This story is part of our June 2020 cover story, a series of articles profiling internationals who have made – or are making – an impact in China. To read more fascinating profiles from this series, click here.
Harry Harding’s China story is a testament to taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you. Born in Queensland, Australia, Harding (known by most as Hazza) was first introduced to China after bypassing a program to hike in the Australian bush in order to go on a school trip to Beijing.
“Hiking in the bush or hiking on the Great Wall, which one are you going to choose?” he says, recalling that early experience from his Guangzhou apartment. However, the capital city tour didn’t necessarily spark his interest in the country north of the Down Under. No, that moment occurred after Harding discovered a Jay Chou album.
Without the Chinese skills to understand Chou’s beloved ballads, Harding managed to substitute his math courses for Chinese in Year 11, which led to a major in Applied Linguistics and dual minor in Mandarin and Korean at Griffith University.
By this time, Harding had started creating videos singing Chinese cover songs and sharing them on Chinese social media sites. “When I was in Australia, one of my videos went viral and it made the news. It received millions of hits online. Even Chinese people in Australia would come up to me and say, ‘Are you that guy that sings Chinese songs?’” Harding recalls with a chuckle.
Eventually, his cover song viral hits led him back to China in early 2011, with a woman contacting Harding about potential opportunities in the capital city.
After the airline lost his luggage when he arrived in Beijing during the dead of winter, he decided to travel to ‘warmer’ pastures and ended up in Guangzhou. From there, he would go on to meet someone from GRT (formerly called GDTV) and start a new career in Chinese radio and television.
Harding has, for the most part, worked as a TV presenter and radio host for GRT throughout his career. “I feel like here, in China, it’s not every day you would turn on the TV and see an Australian,” Harding tells us, while pointing out that there are a lot of misunderstandings between Australians and Chinese people. As the chapter president of the Australia China Young Professionals Initiative in Guangzhou, Harding has the ability to help others learn and appreciate both worlds by organizing meetups. “It’s about connecting the community,” he says. His work in Chinese media has been exemplary, having received the China News Award in 2017 for a program looking at how technology made in Guangdong province was being applied in Australia. Viewed as one of the most prestigious journalism awards in the PRC, Harding is the first Australian to receive the honor. In addition to news reporting, he has put in time on various talk shows, including China Chats and FaceTime, as well as a program called Little Ma Big Ha which goes in-depth on cultural differences between China and the West.
While highly regarded for his work in media, Harding’s entertainment career has been equally impressive. He was named the ‘Most Popular Internet Celebrity’ in 2011 by video-sharing platform 56.com for his masterful covers of Jay Chou classics. Having graduated from covering Chinese songs, Harding released several of his own singles, including debut song ‘Let Go,’ which hit number one on the Guangzhou New Music Charts. When looking back at some defining life-changing moments, Harding shares two that stand out. “I was a supporting act at a concert with JJ Lin in Guangzhou, with an audience of 60,000 people,” he says, mentioning that he later got to meet JJ Lin and G.E.M. “That was like a life-changing moment because I’ve always had stage fright and I got over it on that night.”
The other moment he references is saying yes to that first job at the TV station in Guangzhou. “There were still so many unanswered questions at the time, but if I said no then my life would have gone in a totally different direction.”
Throughout his career in China, Harding has been able to have a positive impact within the Chinese and international communities. As for advice he’d give nonnationals living in the Middle Kingdom, he says to go with the flow: “If every time you come up against a challenge and treat it like it’s the end of the world, you’re going to have such a depressing time. There are 1.4 billion people here and they all manage, so why can’t you?” Harding expresses, “You can’t change other people, the only thing you can change is your input in those interactions. Honestly, there are no other ways you can go about living in China.”
To read more fascinating profiles from this series, click here.
[Images provided by Hazza Harding]