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China's Far Too Rosy Self Image

For decades the rest of the world has derided Americans for being ignorant about lots of things. Not least on that list has been our ignorance of how we affect the world. We think the world loves us, our critics say, but it doesn't. But now, the United States seems to have found a rival in the race to be the most insensitive country on earth. China!

A new poll by researchers at the University of Maryland and Globescan sums it up in the starkest terms. A whopping 92 percent of Chinese surveyed believe that China has a mainly positive influence on the world; whereas a mere 39 percent of people polled in 20 other major countries agree. This is the largest perception gap among the countries' polled. (And it's getting worse. Views about China have declined markedly over the last year.)

Indeed, the survey makes us Americans look downright switched-on. According to the poll, some 60 percent of Americans surveyed thought the United States exerts a positive influence on the world; whereas 43 percent of people polled in the same 20 other major countries think it's mostly negative. A tiny gap when compared to China's. (Also China now ranks below the average the US in terms of positive influence for the first time since the poll was initiated five years ago.)

To me this poll illustrates one of the most interesting aspects of the world's interaction with China. That's the gap between how most Chinese perceive of their country and how the rest of us do. Most Chinese people appear to believe deeply in the benevolent role that China's plays around the globe. I saw this during the 10 years I lived in China. And I see it in the regular and friendly interaction I have with Chinese officials.

Why?

First, I think Chinese propaganda is very successful; Chinese have generally bought into the government that line that China's rise can only bring good things to the rest of the world. They deeply believe the line that China would never invade a foreign country, etc.

One of the reasons why Kung Fu Panda did so smashingly well in China was that the Chinese saw Po's story as mirroring that of their homeland. They think they're the dragon warrior, beloved by our global village. To make matters worse, very little negative news about China filters into the mainland. And what negative news there is, is routinely attacked by the Chinese blogosphere as anti-Chinese.

Second, there is an element of racism or just plain fear in the world's reaction to China's rise. Any new player on the world block is bound to make waves. China is no exception and it probably gets hit doubly hard because of the rest of the world's ignorance and in some circles dislike of Asians.

Some Chinese writers, such as Yan Lieshan, a columnist for Southern Weekend, have tried to address what he feels to be this dangerous gap in perceptions between China and the rest of the world. His pieces are popular and his most recent one is powerful. Here's a taste:

When asked about the behavior of Chinese tourists on overseas trips, Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei said he did not agree that the tourists had "backward habits" that "disgraced" the country. "Yes, it's always Chinese who gather in big crowds and talk loud in airports and restaurants, but it's just a habit. We Chinese are not used to the foreigners' murmuring and whispering at a close distance either," said Wu. I totally disagree with Vice Minister Wu.

Little voices such as Yan's can do little to shout down the triumphalism emerging from party central in Beijing.

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Comments (70)

alex65 Author Profile Page:

Dummy4peace,

I can understand your anger and outburst.

You wrote "If Chinese love themselves so much, why would any Chinese add melamine to milk to feed their own innocent babies?"

Adding melamine to milk is a purely criminal/evil act that should be punished to the fullest of law, even the larghable chinese law. This does not mean, however, the chinese people are criminals/evil in general. You have evil people in any part of the world. China does have its fair share.

You wrote "When anybody equates intentionally adding melamine to milk in China to our peanut butter salmonella contamination due to negligence..."

I do agree with you that equating the two is totally inappropriate.

You wrote "Somebody ought to speak for those innocent Chinese babies and their families if no Chinese will. Babies are babies, no matter which country they are from."

I do agree with you completely and I admire your compasion...and I've seen plenty chinese people who wants to suffacate the criminals with their own hands.

porkchoplarue Author Profile Page:

The Chinese people are like mushrooms, to use an old americanism (kept in the dark, fed ...), but that doesn't mean they realize this and the inane comments on this blog point that out. Contrast the reception of Obama and Hu Jintao - that's a hint as to how the world see's China.

thmak Author Profile Page:

To Clinegeography: Your post is grossly distorted and prejudicial on China. USA has the largest defense budget and is the world's largest arms exporter. While the population of USA is four times less than China, yet US defense budget is ten times that of China and US arms export is 20 times that of China, acoording to www.wikipedia.org. China does not export war to any country or has military treaty with other countries in contrast to USA which is fighting in the middle east and has military treaties with many many countries. I hope you can reset your brain.

clinegeography Author Profile Page:

To the crowd on here who insists that China does not mettle, does not export its ideal or push them on others, or interfer in the affairs of other countries. Firstly, it used to, so it is NOT innocent. Today, though the ideaological part is gone, China still influence the world through its arms production. China has the largest arms industry workforce in the world and is one of the top arms exporters. Its weapons are cheap and are in the hands of soldiers, rebels, and insurgents all around the world. The arms industry in China is almost exclusively fully or partially owned by the PLA or one of its "arms". China exports war, just like the US, it just does it these days without ideaology, just for cash.

dummy4peace Author Profile Page:

I agree my comment was not constructive, but there was a reason for my comments.
If Chinese love themselves so much, why would any Chinese add melamine to milk to feed their own innocent babies?

