25 Years of That’s: Back to When It All Began

By That's, June 30, 2022

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This year marks That’s Magazine's 25th birthday… and what a quarter of a century it has been.

Those who have been with us through the years have seen some landmark events in the Middle Kingdom, ranging from the Beijing Olympic Games to the Shanghai Expo to China overtaking Japan as the world’s second-largest economy.

It would be too much to list all the milestones and events that have happened since our founding, so instead, we have decided to take you back in time to when it all began…

Here is the That’s 25 Year Anniversary 1997 Year in Review.

January 14

China Convicts American Trash Smuggler


What a load of rubbish. Image via Flickr

American businessman and former Chinese citizen William Ping Chen was convicted of smuggling 238 tons of trash from California to China. He moved stinky goods five times between July and December 1995 and was expelled from China, sentenced to 10 years in prison (which he didn’t serve because of his expulsion) and fined USD60,000. 

The New York Times reported that the arrest and trial came when the United States and China were locked in negotiations over intellectual property. 

January 22

USA Elects First Female Secretary of State


Image via Flickr

A member of the Democratic Party, Madeleine Jana Korbel Albright served as secretary of state from 1997-2001.

A year prior to her becoming the secretary of state, Albright made some pretty chilling comments in relation to US sanctions on Iraq: In a 60 Minutes segment in which Lesley Stahl asked her, "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "We think the price is worth it."

February 14

Scientists Successfully Clone a Sheep Named Dolly. 

Although the sheep was born in July, 1996 it wasn’t until seven months later that scientists in Edinburgh, Scothland announced the breakthrough. They did so in order to publish their research in full. Sadly, Dolly was put down in 2003 after suffering from complications caused by progressive lung disease. 

February 19

Deng Xiaoping Passes Away


Image via Flickr

Former leader of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Deng Xiaoping died on February 19 at 9.08pm from a lung infection and Parkinson’s disease. He was 92 when he passed. 

Deng was referred to as the “architect of contemporary China” and was the Time Person of the Year in 1978 and 1985. He is most famously known for the economic reforms he initiated as the leader, which laid the groundwork for China to become the economic powerhouse it is today. 

March 3

The Sky Tower Opens in Auckland


Image via Wikimedia

The tallest building in the southern hemisphere, the Sky Tower officially opened in the heart of Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. It stands at 328 meters tall and is part of the SkyCity Auckland casino complex. Today, it attracts an average of 1,150 visitors per day.

March 14

Chongqing Municipality Established

On March 14 Chongqing was officially separated from Sichuan province and became a municipality under the direct control of the central government. The city was separated from the province of Sichuan to help develop the western parts of the country. 

But did you know? Chongqing is roughly the size of Austria and is technically the largest proper city in the world, however, it does not have the world’s largest urban area. 

March 25

President George Bush Sr. Parachuting Promise

On September 2, 1944, when fighting as a soldier in WWII, former US President George Bush Sr’s plane was shot down. Bush was the sole survivor, having successfully parachuted from the plane.

Bush told this story in February 1997 and promised he would jump from a plane again. The next day, the United States Parachute Association’s executive director, Chris Needels set to work and organized the jump for March 25. 

April 17

Lang Ping Crowned 1996 FIVB Coach of the Year


Image via Wikimedia

Lang Ping is a former China national team volleyball player and coach. She first managed the team in 1995, guiding them to a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Her leadership skills were justly rewarded when in 1997 she received the 1996 FIVB Coach of the Year award. 

As a player, Ping won two World Cups, Olympic gold and one world championship gold and silver medal. In 2013 she returned to coach China’s national team after an almost twenty-year hiatus, and she’s still there today. 

May 2

Tony Blair Becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom


Image via Wikimedia

Tony Blair was elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on May 2, 1997, making him the youngest PM since 1812. 

Blair was the first Labour MP to be elected as Prime Minister for over 20 years, but his reign is stained with blood. In 2001 he supported President  George W. Bush's War in Afghanistan. In 2003 he sided with Bush again, this time invading Iraq, despite large-scale protests from the British public. Blair’s reason for invading Iraq was that the country had weapons of mass destruction, but no stockpiles were ever found. 

May 5

China's First Medical Robot Performs Surgery

On the afternoon of May 5, China’s first medical robot successfully performed brain surgery on Li Zhipeng, a 9-year-old boy suffering from a form of benign brain cancer. 

