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The genuine article

British journalist's dedication to accurately reporting on China for 13 years draws comparisons to the legendary Edgar Snow

After typing with the knuckles of his thumbs for a whole afternoon, Andrew Moody, a senior journalist at China Daily, sent a 1,450-word story to his editor on May 22. "She said it was very good … It could be the last article I do for China Daily unless I have some revival," he wrote in his diary that day.

The article, headlined "Potential of the New Era", was published on July 1 as the cover story on China Daily's special edition marking the centenary of the founding of the Communist Party of China.

Four days earlier, on June 27, Moody, a Briton, died at his Beijing apartment, age 60. He had lived with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, for more than three years.

Andrew Moody raises a question at a news conference during the annual session of the National People's Congress in March 2019. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

'A huge loss'

As a result of the degenerative disease, Moody felt that his arms were tied to 10-kilogram sandbags when he tried to reach the keyboard. As his muscles had weakened and shoulder joints nearly dislocated, "it must have hurt a lot when he typed", said Wang Liping, a neurologist from Peking University Third Hospital, who was Moody's attending doctor.

But Moody soldiered on. "All he cared about was whether he could keep on working," said the doctor, adding that Moody told her with "so much pride" that he loved his job and was fully capable of doing his work.

Zhou Shuchun, China Daily's publisher and editor-in-chief, said, "He kept his word, but I will never be able to make good on my promise to him," referring to a "deal" that the two journalists reached at Moody's home when Zhou visited him in February for Chinese New Year.

Zhou shared with Moody a passion for writing and classical music. During the meeting, the pair made a compact: Zhou would take Moody to a classical music concert and Moody would compare notes with Zhou on writing.

Moody more than kept his word. During his nearly 13 years at China Daily, he wrote about 700 front-page stories and penetrating analyses on China's New Era, its economy, politics and international relations.

His works added up to more than 1 million words and were published in the newspaper group's different publications, as well as in the China Watch sections published in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal in the United States, The Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom, Le Figaro in France and many other publications around the world.

"These stories aim to explain to a wider audience the strategies and aims of the Chinese government, and also look at the challenges and difficulties it faces," Moody wrote. "It is also to highlight important issues, which go largely ignored in the mainstream Western media, which often fail to provide a full or true picture of China."

Moody's articles were widely cited by media outlets worldwide. For example, in February last year, he conducted an exclusive interview with Nobel laureate Michael Levitt, a professor of structural biology at Stanford University School of Medicine in the US.

Moody is honored with the China Friendship Award in 2019. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Levitt was carrying out a daily analysis of figures on the COVID-19 outbreak released by China and the World Health Organization. His research showed China was already winning the war against the pandemic in February last year.

Moody's report, based on the interview, was quoted 172 times by media organizations across the world. The Daily Mail in the UK wrote: "Speaking to China Daily News in late February, Dr Levitt said he believed the rate of the growth had already reached its peak (in the country)…"

Moody's works have also been cited in books and other published research by global academics, such as Rethinking the Silk Road: China's Belt and Road Initiative and Emerging Eurasian Relations by Maximilian Mayer, junior-professor of international relations at the University of Bonn in Germany.

Deborah Brautigam, professor of international political economy at Johns Hopkins University in the US, used Moody's on-site interview with a Chinese agricultural product processing company in Africa. "We are confident that Mozambique will overcome its food problems," the president of the company told Moody. Brautigam used the president's words, together with other parts of the interview in her book Will Africa Feed China?

Quotes from Moody's book reviews have also been used to promote later editions of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan, professor of global history at Oxford University, and China's War With Japan, 1937-45: The Struggle for Survival, by Rana Mitter, professor of the history and politics of modern China at Oxford University.

Moody interviewed leading world politicians such as former UK prime minister Tony Blair, and George Osborne, who served as chancellor of the exchequer in the cabinet of former prime minister David Cameron. He also wrote more than 150 profiles of leading thinkers such as Niall Ferguson, the Harvard historian, and Edmund Phelps, the Nobel Prize winner for economics.

Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King's College London, said Moody was "committed to communication, to being open-minded and presenting ideas and issues about China in English clearly, so that a wider audience could … engage with them, even if they didn't agree".

The professor added, "He will be a huge loss to those who are working hard on the dialogue between China and the outside world."

