global journalism seminar here at Reuters Institute of journalism. As you just saw, this was a brief introduction to our guest today. Susan Wong is a China correspondent at the Economist. She recently released a podcast series called The Prince about the life of Xi Jinping. This quite fantastic eight parter is a biography of sorts, and it really weaves together the beginning of xi's third term was starts there, but traces a lot of the political history of modern China as well and is not my words, an astonishing piece of work, not just in its novelistic storytelling, but in its sheer reportorial gumption. That's one of the rave reviews that Susan's work has got. Joining me today is the series is host originally from Australia. So Lynn Wong, who is with the economist, joins in to talk about this podcast and really the host of folks that she's been speaking to while trading this together. So, Leanne, such a pleasure to have you here. Thank you for doing the little mini podcast of your own jumping onto a flight that was delayed, and then wading through traffic and rain to get here and speak to us and our fellows. Really appreciate it. Welcome to our show.
No worries at all. Thanks very much for having me.
So let me start by asking you about the struggle of whirlwind last five months Siouxland. Did you see it coming the kind of response you had to your podcast?
No, really? Not at all. I think you know, last year we spent many months working on the prints and we had no idea of how it would be received. If anyone at all would listen to it. So it's been very gratifying to see how it's been received, you know, amongst a whole range of people you know, China watches all over the world in sort of Washington, DC and Brussels and various other capitals, but also audio people. People who work on podcasts have also sort of reached out. So that has been really nice. And perhaps what's been the most gratifying has been the response inside China where you know, listeners have had to actually scale the Great Firewall in order to listen to the series because it's not freely available inside the firewall. And yet we've had an anonymous group of Chinese internet users have they've translated it into Chinese on YouTube. And there's this very famous Taiwanese podcast that did five episodes, sort of talking about the prints and in Chinese, with and in Taiwan, where you know, they can more freely discuss C Jinping. So yeah, it's been a very surprising experience, very surprising response. But obviously, I'm really pleased. I guess journalists just want our work to be read or listened to. And, you know, I think the story is is also a very important story. Obviously, I would say that but I do genuinely believe you know, we should all be trying to learn more about China. We should all be trying to learn more about how the Chinese Communist Party really operates and who cGMP is, and you know, how China the Chinese Communist Party and Zhi Jing ping all interact together and how cGMP has changed the party. And how the party has shaped C Jinping.
It's interesting you say that in first always a great sign when people are burning up their VPN connections to get access to something you know that it's a hit. It's interesting that you say that it's important to know C Jinping story, you know, as opposed to knowing the the entire communist model and structure within the country itself, because that's been talked about enough. Let me pick your reporter's brain a little bit to understand what you were thinking of when you thought about creating a podcast like this why you thought it was important to tell his story versus any other party. Leaders?
Well, I must. Full disclosure, it actually was not my idea. It was our editors idea. She was very keen for a podcast series on C Jinping. And you know, when there was sort of a discussion internally about whether or not we wanted to do this I think among the China correspondents myself included, our initial reaction was, can we maybe pick an easiest subject? The way I described trying to make a podcast about cGMP is, you know, imagine being asked to make a podcast series about Joe Biden, but not being able to go to America or speak to any Americans on the ground there because it's too dangerous for them to speak to you freely and you also would be putting them at huge risk. And that's basically what trying to make a podcast series about cGMP it's like, nevertheless, we pressed on. And you know, I, I really think in in hindsight, it was was very much an excellent idea. Over the past 10 years, China has really, really changed. It's become a lot more authoritarian, much less free. And a lot of that is to do with the country's leader cGMP and you know, the future of not only 1.4 billion people, but many, many more people beyond China's borders hinges on the mind of his one man. And yet we all know so little about him that I think sort of any contribution that's possible to try to better understand who he is where he came from, what he experienced. As a child, what happened to him as a teenager, how he rose through the ranks of the Chinese Communist Party, and what he's done to China since he came to power in 2012, but also you know, what might happen to China going forward because he could stay in power for a very, very long time. I think, you know, all of that is, is a very important story to tell.
So let's work backwards from the point that you cannot enter China, you know, tell us a little bit about that. And then tell us about how you went about mapping this because really, I think what's overwhelming Solon is the number of people you spoke to and the variety of folks that you've spoken to, you know, how did you map that? How did you ensure that you were protecting their identities and their safety as well while putting this together?