The robot was developed by the Naval General Hospital and the Institute of Robotics, Beihang University and operated by two doctors and a computer expert. Three days after the surgery, Li was said to be speaking fluently and walking around as normal. 

May 18

The First Beijing-Kowloon Direct Train Leaves the Station

At 7.30am on May 18, 1997, the first train from Beijing to Hong Kong departed from Beijing West Railway Station and arrived in Kowloon at around 3pm. 

Vice Premier Wu Bangguo attended the opening ceremony and cut the ribbon shortly before the train’s departure. 

June 26

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Book Published


Image via Flickr

The first fantasy novel written by J. K. Rowling was published by Bloomsbury in the UK in 1997 and was the first in a series of seven books about witches and wizards attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. 

The Harry Potter books would later be adapted into eight movies and by 2016 the entire franchise was valued at USD25 billion, making it one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time. 

June 28

Guangzhou’s Metro Line 1 Opens


Image via Wikimedia

On June 28 Guangzhou’s metro line 1 was partially opened for trial operations. It wasn’t until December 28 that the line opened completely. 

Now, Guangzhou’s metro system is one of the biggest and best in the world, with a daily ridership of 8.2 million and 16 lines stopping at 294 stations, spanning an impressive 607.6 kilometers. 

Also on June 28, Mike Tyson bit off a part of Evander Holyfield’s ear and was subsequently disqualified from the fight. Some say he did so in order to make it to Guangzhou in time for the grand opening, but Tyson didn't respond to our request for a comment.

July 1

Hong Kong Returns to the People's Republic of China


Image via Wikimedia

At midnight on July 1, Hong Kong returned to China after 155 years of British colonial rule. The ceremony was attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, among others.

Hong Kong came under British rule in 1841 after the signing of the Convention of Chuenpi. In 1842 the Treaty of Nanking was signed by both China and Britain, officially ending the First Opium War which started when British forces invaded China in 1839.  

July 2

Asian Financial Crisis Breaks Out

The Asian Financial Crisis gripped much of East and Southeast Asia and caused concerns of a global economic meltdown. 

The crisis started in Thailand after the Thai baht collapsed due to a lack of support from foreign currency. People started pulling their assets from the country which led to a devaluing of stock markets and currency in many countries on the continent. 

South Korea, Indonesia and Thailand were the worst affected countries.

July 4

NASA Mars Pathfinder Lands on Mars

After launching on December 4, 1996 the Pathfinder finally reached its destination on July 4 the following year. 

The Pathfinder’s job was to take photos of the surface, study rock composition and collect information about the red planet’s terrain, which it did so until September 1997.   

August 31

Princess Diana Killed in Car Crash in France


Image via Wikimedia 

Princess Diana was traveling through France with her romantic partner Dodi Al Fayed when they were both killed, alongside the driver, after the vehicle hit a wall. The driver, Henry Paul, lost control of the car while trying to avoid the following paparazzi. Paul was later found to be at fault for the crash after drugs and alcohol were found in his system. 

September 5

Mother Teresa Dies in Kolkata


Image via Wikimedia

In 1950 Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation that managed homes for people dying of illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. 

The Missionaries of Charity also fed the homeless, ran orphanages and schools and its members took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. 

In 1962, Mother Teresa won the Ramon Magsaysay Peace and in 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

A year before her death on September 5, 1997, she agreed to allow the Archbishop of Kolkata to perform an exorcism on her as she believed she might be under attack from the devil. 

September 6 

Princess Diana’s Funeral Takes Place


The departure of the cortege from Kensington Palace. Image via Wikimedia

Princess Diana’s funeral took place in Westminster Abbey, London and was viewed by a global audience of 1.5 billion people. 

The funeral officially started at 9.08am when the tenor bell of Westminster Abbey started tolling, signaling the departure of the cortege from Kensington Palace.

September 15

Google.com Registered as a Domain Name

The domain www.google.com was registered on September 15, 1997, but the company wasn’t incorporated until almost a year later, on September 4, 1998, by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Different from other search engines at the time, Google listed search results based on the importance of information on a webpage, rather than the conventional practice of showing results based on the number of terms related to the search that appeared on a page. 

October 25

Diego Maradona Plays Last Game of Professional Football


Image via Wikimedia

Diego Maradona played his last ever game of professional football for Boca Juniors on October 25. 

