One man's podcast aims to bridge China-US gap
Updated: 2013-12-08 10:11
LOS ANGELES - In the past three and half years, Laszlo Montgomery has uploaded 127 episodes of his Chinese History Podcast, each of which took him 18 to 20 hours to do research, write, record and edit.
For the 54-year-old Illinois-born Jewish businessman, it is not only his interest, but also a passion to make contribution to build a cushion of friendly relations between China and the United States.
Among his 100,000 listeners, about 43 percent are in the US, 15 percent in China and the rest come from some 50 other countries, such as UK, Australia and New Zealand.
He receives emails from listeners all over the world. A week ago, a teacher from a small town in UK wrote to him to express her thankfulness, saying that his China History Podcast helped her teach a Chinese history class. The teacher said the students of the class are encouraged to listen to the podcast.
In a warm New Year greeting message left on his podcast website on Jan 4 this year, a guy named Omar said "I want to personally thank you for creating and keeping up this podcast! You have motivated me to learn more about China and even start my own podcast to celebrate Chinese culture in my hometown of San Antonio. "
Another listener named Frederic Rocafort who now lives in Shenzhen, a city in southern China's Guangdong province, said he enjoyed listening to Montgomery's podcast while riding frequently the rails to Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong, and Hong Kong.
"One listen and I was hooked. Since then I have heard most of his 122 (and counting) podcasts and eagerly await new episodes. I never fail to learn something new about China by giving it a listen," he posted on the Internet, "Inspired by Laszlo, I decided to start my own, Spanish-language podcast: Coleta China."
Montgomery knows a lot about China and Chinese history, and is trying his best to introduce to listeners Chinese dynasties, political figures and history stories in his podcast, though he did not have a doctor degree on China history studies.
He pursued a career in the business world upon graduation from the University of Illinois with a degree in history and Asian Studies. But he admitted that his life and career have been woven together with China.
On January 1, 1979, China and the US established diplomatic relations. The visit of then Chinese Vice-Premier Deng Xiaoping to the US the same year, the first by a Chinese leader since 1949, inspired some young people like Montgomery to study Chinese language.
Montgomery moved to Los Angeles after graduation, imagining that being on the Pacific Rim might help him find a job related to China. His fate was bound with China ever since then. After gaining experience in companies in Los Angeles and Hong Kong doing business with China, he is currently an executive and US representative of a listed Chinese company.
"More than 30 years ago, who knew what China would be like it is today in the 21st century," he said with a smile, "But Napoleon warned the world 200 years ago -- 'be careful of China, when it is awakes it will shake the world.'"
"I didn't enter the government, become a diplomat or a journalist in China," he said, "I didn't do anything that affected many people. I simply wanted to be an effective bridge between the US and China."
Montgomery never lost his confidence in the Sino-US relations. He moved to Hong Kong in 1989 despite of all friends' opposition, as the bilateral ties between China and the US suffered a downturn then.
Often travelling in China and meeting a lot of people there, Montgomery said the more he learned about China, the more he was fascinated by its history and culture.
When he found that there was no English Chinese history podcast in 2010, he decided to do it by himself. In his home at Claremont, Southern California, he used very simple recording and editing facilities and did it all by himself.
Montgomery started to use a podcast platform recently. He was shocked to realize that there are 1.5 million downloads of his podcast episodes per year based on a recent system statistics report.
Only by then, he knew that some of his listeners are in far places such as Sudan and Tanzania. The Internet and free podcasts produced in his Claremont home linked Laszlo Montgomery to a whole world of people interested to learn about China.
"You don't know who your podcast will affect," he said, "And maybe the guy you affect will affect many others he knows."
"I can not change the world. But I can do this. I hope it could be helpful to reduce misunderstandings between US and Chinese people and promote strong bilateral relations," he added.
In Laszlo's opinion, as much goodwill as possible needs to be created between China and the US to help the two countries get through the occasional hard times. As long as the broad masses of people have a positive feeling about each other, that will be the key to maintaining long-term friendly relations.
"I always want the US and China get closer," he said.
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