When anybody equates intentionally adding melamine to milk in China to our peanut butter salmonella contamination due to negligence, how do you expect constructive comments? Somebody ought to speak for those innocent Chinese babies and their families if no Chinese will. Babies are babies, no matter which country they are from.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

Stop the stupid survey and poll, why BBC makes this stupid thing, they are English, shouldn't they know about doing a survey that makes SENSE?

It doesn't make sense!

People can be rich but sad and unsatisfied,
and they can be poor but crazily happy:-)

Maybe BBC should find 1000 cavemen, and survey them, I am surely they are happiest and satisfied in the world! Maybe go catch 1000 aliens, that they can travel thru universes, but still fly sadly and feeling unreached.

So now Chinese are satisfied with their government, and they should make dumpling treat for their officials huh?

By the way, people can't trust English:), They are drawing their own world map:) Not even their Queen and King trust their own media:) ha ha ha

zcxia Author Profile Page:

Has any one here read the report of the original survey? Here is the link from BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2009/02_february/06/poll.shtml. It is not exactly convincing to attack the author without knowing all the facts. National pride is biased. It blinds the truth.

zcxia Author Profile Page:

Does any one here really read the original survey? here is the link from bbc. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2009/02_february/06/poll.shtml. So many people jump to defend ch

hawksmoor Author Profile Page:

According to the pdf file, in every one of the 21 countries surveyed , 1000 people were polled.

1000 out of 21 million like Australia is not the same as 1000 out of 1.3 billion in China. Isn't this like asking three people in Los Angeles on what they think about the city?

alex65 Author Profile Page:

Dummy4Peace,

You wrote "It doesn't matter what most Chinese say on WP".

The opinions presented in this blog do NOT represent "most Chinese" just like your opinion does not "represent American people". Obviouly the chinese people do not assign the bloggers here to represent them by using "we chinese peole". The opinions are from individuals and represent individuals. We know people can voice their opinions in extreme terms from behind computer terminals.

You wrote "... such as rushing here to eat our peanut butter and pistachios with salmonella contamination..."

This kind of rhetoric intends to insult and hurt but it does not contribute to a constructive discussion. I wish you take it back.

A lot of people inclduing chinese pople vote with their feet by migrating to other countries. That is why you see many chinese people immigrating to the US simply because the US is a better place to them.

ebundagen1 Author Profile Page:

The real question is which 20 countries are we talking about and what is the basis of their perceptions. There is a general (mis)perception that "our" side, whichever, and more so in the west am afraid, does not engage in propaganda which speaks to how effective it has been.
We're the "land of the free and the home of the brave", well how true has that been in the case of black people, not until the very recent 1960's, and even then..., and yet even black people believe it so completely.
The thing I always say is, except for the effectiveness of the propaganda, people will be amazed at how similar government types are in their worst instincts when they know the kinds of activities they all engage in.

dummy4peace Author Profile Page:

It doesn't matter what most Chinese say on WP. It is their act that speaks the volume. Check USCIS immigration statistics and you will find the Chinese applicants are the leading group. Perhaps they actually like us so much that they want to join us by giving up their Chinese nationality. It may be just releasing population pressure, but it may be more than that... such as rushing here to eat our peanut butter and pistachios with salmonella contamination. Human migration has a long history for us to compare. This one really beats me. What's the rush?

factschecker Author Profile Page:

generalyuefei,

If you read the report, the poll was conducted by some polling organizations using a well defined methodology. It does mean something.

The fact that 92% Chinese view China having positive influence while only 41% of Japanese said the same thing about their own, speak volume about the sentiments of two people and their respective economies.

NeedToKnow Author Profile Page:

TO aglos,

You said, "In the five years I have lived in Beijing, I never have had the need or fear of looking behind me while walking down the street at any hour. I have never experienced any crime. Who can say that in the USA. Maybe we can learn something from the Chinese in this regards..."
--------------------------
I am afraid that I was told the same thing by an Iraqi man in the 1980's. When I asked him what the biggest differences were between his country & ours, he said crime. He said in Saddam's country, no one stole because the penalty was death. Always death. For everything.

Having no crime here would be wonderful, but I would not want to instill the death penalty for every crime to achieve that.

If people have enough, they rarely steal. The biggest problem in this country is the rich hoarding too much & paying low wages. We have created a poor working class who are lectured about working hard to make it, but when they work hard, they can't make it.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

china: 92
Canada: 86
Russia: 82
Germany: 80
UK: 63
USA: 60
France: 72
India: 51
Japan: 41

The poll don't mean anything!
It's never a majority poll!

alex65 Author Profile Page:

MCREW:

You wrote "a lot of Chinese really do somehow seem to be under the illusion that they alone are angels who could never do damage to other countries' interests even inadvertently..."

