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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 16:59, December 15, 2005
Western media's misreading of China 2005
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In the eyes of westerners, the socialist China always looks mysterious, and the more mysterious it seems the more desire to understand, study and interpret. While interpreting some, normally those with strong western mainstream values, would often misread China, especially when China's international prestige is growing with each passing day, says an article on the Globe Biweekly.

Westerners' misreading of China has been in existence for a long time. The fact has long been reflected in literary and artistic works. The image of Shanghai depicted in Hollywood pictures is always ambiguous and mysterious. That Zhang Yimou's early films received sympathetic response from foreigners benefited from foreigners' "understanding" of Chinese folk custom. Therefore, the social image of Chinese farmers related to the yellow earth has come to stay in the mind of westerners and been stereotyped as that of China.

Western tourists, when they come to China, always try to search for their own answers to questions related to China in those dilapidated Hutong, tired farmers sitting by a field and the shadow of emperors in the old palaces.

What they don't know is that all these are but some misread aspects of China. When the movie Mulan was shown to the public we finally realized how serious this misreading had been, although we had known prior to that how funny it was to translate Ba Wang Bie Ji (all-conquering king parts with his favorite concubine) into Farewell, My Concubine.

The misreading of China in 2005 we are discussing here is also based on this long-standing misunderstanding that results from ignorance of and attempt to understand Chinese culture and history. Its content is mainly about the anxieties and suspicions felt by the international community, particularly the western society represented by the superpower the United States, over China's peaceful rise.

A great many events occurred in China in 2005 that impact the world. The China-Russia joint military exercise, RMB appreciation, Chinese enterprises' overseas acquisition etc. These are a logical manifestation of China's growing national strength, which certainly will have an influence on the international order to a more or less degree and constitute a certain degree of challenge to international vested interests.

Nevertheless, faced with this waking up of the mysterious oriental dragon, some in the international community always exaggerate and pan-politicalize things and trace them back to the core of "China threat theory". Even the "Super Girl" phenomenon was surprisingly branded "democracy". We say that for a country like China which has an enduring history, unique culture and special national conditions, the on-lookers may not be the ones who see most clearly.

We know that the world's misreading of China is not limited to 12 things. To eliminate these misunderstandings the maxim by Alghieri Dante "Follow your own course, and let people talk" is of no help here. We must meet the world's suspicions or even hostility with a more open attitude. We cannot extinguish rumors, but we believe that "rumors are stopped by the wise" and China will make more people wise with its own magnanimity.

Li Yuchuan and "Super Girl"

As the hottest TV program in China in 2005, the "Super Girl" success could be attributed to many reasons. It is fair to say that people who love entertainment can find in the TV show everything they were looking for: youth, music, humor and sentiment etc. However, in the eyes of western media they saw a word that has nothing to do with it - democracy.

Shenzhou-VI blastoff

China develops aerospace technology completely out of its own needs and according to its own national conditions with the purpose of exploring the mysteries of space and the peaceful use of space resources for the welfare of humanity. Reuters, however, published a report believing that "China's reach into space, joining an elite club of nations setting their exploratory sights beyond Earth, is posing a serious challenge to the United States that could have military implications."

Chinese military clout extended?

The Military Power of the People's Republic of China 2005 released by the US Department of Defense says, "China has a long-term ambition to extend its military clout to whole continental Asia. In the future, China's leaders may be tempted to resort to force or coercion more quickly to press diplomatic advantage, advance security interests, or resolve disputes." Is that really so?

Helping defend Malacca

Repot that "China offers to help defend security of Malacca" was circulated among Western media in September, which gave rise to suspicions among Malacca-surrounding countries and even ASEAN countries. As a matter of fact this is a piece of so-called "news" under extended reporting in the western media.

Commemorating Zheng He's western voyage

For some western media and people, China's commemoration of the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's western voyage has another purpose. They say Zheng He's fleet was the strongest at the time and Zheng He was actually to conquer other countries rather than acting as an emissary of "trade and collaboration"; that China's grand commemoration activity reflects its ambition to reclaim domination on the sea.

China "colonizes" Zimbabwe

"Zimbabwe has belonged to China." When westerners speak of Zimbabwe they do so with some tone of jealousy. In contrast to the deteriorating relationship between western countries and Zimbabwe, China has kept traditional friendly relations with African countries including Zimbabwe.

Unfair exchange rate leads to imbalance

The Coalition for A Sound Dollar comprising over 80 trade members such as metal trade groups, auto groups and textile groups accused the Chinese government of "keeping the RMB exchange rate artificially low", a practice that if not stopped would "greatly impact on global trade partners". Misreading such as this one about the RMB is abundant, which are all centered round the exchange rate and trade.

Chinese textiles dumping overseas?

Twelve countries launched 33 anti-dumping investigations on China in 2005, of which big cases are accounting for a growing proportion with involved worth up by about 20 percent. He Yafei, Director-General of the North American and Oceanic Affairs Department of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said China has made great effort at solving the trade deficit issue.

CNOOC bids for Unocal with "hostility"

"American shouldn't sell oil company to "hostile foreigners". CNOOC's bid for Unocal failed on account of politicalized exaggeration in America. The truth is that Chinese company bade for Unocal not to acquire influence on America but to secure Chinese economy against oil price fluctuations in the future. There is nothing wrong with that.

China effect on international oil price

"China flourishes cash and, with access to its huge market as bait, sends out batches of diplomats, investigators and engineers so as to meet its 'unquenchable' thirst for energies." It is perfectly justifiable for other countries to import oil, but a "threat" for China to do the same, is that so?

Beijing University, CEIBS ranked first in Asia

At the global university ranking in 2005 released by the British Times Higher Education Supplement, China's Beijing University is ranked the 15th worldwide, while the analysis on the rank of the Shanghai-based China Europe International Business School further exposes, with an indiscriminating comparison, foreign media's ignorance of Chinese national condition.

How to face singing praises and singing bad

Misreading itself is not so terrible and can be explained away with words and sincerity. What is terrible is distorting the other side while assuming infallibility of oneself. The truth is that even the worst misreading is better than the best distortion and the most unacceptable of all is vicious distortion motivated by personal considerations and interests.

By People's Daily Online

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