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Beijing Government Seeks Cultural "Bridges" In Ohio.

As American athletes prepare for the summer Olympics in China, the competitors will be hard-pressed to gain the exposure inside China of Ohio State University graduate student, Patrick McAloon. McAloon is among recent winners of an Academic and Performance Competition seen by hundreds of millions of Chinese. But, McAloon won for performing something uniquely American.

Using bamboo sticks for percussion, McAloon wowed Chinese judges and millions of T-V viewers with an original Chinese rap song.

McAloon is a graduate student in Ohio State University's Chinese Flagship Program. But, he says his fluency in Chinese, and his familiarity with the culture began during childhood.

"Before I was born, my family lived in Taiwan for three years. And so I kind of grew up surrounded by stories of living in China. And so, I guess when I got to college and I had an opportunity to take some Chinese, it didn't seem so exotic. It was definitely exotic, but not impossible." Says McAloon.

McAlloon also credits his coach, Huanzhen Zhao, for his success. Zhao recruits and identifies potential student stars for what is formally known as the Chinese Bridge Competition. The competition was established by the Beijing government to give Chinese students worldwide more incentive to study the country's language and culture. But during the past four years, an O-S-U student has won the competition three times. Coach Zhao says the success reflects a certain diligence among both students and professors.

"In terms of tips, secrets, I think just time and effort. Seriousness, dedications, dedications and, you know, devotions, from both students and the coach." Says Zhao

O-S-U's success in the competition prompted the Beijing government to send a television crew to the Columbus campus to get the story behind those first place finishes. Executive Zhang Yong and interpreter Yan Fan are preparing for televising the finals of this year's program in Hunan Province.

"Q: How many viewers would see this program in China? Ans: If we use the standard of the American audience rating. When the Chinese Bridge broadcasted in China the audience share might be reach to 400 and 500 million." Says Yong.

For the record, American Idol, the top rated program in the United States, draws just over 30 million viewers. Even with that many viewers, Yan Fan says the Chinese Bridge Compeition is not the top rated show in China.

"We have a program called Supergirl, yeah. When that's broadcasted in China the highest picking, the pick of the audience rate is about 700 million, 700 million." Says Fan.

As the crew from Hunan T-V prepares to film at Hagerty Hall, McAloon finishes his Chinese rap song.

"Q: Can you give me a synopsis, in English? Sure, it says I'm hitting bamboo clappers on the stage. On the stage, everything is brightly lit. Below the stage, is full of audience members. People on the stage are full of energy and people off the stage are making thunderous applause. Why are people here on the stage, to perform for the Chinese Bridge competition.

Tom Borgerding WOSU News