I do agree with your observation. I attribute this partly to the people's good intentions and partly to the government propaganda. On the other hand such belief is still better than "we must take revenge for all the past national humiliations". What I am afraid is that, without checks and balances, the message changes down the road.

Chinese invasion of Vietnam is a purely geopolitical play with the unnecessary loss of lives on both sides. I can still remember vividly the official and only media played up public emotions as the invasion neared. I was so agitated and worked up against the vietnamese who dared to cause troubles along the border.

China's rise seems inevitable. My hope rests with "a peaceful rise", a propaganda term from the government of China. I truely hope they really mean it.

factschecker Author Profile Page:

For what is worth, below is a quick summary of how participants in the survey viewed their own country. One thing is for sure that the Japanese people are not very upbeat these days about their own country.

china: 92
Canada: 86
Russia: 82
Germany: 80
UK: 63
USA: 60
France: 72
India: 51
Japan: 41

thmak Author Profile Page:

To Rogergoldleader: China has never bought and has been refusing to buy USA brand Liberty even if USA offer free of charge. That Liberty has caused the world wide economic meltdown and the trigger happy cowboy mentality. I hope you understand. Thanks.

aglos Author Profile Page:

We should be careful not to demonize or broadly characterize China in any one way. My previous post was an explanation. China has and is changing rapidly, perhaps not as fast as some would like, but there is progress. In fact I find the Chinese to be very tolerant and open in many ways, short of politics. But also remember this is a country with no open political history. Westerns should not assume that political tolerance is important to the Chinese, because in general it is not. Social and economic tolerance is far more important and affects daily life. In these regards, China is a very open marketplace. A bit bureaucratic on the business side, but none the less very open and entrepreneurial. On the social side of things, China is also very tolerant. Alternative lifestyles and expression about social conditions is very acceptable. Art galleries displaying critical art are open, bars and clubs for all sorts are open, and even the china media is sometimes critical of conditions - which is a way the government sends messages to the national leadership to "clean-up your act". China has executed national ministers involved in corruption, the recent baby milk scandals have resulted in many prosecutions and even executions of business leaders, tax evasion is a capital crime. In the five years I have lived in Beijing, I never have had the need or fear of looking behind me while walking down the street at any hour. I have never experienced any crime. Who can say that in the USA. Maybe we can learn something from the Chinese in this regards...

kenneth3 Author Profile Page:

You (Pomfret) thought you know how the Chinese think of themselves because you had lived in China for ten years, but you don't! I have lived in the US for more than forty years and I still do not fully understand why people here react so strange to anything related to China. Can you really call China a "communist" country? (she is not anymore) Why is she so hesitate to get into the other country's internal affair (such as Sudan), anything wrong with that? What is wrong if they have faith on their government even if those foreigners like you don't (the poll you referred)?

John Pomfret Author Profile Page:

The link on the poll is fixed. I changed it to a pdf. Thanks for pointing it out.
John

Doubter1 Author Profile Page:

spiderleggreen :
I think AGLOS has got it right. Read Rivertown, a book about an American who spends 2 years in a small Chinese city. The Chinese are still aping communist slogans that have nothing to do with the reality in front of them. In those private moments of self-reflection a truer picture emerges.
------------------------------------------

The book yuo mentioned was published in 1997, 12 years ago! Hello, does that mean anything to you? Are you still wearing platformed shoes and Elvis hairdo?

RogerGoldleader Author Profile Page:

Thmak, oh I understand. I understand too well that the American people and the American Government have sold our liberty to the Communist People's Republic of China. And the American people are utterly stupifyingly complacent about it.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

‘God fearing’ name how sweet is thy phrase!
For thy people thou lie to and world to abuse.
Before thy campaigns thou attack thy foes.
For tax payers’ dollars thy stomach feeds.
Lads sent off to wars where thy horn blows.
And their family evicted and kids on streets.
But thou dress thy big suit offer thy oily tithe,
And say a prayer to God to bless thy dreams!

thmak Author Profile Page:

To Rogergoldleader: If China has copied Western economic development, China would have cause this world economic meltdown. USA is now, just like China, regulating/controlling the banking system and the auto industries instead of a free capitalistic market policy. I hope you understand. Your quote:"We in the West have been foolishly and systematically transfering our wealth to your government by purchasing the crap you make in your factories." is ridiculous. With that you can also say the the recent USA peanut and pistachio salmonella symbolize the CRAPS the USA industries are producing. You must be insane. It is utterly nonsense for you to say that "We have given you the means to build your military," when USA forbid any sale of military or duo use equipment to China. USA even forbids China from joining the international space station. I hope you understand. China's purchase $1 T of USA debt is a China economic aid to USA. Did USA purchase China debt? N Korea, Sudan, Iran are independent countries with no military treaties whatsoever between them and China as contrast with the many military treaties USA has with other countries. I hope you understand.

thmak Author Profile Page:

To Jdardine: Your quote: :"
1) The leaders in China are working very hard for everyone. 2) Everyone in China is happy and doing very well 3) Everyone in the rest of the world is doing very poorly." applies, by subsituting USA for China, also to USA. Don't the Obama government say 1) it is doing all it can to save the molten down economy, 2) that USA is fundamentally sound and well and 3) that there is no freedom, democracy and human right in other countries? I hope you understand.
All Chinese people have the idea there is international conspiratorial controversy over issues like Taiwan or Tibet instigated by anti-China countries and organizations. They’re shocked to hear that the the so-called hypocrite and serf-torturing master Dalai Lama can be well respected by those so called Christian god-fearing nations. I hope you understand.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

A Shakespeare poem for John and everyone:)

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

factschecker Author Profile Page:


Pomfret may have spent years in China but his right wing ideology clouds his mind too much that he can't be an objective journalist let alone an expert on China. Being a history major, he should know better the Chinese nationalism is rooted on western powers and Japan's looting and invading China for the past 100 years.

Just to show you his other credentials on women and politics - Mr. Pomfret edited an article on Washington Post where it stated "Depressing as it is, several of the supposed misogynist myths about female inferiority have been proven true". I don't know why anybody will take Pomfret serious on just about anything. I didn't know he is a misogynist "china expert".

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

@MCrew,

No. Chinese don't believe angels as those US senators and their lobbists and wall street buddies who often portrait themselves as they are to their poor people(tax payers) and world.

Chinese know their government are imperfect, but more important they know most American are good, and they do separate majority American and American government.

MCrew Author Profile Page:

You know, I think it's actually both overly conspiratorial AND overly optimistic to assume that these people are paid shills. I don't know if some paid propagandizing does take place on English blogs, but the scary fact is, a lot of Chinese really do somehow seem to be under the illusion that they alone are angels who could never do damage to other countries' interests even inadvertently, while other countries do so with gleeful abandon because they're just plain bad.

outofplaceinthebeltway Author Profile Page:

John,

So does anybody screen these posts to ensure that the blog commentary does not include unsubtle attempts by the Xinhua News Agency to iterate the party line? Oh, I'm sorry, WE DON'T DO THAT IN THIS COUNTRY. My mistake.

Cue comparisons to GITMO and warrantless wiretapping....

Hugs and Kisses!

digitaltechfan Author Profile Page:

Unsurprisingly, this comment thread's been overrun by a bevy of Sino-Nationalists who indignantly bristle at any perceived critique of their country, no matter how restrained or well-reasoned. As others have pointed out, the Chinese government, having mostly abandoned Communist economic principles, now relies on ultra-nationalism as its political adhesive of choice, and its continued embrace of this strategy is going to make China's relationships with other world powers more difficult than they need to be.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

@MCrew

You don't see Chinese killing people around world for liberty and nation's security sake, no?

Fact speaks for truth, as trees bear their fruits.

voter Author Profile Page:

Personally, I do not want China to do no wrong and to be hated by no one. It's a fantasy. The West does not respect humbleness and weakness which is what it expects China to show.

True, China has used its cheap labor and polluted its land in exchange for wealth unlike the past when China was invaded and looted of its wealth by the West with no fair exchange. Was China respected and loved then?

MCrew Author Profile Page:

"But we Chinese as a people and a nation never hate your nation, America or any other country in the world, we Chinese love unity and peace, whether in our own nation or in the world."

Hahahaha, why is the phrase "we Chinese" always, always, ALWAYS followed by some utterly idiotic statement? Many, many Chinese hate the United States and other countries, you don't represent anybody but yourself.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

陆游《示儿》

死去原知万事空,但悲不见九州同。

王师北定中原日,家祭毋忘告乃翁。

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

@ jdardine

---Most people have no idea there is any international controversy over issues like Taiwan or Tibet. They’re shocked to hear that the Dalai Lama is well respected by most parts of the world.---

Most people have no idea there is any international controversy over issues like Taiwan or Tibet which are schemed by US leading Western countries who disregard UN's resolution over such matters.
They’re shocked to hear that the Dalai Lama is well respected by most parts of the world, so is Osama Bin Laden also widely considered as hero in the Muslim world.

Please use full sentences.

Donald2 Author Profile Page:

JDARDINE, you said:

"Most people have no idea there is any international controversy over issues like Taiwan or Tibet. They’re shocked to hear that the Dalai Lama is well respected by most parts of the world."

One should not easily dismiss Chinese people's opinion as nothing but product of government propaganda. An easy way to find out is to talk to overseas mainland Chinese. They have access too all west media and, in your login, are suppose to be less influenced by Chinese government. Please find out their opinion on Taiwan and Dalai Lama. Of course, one can still accuse everyone with differend opinion from the west as Chinese Communist spies, or being brained washed. That's not an uncommon execuse either.

I find most of Chinese respsct democracy in Taiwan but definitely oppose Taiwan Indepedence. I also find their opinion on Dalai Lama not much different from that of Chinese government.

RogerGoldleader Author Profile Page:

thmak wrote: "For self image, China had liberated itself from foreign humiliating domination, raised itself without foreign aid economically, socially, politically and militarily to be equal in the world without causing any trouble around the world as did Hitler and USA."

Wow! Where to start? China may have "raised itself" in the sense that it has copied Western economic development (and corresponding destruction of your environment), but you have had plenty of foreign aid economically. It's called American and European money. We in the West have been foolishly and systematically transfering our wealth to your government by purchasing the crap you make in your factories. We have given you the means to build your military, and to purchase $1 T of debt from us. Maybe you haven't invaded anyone lately, but it's not as though your government hasn't rattled sabers, either. And I'm sure N Korea, Sudan, Iran, and other Chinese proxies and surrogates are pure as the driven snow, too. They aren't causing any trouble, either.

And USA = Hitler? Please. I won't dignify that with a comment.

spiderleggreen Author Profile Page:

I think AGLOS has got it right. Read Rivertown, a book about an American who spends 2 years in a small Chinese city. The Chinese are still aping communist slogans that have nothing to do with the reality in front of them. In those private moments of self-reflection a truer picture emerges.

Doubter1 Author Profile Page:

Ignorance about Tibet and Taiwan, you say? I don't think so, Jdardine. Overwhelming majority of ethnic Chinese living in the US and other "west" nations, who are eating, drinking, and breathing West propaganda, have verynegative view about Dalai Lama and his cynical west supporters. Hardly anyone, except few "native" Tawainese, wants to see Taiwan separated from mainland China for very long.

fitzroysq Author Profile Page:

Can you please fix the link for the poll? Thank you.

jdardine Author Profile Page:

Having lived in China for the last year, it seems clear to me that media is the primary reason for the disconnect. Anytime there is “bad news” reported, it is always followed by something along the lines of: “…but it’s not really a problem because the government is working very hard to fix it, and China can overcome any obstacle because it’s a great nation”. I know many people who see this propaganda for exactly what it is, but obviously, most are drinking the cool-aid. The state-run media is very effective at sticking to three general themes: 1) The leaders in China are working very hard for everyone. 2) Everyone in China is happy and doing very well 3) Everyone in the rest of the world is doing very poorly.

Most people have no idea there is any international controversy over issues like Taiwan or Tibet. They’re shocked to hear that the Dalai Lama is well respected by most parts of the world. As long as the Chinese censors are blocking all alternative views, and the government paid bloggers are keeping discourse within the state sanctioned guidelines, this will continue to be the case.

generalyuefei Author Profile Page:

Dear John,

I don't know why you hate Chinese so much according to all and every your writings.

But we Chinese as a people and a nation never hate your nation, America or any other country in the world, we Chinese love unity and peace, whether in our own nation or in the world.

If liberty and democracy as concept of human rights to attack other verbally, then I think you have set a good example.

Yes, thru our history we, US and China did have a few conflict, but as Chinese we are facing the bright future by turning our back to the past.
Even many nations in past once stood as our enemies, but now our people are working so hard to forget those past and throwing much efforts for friendship.

Yes, my countrymen maybe loud and peasant-like, but that is just their manner, still I believe they are inwardly not as evil as how you published. Still they have class, and are better than a educated award winning 'scholar' who only builds on enmity of nations and their people.

I am glad Americans are not like you, and Chinese are better than you are. Otherwise you may achieve your plan.

I pray for you that you will see this, that you have liberty to hate, but also your rights to love.

Donald2 Author Profile Page:

For those who can read Chinese, you should see the responses from Chinese Netizens on Wu's "positive comments" on Chinese tourists' habits: "Have some brain, Vice Minister Wu", is one example.

However, some criticisms may have its own interesting background. One Taiwan newspaper called the mainlander tourists' big pocket buying style "outrageous". Think of it, twenty years ago, it was Taiwanese throwing away money in mainland and looking down at mainlanders for their dirty toilets, etc. Not they are buying things like in no man's land, and even their baseball team beat up Taiwan. How unfair.

JoeMcD Author Profile Page:

Theobserver4, your comment validated everything in the original article. lol. Almost looked choreographed. ;-)

JM

dmm1 Author Profile Page:

Dear John Pomfret,
You said, "60 percent of Americans surveyed thought the United States exerts a positive influence on the world; whereas 43 percent of people polled in the same 20 other major countries think it's mostly negative." Is there a typo there? Because if 43 percent think US's influence is mostly negative, then 57 percent think it's mainly positive. That is basically IDENTICAL to the US perception of itself. This would be pretty amazing, if true.

factschecker Author Profile Page:


Anytime you have 92% of your people pull to the same direction, you have done something good. In the age of youtube and iphone, no propaganda can influence the mass that effectively without reality on the ground. The fact that China's economy is projecting to grow this year while many other nations may have negative growth, speaks volume about China's progress. Unfortunately the propaganda machine here (Turn on Faux news and see for yourself) is no better than the Chinese one. The media feeds the public this negative image about China for several decades now. I am surprised there are even 40% of people in westen countries that think China has a positive influence in the world.

