Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

'On China' -- Covering a nation in uncharted waters

By Kristie Lu Stout, CNN
updated 6:01 AM EST, Fri November 9, 2012
A giant flower looms over Tiananmen Square as Beijing prepares for China's once-in-a-decade leadership change.
A giant flower looms over Tiananmen Square as Beijing prepares for China's once-in-a-decade leadership change.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China and its so-called trade advantage has even dominated the U.S. presidential debate
  • Stout: 'On China' will provide "a deeper, intelligent look from inside the country itself"
  • Monthly show will feature thought leaders and astute observers of this world power
  • Stout: "There are no quick-edit sound bites. No populist posturing. No swooshes"

Hong Kong (CNN) -- It was about time.

It was about time for CNN to broadcast a regular series on China -- a deeper, intelligent look from inside the country itself.

And the interest is out there. Anyone who watched the second U.S. presidential debate this week between incumbent Barack Obama and Mitt Romney saw the China sparks fly both on air and online.

So much so, Twitter's government and politics team pointed out that President Obama's barb to Romney, "You're the last person to get tough on China," generated some 198,619 tweets per minute. It was the second-most tweeted moment of the debate.

More: Full show times

There's been so much chatter about the Chinese trade advantage and even a so-called Chinese century. But on major Western TV news networks, there's been no regular programming on Chinese politics, industry and society.

On China: Bo Xilai
On China: Xi Jinping
On China: The Party

From "Face the Nation" to "State of the Union," the U.S. has itself well covered with programming recorded from inside the Beltway. But what about a regular series on China broadcast from inside China's borders?

"On China" is a new monthly show shot on location at the historic Hullett House in Hong Kong. In each 30-minute episode, I sit down with thought leaders from China as well as astute observers of this world power for a roundtable discussion about what's really driving the country.

The topic may change month to month, but the goal will be the same -- to engage, inform, and ultimately narrow the gulf of misunderstanding about China.

There are no quick-edit sound bites. No populist posturing. No swooshes. Just straight-up analysis and insight from some of the strongest China watchers out there.

For the first episode, three unique voices joined me for a focus on the Chinese Communist Party ahead of China's rare leadership transition. They included leading publisher and influential blogger Hung Huang, former top official in the Chinese Foreign Ministry (and English interpreter for the late Deng Xiaoping) Victor Gao, and award-winning journalist and China commentator John Pomfret.

Read: China's next leaders: Who's who

On the structure of the Chinese Communist Party, Hung likened it to a company. Think: China Inc..

The topic may change month to month, but the goal will be the same -- to engage, inform, and ultimately narrow the gulf of misunderstanding about China.
Kristie Lu Stout

"It's like a corporation," she told me. "The board as the Politburo names the CEO, and then you have middle management which are the ministers and the various commissions, directors and so on. So, for me, it's really like a corporate town."

As for how Xi Jinping rose to the top as China's presumed next president, Victor Gao pointed to Xi's political pedigree as well as his military links.

"He had a very unique career path," said Gao. "He literally has experience in four provinces and cities -- Hebei, Fujian, Zhejiang and Shanghai -- in addition to his extraordinary experience at the Central Military Commission."

"In addition to that, when he was in a civilian position, Mr. Xi Jinping has kept his associations with the Chinese military through various ways -- serving in the reserved forces and taking up leadership of the provincial garrison. That sets him apart from all all the current civilian leaders in China."

John Pomfret said Gao's points about Xi's ties to the military are significant, as they have been largely ignored by the Western media. Pomfret also said Xi will come to power at a time of remarkable instability for the Party.

"We're entering a new period of uncharted waters, where China's facing an enormous amount of challenges -- challenges from very charismatic and populist figures like Bo Xilai, challenges from the bottom up from people demanding more predictability in their lives, a legal system that will protect their property, a good school for their kids, clean food for their children and clean air to breathe."

How the new leadership manages the Party's political fractures and the people's growing demands will be a gripping drama to watch unfold in the years ahead... and to cover on CNN's "On China."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 1:38 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
updated 1:45 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
updated 8:18 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
updated 10:00 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
updated 1:13 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
updated 5:08 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
updated 12:52 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
updated 3:42 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
updated 12:10 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
updated 3:12 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT