Iranian actor does his bit to promote friendship between his country and China

Xu Wei
Arash Estilaf has been in Shanghai for 17 years, as "an ambassador of culture" between Iran and China.
Xu Wei

Shot by Wang Xinzhou, Yan Jingyang and Yu Wenhao. Edited by Wang Xinzhou. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou and Alexander Bushroe.

When Arash Estilaf, an Iranian actor, TV host, and merchant, was a child, made-in-China items such as pens, balms, and TV sets brought by his father piqued his interest in China.

Estilaf, also known as Hua Bobo in Chinese, left Tehran for Shanghai to study Chinese at East China Normal University in 2005. Estilaf recalled that at the time, China was not a popular choice for young Iranians looking to study abroad. Estilaf, on the other hand, fell in love with the country and surprised his friends.

He enrolled in the Shanghai Theater Academy in 2010 to pursue a postgraduate degree in television and broadcasting, and he later earned a PhD in film and TV production and media management.

Estilaf, now 34, did not expect to stay in China for so long, despite his extensive educational experience here. He has been in Shanghai for 17 years, as "an ambassador of culture" between Iran and China.

"My second hometown is Shanghai." "I've lived in this city longer than any other in the world," Estilaf said. "When I go to Iran, my friends refer to me as a "laowai" (foreigner) in terms of the influence from my life in China."

He is one of China's most well-known Iranian personalities. He was on top trend (hot search) in 2020 for his impressive acting in the TV drama "Go Go Squid!" Some 139 million people searched his Chinese name "Hua Bobo" in only two hours on Weibo. He was astounded by the power of China's social media.

Estilaf has witnessed China's tremendous development over the years, particularly in transportation, the Internet, and environmental protection.

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