In recent days there have been massive protest against USA in Europe. We know where we stand in the middle east and Africa. President of Brazil just openly criticized us. Forget about central America. And we have been constantly screwing the Chinese on just about anything that irritates their people - Olympics, Tibet, Taiwan ... So where do our support come from? I am really surprised about the survey about the support for us.

practica1 Author Profile Page:

I thought it was the Japanese that gathered in large groups....

Chauvinism of the sort Pomfret describes is still too too evident in the US, despite our access to information from the rest of the world. How many people listen only to Fox "news" and "information" or support the doggerel of the "patriot act" or the "homeland" and the "commander in chief"?

The Chinese may have been repressed in accepting propaganda - the US has been marketed into ours.

pug_ster Author Profile Page:

Because of what the Chinese government did 30 years ago, most Chinese has benefited because of the economic miracle that has brought them prosperity. Of course, this is not what the 39% of the people in the rest of the world don't see it that way.

mjames2 Author Profile Page:

I find these polls of whether Country X has a good or bad influence on the world to be rather silly. In general, citizens have a positive view of their own nation. And in general, countries with a large influence on the rest of the world - be it for good or ill - are seen as having a negative influence by the rest of the world that is so affected. Thus, under Bush the US was seen more negatively than North Korea. In the end, these polls say more about the insecurity of the people in the rest of the world than of influential Country X.

alex65 Author Profile Page:

AGLOS,

Thank you very much for you constructive contribution to this forum. I, for one, know with that Personality B is a dominant trait than Personality A in China.

On the other hand I would suggest that a similarity between common people in China and in the US. They are genuinely good people who just want to tend to their own business, the "silent majority" you do not hear about in the news. Of course the news makers are often those with radical ideas/emotions.

theobserver4 Author Profile Page:

thmak:

China's self image is a reality image, not far too rosy. For external image, Pomfret doesn't mention what those 20 countires are. Most likely, the majority of those are anti-China left over countries from the Cold War period to start with. China has not been waging an intense public relation campaign as has been done by USA in the past tens of years. So the low for China and high for USA is expected. No suprise here. For self image, China had liberated itself from foreign humiliating domination, raised itself without foreign aid economically, socially, politically and militarily to be equal in the world without causing any trouble around the world as did Hitler and USA. So the high for China and low for USA is expected, No surprise here either. Pomfret should also think USA propaganda is very successful; Americans have generally bought into the government that line that USA's so-called freedom, democracy and human right can only bring good things to the rest of the world. Americans deeply believe the line that USA's invasion of other countries would only benefit the conquered countries. Pomfret mentioned he had spend 10 years in China. He didn't mention when is that 10 years. That his 10 years may be 1000 years ago. Pomfret mentioned: "very little negative news about China filters into the mainland.". It is because, as we all knows, those negative news are mainly generated by anti-China countries and organizations such as the Voice of America, Human Right Watch, the Tibetan Exiled Government, Pomfret's column, etc. to stir up social divisiveness, distrust of Chinese government and unrest in China. With his 10 years in China, Pomfret obviously doesn't know that there are more ordinary Chinese reading and posting in WP and other media than ordinary Americans reading and posting in Chinese media.

March 31, 2009 9:10 AM

-Thank you for proving Pomfret correct.

timscanlon Author Profile Page:

250 some years ago, the USA didn't exist. We don't have a set of proud traditions that have crippled us for thousands of years.

Emperor Hu Jinto has no respect for the common people of his country, and no respect for human rights in other countries. It is partially because of that China is not respected in the world. Chinese imperialism is seen as a huge threat in the world, with Tibet serving as the poster child for what can happen to you if you're a small country, and too involved with China.

China plays a game of encouraging it's client states to act worse than they do. This is an effective strategy for creating a situation where we all go 'well at least they aren't as bad as North Korea, or Burma or Sudan'. But people are growing wise to their ploys, so their poll numbers are dropping.

