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Edgar Snow Centenary Conference

The centenary of the birth of Edgar Snow, one of the first Western journalists to write about the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the new China from within, is being marked by an international conference in Beijing.

The two-day event, "Understanding China," opened yesterday and is being hosted jointly by Peking University, the State Council Information Office and the University of Missouri. It has drawn about 100 academics from China, the US, Japan, Singapore and Russia.

Snow (July 19, 1905-February 15, 1972) was an American journalist and writer and was the first Western journalist to visit Yan'an, then the "red capital" of China. During his 1936 visit, he interviewed a group of CPC leaders including Chairman Mao Zedong.

Snow's interviews resulted in the book Red Star over China, the first Western book to give a first-hand account of how the CPC, the Red Army and the people under the CPC's rule were struggling to defend their country against the Japanese invasion and improve their welfare.

His reports helped win the CPC international sympathy and support during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), said Zhao Yuming, president of the China Society of Journalism History.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Snow visited China several times to report on its progress during a time of antagonism with and isolation from Western powers.

His work contributed not only to the revolution and construction of the new China, but also to US people's understanding of China, said Esther Thorson, vice-dean of the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at the University of Missouri, Snow's alma mater.

In his speech to the conference, Zhao Qizheng, minister of the State Council Information Office, encouraged international writers to write "extensively and truthfully" about China to the world.

Zhao also promised that his office would try to provide more information to satisfy foreign demand.

Gong Wenxiang, executive dean of Peking University's School of Journalism and Communication, said in terms of communicating China to the outside world, besides giving more accurate information, more competing views should be encouraged to allow readers to make decisions for themselves.

(Xinhua News Agency July 20, 2005)

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