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Starting to search for Shangri-La

Publish Time: 2018-11-06 Author: Laurence Brahm From: chinadaily.com.cn

China Reform and Opening – Forty Years in Perspective 

Starting to search for Shangri-La

Editor's note: Laurence Brahm, first came to China as a fresh university exchange student from the US in 1981 and he has spent much of the past three and a half decades living and working in the country. He has been a lawyer, a writer, and now he is Founding Director of Himalayan Consensus and a Senior International Fellow at the Center for China and Globalization. 

He has captured his own story and the nation's journey in China Reform and Opening – Forty Years in Perspective. China Daily is running a series of articles every Thursday starting from May 24 that reveal the changes that have taken place in the country in the past four decades. Starting this month, China Daily will run two articles from this series each week – on Tuesday and Thursday. Keep track of the story by following us. 

The search for Shangri-La had begun. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Beijing spring, jasmine flowers were awakening. The ever-ebullient Zhao Qizheng, China's news and information minister, summoned me to his office. Now my advice was not being sought on how to lure foreign investment, but on how to restructure China’s media sector.

It was 2002 and China was embarking on a fiscal spending program. Zhao wanted to create domestic consumption to counter reliance on exports. That meant developing China's interior, not only focusing on the coastal cities. Infrastructure investment would "open the west", Zhao said, "just as America opened its west too!"

"Now, how can we use media to positively influence investment into China's western regions?" he asked.

I thought about it for a moment. "Just let Chinese travel, visit China's western regions, and make their own judgment. It is really much more effective, believe me. There is a Chinese saying 'to lure the tiger out of the mountain'. It was one of the ancient 36 strategies. Just intrigue visitors to take a trip and see for themselves. If China's media can just do this, it's a huge step."

Zhao nodded. He seemed to agree. He was excited, talking about China's policies of opening the western areas to multi-tiered investment, "First state investments in infrastructure, then Chinese private investment to enjoy the benefits of the infrastructure, then foreign investment to enjoy the wealth of China's private sector. Accumulatively it will raise standards of living for all the minority people, and create a super consumption market for China’s coastal products!"

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