China's citizens are only slightly less harmonized than their North Korean neighbors, and the poll numbers reflect this. When they're clearly greedy lying sacks of crap to their own people, it's obvious the eventual fate of anyone non-Han dealing with them is going to be bad dealings and dishonesty.

thmak Author Profile Page:

China's self image is a reality image, not far too rosy. For external image, Pomfret doesn't mention what those 20 countires are. Most likely, the majority of those are anti-China left over countries from the Cold War period to start with. China has not been waging an intense public relation campaign as has been done by USA in the past tens of years. So the low for China and high for USA is expected. No suprise here. For self image, China had liberated itself from foreign humiliating domination, raised itself without foreign aid economically, socially, politically and militarily to be equal in the world without causing any trouble around the world as did Hitler and USA. So the high for China and low for USA is expected, No surprise here either. Pomfret should also think USA propaganda is very successful; Americans have generally bought into the government that line that USA's so-called freedom, democracy and human right can only bring good things to the rest of the world. Americans deeply believe the line that USA's invasion of other countries would only benefit the conquered countries. Pomfret mentioned he had spend 10 years in China. He didn't mention when is that 10 years. That his 10 years may be 1000 years ago. Pomfret mentioned: "very little negative news about China filters into the mainland.". It is because, as we all knows, those negative news are mainly generated by anti-China countries and organizations such as the Voice of America, Human Right Watch, the Tibetan Exiled Government, Pomfret's column, etc. to stir up social divisiveness, distrust of Chinese government and unrest in China. With his 10 years in China, Pomfret obviously doesn't know that there are more ordinary Chinese reading and posting in WP and other media than ordinary Americans reading and posting in Chinese media.

mbbsc Author Profile Page:

As a Chinese When I read this survey result I felt unhappy but I am not demotivated and rest of our countryman shouldn't. How can China be Rosy ? if its GPD/capita is only a very small fraction of those of the Western Countries'. How could we, in just 30 years, catch up & surpass whose civilisations which have been thriving for the last 500 years.

Forget about the bashing, just laugh & leave it behind. We should continue to work hard & learn the best practices from the West/US/Russia (I said only the best practices), eg their Science & Technology & Creativity. Hoping one day in future we would be saying "There is no more things for us to learn from the West". That's the day when we will be the world's powerful & respected nation.

remember China's Warring States history
one King 趙武靈王 adopted 胡服騎射 and became a powerful & respected state.


alex65 Author Profile Page:

Mr. Pomfret, I applaud you for another wonderful piece on your acute observation of China which, I believe, can explain a lot of the peiceived paradox.

I want to alert people not to underestimate the effect of propaganda in China or in the western world.

First the chinese propadanda preaches to the chinese people that the government of China is all for the good of the mankind. However, withtout checks and balances, this theme can easily change into a more aggresive attitude, when President HuElse comes into power, and when China gets into a position to have significant influence around the world. This can potentially bring disaster to the Chinese people and others in the world.

Second the western media's portrait of China is still fixed onto the China of 30 years ago. Racism aside the mention of "Chinese commies" is still a common practice in the media to give the audience a simple picture of "good versus eveil". This is completely out-dated. In fact few Chinese people believe in communism nowadays. The US policy makers obviously understand the differences between today's China and that 30 years ago. That is probably the reason you see the repeated pattern of president-candidates act vastly different from president-elects.

We need someone like you to form a bridge of understanding between current dominat western power and the rising power of China.

jimmyjimmy1 Author Profile Page:

Free Tibet

blasmaic Author Profile Page:

China will invade Taiwan and America will default on its debt in response. Then things will normalize again. Both China and America will achieve in a single season what it usually takes generations to accomplish -- the successful annexation of territory (Taiwan) and the drain of a colony's (China's) wealth (America's refusal to pay debt).

Gooooooo China!

aglos Author Profile Page:

As a New Yorker living in Beijing for the past five years, I agree and explain it like this. I think most Chinese people have A and B personalities. The A personality - produced by CCTV (China Central TV) makes them believe and propagandize to themselves and the world that China is perfect - Shangri-la - where else in the world could a country loose 50 million jobs in three months and the lead story on the evening news be that China will never give up its claim to island specs in the south china sea which no one really cares about... This is the "harmonious" side to China's personality, the perception that all is fine, getting better, not to worry the government will make things better, the country is getting better by hundreds of percentages points - Chinese never talk in real numbers - just percentages. :) Once had to explain to a friend that a 100% increase in profits is not impressive if the increase is from 1 rmb to 2 rmb. The B personality is the real side of China, the side you never see unless you are home, alone with Chinese, drinking Mao Tai. This is where they tell the truth - a difficult concept unto its self in China - as they seem very muddled by truth and perception. The B side says they don't care about the island specs in the south China sea and are in fact untrusting of the government, the corruption - especially when they don't benefit - but this side of them admits the weakness and faults. The point here is not that China has faults, all societies certainly do, but to identify places for improvement and make it better, change, evolve, develop. in my experience, the Chinese believe in this concept, but can't figure out how to do it because CCTV say there is nothing wrong. Just a simple comment....

shane_beck Author Profile Page:

Is ultra nationalism a positive self-image? I guess we'll know if and when China ever goes stomping into Taiwan.....

wakin_12345 Author Profile Page:

No, that's obviously not the truth. Actually in China, many Chinese especially youths have a negative view of some of things that China has done in the world. China is not as good as some Chinese think but of course not as bad as some people from the rest of the world think. But one thing is always sure: China does much less "bad things" than the US.

adrianfu Author Profile Page:

How is the "propaganda" in China different to the "messages" (essentially the same contextual meaning as the term previous) coming out of broadcasters, newspapers, magazines etc. owned by media moguls who also happen to influence politics? Case in point, I can closely mirror China's success in propaganda to Fox's similar popularity.