Yeah, so just for some context, I was hired by the Economist in May 2020. And I was supposed to be based in Beijing, but this was sort of, you know, really, at the start of COVID. And it was very, very difficult to get visas. So I sat in Hong Kong hoping that my generals visa to Beijing would come through and, you know, it was a very, very interesting time to be in Hong Kong. I had been there covering the big pro democracy protests in 2019. And, you know, we were watching this once Free and Open City, turning into a police state. And so I was trying to cover China from Hong Kong. And then in September 2021, when my Hong Kong visa was up for renewal, I got this disturbing letter from the Hong Kong authorities asking for all kinds of information including every single article I had ever written about Hong Kong. I didn't really feel safe to stay, given that the party had just imposed a draconian National Security Law on the city. And so I packed a suitcase, shut my apartment door and got on a flight to London where the economist is headquartered, because at the time actually, I couldn't get home to Australia. borders were closed. I'm not sure if you will remember. Late 2021. So yeah, that and then I actually never went back because soon after that, I found out that my visa wasn't renewed by the Hong Kong authorities, and then it was around that time we started discussing internally, this project about maybe a podcast about C Jinping. But it was, as you mentioned, a huge challenge because we had reporting the story so perhaps it might be helpful for me to just take a step back here and talk a little bit about what the podcast really tried to do. I'm just going to assume some, some viewers haven't. haven't listened. So basically, you know, we were trying to think about how do we tell the story of cGMP things life, but also weave in the story of the Chinese Communist Party, and modern Chinese society. And I think for a lot of Chinese journalists, we would have loved to make a podcast on the Chinese Communist Party. You know, it's got over 100 million people. It's the biggest political organization in the world. It has many, many more members than the population of Germany. It in and of itself is very worthy of a eight part podcast series. But you know, my colleagues, especially in the audio team, sort of, were also saying that it's more compelling to sort of tell the story of modern China and tell the story of the Chinese Communist Party through an individual. And you know, there is no one better to sort of channel that story through then than cGMP. So you know, C Jinping was born into Chinese Communist Party, royalty, his dad was the right hand man of Mao Zedong bought alongside me in the revolution. And so when Xi Jinping was born, he you know, lived in a very fancy compound, he went to top schools, he ate relatively good food at a time when millions of Chinese were starving. You know, his apartment compound had Butler's and nannies and security guards. But when he was nine years old, his father was purged by Mao Zedong and his whole world was turned upside down. So this was at a time when Mao Zedong had unleashed sort of these mobs on society and they sort of beat tortured, killed many, many Chinese people. It was a very, very traumatic period in Chinese history. And C Jinping has written about how he himself was given five minutes to live by these Red Guards and he genuinely feared for his life, and eventually, sort of the culture revolution moved into a new stage and Mao Zedong decided he wanted to send millions of urban youth to the countryside to learn from peasants. And Zhi Jing Ping was one of the millions of young Chinese people so he ended up getting sent to this very poor village and have no electricity. Everyone there was were peasants. He lived in a cave for several years. I don't think there are many other world leaders right now who can put living in a cave during the wild when I was a teenager on their resume. And he witnessed and experienced this, this very pivotal, and catastrophic moment in Chinese history. And I think, you know, the lesson he drew from from that chaos, you know, and this was a time when, you know, he writes about how he didn't have enough to eat for months. He eventually saw this raw chunk of meat and he ate it raw because he hadn't eaten meat in such a long time. You know, he he really couldn't have the hard labor in the countryside. He tried to escape back to see his family and in the city and his mother refused to take him in. Because she was worried for her own safety. So there was this was this very, very sort of tumultuous time. And when China sort of came out of that, I think many many millions of Chinese were very traumatized by what had happened, and, you know, wanted nothing to do with the Chinese Communist Party, and even nothing to do with China. And, and that's why, you know, many, many Chinese of that generation left China and went to places like the UK, but si Jinping do a very different lesson. And it wasn't that