Rui used to be the most popular English anchor in China. Photo – Internet
A wayward Chinese talent goes off air
By Yuan Quan | CHINA FEATURES
“See you later on TV, my friends,” said Rui Chenggang made his usual micro-blog sign-off to his 10-million-plus followers on Friday of July 13.
However, the polarizing China Central Television (CCTV) anchor has neither updated his micro-blog nor appeared on his 8:30 p.m. news program since.
His colleagues were unable to contact him and his sudden departure left an empty seat beside his co-host when his show aired that night.
Caixin, a leading financial and business news journal, reported that the finance and economics channel personality had been detained in an investigation. The channel’s deputy director-general, Li Yong, and another unnamed producer were also taken in for questioning on July 11.
Rumor has it that the investigation of Rui is related to corruption accusations involving the channel’s director-general, Guo Zhenxi, or to Rui’s family-owned company, which is suspected of profiting from his media connections.
The news quickly went viral and has been widely reported at home and abroad. Some say Rui is the most famous public figure involved in an investigation since President Xi Jinping launched a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign last year.
Supporters say the 37-year-old will be okay as he is an icon of Chinese talent: top scorer in the national college entrance examination; graduate of a prestigious Chinese university; Yale World Fellow; anchor of English-language state media; and author of two autobiographies.
In addition, he is handsome, confident and willing to speak his mind both in Chinese and English.
His fans call the handsome
anchor as the icon of Chinese
talent. Photo – Internet
But opponents criticize him as a narrow-minded nationalist, whose antagonizing remarks are a constant source of controversy.
Rui made his name writing a blog in 2007, describing the opening of a Starbucks inside Beijing’s Forbidden City as an “erosion of Chinese culture.” His words sparked a public campaign that eventually ousted the Western coffee chain from the former home of the emperors.
Rui was praised – at home and abroad – for preserving China’s cultural integrity, but his critics thought the victory of narrow nationalism actually destroyed China’s image as a more open society.
Since then, Rui has maintained that he is helping to make China’s voice heard in the world.
He also stirred controversy during a press conference at the G20 summit in 2010 in Seoul when U.S. President Obama asked if any reporters from the host country would like to pose any questions. When no Korean reporters rose, Rui raised his hand and said: “I’m actually Chinese. But I think I get to represent the entire Asia.”
Domestic commentators described him as very aggressive and self-centered. The anchor replied that if China could not make its voice heard, then it would be weak and soon become a target of criticism, which would affect its image in the world.
In 2005, Rui went to Yale as a visiting fellow. When a professor said China was not a democratic country, Rui stood up immediately, arguing that Americans always thought their democracy was real democracy, when in fact it had different meanings.
According to Southern People Weekly, Nigerian rights activist and university teacher Hauwa Ibrahim said she was very impressed by Rui’s patriotism, and Rui always raised topics about China and corrected people’s misconceptions.
At the World Economic Forum, a Japanese official’s remark that many infectious viruses in Japan came from illegal Chinese immigrants enraged Rui, who retorted that many northeast Chinese still suffered from chemical weapons left by the Japanese during the World War II.
Rui’s professional colleagues speak highly of him. “Rui helps CCTV go international,” said Qian Xi, a news producer who worked with Rui for a decade.
Qian said they went to Davos to cover the World Economic Forum with four other people in 2008. Only Rui got media accreditation. With his mastery of English and knowledge of international affairs, he successfully interviewed many important political and business leaders.
Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University, says Rui is respected abroad as he is sophisticated, confident, outspoken, and likes to challenge – qualities admired in Western cultures.
Rui’s international reputation grew after the World Economic Forum and visiting politicians and other leaders were happy for him to interview them. He has boasted of friendships with international leaders and has frequently appeared in photos with Bill Clinton, Mario Monti, Christine Lagarde and Kevin·Rudd.
Rui always said to his colleagues that Bill Clinton was his friend. Photo – Internet
Rui always boasted his friendship with the former Australian Prime Minister. Photo – Internet
However, many people have grown weary of his big-name-dropping and his increasingly strange and unreasonable questions.
He needled former US Ambassador to China Gary Locke during an interview at the Summer Davos in Dalian in 2011, saying, “I hear you flew here coach. Is that a reminder that the U.S. owes China money?”
He asked basketball star Yao Ming an absurd question in 2012: “Why do you earn 40 million yuan a year, while a local official who also works hard only gets 200,000 yuan for the whole year.”
“It seems that he speaks for Chinese officials,” said a posting on the popular online forum Zhihu.
“Real talent should speak for the weak,” said another post. “Rui is too arrogant and aggressive.”
Rui said he would not mind people’s doubts on him, and he welcomed
different ideas. Photo – Intrnet
Rui finished his second book Something for Nothing quoting Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, which has the words: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too…yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it…”
Blog Editor: MIAO HONG