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Laszlo Montgomery:History in the making

By Miscellany Source: Xinhua Published:2013-12-08
图片描述
In his podcast, amateur historian Laszlo Montgomery tells of fascinating characters from Chinese history such as Guan Yu (pictured). Photo: IC

Over the past three and a half years, Laszlo Montgomery has uploaded 127 episodes of his China History Podcast, each of which took him an average of 18 to 20 hours of research, writing, recording and editing.

For the 54-year-old Illinois-born businessman, it is not only his interest, but also his passion to contribute his part to building friendly relations between China and the US.

Among his 100,000 listeners, about 43 percent are in the US, 15 percent are in China and the rest come from about 50 other countries, including the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

He receives e-mails from listeners all over the world. A week ago, a teacher from a small town in the UK wrote to him to express her thankfulness, saying that his podcast helped her teach a Chinese history class.

In a warm New Year's greeting left on the podcast's website on January 4 this year, a listener named Omar wrote, "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 the train to Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong, and Hong Kong.

"One listen and I was hooked," he wrote. "Since then I have heard most of his … podcasts and eagerly await new episodes. I never fail to learn something new about China by giving it a listen."

Rocafort said he was even inspired to start his own, Spanish-language podcast: Coleta China. Montgomery knows a lot about China and Chinese history, and is trying his best to introduce listeners to Chinese dynasties, political figures and historical stories in his podcast, though he does not hold a masters or doctorate in Chinese history.

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-Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping to the US that same year - the first by a Chinese leader since 1949 - inspired young people like Montgomery to study the 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 has been bound to China's ever since.

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 awake, 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 Sino-US relations. He moved to Hong Kong in 1989 despite of all his friends' opposition, as the bilateral ties between China and the US suffered a downturn then.

Often traveling 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 in 2010 he found that there was no English-language podcast covering Chinese history podcast, he decided to do it himself. In his Southern California home of Claremont, he used very simple recording facilities to produce his shows.

Montgomery was recently shocked to discover that there are 1.5 million downloads of his podcast a year, based on a recent system statistics report.

He learned that some of his listeners are in far-off places such as Sudan and Tanzania. "You don't know who your podcast will affect," he said. "And maybe the guy you affect will affect many others he knows."

"I cannot change the world, but I can do this," he continued. "I hope it could be helpful to reduce misunderstandings between people and promote strong bilateral relations."

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.

"I always want the US and China to get closer," he said.