the Chinese Communist Party in and of itself was bad. It was at the party had lost control during those years, and he ever rose to the top, he would try to make sure that the party never lost control again. So that was kind of the starting point for our series. And so we had to think about you know, how do we tell this story? How do we get audio? How do we do interviews and so for those early years of his life, we relied a lot on video archives, and there are some extraordinarily Frank interviews that si Jinping and his family have done before he took power. And so we used a lot of that. And then we had to get really creative like, we knew that there was no way that C Jinping or any of his friends and family would do an interview with us. So you know, one way to tell story is to find someone else who had very similar life experiences to see jumping, and we ended up finding the daughter of Mauser Don's personal secretary, and Melzer Don's personal secretary was purged when, when his daughter was nine years old, and so we use her as a way to talk about you know, what it was like as a kid to be born into immense privilege and then lose it all and be sent to the countryside and, you know, not be able to go to school and have your whole world turned upside down. So that was one of many ways. We tried to sort of get around the constraints of reporting and and then in subsequent episodes, we ended up trying to find people who had experienced really important moments in modern Chinese history. So we found someone a villager, who was very involved in a very prominent protest nature that sort of garnered international attention over corruption in a village a he now drives an Uber in New York, so we were able to speak to him. I drove around in his Uber, we found a Chinese sensor who worked for Wave war which is China's equivalent of Twitter. And eventually moved to America. And you know, now tries to speak out about how Chinese censorship works. So we had to get very creative in in all the different ways. We tried to report the podcasts and just the other. I mean, sorry, I could I can talk about all the different ways we did this, but I won't just one final example is, you know, I worked with some very, very talented producers and sound designer, and one of our producers sam COVID. He managed to find someone who was protesting in 1989 in China. This was during these huge crate democracy protests across the country, most famously in Kinnaman square in Beijing. And he was able to find someone who was protesting very near where siege in Ping was posted at the time in the southern Chinese province of Fujian, and this person now lives overseas and refused to have their voice appear in the podcast. But we ended up figuring out a workaround. We got Sam COVID, our producer to
what this guy told that the student protests
mildly scratchy line that we've got you there, but I think we got you know, much of what you said. So Lynn, and I think I think you're absolutely right, the magic of what you weave together. In terms of the sound production really does come through in the podcast. I want to sort of toggle between the past and the present, you know, in a way, as you said, it is a remarkably unique childhood, where your own parents turns on you and not just on one but many occasions, you know, as documented. There's almost this matchy valiant overtone as well, you know, better to be feared than loved. And you do sort of make that interesting point saying he's probably not at the peak of where he would like to be, in terms of, you know, domination over over the party over the country. What leads you to say that and what, what sort of form and shape do you think this domination might take?
So for many decades
China has been brought by a very cautious collective leadership of people at the very highest ranks of the Chinese Communist Party. You know, since the brutal reign of Mao Zedong, there was sort of this unspoken rule that leaders would rule for two five year terms and then make way for the next leader. But what we saw at the end of 2022 was, you know, that go out the window and CGM pings. 10 years, we're up in November of 2022. And he's staying on and he also hasn't named a successor which is also really breaking with convention. So you know, who knows? And it's a big question, how long will he stay on for, you know, five years, 10 years? The rest of his life? I mean, no one really knows. And I think what was also really striking about this big party congress that we just saw trying to have was a lot of his allies were promoted to the very highest ranks of the party. It used to be that there were many different factions vying for power and a Chinese leader would have to balance those factional interests. I mean, now it's basically just a C Jinping faction. So we've seen he really consolidate power. And, you know, given this broader context, I
think it's it's
fair to argue that, you know, we haven't seen everything from him and he could be around for a very long time to come.
