Household name TV anchor Zhao Zhongxiang died at 7:30 Thursday morning in Beijing. He was 78.
In a statement released on his official Sina Weibo account by his son, Zhao Fang, the veteran anchorman sought medical care at the end of 2019 after feeling unwell. He was diagnosed with cancer, which had already spread by the time of diagnosis.
Zhao died on his birthday, as he was born in North China’s Hebei province on Jan 16, 1942.
The newscaster is best known for his professionalism as a journalist, news broadcaster and in dubbing, and had many remarkable accomplishments under his belt.
In 1959, Zhao joined Beijing Television, the predecessor of CCTV, as a broadcaster. He was China’s first male broadcaster to work in television. He was the first Chinese journalist to conduct an interview with a US president, the then-president Jimmy Carter, in the White House when he accompanied former chairman Deng Xiaoping during his visit to the US in 1979. He hosted 12 broadcasts of the Spring Festival Gala, the must-watch for Chinese audiences on Chinese New Year’s Eve that began airing in 1984, and was the record-holder for any host who has worked with the show.
However, Zhao’s name is more well-known in the field of documentaries. Many people say they grew up listening to Zhao’s smooth voice when he narrated Animal World, which has been airing since 1981. He also lent his voice to Human and Nature, which has been running since 1995.
“I was the voice for the first episode of Animal World. I didn’t think it would be more special than any other one of my works, and could never have imagined that it would be loved by so many people and do its part in the protection of wild animals on a social level,” Zhao was once quoted.
“He respected this profession, and this profession made him. He respected the billions in his audiences, and billions of people in the audiences remembered him. Father was very grateful for the nurture and support he received from the Party, the government and the audiences,” Zhao Fang said in his statement.
Zhao’s passing has saddened many. The hashtag “Zhao Zhongxiang passes away” has been read by more than 620 million users, sparking 1.78 million discussions on Sina Weibo.
“I grew up listening to your voice on Animal World. Rest in peace,” wrote user Zhao Tiantian.
“He was there for each Spring Festival Gala. The memories of my childhood. R.I.P,” commeted user Sihuoxuyan.
Yang Lan, also a very well-known television host, said she was at loss for words when she learned the news.
“I visited him at the hospital on the 12th. I called out to him and he responded. I hope he heard what I had to say,” Yang wrote on her Sina Weibo account.
“He has taught me so much! The friendship of our two families lasted more than 30 years. Mr. Zhao, thank you for all of your guidance,” Yang added.