Australian reporter Andrea Yu became a minor internet sensation when she stood up at an 18th Party Congress press conference and asked a question in (relatively) flawless Mandarin, because there’s nothing the Chinese internet likes more than a laowai speaking Chinese.
However, when other journalists started paying attention they noticed that Ms Yu was being called on to ask questions a lot, especially for a foreign reporter.
Those events weren’t outliers, Ms. Yu told China Real Time, who says she has been called upon four times so far. She says her secret to being tapped is sitting in the same spot at every official meeting. She also credits her ability to make across-the-room eye-contact with moderators.
Except the real reason she gets picked to ask questions is that Party officials know that she won’t ask them anything difficult:
They know my questions are safe … I’m representing a Chinese-Australian company, so I need to ask questions they want me to ask.
Ms Yu’s employer, CAMG Media Group, is affiliated with state-run China Radio International, though Laurie Burkitt at China Real Time reports that the relationship is “unclear”.
Ms Yu wasn’t called on in Monday’s housing press conference, for which she was grateful “I’m so glad, otherwise all the foreign journalists here would hate my guts.” Sorry Andrea, but it might be too late for that.
Update #1: ABC’s Stephen McDonnell interviewed Ms Yu in the Great Hall of the People:
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Is it a little disingenuous for you to be up here I suppose with the appearance of being an independent international journalist when really you’re working for a Chinese company?
ANDREA YU: Yes, that’s a good question. It is interesting, and a lot of people have asked me about that. The fact is, I chose to be employed by them, and I’m representing their company.
Translation: Yes, yes it is disingenuous.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: Because I mean you could say that it’s as if the Chinese government has brought you up here as a sort of friendly journalist to essentially ask itself questions that it likes about its own performance.
ANDREA YU: Yes, you could say that, but you could only say that if you knew who my company was and we are fairly, I would say, not very well-known at this stage.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: You don’t feel though, potentially, that you’re being used by the Chinese government to show that there’s something going on that really isn’t happening?
ANDREA YU: It’s something that I think a lot of foreigners have to think about when they come here. It’s also very difficult because…
It’s something that a lot of foreigners who work for news organizations controlled in part by the Chinese statehave to think about certainly.
STEPHEN MCDONNELL: [You're called upon because] they know they’re going to get an easy question from you, though, don’t they?
ANDREA YU: I think that’s part of it, yes.
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