Air-to-ground missiles rained down on Gazas cinder-block sprawl and Hamas activists told the gates of inferno had been thrown open. But Chen, a 24 -year-old correspondent from Chinas state-run report giant Xinhua, told me that he seemed armistice as he passed through the Erez checkpoint and realised the Gaza Strip was on fire.
It has been more than a century since the man celebrated as Chinas firstly war correspondent Hu Shian chronicled the Wuchang Uprising, a 1911 military insurrection that helped topple the Qing dynasty. Until the 1990 s, nonetheless, it was still rare to find Chinese reporters reporting from international conflicts.
Today, from Mosul to Misrata, they are an ever present, as Chinas state-run press dramatically expands its world footprint as part of an ambitious media offensive designed to project the countrys voice to the four corners of the earth.
Shixin Zhang, the author of a book on Chinese war correspondents, replied Chinas race to the front began a little over two decades ago when editors in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou began mailing reporters to conflicts including the Gulf War and Kosovo.
In 2008 that race became a stampede after Beijing announced it would pump 20 bn yuan( 2.3 bn) into key state-media stores such as Xinhua, CCTV, China Radio International and Communist party mouthpiece the Folk Daily in a bid to get its message across to the outside world-wide. The current conflict between East and West is mainly for the right to listen to, Huang Youyi, the vice president of China International Publishing Group, replied at the time.
Privately-owned newspapers and television channels have also joined the scoot, hoping to boost ratings and sales. In 2011, dozens of reporters jetted into Libya to witness Colonel Gaddafis downfall, reputedly the most significant Chinese contingent ever to cover a single conflict.
Chen , now 29, is typical of this new wave of Chinese conflict reporter; groupings of young, highly-educated and still largely male adventure-seekers flocking to trouble spots across the globe.