And I think that's something you mentioned in the second or third episode where you say, if you remember one thing from the podcast know that CCP refers to the fall of the Soviet Union as proof of the need to maintain control of the military. Got wood and does send shivers down the neighboring regions. It has a very strong geopolitical context as well. Given the amount and the number of people that you've spoken to, what do you reckon the next four or five yours might look like under this leader? You know, the one will it be the one China, you know, sort of motto that he's going to go very strongly with? Will it be economic domination, something that they have enjoyed for a long time? Will it be something else? Yeah, I
mean, it's very hard to predict. I think, broadly, we're seeing continuity of you know, what he tried to do in the first 10 years. Obviously, China faces a war of challenges trying to come out of zero COVID Its economy is very shaky. There are huge geopolitical tensions that it faces particularly with America. But I mean, just going back to the quote that you mentioned in he was episode four, I wanted to really signpost to something I thought was important. Partially because it's you know, I think just good journalistic practice, but also, there was a lot of content in the prints and it's, it's, it would be unrealistic to assume that everyone remembers everything, but you know, the one thing one thing I thought was very important to try to remember was that the fall of the Soviet Union haunts the Chinese Communist Party to this very day. And that was why I actually will be in the studio just recording that line. And I said, Actually, can we can we just tweak it a little bit and say, you know, if there is one thing you remember from this series, let it be this. And I think that that was for a couple of reasons. So firstly, in the West, the fall of the Soviet Union was really celebrated and it was considered this wonderful thing, and I think there is sometimes sometimes China journalists will bring their own worldview and their own assumptions. To cover in China. And that was something I really didn't want us to do with the prints. I wanted us to try and understand C Jinping and try to understand the Chinese Communist Party on their own terms. Now, of course, we can be very critical in our analysis and sort of our evaluation of what's going on but you know, I think the starting point has to be to try to understand China on its own terms. And so from China's perspective, it was in the fall of the Soviet Union was experienced very differently. It was considered an absolute catastrophe. And when C Jinping came to power, he a documentary was released, that millions of party members had to study about why the Soviet Union fell and what lessons the Chinese Communist Party should should learn from it. And it was that the ideology in the Soviet Union was weak. And the leaders were weak and they had lost control of their history, the narrative of the history and they had lost control of the military. There was an argument that, you know, Stalin actually saw what the risks facing the Soviet Union where and the biggest risk was corruption. And actually, when you look at what's he has done over the past 10 years, he has, he launched his signature anti corruption campaign when he first came into power, which goes on today. Millions of people have been caught up in it, and he has genuinely stepped down on corruption while also conveniently using his corruption campaign to get rid of his enemies. And he's really wrapped up ideological and so you know, whether you're a school kid in Shanghai or you work in a private business somewhere in China Do you study cGMP thought, there's a lot more party ideology, that poem understanding how the Party of China and has done to the Communist Party and the direction that the country is heading in going forward.
Let's talk about two more recent events and you know how you read them as someone who was piecing this podcast together. One was, of course, the the public COVID protests and they sort of it came together as almost a coalition of protests where there was a COVID protests and there were students protesting and there was an angry protest. And there was this marked difference between the seasons China watchers versus the rest of social media, on how they were reading this, you know, there was the social media universe said that said, that's the end machines, Jinping. And you know, this is going to be that cataclysmic moment where all hell breaks loose, and they will season China. Watchers saying, look, we've seen protests before. You can call it How were you processing this event? And did it look like it was indeed his sort of toughest test?
That's great. I just was glued to social media following what was going on. And, you know, I think it was incredibly brave and courageous and inspiring to see people taking to the streets. In China, it was really something we hadn't seen since 1989. And in the pro democracy protests, so I think like that is is incredibly important to to note. But yeah, I must say that, you know, even when the protests started, and I started seeing speculation, this would be the end of the party and this would be the end of the cGMP. Like, I just don't think that is how to think about it. And hopefully the prints, provide some frameworks for the way to actually think about it. So one thing we tried to do was, you know, once we get to see Jinping taking power in the series, we look at how he seizes control of the Chinese Communist Party first, in in that episode, where we really look at the Soviet Union, and then in subsequent episodes, we we basically are looking at okay, he seized control of the Chinese Communist Party. How does he now seize control of China? And the reality is that increasingly, the party has very, very powerful censorship, propaganda and surveillance machines. And in order for those protests, there's extraordinary protests we saw at the end of last year and in order for them to truly be a threat to the Chinese Communist Party, what would have had to happen was, we would have had to see organizing across China, in multiple cities, you know, and the other thing is, I would note like, while they were these protests were extraordinary. It was, you know, a couple of 100 a couple of 1000 people in a country of 1.4 billion people. So the number of protesters was really, really sort of quite small compared to the population of China. And so what we would have had to see for it to really, really pose a threat I think is for the protests to be very, very widespread, you know, billions of people taking to the streets with the support of Chinese Communist Party members at the very, very highest level of the party, who had an in with the Chinese military, which serves the party. Unlike many other militaries around the world. The Chinese military is there to serve the Chinese Communist Party. And we would have had to see these millions of protesters circumvent the censorship machine, the propaganda machine and the surveillance machine and we didn't see any of that. And in fact, what has now happened it tragically is that many of these very brave protests protesters have been detained have been disappeared. Because these machines that the Chinese Communist Party has built and has at its fingertips are so powerful that they were able to round up many, many of the protesters who took to the streets.
