Voted "Most Popular Internet Celebrity 2011" in Beijing, Harry Harding, or Hazza as he is known to his Chinese fans, quickly became a viral sensation during the early days of Chinese social media.
The rise to prominence online led to a career in both television and music — a move which has brought both acclaim and ridicule at times, both in China and his home country of Australia.
The Guangzhou-based Australian national has found himself in an awkward position, balancing his musical endeavors with his state-media news broadcasting role, and rocky diplomatic turbulance.
At times, going viral for his music — his songs have hit music charts in China — while at others, making waves for statements made on Twitter that were received as politically-motivated, Hazza has ignited criticism from commentators in his home country from time to time.
From rural Queensland to bustling Guangzhou, China
Born in Queensland Australia, the Guangdong Radio and Television presenter’s early days were spent at West Moreton Anglican College, an Anglican private school just west of Brisbane.
He later graduated from Griffith University with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Linguistics, majoring in Mandarin.
From there, he set his sights on China, and within the space of 12 months he had a chart-topping hit, “Let Go,” and was the host of the talk show “Face Time” on Guangdong Television, based in the bustling metropolis of Guangzhou.
He now anchors two major news programs, “Guangdong Report” and “GBA News Now” for the official provincial television and radio network of Guangdong Province in South China.
Broadcast locally and internationally, Harding’s radio program has consistently boasted high ratings — among the top-ten highest-rated news shows in the province for seven consecutive years — according to ratings statistics released by Chinese media authorities.
His news shows have also, in recent times, focused on the plight of Indian students aiming to return to China to resume their studies, and he has presented interviews with Indian students in prime time on Chinese state television.
Segments related to this topic were shared on Twitter widely, and have helped push forward policy changes to allow students to return to the country for higher education earlier.
Journalism in China, a fine balancing act requiring “diplomatic prowess”
Hazza is the recipient of the "China News Award-First Prize," an accolade that came with words of congratulations from the Chinese President, Xi Jinping. He is, according to local Chinese media, the first Australian to receive such a prize — awarded for a radio news report he produced about engagement between Guangdong Province and Australia in the field of technology and innovation.
The Australian has also received the provincial-level "Guangdong News Award-First Prize" numerous times, and was recognized as the "Young Australia-China Alumni of the Year" in 2017 by the Australia-China Alumni Association and TOEFL.
But working as a state-media broadcaster in the country hasn’t always been smooth sailing, as a fellow Australian, Cheng Lei, who previously worked for CGTN was apprehended by Chinese authorities based on accusations of breaching national security laws in 2020.
Harding has quietly, via his Chinese social media accounts, advocated for a fair trial and early release for his fellow Australian, though he declined to comment on the issue based on the sensitivity of the issue when contacted for this piece.
Future of Australia-China relations
After twelve years of working in China as a television presenter, Hazza is now considering his next steps forward, hinting at a new direction in the future.
“I’ve experienced and learnt a lot in this role,” Hazza says, adding, “but I hope to be able to contribute more to the relationship between Australia and China in the future in different ways, and I am not sure what that entails. For now, I’m focused on producing more music, and I hope to have a new single ready for release within the next few months.”
The Aussie says despite considering Guangzhou as his second home, Australia will always be his first — and his heart is where his family is.
His music is available on Apple Music and Spotify, and his programs can be viewed via Satellite on GDTV World.