Filipino journalist Jaime FlorCruz retires from CNN
MANILA, Philippines – The Filipino who became an “accidental tourist” in China during the Marcos years and turned out to be the longest serving foreign correspondent in Beijing is signing off.
CNN Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz retires from the network on Wednesday, December 31, capping off his latest stint in a journalism career in China that spans over 3 decades.
FlorCruz, 63, witnessed and covered key events in China’s recent history like the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, the death of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, the 1997 Hong Kong handover, the 2008 Olympics, ethnic unrest in Tibet and Xinjiang, and Beijing’s economic and social reforms.
“I tend to look at China as a glass half full rather than half empty because I’ve seen it virtually empty. It was my refuge and later my training and battle ground as journalist. I feel bittersweet to be ending my time here as a foreign correspondent,” FlorCruz said in an interview on CNN.com.
The correspondent and news anchor said he will still be involved in “China watching,” and stay in Beijing where his Filipino wife, Ana Segovia FlorCruz, is working.
"For a change, I will be the ‘trailing spouse’ but later I hope to do a bit of writing and speechifying," he quipped.
How FlorCruz ended up living in China for 43 years is a story in itself.
As an activist student leader back in 1971, he came to China for a 3-week study tour. Yet when then President Ferdinand Marcos suspended civil rights and later on declared Martial Law, being on a blacklist and having an expired passport forced him to go on exile.
FlorCruz decided to work and study, at a time even farming and fishing, until he eventually earned a degree in Chinese history from Peking University. He now speaks fluent Chinese, and is considered a “virtual Beijing Ren” or Beijing resident.
He has worked for Newsweek, became Beijing bureau chief of TIME, co-authored the book Massacre at Beijing, and learned to face the camera in CNN. As bureau chief, he led and planned the network’s coverage of Asia’s rising superpower.
“CNN comes under heavy scrutiny because it's so closely associated with the United States and we have been accused of biased reporting on China. I've had to explain to officials here that we're not an extension of U.S. government; we are independent. We report it as we see it,” he said.
FlorCruz is an expert on China, analyzing developments in the country and its relations with the rest of the world. In 2000, he became the first non-American to be named Edward R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
In a 2012 interview on Rappler’s #TalkThursday, he explained China’s aggressive stance in its maritime dispute with the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries over the strategic South China Sea.
"The Chinese have always thought that they have this 100 years of history of having been a victim of colonial powers. They have this what they call 100-year syndrome – that they were punished, they were oppressed," FlorCruz said.
He said China is still adjusting to its new status. “Imagine China as a teenager who is inside the body of a 30-year old hulk. Their mindset is still that of a teenager's.”
“They're still trying to figure out emotionally what it's like to be a power in the world.” – Rappler.com