Conversations with chief correspondents in Beijing

By Cui Can
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 29, 2017
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Mario Schmidt, Beijing Bureau Chief of ARD German Television. [Photo provided to]

"Our whole family is interested in China and we want to see how the story of China goes on." Mario Schmidt still remembers back in 2015 when he got the assignment as Beijing Bureau Chief of ARD German Television, the whole family discussed and decided to take the chance to get to know more about the country. After over two years, they have settled down in the Chinese capital.

"We love Beijing people. They are friendly, confident and have lots of smile. We feel we are welcome and have made a lot of friends," Mario says.

Mario is the fifth guest participating in the series of interviews, "Beijing in My Eyes -- Conversations with Chief Correspondents" presented by Radio Beijing International. The interviews feature Beijing-based chief correspondents and heads of foreign media who have been working and living in Beijing for years to share their stories in capturing the changes and development of the city over the past five years.

One of the most interesting topics for Mario, or the German audience to be exact, is the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region's coordinated development.

"Our audience is mostly interested in the infrastructure development. Sometimes it's difficult for them to understand why so many bridges and subways have been built, and what does it mean for the ordinary people. My reports are to provide them a bigger picture that a mega city like Beijing, it's not enough to focus on just one city but to take into consideration the surrounding areas to solve certain problems," Mario says.

Mario admits his biggest worry before moving to Beijing was the smog. However, he has noticed some recent changes in media reports. "The focus has switched to see why the smog still happens despite the city government's great efforts in addressing the pollution," Mario explains.

One of his latest findings is that Beijing's smog has a lot to do with the wind direction. "When the wind blows from the south, then there is smog; when a north wind (comes), it's a blue sky. We try to tell people, Beijing itself is not a very smoggy place. It actually could be a super nice place," he added.

During the past two years, Mario has witnessed China's Belt and Road Initiative grow to be one of the most-discussed and influential topics in the country and even around the world. However, two years ago, when the topic was less popular than it is now, the veteran journalist had already sensed its importance in reshaping the world.

He, along with his colleagues, traveled to Xi'an, Lanzhou, Dunhuang and some places along the ancient Silk Road to produce a documentary of landscapes, art and people he met on the road.

"The project of One-Belt-One-Road is a great project. There hasn't been any other project like this in other places of the world. It connects people from different countries to make business easier. The infrastructure will make some difference to these countries in the future," Mario comments.

"How will it change the world? It's still an open question. Maybe we will get the answer in the next 10 years," Mario adds.

When talking about Beijing's development, Mario says he is amazed by the speed it moves forward. From shared bikes which spread across the city overnight to digital payments which overthrows the old days of cash, "People here always grab the new technology quickly. It's fascinating!"

Another speedy phenomenon that impressed Mario is the construction of Beijing's New Airport. A frequent flier as Mario is, he has found that when flying over the southern part of the city, the new international airport has already taken shape, consisting of a centerpiece and five arms resembling a phoenix. "That is amazing! It takes about 3 years since the huge project broke earth. I hope I can get inside to see how they made it!" Mario says.

He continues by joking, "The project of the new Berlin Capital airport has been delayed and delayed. My report can tell them what Beijing's efficiency is."

Nowadays, Mario and his family have fully immersed into the life in the city. His wife Silke Schmidt speaks fluent Chinese and loves to take the subway to go around the city. Their son plays football and their daughter loves field hockey. They join teams to play with local counterparts. Mario, although somewhat annoyed by the traffic, likes to go walking with the family in Chaoyang Park.

"Here you have intelligent heads, young people are eager to learn more about the world. There is so much potential in this country. And Beijing, you never know when a new landmark building will be erected in the city, nor do you know somewhere there is a new restaurant open to get your taste buds, or where the next invention is coming up... it's a thrill to see all these changes and development."

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