A Vision China event hosted by China Daily in Johannesburg, South Africa, in July 2018 is addressed by Moody. (ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY)

'Sign of the times'

Born in West Stockwith, Nottinghamshire, on Sept 2, 1960, Moody was highly academic and had a large book collection from a young age, his sister Jayne Graham said. His interest in journalism began at age 15, when he became the press officer for a pigeon club.

After having studied economics and gaining an honors degree at Coventry University, he swiftly committed to a career in journalism that spanned nearly four decades.

Before joining China Daily, he made a name for himself in the UK with his work as a political reporter, business editor and columnist with national and regional newspapers, including titles such as the Manchester Evening News, the Daily Express and The Observer, after doing a stint in the United Arab Emirates.

As to how he came to China, Ravi Shankar, a senior editor at China Daily who knew Moody for 35 years, said he invited his friend to spend "a paid holiday" in Beijing in 2008, which involved bringing out the paper's bumper editions during the Olympic Games.

"He was intrigued enough to take up the offer and was impressed enough about China Daily, and China, to take up a full-time job the next year," Shankar said. Moody noted in his diary that he received the China Daily offer on Jan 5, 2009.

Moody's fascination with Asia, particularly China, had begun much earlier when he covered the return of Hong Kong to the motherland in 1997 for a British newspaper. On that visit, he also ventured across the border to Shenzhen, Guangdong province, for a brief visit and became interested in the seismic changes he sensed taking place.

His diary entry recorded a scene one evening in early 1976. When he was 15, he "burst downstairs while News at Ten announced that (premier) Zhou Enlai had died".

"I actually don't know why I was so excited. I had no real interest in China at 15, but I suppose it was somewhat prescient," he wrote.

Nick Jaspan, director of Prolific North, a UK publisher of consumer and business journals and periodicals, who was a friend of Moody's for 35 years, said that by working in China, Moody believed he had been "given an extraordinary opportunity, and he took the opportunity with both hands".

Martin Jacques, a former senior fellow at Cambridge University's Department of Politics and International Studies and author of When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, said when he first met with Moody in Beijing in 2009, he was struck that "here was someone from the UK with a lot of journalistic experience who had chosen to work in China", and viewed it as "a sign of the times".

Moody poses before the Great Hall of the People in March 2019. (KUANG LINHUA / CHINA DAILY)

At that time, Moody, new to China, was "feeling his way on the subject and noticeably did not express a view of his own or give any hint as to his own view," said Jacques. For the first few years, that remained the case. But when he saw Moody in 2017 in Beijing, Jacques sensed a "slow but steady shift" in Moody's views.

"I admired the way in which he took time to work these things out in his own mind. A very serious and professional journalist who you could only respect," Jacques said.

To better cover China, Moody read a lot. In his Beijing apartment, there are more than 160 books about the nation.

Su Qiang, a China Daily editor who worked with Moody for eight years, said: "He had read all the books that top experts had written about China, and he closely followed how the world viewed China. He would then contact the writers for an interview, elaborate on objective opinions and challenge prejudices or unfair claims about China."

Moody reported on many high-profile events, such as the 19th CPC National Congress and the annual sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee.

He traveled to most provinces and autonomous regions throughout China, drawing on the material he collected to write mostly at first about business and economics, before branching into political and social trends.

Yang Zhiping, vice-mayor of Suzhou, Jiangsu province, was interviewed by Moody in May 2016, when he was head of Suzhou Industrial Park.

"There were no obstacles in my communication with Andrew when I explained to him our development experiences," he said. "He showed an amazing ability to understand, and expressed my views well in his story. This could be because he was such an experienced journalist who had focused on the Chinese economy for a long time."

Moody visits the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2017. (SU QIANG / CHINA DAILY)

'Eccentric' inspirer

In the eyes of many China Daily colleagues, Moody was a tall, amiable and hard-working colleague who, invariably dressed in a blue shirt, was always hunched over his keyboard writing stories.

Shankar said: "Some would call Andrew eccentric-in the kindest of sense of English eccentricity. He insisted on wearing a jacket through the hot Beijing summers; a tie was always around in case he needed something more formal."

Liu Chengmei, Moody's housekeeper for the past 13 years, said that while he was frugal-the phone and computer he used were both old models-he was a generous employer who paid her much higher than the market price and even helped her look for other part-time jobs.

