Why has “demonization of China” staged a comeback?

In an uproar some Western media have whipped up by capitalizing on the Olympic torch relay, the "demonization of China", which had once been rampant, is making a comeback again, and some Westerners of insight have also become aware of this current.

Hysteria and demonization of China were how Thomas Heberer, a leading China expert in Germany, described the overwhelmingly native Westerm media coverage in this regard. What is deplorable is that tremendous achievements China made in the past scores of years have been neglected.

Meanwhile, the "Washington Post" has quoted Mark Leonard, executive director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, as saying that "the story of the last five years has been about economic opportunities. The story of the last six months has been about China as a threat in Darfur and in Tibet."

For a period of time, some positive changes occurred in some Western media’s reports and commentaries concerning China, with more voices to underscore contact, opportunities and responsibilities, and the "demonization of China" seemed to phase out then. The framed-up Western coverage of China topics this time, however, has enabled us to see that the "demonization of China" is by no means over and, once there are chances, it will come up to make mischief and stir up troubles again.

The reason the "demonization of China" still has a market is that the outlook of some Westerners regarding China remains unchanged. Despite tremendous changes that have taken place since the nation launched its reform and opening up three decades ago, the cognition of these Westerners on China and knowledge about the nation is outdated. Many of them do not know much about China, still less about the nation’s peaceful rise. In the words of Heberer, for many Germans, they cannot tell what information about China is true and what information is false. Since they do not know China in the first place, their objective appraisal of the country is out of the question of course, he said.

When Westerners are facing the displacement of industrial enterprises overseas, outsourcing their work opportunities and seeing "China-made" products pile up in shops or stores in their countries and tourists from China walk in groups along streets of Paris, London and New York, they would instinctively envy, fear and even hate this big nation that has been developing without being based on the Western mode.

Such complex mentality has come chiefly from a sense of superiority deep-rooted in the value concept of Westerners. In analyzing such a mentality, Jose Freches, the cultural advisor to the French president, said it seems that the West never knows how to engage China, and China’s changes have also made them not easy to see problems clearly.

For a long period of time, Westerners observe China with an air of contempt, and their basic way of thinking is that "whatever Western is correct". In their psychological anticipation, how can an Oriental nation that has been developing without basing itself on the Western mode not inflict global problems or pose challenges to the West? Some people, with such a mentality, are easily confused by such assertion of linking the Darfur issue (Sudan) to the Beijing Olympics.

To change the Westerns’ outlook on China, we have to start with two processes. The first is (for China) to adhere to the peaceful development and clarify issues with ironclad facts. In its past three-decade reform and opening up, China mainly relied on its own efforts and did not create troubles for the world but instead spurred the solution of a couple of thorny, global issues. China’s peaceful development is neither "zero-sum game" to the world, nor takes the decline of the West as the cost. On the contrary, China’s prosperity has created immense opportunities for Western nations. So in the relationships between China and the West, there is not only competition but all the more cooperation and win-win as well.

Second, Westerners should adjust their mentality with respect to China’s development. Since the nation’s development has changed the Western outlooks on history and development, the West should cater to China’s development, gradually get used to discussing problems on an equal footing with the country, draw on the essence of China’s development and, on this basis, restructure the cognition of the West about China.

Of course, both processes would be long-standing. As for China, it requires still more self-confidence and patience to engage the West, even it has a complex mentality.

By People’s Daily Online and its author is Ding Gang, a senior PD desk editor

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About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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