Despite being arguably the greatest footballer of all time, underscored by him lifting the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 and scoring 354 goals in a career spanning 694 games, Maradona battled cocaine addiction up until his death in 2020, aged 60. 

On the pitch, he was nothing short of a genius and became the first player to break the world record transfer fee twice. 

After his retirement, Maradona managed the Argentina national side during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. 

November 19

Septuplets Born to McCaughey Family

The McCaughey family in Iowa became the world’s first known family to give birth to surviving septuplets. Bobbi McCaughey prematurely birthed four boys and three girls after she refused selective reduction to reduce the number of infants, famously saying they would “put it in God’s hands.”

All seven of the little ones were born in a six-minute window from 12.48 to 12.54pm. 

December 19

Titanic US Premier 


Image via Twitter

Titanic tells the story of Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukate (Kate Winslet) who fall in love on the ill-fated ship.

The movie was directed by James Cameron, who wanted to make the movie because of his fascination with shipwrecks. He included the love story element because he felt that romance mixed with the tragedy of the loss of life would have a huge emotional impact on the audience.

Those of you who have spent any time in the Middle Kingdom will know just how popular Titanic is with the Chinese people. That’s because not only are love stories massively popular here, but the blockbuster was one of the first major international movies to tap into the Chinese market. 

December 31

Surgeons Separate Siamese Twins Joined at the Head

A 36-year-old Zambian mother gave both to male twins conjoined at the head on January 23, 1997. 

The pair, named Joseph and Luka Banda were joined by the back of the skull with separate brains. Although they didn’t share any organs, they did share blood vessels that flowed between each other’s brain. 

Shortly after their birth, they were nursed in a special ward for nine months before undergoing a 40-hour surgery in South Africa carried out by American, South African and Zambian surgeons. 

After the surgery was completed, the twins were sent back to Zambia where they underwent plastic surgery to provide a protective shield for their heads. 

Joseph and Luka Banda became the first ever set of Siamese twins joined by the head to be successfully separated and are still alive today. 

That’s Brand Story 

That's was founded in Guangzhou in 1997 by a team of foreign writers with the dream of "taking root in the city's international community while focusing on contemporary China with a global vision." 

The founding team combined the concept of an international lifestyle magazine with free subscriptions, creating a precedent for domestic English-language lifestyle magazines, which were quickly recognized and favored by the market. 

After setting up roots in Guangzhou, That's entered the Shanghai and Beijing markets in the year 2000. 

Innovative business models and precise market positioning enabled That's to develop rapidly and expand it's influence. In 2003, the monthly circulation exceeded 100,000, the number of distribution channels exceeded 3,000, and the audience exceeded 300,000, covering Beijing, Shanghai,Guangzhou and now Shenzhen. 

In 2007, Suzhou became the next Chinese city to join the growing number of brands and, during the same year, the portal website thatsmags.com was officially launched. Views quickly exceeded one million and by 2008, circulation in Shanghai exceeded 100,000 copies.

Shortly after, Tianjin became the sixth Chinese city under the That’s franchise.

The national circulation of That’s Magazine exceeded 250,000 copies in 2010 and the number of channels covered exceeded 8,000, proudly making That’s the English magazine with the largest circulation in China.

By 2014 That's was all over Chinese and international social media with accounts on Weibo, WeChat, Facebook and more. Today, they have a combined total over 600,000 followers.

Explore China, the China travel companion, was launched alongside the Hospitality Awards in 2017, the latter becoming a coveted award for F&B and hotels on the Chinese mainland. 

The That's brand has been in existence for 25 years since the magazine's inception, and has grown to become the biggest magazine in circulation in Chinese mainland - with more than 250,000 copies, covering Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Suzhou, Sanya and Tianjin.

Over 700,000 domestic readers rely on their in-depth cultural and life information to explore the depths of Chinese urban life. The precise positioning of the That's brand has made it highly recognizable in the modern China everyone knows today. 

As the leading English-language magazine on the Chinese mainland, That's is curated and written by a group of professional writers. It is well received by readers for their in-depth research and editing, focus on Chinese culture, humanities and other topics, as well as the creative layout design and humorous language style of their articles.

The creative content of each issue covers art and culture, fashion, food and many other topics, as well as exclusive interviews.

That's is not only an urban leisure and lifestyle magazine, but has gradually become a professional and reliable source of domestic urban news, information and review articles.

[Cover image via That's]

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