In my opinion, China gets a bad wrap from many foreign media. Much has been written in defiance of the perceived secretness that surrounds the upper echelons of the ruling Party, so it might come as a surprise that I -- a white, foreign, female -- was invited to peek behind the curtain and explore one of the country's most important annual political meetings.[Special Coverage]
Every year at the start of spring, thousands of deputies and advisers converge in Beijing for two weeks to review the year past and discuss policies for the year ahead. This is China's Two Sessions, and while much of the agenda is related to domestic issues, it also has implications that extend past China's borders.
China wants to be more open to the world, and my invitation to cover the Two Sessions is part of a noticeable shift toward achieving just that.
Over the past two weeks, I have released stand alone, scripted videos and live-streamed shows. The latter, although not unknown in the west, is a very Chinese phenomenon, and worth billions of yuan. The reason behind its popularity in China, I believe, is that it is -- by and large -- unscripted. It is a platform for expression and opinion, which is intimate, personal and accessible. Perfect for what we had set out to do -- share the developments of this political meeting with an audience, the majority of whom may not have any prior knowledge of the subject matter.
In my role as an editor at Xinhua I have amassed a huge amount of information about China, I often jape that I should offer my services as an expert on Chinese agricultural reform. I have always strived to explain China and its policies so that people understand the context and its implications, as this is a large part of my work in the newsroom. This insight, I hope, has paid off in spades during the past two weeks as my colleagues and I have worked together to report on the Two Sessions.
In my lifetime I have experienced a huge shift in the way that people consume and process information. To stay relevant, media outlets have had to change as the needs of their audience have developed. Discussion offers a way for people to engage with content.
At the turn of the century much was being said about pervasive media, which a former colleague of mine once described as "the right media, at the right place, at the right time." Live streaming is not suitable in all situations, and neither is lengthy, jargon-riddled articles; each have a time and a place. If media outlets do not innovate the way they share and produce content they will become a product of a bygone era.
Over the last two weeks I have enriched my own knowledge about the world's second largest economy, and I hope, along the way, I have managed to impart some of this on those who have followed my correspondence.
By Helen Bentley