Taking ties beyond screen

Updated: 2016-01-17 12:49

By Li Lianxing(China Daily Africa)

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 Taking ties beyond screen

Mohamed Osama, left, with other co-hosts of Informal Talks, a Chinese-language entertainment program on Hubei TV. Photos Provided to China Daily

Mohamed Osama was surprised to discover recently that there was a time when Egyptian movies had a big audience in China.

"I was chatting to a cleaner in my company, an older woman, who told me that everything she knows about Egypt was from old films she'd watched in the 1960s and '70s," says the 28-year-old talk show host. "I never expected it."

And he found a similar situation in his homeland, too. "I asked my older friends and they remember a similar time when they were all watching Chinese movies."

This period of cinematic exchange cooled as domestic and international conditions changed, but for Osama it demonstrates the potential for greater cultural exchanges between the countries.

"The most beautiful part of this world is the different cultures; we should enjoy sharing and learning about them," he says.

Osama is a regular face on the small screen in China. He is a co-host of Informal Talks, a Chinese-language entertainment program that in December returned for a second season on central China's Hubei TV.

He believes television and movies are an effective way to convey culture to new audiences. As President Xi Jinping prepares to visit North Africa this month, he hopes the trip can revive cultural ties and lead to greater interaction between Egyptians and Chinese.

"Right now, it's a pity that our people only know each other through the media," Osama says. "I hope we may increase people-to-people contact to share the cultures from our two ancient civilizations."

He adds that, thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, one of the aims of which is to improve links between China and Africa, there is a strong desire among Chinese to better understand his native continent.

Osama, better known in China as Mu Xiaolong, is fluent in Mandarin and has lived in his adopted homeland since 2011. He is a graduate of Cairo University and previously worked as a tour guide in the Egyptian capital.

His first appearance on Chinese TV came in 2011 when he was a contestant on If You Are the One, a popular dating show. This raised his profile and his followers on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, quickly soared to about 34,000.

Alongside his TV job, he works fulltime as an Arabic copy editor for the official Xinhua News Agency.

"I value Informal Talks very much because it's an innovative platform for cross-cultural communication," he said in a previous interview with China Daily. "Speaking Chinese gives me an advantage to communicate with local audiences on many serious topics in a relaxed way, which in my opinion is important in terms of people-to-people contact."

But cultural exchanges still need to be among ordinary people, he says. "We all live in the same world, just with different habits and cultures. We all share the same virtues."