Yang Rui and Dialogue

Some people say there are no certainties in life, but those people would probably admit that there are certainly very high likelihoods. For example, if you turn on the TV in China, there is a very likelihood that you’ll be tuning in to crap. Still, raised on television as we are, foreigners in China will at times find themselves watching anyway. Whether we do it “to get a feel for the propaganda machine,” or out of some kind of sick masochistic pleasure, or simply because we’re starving for a little mindless TV action, we do watch broadcast TV from time to time. I very rarely watch TV in China (or in the U.S.), but for some reason I turned on the TV while I was eating lunch in my apartment today. I actually saw something rather interesting.

Yang Rui, anchor of CCTV's DIALOGUE

Yang Rui

The show that caught my attention was CCTV’s Dialogue. This show is infamous among expats in China because it’s so often so bad. The show is in English, and often it’s a number of Chinese people discussing some serious issue in English (which is kind of weird). There are also foreign guests at times, and if the topic is a controversial one in which the foreigner represents an opposing viewpoint, the host, Yang Rui, can be extremely smug and downright condescending.

What was interesting about today’s show was the guest, Jing Jun, a Chinese professor of sociology from Qinghua University. That he was educated in the United States was made clear by Jing Jun’s fluent English. (The same cannot be said for Yang Rui.) The topic was, of course, SARS. This time the angle was “the sociological implications of SARS.” What impressed me was the frankness with which Jing Jun discussed Beijing’s handling of SARS, even on CCTV, the national television station. Jing Jun stated in no uncertain terms that Beijing lied to the people and tried to cover up SARS cases in the beginning, and was only forced to come out with the truth when the lies became too apparent to the people. This is certainly no secret to anyone (the Chinese people not excluded), but I found it impressive that such a view would be expressed from such an obviously well-educated Qinghua University professor on the national television station. After Jing Jun expressed this opinion, Yang Rui quickly changed the topic. During the interview, Jing Jun also expressed the realistic view that SARS could be controlled, but was not going to go away anytime soon.

A lot of these Dialogue transcripts are available online. In doing a little research, I came across this transcript, an interview with a professor named Wu Qing on political participation in China. I found the transcript amusing, but also very interesting. It’s not long, so I recommend you read it in full, but but here are are two excerpts:

> Y: We know that the people’s deputy ID card is a symbol of a deputy’s responsibility and power, have you ever used yours in a practical situation?

> W: Yes, one example is that I used my card to stop a car that belonged to a high-ranking army officer. The car was driving into the bicycle lane at the time. Seeing that, I used my bicycle to stop the car because I felt I had the responsibility to protect ordinary citizens. So I produced my deputy ID card and said to the driver that he should stop and back out of the lane because the lane is for cyclists. And then this driver, a young man, got out of the car and swore at me, “Are you asking for trouble or what, old woman?” Later I filed a formal complaint in which I noted down the plate number of the car and described what had happened. About a month after that I got a phone call from an army officer, presumably the owner of the car. He said he wanted to come over to apologize and he did. And then two weeks later I got a call from that driver. He came over and pleaded with me to remove that line of his swearing from my complaint saying that otherwise he would have to leave the army and go back to where he came from. I told him, “Well, young man, I can’t do that, it’s not right for you to ask me to remove that line for that would mean I was slandering you.” But I did write a letter to that officer saying that I hope this young man would not be demoted from the army as a punishment. Young people sometimes make mistakes and they need a chance to correct their mistakes.


> Y: Some people think American democracy is closest to what democracy really means. Do you agree? Do you think we should follow the American style of democracy?

> W: I don’t really think so. Ten people might have ten different definitions of democracy. Each country has its own culture and history. We Chinese have our own idea of freedom and democracy, and Americans have theirs. Each has some problems. That’s why we always have to improve.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. excellent comments and I intend to have your email add and responses.

  2. interesting read, I remember that smug host very well. I’ll come back here surely!

  3. Da Xiangchang Says: December 10, 2005 at 6:40 am

    I thought Sinosplice was an “apolitical” blog; maybe this topic was made before John’s new designation. 😉

  4. Da Xiangchang,

    Pointing out someone’s blatant biases and leading questions does not a political statement make.

