Chua Knows China

By Robert Chua

The Chuas with friends during their first China visit, April 1979
These days I think I am probably best known as the pioneer of TVB in Hong Kong and founder of China Entertainment Television Broadcast ( CETV,) a Chinese language satellite TV network which began screening in 1995. The channel has had its ups and downs but with the new partner, Time Warner, its future looks good. Anyway I am convinced the concept of a regional Chinese language channel will be a winner, eventually.

I had been thinking about a Chinese channel since 1986 when I was hired as a consultant to a Hong Kong company, Hutchison Whampoa to advise them on their application for a cable television license.

Robert received a souvenir banner from a Chinese TV official during a joint TV production
But I have been fascinated about China since I was a young boy. When I first started travelling to China for business in 1979, the country was just starting to open up to the outside world. Crowds of people used to gather to stare at me and Peggy because of our modern clothes.

China had been more or less closed off to foreigners since the revolution in 1949 and neither Peggy nor myself ever expected to be able to visit during our life times. Peggy was able to revisit the home she grew up in in Shanghai and left at the age of two.

For me and Peggy, one of the most fascinating experiences was seeing soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army for the first time in real life. They looked so impressive, and so foreign – it really is hard to explain, but let’s just say you really knew you were in a different country when you went to China in those days.

As an overseas chinese visitor, Peggy attracted attention, 1979
Everyone dressed in blue or green, but with very few exceptions, all the people we met were very, very nice. And so curious about anything foreign they had never seen before: I once watched a crowd of more than a thousand gather around a couple of foreign carpet layers working at a new hotel. They knew what carpet was, but apparently no-one had watched it being laid by foreigners before.

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