"Only You" (《非你莫属》) is a job-hunting reality show produced by Tianjin TV Station. The show has stirred wide controversy in 2012 due to the harsh attitudes of the host Zhang Shaogang and onstage employers.
The program aired on Sunday nights, and was rebroadcasted every Monday since Oct. 2010. The premise of the show is to recruit four job hunters vying for the posts offered by the high executives participating on the show.
The reality show simulates face-to-face interviews where the job applicants have to present their wisdom and knowledge in a finite number of responses. However, the criticisms from the anchorman and the guest executives seemed to be excessively brutal and unnecessary recently.
Zhang was widely bashed for humiliating job seekers. "You are 23 years old but behave like a 13 years old," he once commented in a show.
"You speak sh** without using your minds," he continued in front of the nationwide audience.
The controversy escalated when an increasing number of overseas Chinese candidates joined the show hoping that their multicultural experience would set them apart. Zhang's criticisms, however, made the opposite seem true.
In Jan. 2012, Zhang quarreled with Liu Lili, an Australian returnee, who was young but did not hesitate to fight Zhang's challenges.
"Why would you come back to China had you worked well in Australia?" Zhang asked curtly.
"China is transforming dramatically, you would be dumb if you did not come back," Liu snapped back.
Liu was subsequently criticized as over aggressive and was eventually rejected by all of the bosses. However, the altercation with Liu only exacerbated the tension on stage; the conflict didn't reached its climax until 32-year-old Guo Jie, who had allegedly spent 10 years in France but stuttered when asked to speak about a number of French sociologists and filmmakers, fainted on stage.
He lost control after being accused of counterfeiting diplomas. The host's reaction to the falling man was questioning the genuineness of the act, implying that the man staged the fall which enraged many members of the audience.
Many overseas returnees protested the program and some resorted to asking Kai-Fu Lee for support. A weibo (Chinese equivalent to twitter) activist, Lee said he had not paid attention to the program until he received the complaints. But once he watched the video he found that it was truly insulting as the contestants were treated with no respect. Therefore, he campaigned for a voluntary boycott of the show. Shortly after, he was exposed to fierce criticisms from the cast members who challenged him to a face-to-face debate.
However, the program staff soon changed their tone when the online blaming circle escalated and after Guo publicly explained his embarrassing faint was a result of the mounting pressure that had been put on him in the heat of the moment. In addition, the French embassy proved that the master's degree Guo claimed to have on the show is genuine.
The board of the program gave their apologies during a round-table discussion joined by some of the overseas returnees. They explained that the controversy was simply a misunderstanding since many of them had no overseas experience. Zhang, the university teacher turned host also expressed his willingness to apologize, but he explained the case remained complex and he needed time to meditate and digest.
Media analysts perceive the actions of the show's staff in a rather different way. According to Su Rongjiang, a professor at Beijing International Studies University, their behaviors were merely a sequence of tactics to produce reactions.
"In most cases, employers still show respect to job seekers," Su said in an interview.
"During the program, the host and guests stand on opposite sides to create visible conflict, making the program more 'interesting,'" he explained.