    However, I have seen your stuff on TTC, and know that you feel anything remotely negative about anything involving the PRC is an attack on China’s sovereignty. Surely the one thing that can unite the world is that Yang Rui is a dick, right?

  5. Da Xiangchang Says: December 13, 2005 at 5:58 am


    You need to read more of my comments. The only things I feel in agreement with the PRC are 1) Chinese minorities should learn Mandarin as their primary language and 2) Tibet and Xinjiang belong to China.

  6. Da XIangchang,

    “Chinese minorities”??? You mean the minorities in China? By using the ‘Chinese’ adjective you automatically erase their race and label them Han Chinese.

    I disagree with forcing the minorities in China to learn Mandarin as their ‘primary’ language. Secondary language, no problem. Switzerland has four official languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh). Each canton (autonomous region) has its own preferred language(s) chosen according to consultation with the locals. As a result, all four languages are alive and well–not to mention that many Swiss speak English.

    Don’t let national pride spin into discrimination of the minorities’ cultures, endangerment of cultural diversity and internal hatred!

    • R. Chen Says: June 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      I’ve visited many rural parts of China, and people speak mostly their indigenous languages (i.e. Tibetan, Mongolian, Sa’lar, etc. Mandarin is in fact their secondary language, and the language they’d use for advanced studies and research in terms of education, research, and development. Indigenous American natives can hardly speak a lick of their ancestral tongues. Even the “indigenous Mandarin speaking people” in places like Beijing, Shaanxi, Hebei, Ningxia Hui Autonomous region, etc, all speak their unique and original ancestral tongues, the “agglutinated” Mandarin. Wu language is considred a binding link between the so-called “Altaic” and Sino-Tibetan languages. What is Han “race” anyways? Stop you baloney “academic racial distinctions”. Han people are just agrarian Hun people. Sima Qian even recorded from ancient records the blood relationship of the so-called Han and Hun. There’s a lot to offer for the “Chinese minoroties/minorities in China” with the general national identity of China. Nothing pisses-off the Western racist and the E.T.I.M./Da-Lie Lama/etc cliques more than Chinese nationals (“Han” people or otherwise) realizing their national self-identity without Western propaganda influence.

  7. CCTV’s foreign language channels’ intruding in China. entertaining though.

  8. Interesting. This was written a long time ago, but in 2009, Yang Rui is still manipulating his guests and showing the English speaking expats how xenophobic Chinese can really be.

  9. Mark Smith Says: August 19, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Host of China Central TV 9’s Dialogue program asks – what the price of a ton of iron ore to a pinch of human rights?

    Tale of final straws and camel backs, Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor | August 19, 2009

    Regards Yang Rui, the host of China Central TV 9’s Dialogue program, comments telling Australia to use its ore earnings to deal with its camel over-population more humanely. I would point out to dear Yang Rui he should point out to the astute audience it is not Australia who has ended up with record foreign currency by China regulating their exchange rate and protecting their industries from competition. Nor is Australia up before the World Trade Organisation being accused of purposefully restricting access to vital ingredients required for steel making to the rest of the world.

    Maybe if China utilised the significant wealth it uses for industrial espionage, prying into the lives and computers of various minorities they believe to be a threat to internal cohesion both inside and outside China – China and Yang Rui could use that enormous wealth to treat China’s minority population in a more humane way.

    Australia would be only too pleased to accept the billions of dollars China has gained by its purposefully unbalanced exchange rate to deal with Australia’s camels. I am sure the Australian camels would appreciate it as well. A trip to Beijing first class air fare would be most pleasing to a camel.

    Also regards Yang Rui, linking Australia’s planned cull of camels,to what Yang Ru called a “massacre … of innocent lives”. Given Yang Ruiwith concern for innocent lives what does Yang Ruiwith say about the lives of the many humans killed – Tiananmen Square , Cultural Revolution, numerous Uyghurs,….

    I wonder what the price of a ton of iron ore to a pinch of human rights?

