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Eye witness: From Khartoun to Beijing, Reporting on the Chinese Dream

Eye witness: From Khartoun to Beijing, Reporting on the Chinese Dream

 

Friendship with a Chinese journalist working in Sudan led Yahya Mustafa to Beijing, where he has experienced and reported on China's rapid development for almost two decades.

 

Yahya Mustafa visits a mosque in Beijing. He has lived in China for nearly two decades and is now a veteran political reporter. Provided to China Daily

When Sudanese journalist Yahya Mustafa first arrived in Beijing, he was unfamiliar with the huge city and uncertain about his future.  That was 18 years ago. Since then, the 55-year-old devout Muslim has witnessed every kind of change in China, including the rapidly growing economy, skyrocketing house prices and progress in human rights and media.

 

"Every time my family visits Beijing, they are amazed by the changes," says the native of Khartoum, capital of Sudan. "For instance, the first time I arrived in Beijing, there were only two subway lines. Now, the subway system is one of the best in the world."

 

In 2011, Mustafa was bestowed the Friendship Award, China's highest award for "foreign experts who have made outstanding contributions to the country's economic and social progress".

 

"For me, it is definitely a great honor," he says.

 

On Feb 2, 1959, Sudan became the second country in Africa after Egypt to establish diplomatic relations with China. Mustafa recalls seeing the arrival of Chinese people in Africa in the 1970s. He says the Chinese brought agricultural technologies and contributed to the infrastructure and medical fields.

 

"The Chinese people and companies did a great job in helping locals build small projects like textile factories, roads, bridges and wells, which successfully improved the industry and agriculture output," he says.

 

It was then that he made his first Chinese friends - journalists from Xinhua News Agency who came to his office to collect news material.  He used to work late and would hitch a ride with the Chinese journalists back home. His house was a 10-minute walk from Xinhua News Agency's office in Khartoum.

 

It was through his friendship with one of the journalists, Wang Yadong, that he found a job at China Radio International, a Chinese state-owned international radio broadcaster, and moved to China.

 

"It meant both opportunity and challenges. After listening to stories from Wang about China and with my wife's support, I decided to take this adventure," says Mustafa.  "For me, the most important convenience was that I could worship in mosques in Beijing."

 

As a veteran political reporter, he covered China's top political events, including the annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.  One of his biggest reports was about a successful entrepreneur in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, a western province with a high population of Chinese Muslims.

 

The Arabic report headlined, "From a jobless factory worker to an entrepreneur", which Mustafa wrote in 1999, described the entrepreneur as a success story resulting from China's reforms and opening-up policies. The story was later cited in many Islamic media. In 2003, Mustafa received the annual outstanding award from China Radio International.

 

He has been working for China.com, a national multilingual website in Beijing, since 2006 and was named as outstanding employee for five years.

 

"Mustafa is a very professional and responsible newsman. He helped us a lot on Arabic writing and taught us how to be real journalists," says Zhang Qiongying, Mustafa's colleague.

 

Mustafa says the media landscape in China has changed since he first started working in Beijing.

 

"In the early 1990s, few Chinese government sectors had news conferences. Now, most government departments have regular news conferences to release news to domestic and foreign media," he says.

 

"Of course, China has its own problems, like every country in the world. But some Western media have a strong bias when reporting on China. They ignore the amazing progress.  To balance the voice, Chinese media need to be more professional, more open and transparent, more active to report domestic and foreign news from different angles."

 

In recent years, Mustafa has seen negative news, all from the Western media, about the relationship between China and African countries. They include Darfur, anxiety about the so-called Chinese expansion in Africa and the poor quality of Chinese products.

 

"In Sudan, any time, if you ask local people if they dislike Chinese people, they will laugh at you," says Mustafa.

 

"Despite the long-term and stable friendly relationship between China and us, business is still business. The African countries chose China simply because China has better things to offer and, most importantly, without other affiliated pressure on politics.

 

"Some Chinese products do have quality problems. But you can't simply blame all Chinese producers. The truth is, sometimes, local importers in African countries who want to make more money purchase cheap goods from China. If you want good quality, you have to pay more."

 

Mustafa plans to return to Sudan after he retires. "When I go back to Sudan, I will introduce the real China to my fellow people," he says.