The second sort of much much chatter about event was a publicly broadcast senior party meeting, where one former senior party member was very publicly lifted and dragged out from from that large auditorium. While C Jinping himself seemed quite unaffected, you know, didn't even turn to respond. And there was so much talk and analysis about what he was trying to communicate with that and what the message was that the larger public should take away. Did you happen to look at that and did you sort of get any input from the folks you spoke with about what that was about?
And I'm hoping your internet hasn't frozen completely so we can get you back online.
For those who that was another moment,
you're back. Go ahead.
Sorry. Sorry. Yeah. That was another moment where I was just absolutely glued to social media glued to my computer. I just, I probably shouldn't admit this, but I must have watched that video, where who Jintao, the former leader of China was escorted off the stage at the party congress in front of the world's cameras. I must have watched that video 20 times or so played it on slow motion and tried to look at it from different angles. Because it was just an extraordinary scene again. So the first thing I would say is that we just don't know what happened and we probably will never know what happened. Because elite Chinese politics is a black box. There's so much we don't know. And that was something we really grappled with trying to make this podcast about. cGMP you know, there's so much of his life that I still have no idea about. And there's so many things about the Chinese politics that you none of us really know about. And I actually think it's helpful that we just open about this. I think it can lead to sort of better analysis. So first of all, we yet we don't really know, but what is there are a couple of interesting things about it. One, China's big political meetings like this Congress, a highly curated, highly orchestrated and si Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party would have known that at that moment when who Jintao was? unceremoniously escorted off stage. At that moment, the foreign press corps journalists from around the world had been allowed into that that big theater where this where this Congress was being held, this meeting was being held so they would have known that, you know, the wells eyes were on what was we're looking at what was happening. The other thing is, that was notable that was that no one really reacted on stage. And you know, if your former boss seemed to be having some kind of problems, whether it was health problems or something else, I don't know i It feels like human instinct would be tried to, you know, get up and go and help them. And yet, we didn't really see anyone do that, except one of the other senior members of the party who was sitting right next to him. And I think that is very telling. You know, everyone sort of stared straight ahead and seem to be trying to take their cue from cGMP which indicates to me that there's a lot of fear even at the very highest levels of the party. Over You know what might happen if anyone steps out of line, if anyone questions cGMP himself. But again, this is this is all speculation. And then then the final thing I would note is that who Jintao has been known to belong to a particular faction called the Communist Youth League? And it was expected that some of his Kritische A's would be promoted to the highest levels of the party during that Congress. And what was notable was none of them were promoted and actually, you know, one was even demoted. So that also just goes to show how much C Jinping has really consolidated his power. But it was an extraordinary sight. Yes, definitely. I agree.
You know, so much of your podcast is such a it's such a fantastic construction, audio wise and expert you know, in terms of an experience you cooking alongside your mum, you know, all these interesting stories that you weave them to, to the larger story, but there is the very real threat and fear of what you're doing. There are very real consequences to people safety and your own. And I think within that perhaps the most difficult one for someone to listen to was episode five about a whistleblower or at least for a journalist to listen to, he who shall not be named as a journalist, which, you know, where were the points where you had to sit down and say, Okay, I need to take a minute here. This is a lot to process and there are genuine consequences here for people and I have to be mindful of that.