  10. Yang Rui’s interviewing tactics are fantastic. Often he interviews government officials and then Dialogue is the best: He is deliberate, always courteous and all the questions but one are questions easy to answer. HOWEVER, this one is absolutely stunning. The interviewee – rather than leaving the room – will answer it perhaps because he knows that the easy questions will continue after it. The first time you hear such a question it is difficult to believe that he will not be quietly arrested before the next program. He is a great asset. All UK political interviewers would benefit using this approach.

    • beijingyank Says: April 3, 2010 at 10:16 am

      “There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” Goethe

      There is no question in my mind Yang Rui is one of the best journalists in the world today. He is fresh air compared to the crap rag journalism of the west controlled by an end of the world death cult minority.

      The pinhead comments I read criticizing Yang Rui is very amusing. You know these people are the product of “their” western propaganda journalism. A yellow journalism full of bias and agenda advertising that includes WMD’s, fairy tales of 911, Gulf of Tonkin, Global Warming, Oswald acted alone, with countless other examples of propaganda with the purpose of camouflaging group mind control and agenda journalism as “news.”

      Carl Rove referred to it as “we create the reality.”

      Except for being arrogant and actively ignorant, these heckling westerners don’t have a clue. Goethe describes them best when he said, “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

      Yang Rui is far superior as a journalist than anybody pumping the crap to sell soap in the west everyday of the week, 365 days a year.

    • Bradwell Jackson Says: June 16, 2010 at 3:48 pm

      Yang Rui is not always courteous. This is a ridiculous statement. He is the opposite of courteous. He is supercilious and pedantic. He is exremely rude to his guests and constantly interrupts them. Many times, when his guest makes a good point, he will then get in his final retort before ending the show or moving to the next topic. He is obviously trying to prove how smart he is and also that he knows English as well as any native-speaker. If he represents China, then he is insulting all of China.

  11. longaigu Says: March 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I have seen Yang Rui numerous times on CCTV 9 including just last night in which he constantly talked over top of his American guests comments. This man is rude, bias and a communist lap dog. He is a direct reflection of what the communists are in modern Chinese society.

  12. The problem with Yang Rui is not only his terrible interviewing techniques (he never lets anyone finish an answer unless he likes it), but also his poor English (I’m talking about intonation, tone of voice etc… all imperative for someone who claims to master a language).
    I know dozens of Chinese people who speak much better English than he does, but would never have the chance to do Yang Rui’s job.
    He also seems severely lacking in social skills. His style is stiff and unnatural and he has to be one of the most unlikeable personalities I have seen on TV. He may be good at many things but television is not one of them.

  13. mrnightcat Says: November 22, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Yang Rui does have a deserved poor reputation, in my opinion. He’s not always absolutely awful, but he certainly doesn’t make a pleasant host. What others have said is right – he often is rude to his guests and always trying to get in the final retorts, blocking off the speakers.

    The CCTV News Dialogue Special is on my TV now, one of the rare times I watch CCTV. Supposedly it’s a debate between various international university students – a student from Yale (US), one from Korea University, etc, that sort of format, about nationalism. But to be honest, you’ve already seen it without seeing it – there’s no retorts or arguments, but no debate either. It’s all diplomatic, totally non-specific language and ideas spoken by the students; the kind of stuff cleanly manufactured to not provoke any side, especially the Chinese hosts. They’ll either have been prepped in China or back home not to mention anything that shows a strong viewpoint or is likely to show an opposition to the host’s views on national Chinese TV.

    Sorry to be the cynical grandpa, but I’m sure I’m not the only one 🙂

    By the way, I’m a long-time reader of your blog, and it’s absolutely fantastic. Brilliant work in all your posts.

  14. Yang Rui is so predictably bad, he’s good. I find myself tuning into Dialogue specifically to see just how rude, condescending, and jingoistic he will be.

    It’s fun.

  15. Because of his comments, I have had a lot of bad things happen to me. I am married, in China, to a Chinese woman. I have a 5 year old daughter. Some parents at the school my daughter goes to, started questioning her. They wanted to know if I was a foreign spy. FIVE YEARS OLD!

    Thanks Yang. Your stupid Dialogue, Epilogue whatever show has hurt a multitude of foreigners in China, and honestly, many of us are thinking about getting out and using your statements as grounds for asylum for our families.


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