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Born to be a TV show host

QUICK wit, infectious humor and a passion for his work are the on-screen qualities that come from the rich personality and special charm of Taiwanese compere Timothy Chao (Chao Chi-tai). They set him apart from the many usually serious Chinese mainland TV hosts and have made him immensely popular with viewers.

Over the past few years, Chao's personable hosting of TV shows and gala events has built him a large fan base on the mainland, mainly among white-collar viewers.

The 46-year-old has been a TV host for 25 years. Though he finds difficulty in explaining why the job has so much appeal to him, Chao is emphatic that hosting is where his passion lies; he was born to be a compere.

But his success came after a significant business failure which left him with a huge debt of several million yuan.

"At first I didn't know what to do," Chao recalled. "Then I gained the confidence to recover by traveling around the United States during 1999 and 2002."

The versatile compere has also shown his writing talent. The book "I Can't Die" provides a humorous retrospective of Chao's recovery from the business failure. Of his six published books, which contain essays about wisdom for living, this one is his favorite.

Chao wants the book's new mainland edition to help people, particularly during the gloomy days of the current financial crisis, to recover from low points in both life and career.

"The way I define optimism is not based on a person's hopefulness or confidence about the future, but on how he responds to past failure," Chao said. "Only when a person takes a positive attitude toward life's setbacks, can he move ahead so these setbacks may never repeat themselves."

Chao started as a TV host when he was only 20. He rose to fame after winning many awards for his impressive hosting style in a variety of programs and events, from celebrity interviews and entertainment shows to awards ceremonies such as the Golden Horse Film Awards and the Golden Bell TV Awards in Taiwan.

He has presided over 60 TV programs around Asia, including "Who Wants to be A Millionaire" in Singapore and Phoenix TV's "Investment and Collection."

His work in the mainland's television industry has also earned wide acclaim. In 2007, he won the Best TV Host for a Business Program award during a competition run by News Weekly magazine.

Thousands of white-collar workers are attracted to his role in CBN's "Boss Town," which interviews successful entrepreneurs, and the light-hearted TV talk show "Work Stuff."

Chao notes that his bottom line on choosing programs to host is that "they should be good enough for my kid to watch." He never compromises this standard.

The compere's secret to TV hosting, in short, is to be original and be himself. "A good TV host requires lifelong personal development, through experiences and skills," Chao explained.

"He should have quick reflexes, good attention to detail and be a good listener and speaker. He should be considerate, and never self-centered. And he should remember that virtue always counts for more than talent and skills."

Chao has been missing from mainland TV screens since November 2007, due to a ruling of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television.

This restricted TV anchors from Hong Kong and Taiwan to guest roles and to appearing on no more than three shows.

"As today's domestic TV market gets bigger, I fully understand the need to regulate the industry," Chao said.

Nowadays, Chao continues his passion for hosting through a few promotional events and road shows for big brands.

In his leisure time, he likes to play golf, mahjong and travel, the latter helping him to maintain a good life balance after a hard day of work. He has learned to relax and enjoy visiting different locations, including a driving tour from Beijing to Hangzhou.

Chao regards himself as more of an adventurous spirit than an ambitious person.

"My former location shooting experiences for some TV programs gave me courage to try difficult activities, such as sand tobogganing, off-road driving adventures and snow motorcycling," he said.

Chao this year will focus his hosting and writing career in Shanghai - a city he believes that has a fashionable flavor - and Beijing.

"Beijing has a magnificent beauty while Shanghai is a vibrant city full of surprises," Chao said. "I am proud to experience the city's pace, energy and incredible changes," he said.


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