Yeah, I think I do that every day or my career as a China journalist, which started you know, many years before making this podcast. And I just think China kind of reporting is really, really tough on many levels, including the level you just you just alluded to, which is, you know, how do we protect our sources? And how do we make sure that we keep everyone safe? Because, you know, I know story is worth one of our sources going to jail for I used to cover North Korea from the Chinese side of the border. And so for, you know, I wouldn't be based in Beijing, but I would travel to all kinds of towns along the Chinese border with North Korea and it was a really, really fascinating beat. But it was so challenging because anywhere you go in China as a reporter, the minute you check into a hotel, the police are notified by the and very often they will show up, it's got you to the police station, question you and then take you to the train station or airport and ask you to leave or you'll be out you know, on the road near the border. of North Korea and there will be roadblocks, you sort of, again be taken off to a police station held for many hours. I remember sometimes being worried that the police officers would ask to see everything on my phone. So I would go to the toilet at the police station and quickly send all my photos and my quotes to my editor in Beijing, hoping that you know, we'd still be able to make some kind of story out of it. And then that's just what it's like, physically on the ground. And and the other thing I would add is I think things have really changed since COVID. And since you know QR codes on and I have to defer to my colleagues for what what has happened since then, because I haven't been reporting on the ground in China since mid 2020. But you know that there's also all the cyber considerations because the most commonly used App in China WeChat, which everyone uses, often for multiple hours every day is heavily surveilled. And so as a journalist, you can't really reach out to your sources on WeChat if you're working on a sensitive story, so for this podcast on cgamp I didn't message a single Chinese contact on WeChat, which is the most used app in the whole of China. And so there's all kinds of really, really big challenges and ethical questions when trying to report something like this. So one other thing I would add is at the end of each episode in the credits, we we credit some very brave people who we cannot name and the reality is like there is absolutely no way we could have made this podcast series without the help of some very, very brave people we can't name Amen. So I think you know, it's not just about who we're interviewing on the podcast. It's it's also about who what local journalists are we working with and how do we protect them?
No, absolutely. I'm going to switch out to some of the questions coming in and there are several questions coming in. And then if there's time, I'll ask you some of mine as well. There's one that says very interesting. Sulan in case you're going to talk about it. I have a question. How do you see the possibility that C Jinping would actively support the war on Ukraine and step into the war? And what is the atmosphere in China in that regard? Are people okay with that?
what the propaganda war in Ukraine, you know, China says that it is neutral, but actually it's it's really supporting Russia. And what is it's driven by is is the fact that it really wants America distracted in Europe, and it doesn't, it doesn't want to support. I think the idea that it's going to you know, support the West and support America in in this war is is just not the right way to think about it. It's pretty convenient, that there is this China Russia partnership, China has gotten a lot out of the war in Ukraine. It's benefited from Russia selling it a lot of energy. And yeah, I think we could expect to see si Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party continuing to sort of support Russia. Even if it sort of says it's neutral.
if there was some speculation early on in the wall that facilitate dialogue, I just don't believe it that we will see that happen.
Okay, let me switch across to our room where our fellows are waiting with their questions. Let me hop across first to Terry, I think who has a question, Terry, why don't you tell us where you're from and then your question to Su Lin. Hi,
Talia from Norway. Thank you so much fun, interesting presentation. I was. I was curious about the reaction from
CCP to your podcast.
Whether yourself or worse, some of your sources
has experiences any problems with CCP after broadcasting the podcast and how you're dealing with that
if if your sources are having problems after this
Yeah, that's about throughout the making of the podcast. And you know, it's something that I've thought a lot about and I sort of did something I continue to think a lot about so far. As far as I know, there hasn't really been a reaction from the Chinese Communist Party. We The Economist currently has three China correspondents on the ground in China, two in Beijing, one in Shanghai. So yeah, I mean,
that that has sort of got to the current situation.
Matala, you're on mute sorry.
Sorry guys, back into the room and can we swivel over to UC please who has
thank you so much for talking with us today. You mentioned that reporters from the West have a tendency of incorporating their own worldview when they are doing their China coverage instead of taking China on its own terms. And I was wondering if this was the case when the reason protests were covered? Because I think the the Western media, there was a lot of wishful thinking. But ultimately, the protests were about the people in China wanting more democratic rights and freedoms. And I'd love to hear your assessment on those protests from this angle. Do you see signs of Chinese public actively actively wanting a more democratic society? Or is this an example of western ideals? being imposed on or reading off the situation?