Teresa Ye, a friend for nine years, said Moody was a creature of habit who followed a simple daily routine.

"For years he would suggest we go to the same Chinese restaurant, sit at the same table and order the same food-shrimp balls with broccoli, dry-fried beans, dumplings and rice, and then he would open a bottle of wine."

He had his shirts tailor-made at a shop in the Sanlitun area of Beijing and kept a diary each day in a Moleskine notebook. At home, classical music was a constant companion, and he was also a keen follower of cricket and soccer.

He was a frequent visitor to art exhibitions and museums, and his Beijing home was full of paintings, sculptures and other artworks he brought back from his travels around the world. He also liked Chinese movies and before coming to China had watched works by directors such as Zhang Yimou.

Before illness took its toll, Moody was a fitness fanatic and long-distance runner who boasted that he could run 10 kilometers in 50 minutes.

Jaspan said his friend "had a dry sense of humor and a neat line in irony. He was never one to make a quick or rash decision.… He liked to question matters and look beyond the immediate or obvious."

Moody conducts an interview in Beijing in November 2019. (ZOU HONG / CHINA DAILY)

Xiao Xiangyi, a colleague who sat next to Moody for almost eight years, said he was always willing to offer a helping hand. "Even when he was super busy he would write down your questions and later provide detailed answers," she said.

Personal kindnesses, such as preparing red envelopes (gifts) for colleagues who were marrying, and returning from overseas trips with candy, contrasted with the irritation Moody could show if he thought someone had spoiled his copy.

Zhong Nan, a China Daily reporter who translated for Moody when he interviewed Chinese businesspeople in Africa, said he could become "very upset" if a single detail was missed in translation.

Senior editor Zhang Xia said editing Moody's stories was educational, given both the new angles and knowledge presented. For a 1,500-word story, Moody would usually interview eight or more top experts in their fields from around the world.

A few paragraphs in a story from one such expert was often the product of a phone conversation lasting up to an hour. Moody also paid a shorthand typist in the UK to do transcripts of interviews to increase work efficiency, though his performance was not evaluated by the number of stories, she said.

On some holidays, Moody would go to countries such as Thailand or Mauritius, but "when he was supposedly relaxing, holidaying and soaking up the sun on a beach, he would be soaking up information he could use in his work", from books on politics and society that he had on his Kindle, said John Nicholson, a friend and senior editor at China Daily.

Senior editor Chen Zhiming said that each time Moody traveled to the UK on holiday, usually around Christmas, he would interview political and business leaders and gather enough material for several stories.

Being financially well-off, Moody was asked more than once: "Why keep working so hard? If I had so many properties like you, I would retire and spend time by the sea." He usually laughed such questions off; he had told friends he had 14 properties in the UK, including one in London.

"He was so devoted to work," his friend Ye said. "He was willing to find his own perspective in the world's second-largest and dynamic economy."

The Confucius Institute at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom is visited by Moody. (JIANG SHAN / CHINA DAILY)

'Edgar Snow of New Era'

While working in China, Moody's interest in understanding President Xi Jinping and his thoughts grew.

In 2015, when he went to Johannesburg, South Africa, to cover the Second Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, he described Xi as "most charismatic "in his diary after listening to his speech.

He also covered many of Xi's overseas trips, including the state visit to the UK in October 2015 and to South Africa in December the same year.

On Oct 18, 2017, Moody was present in the Great Hall of the People to witness Xi's report to the 19th CPC National Congress, where he announced that socialism with Chinese characteristics had entered "a new era".

Describing the scene, Moody said in a China Daily column that he "had a definite sense of history in the making". He added that "China is moving into a new era in which it is much more confident about its position and status in the world."

Moody had written nearly 100 stories explaining Xi's thoughts since 2017.

In June, Moody said when the newspaper celebrated its 40th anniversary, "As China continues to embark on its new era, set to be one of the most exciting in the nation's history, we at China Daily must continue to rise to the challenge and ensure our China coverage is second to none."

He was a keynote speaker at China Daily's inaugural Vision China series of public talks in January 2018. On the theme "New Era Through My Eyes", he explained to a global audience the significance of Xi's report to the 19th CPC National Congress.

Moody was also a key speaker at the third Vision China event in Johannesburg in July 2018, at which he talked about China-Africa relations and Xi's concept of building "a community with a shared future for mankind".

