Chua Knows China

Peggy toasting a Chinese official, 1982
Everything was difficult for the traveller in China in those days, despite the best efforts of the authorities. Getting a plane ticket could be difficult and passengers were sometimes unnerved to see the pilot getting into the corkpit in a singlet because of the heat. Whenever one encountered a problem, it never hurt to have a friend who knew a friend who worked in one of the responsible organisations concerned. The fact that we had produced the `ABC’ series of English teaching videotapes made us relatively well known in China, particularly in Guangdong in the South. One time I remember my brother in law managed to get a ticket on a plane with us – in a crew seat – simply because he was related to the producer of `ABC.’

A Chinese group watching a TV show in Guangzhou, 1979
Many things have changed since we first went to China. There has been one very interesting change in people’s behaviour in restaurants. In the early days, nothing would be left on the table. What the guests could not eat, they would take home in doggy bags. These days, it is almost mandatory to order too much and just leave it on the table as a show of wealth.

Television was at a very basic stage in China in those early days. At the time, China had a population of more than a billion but only 10 million TV sets, mostly brought in to the country by friends and relatives overseas.

That made their viewing habits quite different from other countries. Big groups of people would get together to watch a single black and white set in schools and community halls. People would sometimes pay to watch colour TV. There have been many TV sets but I would say nearly everyone watched TV if they could. Watches, brandy and cigarettes were favourite products to advertise in China.

Through much of the 1960s and 70s, Mr Chua was a wildly successful producer for Hong Kong television.
Asian Wall Street Journal, April 05 1994.
Many of the goods we advertised were expensive in China, if they could be found at all. For most consumers, this meant they could only obtain the goods from friends and relatives abroad. So advertising was all about promoting the product’s image in anticipation of future sales.

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