Yang Lan, born March 31, 1968, is a businesswoman, talk show hostess, and co-owner with her husband Wu Zheng of Sun Television Cybernetworks in Shanghai.
One Question, One World is Yang Lan’s personal account of her 20-year media career, and presents the truth of the times as she sees it. The book covers the period 1990 to 2010, and includes anecdotes of her meetings with world leaders such as Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, George Bush, Lee Kuan Yew, and with writer and chemical engineer Jack Welch. It also pinpoints transitional moments that contributed to her distinctive perspective on contemporary media and her personal ‘winning philosophy.’
The Lewinsky Scandal
As a talk show hostess, Yang Lan’s ratings depended largely on her raising incisive and often unwelcome questions. As the time drew near for her interview with former US President Bill Clinton, both her director and producer urged her to bring up and stay on the topic of the Lewinsky scandal. Yang, however, was hesitant. Probing him on this matter seemed to her disrespectful to a venerable former political leader. But then again she could not go through a whole interview without making some reference to it. Her way of getting around this quandary was to do some serious homework.
After leaving office, Clinton published the whole story of his affair with Lewinsky in the exhibition hall of the Clinton Presidential Library. In her interview with him Yang Lan ask the former president, “Generally, presidents accentuate their achievements in the books they publish in their libraries; why, then, would you highlight this particular aspect of your time in office?”
Statesman and master of self-control Clinton answered without batting an eyelid that his intention had been to show the malign result of an American partisan scuffle. Yang followed up by asking, “You say in your autobiography that at the opening phase of the scandal you’d been leading a ‘double life.’ When did it end?” This was obviously a less expected question, and Clinton, caught off guard, opened up. “As I came from a broken home full of violent contradictions I never expected anyone to understand me and so refused to let anyone enter my space. But after facing up to the necessity of telling my wife the truth and doing so, I felt empowered to face anyone on the matter.”
Stunned Silence: Wang Guangmei
Wang Guangmei (26 September 1921 – 13 October 2006) was a respected Chinese politician, philanthropist, and widow of Liu Shaoqi, who served as President of the People’s Republic of China from 1959-1968.
When asked which of the celebrities that she has interviewed she admires the most, Yang unfailingly answers, Wang Guangmei. When she entered the residence of the venerable former First Lady she had no idea how to address her. Wang told her, “Call me Guangmei, everyone does.”
Wang Guangmei suffered and survived ten years of humiliation and torture during the ‘cultural revolution.’ Yang marveled throughout the interview at the strength and courage it must have taken to stand by her so-called ‘counterrevolutionary’ husband throughout that dark period. When Yang broached the subject of Wang’s12-year prison sentence, she told her the only clue she had of the passage of time was the angle at which sunlight streamed in through the sole window in her cell. This revelation literally stunned Yang into silence.
Moment of Truth
When shooting the Excellent Overseas Chinese interview series, then 27-year-old Yang Lan regarded it as little more than the telling of success stories. When she met Cui Qi, distinguished Chinese physicist and Nobel Prize laureate in 1999, however, she realized this was a mistaken approach. She could see straight away that, rather than flushed with triumph, this brilliant scientist winner was self-effacing and a little shy.
Cui Qi told Yang Lan that he had been born into a family of farmers in Baofeng County, Central China’s Henan Province. Happy to help his father with farm work, he did not leave his village before the age of ten. It was then that his mother decided to send him to Hong Kong for a better education. The boy was unwilling to leave, but consented in the belief he would be home in time for the next wheat harvest. Cui Qi finally set off for Hong Kong carrying a parcel of the steamed buns his mother had made for him. He never saw his parents or his home town again.
Yang asked Cui, “If your mother had not insisted on sending you away to study, where do you think you would be today?” She expected him to answer with a cliché such as, ‘knowledge changes fate.’ But Cui Qi said, “Actually I would prefer to have remained an illiterate peasant. If I had not left the village and stayed with my parents, they would at least have had me to depend on.” Yang recalls how Cui’s answer made her feel both humbled and enlightened.
Cui’s Nobel Prize, scientific achievements and social recognition obviously could not compensate for his sense of heart-wrenching loss. This revelation showed Yang that she needed to change her mindset as to the tone of the program, or otherwise miss such illuminating glimpses of humanity. She thus elevated it from a shallow medium for self-congratulation.
1. Deciding to abandon a cozy bed and sleep instead on cold stones enables one to emerge from stagnation and explore new possibilities. And one’s body will one day warm these cold stones.
2. There are multitudes of opportunities in your life, but your dream still sleeps. Why not wake it up?
3. My favorite perspective is that of gauging the quality of a relationship according to whether or not the parties bring out one another’s better natures.
(Source: Yangtse Newspaper/ Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)