Su, the editor, remembers helping Moody get "fresh-from-the-oven "English versions of Xi's speeches many times. He participated in a forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2017 that looked at ways China and Africa could work together to tackle poverty along with Moody.

Central to the debate at the forum was Xi's book Up and Out of Poverty, containing speeches and articles written by Xi when he was Party chief of Ningde prefecture, Fujian province, around three decades ago.

"I was surprised that Andrew had read the book and made many comments about it. During the forum he explained to attendees from across Africa China's policies and how Africa and China could work together to tackle poverty," Su said, adding that many Ethiopian scholars had known Moody before that meeting.

Shankar said that during the time Moody spent at China Daily, he noticed a gradual, but clearly perceptible, change in his colleague's understanding of global and Chinese politics.

"A dyed-in-the-wool Tory (Conservative), Andrew saw no contradiction in embracing or endorsing the Party's policies on many issues, often looking at long-term outcomes rather than short-term fixes," Shankar said.

"'Things work here', he would often say, and point to the 'messy democracy' in many countries, including mine, India."

Ernest Bai Koroma, then-Sierra Leone president, is interviewed by Moody in Beijing in 2016. (WANG ZHUANGFEI / CHINA DAILY)

A keen follower of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, Moody would regularly declare that "this is, indeed, a new era in China", Shankar said.

In 2019, Moody was honored with China's most coveted award for foreigners, the China Friendship Award, for being "a leader in explaining Xi's thoughts to the world".

Graham said her brother was "hugely impressed with China and developed a real love of the country; so much so, he was keen to learn and speak Mandarin and immerse himself in the Chinese way of life."

His job was also "a chance to travel and explore parts of China that Westerners rarely have the chance to see and to interact with people of different political persuasions, allowing him to gain a perspective of the real China and the misunderstandings of Western countries", she said.

Zhou, the editor-in-chief, compares Moody with Edgar Snow, a US journalist who lived in China for 13 years and produced the most important Western reporting on the Communist movement in China in the country before 1949, when the People's Republic of China was founded.

"Through his works, Moody showed the true picture of China, explaining the country and its people to the rest of the world, just like Edgar Snow," he said.

"Currently, there is an 'understanding deficit' of China, and it matters to the entire world to understand more of China."

Like Snow, Moody was intrigued by China before he arrived in the country, and was not an expert on it.

Jaspan, the publisher, said Moody's "attitude to China and the Party (CPC)… changed from an early skepticism to a gradual and increasing respect for what the country had achieved economically, including taking so many people out of poverty".

"The enormous progress that China has made in terms of pulling its people up from poverty became the defining issue for him, I believe," Jaspan said.

Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, who knew Moody for nearly a decade, referred to him as "Edgar Snow in the New Era".

"An Englishman who comes a long way to China, strives to report the real China to the world, and finally dies here," he said. "I'm greatly touched by his spirit of internationalism."

He said both Snow and Moody spent their years in China seeking facts firsthand.

"Snow went to Yan'an (Shaanxi province), seeking to better understand the CPC. Moody traveled across China seeking to understand the key issues it was dealing with and wrote in-depth stories about them, presenting a complete and true picture of the country," he said.

"They both had a deep understanding of China. They both told the world about China in a way that was readily understandable to global audiences," he said. "Moody's stories were based on real-life experience in China and a great understanding of Chinese people."

Moody's writing was not without its critics, even among his friends. In a diary entry in October 2020 he referred to a "furious row" with a close friend about China.

"What I cannot stand is that he is completely ignorant of this place but just talks over me," Moody wrote.

Wang said many non-Chinese arrive in China with preconceptions, as was the case with Snow and Moody, but their attitudes changed over time as they better understood the country.

"What this says is that anyone with a conscience and rational understanding, who is willing to discard pride and prejudice and look at China objectively, can form a correct understanding of the country and will draw positive and optimistic conclusions about its development," Wang said.

Shankar said Moody's death has deprived the world of an insightful book on China that his colleague could no doubt have written.

Wang said that although Moody did not have a book like Snow's Red Star Over China to his name, what he did produce in his copious journalistic writings would have a similar global influence.

"His body of work would fill a number of books. And, of course, he had tools at his disposal that Snow didn't, such as the internet and social media, which amplified the influence of his work."

