Selling the friendly dragon

09:37, December 20, 2010      

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Illustration: Peter C. Espina

Editors' note:

The word 劲 (jn) has many meanings: sturdy, strong, powerful, spirit, strength, vigor, effort. For scholars and observers interviewed, the passing year saw China's tenacious efforts to project its image to the outside world, which achieved some definite improvement. However, at the end of the day, that carefully cultivated positive image has faced serious challenges from unforeseen events overseas.

China has had some success projecting its positive, unthreatening image with glamorous events like the Shanghai Expo and Asia Games, but the world is not staying cool as Zhou Hanmin, deputy director of the Shanghai Expo Executive Committee had once hoped in April.

"China will present its image to the world: a nation with great traditions, great ambitions, and the world should view China's future development with calm," he said before the global showcase started.

In fact, the image China has been projecting to the world has been only partially realized or recognized by the rest of the world.

"China's image in 2010 can be summarized by one word: contradiction," says Yu Jianrong, director of the Institute of Rural Development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and one of in China's more influential public intellectuals.

"China has showed the outside world a positive image by successfully hosting international events and building more skyscrapers, but at the end of the day that cultivated positive image has been challenged."

From a backward country to a developing country, from Red China to Made in China, from China rise to China threat, China's image has been stereotyped through various clichs over the decades.

"The concept of China's image is not very clear," says Xiong Kunxin, a professor of ethnic theory and policy at the Minzu University of China in Beijing. "The country is looking for its right image to show the world the real China."


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