China / Society

Producers aim to change negative perceptions

By Cao Yin In Beijing And Sun Ruisheng In Taiyuan (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-08 07:38

The Impressive Scenery of Shanxi has made headlines because of the participation of government officials. It has been dubbed "reality TV for officials", but the show's producers say the description is misleading.

"Our aim in making the program is twofold: first, we want to make more people aware of Shanxi's tourism potential so they will visit the province. The second reason is to help drive Shanxi's economic transformation by cleaning up its image," said Tao Yixiao, station director of Shanxi TV.

Although Shanxi is known for its abundant coal resources, a number of recent corruption scandals involving local officials have overshadowed its former claim to fame and promoted a negative impression of grassroots officials, according to Tao.

"We wanted to make a program about tourism in the province, so we asked the mayors and Party secretaries of 11 cities to participate and cheer up our residents. We never imagined their participation would attract so much attention," she said.

Tao said the province has benefited from tourism in recent years, "but we can't just focus on traditional resources if we still want to develop quickly. In addition to the officials, we also invited celebrities and promoters to appear on the program, forming teams with local residents to compete on behalf of their hometowns," she said. An unexpected bonus is that local people are rediscovering the cultural resources on their own doorsteps, she added.

Gong Qiaoli, the show's director, said the program has colored the political stage in the province. Since 2012, when China's central leadership pledged to crack down on graft, a number of Shanxi officials have been investigated on allegations of corruption, which the media presented as a "political collapse".

Gong and Tao agreed that the economic benefits and Shanxi's improved image are far more important than the program. "The participation of the officials is just one part. If we only see them, it will be a small part of the whole program - the deeper meaning is much more important," Tao said.

Producers aim to change negative perceptions

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