Telling China's story

Telling China's story
Host and architect Danny Forster visits some of China's ambitious projects in the documentary How China Works, which will be aired as the first programme of Discovery Channel's new anthology Hour China.

Discovery Channel, known for its culturally diverse content, announced last week in Beijing the launch of Hour China, an documentary anthology about the Middle Kingdom.

The growing curiosity of global audiences about China has been motivating TV stations and content providers to create China-related materials with universal appeal.

Hour China will be a weekly programme and begin on Saturday.

It is expected to reach 90 million viewers in 37 countries and regions. The programme will also be available in Latin America, Europe and Africa by the end of May.

"We want these programs to have true market value. It's presented in a way that appeal to audiences worldwide and meanwhile is able to introduce to them the various aspects of China's development," says Fang Chang, general manger of Discovery China branch.

The first documentary, How China Works, will kick off on Saturday.

In the three-episode serial host and architect Danny Forster, who rose to fame through hosting Discovery's hit show Extreme Engineering, visits both ambitious projects and ordinary people's lives to gain insights into China's urbanization, technological innovations and people's aspirations and vision.

Highlighted stories include Foster's exploration of China's tallest tower and high-speed trains, his visit to a smartphone app company in Guangdong that's changing the way more than 400 million Chinese communicate and his participation in the cast of a Chinese TV series at Hengdian, famous for its outdoor film studios, to talk to young extras on the sets.

Short stories on where China is going are already found in print and on social media, but this is the first time they are being presented through a visually stimulating narrative, says Vikram Channa, vice-president of production, Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

The biggest challenge the production team faced during filming was gaining access to areas that aren't often open to foreigners, such as the world's largest radio telescope located in Pingtang county, Guizhou province.

"We told people clearly what kind of story we wanted to tell. In most cases they agreed with us. It means they believed we're objective," Channa says.

"We should see things with the eyes rather than the mind. That makes things universal."

Hopefully it will bring a different perspective from what they (foreign audiences) have seen before, says Enrique R Martinez, acting president of Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific.

Marnitnez attributes the successful launch of Hour China in part to their partnership with China Intercontinental Communication Center, a Beijing-based agency dedicated to promoting cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries.

He adds that the channel's high standards of programming were maintained for global screening.

Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific has been collaborating with CICC since 2004. By now they've jointly produced over 65 hours of China-related documentaries including China's Man Made Marvels and Ultimate Olympics.

In 2010, the two sides launched China Imagica, a project that brings Discovery's award-winning producers in conversations with local filmmakers involved in the making of the documentaries.

In the past decade, Discovery's "elite director programme" has also sponsored and provided professional training to hopeful young Chinese filmmakers.

Channa says he has come to understand China better by seeing the way young people think.

Channa came to China 15 years ago. His Indian background helped him to understand his neighbouring country's many changes-from being known as a manufacturing hub to aspiring to innovation.

"I understand how it feels to wake up among one billion people," he says.

Channa believes China is the world's new superpower and shares similarities with developed countries in the West.

But given the complexity and scale of its development, he adds, China's development is not something that can be copied from elsewhere.

"You have to find your own unique pathway from here," he says.

"The documentaries are not only about what China has been in the past decade, but rather indicate what it will become in the next five years."

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