definitely think journalists a dog and a bias in favor, sometimes for good reason. But I think it's really important that we're aware of that those biases so that when we do come to selecting stories and framing stories, we've sort of where we're doing it with with great interest in all kinds of reporting, but But I definitely see it a lot in China reporting. And, you know, I think as you mentioned, there was there is a lot of wishful thinking that, you know, the party is going to collapse and C Jinping is, is going to be booted out when a couple of 100 people take to the streets in Shanghai, but I think sort of a more useful way to think about a
story like that, which absolutely shouldn't be covered is to understand, you know, all the ways that try and control instability and, you know, look at history and look at what happens to people who protest and sort of really trying to understand the the tools that the party has to exert control and sort of think about the scenario in which the parties grip on power would genuinely be threatened. So yeah, I think this is definitely something that I care a lot about, like, you know, how do we think about China in rigorous in a rigorous way? And then how do we try to use those ways of thinking to understand what is going on now? Because I think, you know, it's not necessarily that good reporting. And good analysis is going to lead to good policy and good decisions. But I think bad reporting and bad analysis is definitely not going to lead to good policies and good decisions.
fairpoint I think that that should be printed on a t shirt for journalists from many countries. Let me go across to Natalia now who has a question as well, Natalia.
Thank you, so much for your office. My question is about details you provide for for the audience about his past and his childhood, and sometimes it sounds like excuses. We understand his behavior better and his political approach. Maybe also, what do you think about such kind of side effect of the podcast when we feel kind of empathy about the main hero? And my next question, do you do a Chinese audience usually when we do projects about dictators, we serve an audience that is aware of the situation already, and it's sort of hard to reach the other part of the audience, other social bubble, people who are not very aware of what's going on in China. For instance, was it possible in your case?
Sorry, can you just repeat the second part of your final question, your second question?
I didn't catch it.
Yeah. Did you try to reach a Chinese audience? Was it possible in your case, because usually when we do the project project about the taper sheet, about countries like China or Russia, we serve the audience which is aware about the situation already.
I see right. Yeah. So I would use audience although I honestly think a local Chinese journalist would be messaging him or a Chinese audience should be completely in Chinese. It shouldn't be in English. So
we were making this
we were all you know, the economist is an English language publication. So it was a for our listeners are in America and UK. So we we definitely had we definitely had discussions about you know, who we making this for, and we tried to
keep that audience in mind.
And I you know, I wish I would love one day for there to be a podcast series on cGMP and Chinese for Chinese people. But I probably am not the right person to make it and I think given the political environment, unfortunately, we might be waiting a very long time for that, that exact podcast to exist. And then on your first question, which I think is a great one. I not sure if people come away after listening to the full series.
to see jumping. You know, I think what we were trying to do in the early episodes is make sure we didn't start getting back to sort of journalists bringing their own worldviews and their own assumptions to reporting which, you know, is something we were trying to avoid. I think sometimes. There is a risk that journalists start with CGP is crazy, or what teaching is doing doesn't make any sense, when in fact, actually, it's not like at all and what he's doing makes a lot of sense. If you undo what he's doing clearly not if you sort of listen to the later episodes I think that becomes quite clear if you read our weekly coverage. That is also quite clear, but I think what we were really trying to do is
deeply understand and
where he's coming from and and how that has shaped his
thinking and how that drives him.
Unfortunately, we've got you on a really scratchy line. So lane so let me ask you one final question and then we'll let you run because I know that you've gone through many, many hoops to make it for this conversation. Everyone from the product side is probably sitting in listening to this thinking, How do I do it? How do I get the business side of podcast to work? How do I reel in an audience and create you know that much traction around podcasts as as a tool? You know, it would be great to hear some of that from you when you were sitting down in ideating with your team. You know, what were you thinking of this from a product side? How do you make a podcast successful in this way?
So yeah, I don't really know, to be honest, I think this was clearly you know, one thing that struck me is clearly this huge appetite. For stories that sort of ruminate important issues, but so I think the fact we tried to tell the story of China and tell the story of the party through C Jinping and through individual Oh, Chinese people's stories saved. But yeah, I didn't know if I didn't know if there is a secret sauce.
Yeah, that's the number one rule of a journalist don't don't reveal your special sauce. Right. But it's been great chatting to you. So Elaine, I know that you're sort of your mandate has opened up you're covering a lot more in Southeast Asia and perhaps you will find if not similarly challenging, but equally challenging countries. And regimes and issues to cover. You have all our best wishes. We're looking forward to another smashing podcast from you and we all going to be listening in. But thank you very much for joining in today and for speaking to us and to our fellows and we wish you luck and Godspeed.
Thank you very much
be back again soon enough with another guest but I think this one was really special and I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I enjoyed chatting to Solon. Thank you very much. Goodbye.