Iain Inglis (in red) records a show for Hainan TV in Hainan Province in January 2020 (COURTESY PHOTO)
For many years, Iain Inglis didn't really think about joining a particular party, but life in China changed his mind. "In a sense you could say the Communist Party of China (CPC) inspired me to join the Communist Party of Britain (CPB)," he told Beijing Review.
Inglis joined the CPB as an overseas member in 2017 after living China for nearly 13 years. "I suppose that for most of my adult life, I've had views similar to those of the communists. I just figured it was the right time and the right thing to do: to go and support this political party in whatever small way I possibly could," he said.
A distorted image
After decades of basically doing almost anything to tarnish the image of communist parties by Western propaganda, Inglis explained, the prevailing British impression of a communist is someone who is a bit of a loony. "My close friends and parents know of my political affiliations, but I suppose if I were to bring it up with a stranger, it could have a bad connotation," he said.
British media outlets often paint a picture of China as more or less a drab, repressive communist autocracy where citizens don't have any basic freedoms and even the rule of law does not exist, according to Inglis, a lot of the existing misunderstandings are purposeful—and almost by design.
"Ordinary individuals might misunderstand and be led to believe China is an oppressive state where people are forced to do things they don't want to do and everyone is brainwashed," he said. "But I think that is an image portrayed and pushed by Western media."
Inglis recalled one scene in a BBC news report about Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China saying how Uygur locals were "forced" to speak putonghua, or standard Chinese, presumably against their will, with the camera zooming in on a slogan that read "please speak putonghua."
"This slogan is everywhere in China, not just in Xinjiang; putonghua is the language of the majority of people and is the lingua franca of the country," he said. "If people are going to understand one another, then you should speak putonghua. There was nothing spurious or underhand about that." He added that the way it was presented would possibly give British audiences the impression that this kind of thing was happening on a daily basis.
"But we should not blame these ordinary viewers, because they don't know about China," Inglis was quick to add. Even politicians at times tell tall tales about China, a country many of them have never even visited.
Visitors enjoy the ocean view at a scenic spot in Sanya City, Hainan Province, on October 3 (XINHUA)
When Inglis told his parents he would be going to China in 2004, their immediate reaction was "don't go there; it's an awful place."
"My parents' generation was deeply, deeply influenced by Cold War propaganda; they had been immersed in this type of negative narrative," he added.
While the CPC was indeed one of Inglis' reasons for coming to China, he also wanted to learn more about Chinese society under the Party's leadership.
After spending several years in Shanghai, Inglis relocated to Sanya in China's southernmost province of Hainan, where he runs his own company and appears every week as a guest presenter on regional broadcaster Hainan TV.
"I have witnessed some huge and dramatic changes in China," he said, adding examples of vast infrastructure, transportation and electricity projects, as well as projects bringing safe running water to remote communities. Sanya has seen massive change for the better.
In January 2007, when Inglis first arrived in Sanya, it was a small, underdeveloped city with only three bus routes. Today, Sanya has developed into a noted tourist resort boasting mountains, rivers and China's finest sea views and bringing in holidaymakers by the millions.
In the past decade, especially, local living conditions have improved a lot.
"As part of my work here, I travel around Hainan, into its small villages and rural communities, and interview locals about their lives, how their lives have changed, what their living conditions are like now, and so on," Inglis said, adding people's lives are changing for the better—"in all honesty, without exception."
In a 2021 poll on overall satisfaction levels with government conducted by the Harvard's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, China's Central Government received a 91-percent approval rating from its population.
China's progress largely stems from the CPC's people-centered governance philosophy and development plans. "I have every reason to think these positive changes—monumental changes, really—are set to continue apace and China will move from strength to strength," Inglis said.
Like many other countries, China, too, grants foreigners permanent residence permits. Inglis went on to explain how many of his friends didn't know about this and also didn't believe he had been granted one.
"Hainan is embracing the world; it's not a closed or draconian autocratic society at all," he said.
In terms of China's role on the global stage, Inglis referred to the Belt and Road Initiative, which China first proposed in 2013 to boost connectivity along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes through the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.
"I always liken it a little bit to China's commitment to internationalism because it's not moving into countries in some sort of imperialist manner, by taking things or threatening the status quo or whatever; what it basically wants, is win-win cooperation," he said. "It wants both sides to benefit. And of course China itself, too, would like to benefit from any deals."
China also wants the Belt and Road Initiative to be sustainable and beneficial to all parties involved. "The initiative is almost like internationalism in new clothing, a new form. It will do a lot for internationalism," Inglis said.
In an attempt, in some small way, to counter the overwhelming negative narrative on China pushed by many Western media outlets, and the new cold war waged by certain Western governments against it, "I resolve to continue to work to the best of my ability to promote Hainan and China more broadly, in a positive light, to foreign audiences, and to continue to tell Hainan's and China's stories to the world," Inglis concluded.
(Print Edition Title: No Man Is an Island)
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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