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Interview: West should support China's reform instead of demonizing China
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17:35, April 21, 2008

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"Hysteria" and "demonization of China" were how Thomas Heberer, a leading China expert in Germany, described the overwhelmingly negative Western media coverage on the Tibet riots and China issues.

Heberer, who chairs the East Asian Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, said in an interview with Xinhua that people in the West should learn more about China and support China's successful reforms because China is far too important for the world.

He said that the shift from an "idealization" of China years ago to "demonization" of the country is due to "a coincidence of a number of unfortunate factors."

"These include deterioration in media description of China since the late 1990s, many people's fear of outsourcing German jobs to foreign countries, especially to China (Most people do not know that the growing trade with China has created many new jobs in Germany), fear of copying of German products, and fear of China's global dominance."

"These fears have again been reinforced by the negative media coverage of China. Moreover, the German government has not counteracted this development," he said.

According to Heberer, the vast majority of Germans and Europeans know very little about China and Tibet. To get objective information about China on the Internet is also difficult because there are so many different opinions.

"Many people have told me that they are unable to judge what is right and what is wrong. People who know nothing about China also cannot make objective judgment. These people therefore believe in the media, which like picking up those topics that sell," he said.

Heberer first visited China in 1975. From 1977 to 1981 he worked in China as a foreign expert for China's news weekly Beijing Review. And since 1981 he has devoted himself to the research on social development in China and has visited many regions of the country, including those populated by different ethnic minorities.

"Since I have visited various parts of China for research purpose every year since 1981, I'm able to experience the enormous changes in the country," he said.

Such a fundamental change from the isolation before the 1970s to a relatively open country, the phenomenal reform process from a rigid planned economy to a market economy, and the increasing pluralism and liberalization since the late 1970s have made China increasingly open and free, Heberer said.

He also noted that it is no surprise that the transformation from a planned to a market economy has brought China a lot of problems, including growing income gap between urban and rural areas, uneven development among different regions, as well as corruption.

Moreover, the development of legal system in China still lags the rapid transformation to a market economy. Decentralization has meant that local governments which pursue their own interests do not necessarily implement the policies of the central government, he added.

"All these are temporary phenomena, which are expected to level off to the end of the transformation process," Heberer said.

"Indeed, in such a large country with such complex structures, all the problems cannot be solved simultaneously. Social stability and economic growth are currently the main focus along with sustainable development," Heberer said.

"China's transformation takes time and patience. And the Chinese leadership has also proven its ability to learn from mistakes and to correct them," he said.

"Germany and Europe should stand by China in its successful transformation," Heberer added.

He also stressed that he can't agree with the opinion that there will be a confrontation between a rising China and the West in the long run.

"China is far too important for the international community, and global problems cannot be solved without China. People who have never been to China will gradually realize that China is totally different from what they imagine," Heberer said.


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