Moody joins the celebration in 2019 for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

'Old China hand'

In February, Moody wrote in his diary that Zhou, the editor-in-chief, referred to him as "the best writer on China's new era".

Zhou said: "Andrew's work represents the very best of China Daily, and with the quality of his writing, as well as how much he produced, he shone as an example to his peers."

Jaspan said Moody was keen to be viewed as an "old China hand", someone who knew what was really happening in China and could be contacted for honest, frank appraisals about life on the ground.

At a funeral service in Beijing, Sun Shangwu, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily, said of Moody: "He was China Daily's expert on China experts around the world. Whatever their academic or political or ideological leanings, he was proud to say that there was hardly anyone he had not interviewed or interacted with."

Jacques, the UK scholar, said Moody was "always sober, thoughtful, and open-minded, and he was now much more comfortable and confident about his work in and knowledge about China".

"His articles were always on the ball … he clearly had excellent contacts in the West because he got a range of excellent scholars to contribute to his pieces. Such contacts are not the work of a moment …"

Jacques added that Western commentary on China is "deeply flawed by ignorance and prejudice". This was anathema to Moody, who was open-minded, honest and without prejudice, Jacques said.

"He never cut corners. He reported your views with complete honesty and objectivity… He was an example to all foreign journalists," he said.

Edward Tse, founder and chief executive of Gao Feng Advisory Co, who knew Moody for more than 10 years, said: "His reports were always objective and reflective of facts. …Andrew's analysis gave his readers a set of perspectives on China that was built on deep and cutting-edge knowledge on the massive, rapidly changing country."

In a diary entry on Feb 20, after a visit to a shopping center near his home, Moody called China "a more civilized society" when compared with some Western countries. He was also keen on learning about the thoughts of different people. He often pushed forward a topic and discussed China with friends, colleagues and even doctors.

Wang, Moody's attending doctor, said, "He would show me his published stories, and discuss with me many issues, from social to international news."

She added: "He knew China very well, and all he wanted was to go on being a journalist on the ground, in this country. He expressed the idea very clearly."

Meles Zenawi, then-Ethiopian prime minister, is interviewed by Moody in Addis Ababa in 2012. (FENG YONGBIN / CHINA DAILY)

'Home is here'

Moody's terminal illness was diagnosed about three years ago, and the disease forced him to use his index fingers and finally his thumbs' knuckles to type; the past two years had made it hard for him to button his shirt. He told only a few close friends about the illness, but carried on as if nothing had happened.

It took him years to finally write a 2,500-word email to tell his sister about his condition, but he told her not to tell his elderly parents about it.

In his final months, friends suggested he return to the UK, but in the weeks before he died, at his request, he signed another contract with China Daily until early next year.

Wang, the doctor, said Moody told her that he was solely focused on continuing to work.

"He had been working in China for more than a decade and had strong feelings for the country," she said. "He told me that although he didn't have Chinese citizenship, he was totally devoted to this country."

She added: "His brain worked very well, and he was an experienced journalist who had a wealth of knowledge. He was reluctant to give up his job at the newspaper."

Andrew Moody raises a question at a news conference during the annual session of the National People's Congress in March 2019. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Moody worried whether his brain would remain sharp as the disease advanced. "He kept asking me, if my body is like that of Stephen Hawking, will it mess up my brain? I said no. The mind will always remain clear. So we spent a lot of effort on how he could use his mind and to continue writing," said the doctor.

They also discussed the use of speech input machinery in case Moody could not move his fingers, and the use of an eyeball tracker in case his voice was no longer clear enough.

Nicholson, the editor, said Moody paid "a high price for his dedication and determination in getting out his last stories", for as he was researching and writing them, he could have done more to look after his health.

"I think he was under considerable physical distress in those last weeks, much more than he was willing to let on. But whenever you asked him whether he was all right, he would simply reply, 'I'm OK'."

Liu, Moody's housekeeper, said, "During his last days, he always asked me to dress him neatly to make sure he looked OK before receiving any visitor."

Jacques was interviewed for Moody's last work, and was still "in a state of shock" two days after hearing about his death.

"He never breathed a word about his own tragic illness.… He was very brave, selfless and noble," he said.

Moody wrote in his diary in April that a colleague, Wang Linyan, suggested he "go home to the UK", and he answered, "Home is here now."

Contact the writers at chenyingqun@chinadaily.com.cn