Also - in response to your point about "Chinese" buying into the propaganda, I find that ignorant and somewhat condescending. Not all of us are members of a "Simpsons mob" trashing embassies you know.

It is true re the government and propaganda, but again - I would refer back to other democratised governments, and their efforts to "spread the message". The philosophical point to make here is that perception is truth, and everyone is fighting to get their [correct] side of the story right.

As MK-BKLY mentioned, I would encourage you to gain access to some of the blogs and discussion forums, where you would see some genuine debate going on about a China on the world stage.

Aprogressiveindependent Author Profile Page:

A little surprising, according to the poll, "only" 60% of Americans think this country has a generally positive role in the world. This suggests over 30% believe the opposite. Would be interesting to know how Republicans, the party dominated by belligerent neo-cons, compared to Democrats.

During the 1980's many people in the United States had an increasingly negative opinion about Japan, primarily because of many jobs lost in the manufacturing sector because of their imports.

The increasing negative opinion about China, according to the poll, is probably primarily because of concerns in many countries about the economic effects of their imports on other countrie's economies.

mthakur Author Profile Page:

China’s Call To End The Dollar’s Role As The World’s Reserve Currency Is As Much About Politics As It Is About Economics

A currency issued by the IMF, as Mr Zhou suggests, will never have the same confidence as one that is backed by the full faith of a national government and its central bank. China knows this. It also knows that its economic future is inextricably tied to trade with the US, and that this trade will remain dollar denominated. Its call for a new currency must therefore be seen as being driven by political goals as much as it is by any economic necessity.

http://dailyexception.com/2009/03/24/china-call-to-the-end-of-the-dollar%e2%80%99s-reserve-currency-status-is-as-much-political-as-it-is-economic/

Citizenofthepost-Americanworld Author Profile Page:

"To make matters worse, very little negative news about China filters into the mainland."

Does that mean Chinese people do not have regular access to "Pomfret's China"? How deplorable!

It would be most appreciated should some reader volunteer to make this concern part of the upcoming rectification campaign in the mainland...

horsham Author Profile Page:

John,
You confused the critical distinction of two different questions: "do most Chinese believe China has a mainly positive influence on the world?" which was the question posted, and "do most Chinese people recognize that China is perceived mainly negatively aboard?" which was the question you addressed. I think for many Chinese, paradoxically, the answers to both questions can be affirmative. This cognitive gap between the Chinese and "outside world" could be explained, in the Chinese mind, on the ground of foreign prejudice -- national, cultural, ideological, political, racial...

One thing I find interesting is that, whenever the majority of Chinese hold a belief about themselves, it's the result of communist propaganda (which may often be true). But is there ever a time the mass in the West are victims of media (including influential bloggers)?

xeroid47 Author Profile Page:

The question is not whether that high percentage of Chinese view China positively indicates the success of propaganda, but whether there is any reality basis for their view. For a young Chinese growing up today with the highest growth rate, improved standard of living, country at peace and striving for technological excellence, highest internet usage, I am not surprised that high percentage consider China in a positive light. Contrast with U.S. with military in over 100 other countries, not to mention wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, refighting a rearguard action over the question of evolution, with declining standard of living and illiterate in language and science. You can call it propaganda all you want but it would not change the reality.

mw-bkly Author Profile Page:

That's an incredibly high degree of faith in one's own benign intentions. Regardless of whether it's objectively right or wrong, it's indicative of a severely constrained range of opinion on an issue. How do 92% of people agree on a question that doesn't relate to life necessities?

In some ways though, it's not surprising at all.

Chinese leaders and "intellectuals" have spent the last decades repeating the idea that China is diametrically opposed to the US/West in virtually all ways. And because in matters of geopolitics, the US acts always in "bad" ways, it stands to reason therefore that China acts always in "good" ways. It's a simple and stupid logic, but if you read enough Chinese newspapers or books on these issues it's clearly what emerges.

Chinese people are socialized to perceive their country in contra-distinction to the US/West and to moralize that difference. Sure, the US has its channels of idiotic socialization and oppressive "othering", but in China, the process is distinctive for the beautiful veneer it puts on the country's own image as the anti-West, meaning down-trodden, magnanimous, peace-loving and virtuous. It's not that China does no wrong, it's that wrongness is incompatible with China. It's almost a biological quality of the nation. In Chinese chat rooms there is often discussion of the genetic roots of Chinese tendencies toward social harmony and communitarianism, all of which is said with an apparent amnesia regarding China's own brutal recent history. Nevertheless, to suggest otherwise can really blow the minds of people and can cause deep offense.

infoshop Author Profile Page:

Wow, John. You are stormed back with overload of writings. I guess couple months of hiatus helped you with materials. Keep it up.

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