We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about media bias in the West against China. One question is how do you correct it? The video report below reminded me the biggest impact really should come from the Chinese themselves. How? By becoming rich! Let’s face it, we humans worship wealth and success. Emotionally, when we see a bum on the street versus when we see a rich and successful person, our biases are vastly different. The video report shows luxury brands in New York catering to rich Chinese shoppers. China has already become Luis Vuitton’s second largest market. I can only imagine Luis Vuitton trying to align its brand with what’s cool about being Chinese. That also means favoring Chinese models over blue eye-ed blond hair ones in China. All that will work towards a more positive image for China inside and outside. China just needs to continue to sprint towards becoming rich.
A more positive image
We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about media bias in the West against China. One question is how do you correct it? The video report below reminded me the biggest impact really should come from the Chinese themselves. How? By becoming rich! Let’s face it, we humans worship wealth and success. Emotionally, when we see a bum on the street versus when we see a rich and successful person, our biases are vastly different. The video report shows luxury brands in New York catering to rich Chinese shoppers. China has already become Luis Vuitton’s second largest market. I can only imagine Luis Vuitton trying to align its brand with what’s cool about being Chinese. That also means favoring Chinese models over blue eye-ed blond hair ones in China. All that will work towards a more positive image for China inside and outside. China just needs to continue to sprint towards becoming rich.
Talk is cheap. There’s so much talk about “soft power”, but the only way China and the chinese will get real respect is when they catch up in the “hard-powers”. Areas like wealth/economics and technology.
I think becoming rich will have only minor effects in bringing a positive image to China. Rich images alone will not bring about positive image. In fact, it can contribute to a harmful, negative image of a group.
During the beginning of the 20th century, Jews in Germany, Austria, France and other western European nations were considered very rich by the media at that time. Yet we know what that brought them. In fact, being seen as rich actually brought their image more negatively. It brought them jealousy from gentiles. It brought them suspicion etc.
A positive image is really quite complicated. It has many factors. I believe the best way to give the Chinese a more balanced image, one that seeks to humanize us instead of to demonize and dehumanize us is to encourage Chinese people to go into media: movies, literature, art, news, etc. It is only through influence on a broad cultural scale, in many diverse arenas, that we can begin to rectify all the negative images that are now everywhere of China and the Chinese people.
This is a complicated topic. For the Chinese themselves, positive image must flow from attainment of a high level of self development. Economics surely has a lot to do with that, as when you are poor, you don’t have time to work on much else…
But being rich (look at the middle eastern countries) per se also doesn’t bring self development per se.
China’s renaissance is not just about an economic resurgence, but a cultural one as well. That is coming, but let’s be real, China is not a cultural leader in the world yet.
I believe once China has accomplished that – things should align. But how easily that comes about depends on the West also. It seems to have a tendency to denigrate whole groups of people – as Melektaus pointed out above.
For me, the lesson to learn about the holocaust is not dictatorship, democracy, human rights, etc. The key lesson to be learned is to refrain from collective denigration. Look at the holocaust, the religious conflicts, crusades, colonization, genocides, etc. It all starts with collective defamation. It’s the root of all evil – of most history’s most inhumane acts; it’s the sword that prevents us from seeing each other as human beings, the psyche that causes and justifies wars… And it’s openly wielded against China and the Chinese people today…
Complicated indeed. To melektaus’ contention, isn’t getting rich first a prerequisite for more Chinese going into media? For example, if the market for movies in China hardly exists, then you will need the population to be affluent enough first. China’s movie budgets are still way below Hollywood, though climbing up fast.
I think we are actually agreeing, though my OP’s treatment is too black and white. I think when China is economically strong, other things naturally will follow.
And, right, not to say the West’s collective defamation doesn’t have an impact. The lies and distortions about the 1989 student protest really gave hardliners in the West the excuse to advance policies that shunted China. That in turn caused the backpedaling of the “reform and opening up” policies within China itself too.
How are we going to change this over the top prejudice against China and Chinese? Nothing short of a major war is going to take care of that; think about it, after world war 2, the allies often found that they had to ‘reeducate’ German kids who’d grown up believing in the inferiority of other races, and other such eugenecist beliefs. The Western viewpoint is clouded in its own conceit, and will not budge unless it is forced to acknowledge another more superior culture, and the only way to get the message across to a beast that only understands power, is with greater power.
Now i’m not just talking abstract soft power notions like the economy, but tangible things that even the most hick Westerner can acknowledge. Carrier battle groups is one thing; no, what i want to see are Chinese starships colonising distant planets. The day a Chinese permanent station is in orbit servicing Chinese starship destined for offworld colonisation is the day the world will have no choice but to accept China’s views on a more balanced notion.
Having said that, China buying AMC is a big step, since Chinese films can now be shown en masse to American audiences, and hopefully that will humanise the Chinese to the american audience
Heh. On the AMC part, I think it comes back to whether the film is sufficiently ‘big’ enough and caters to American sensitivities. AMC still won’t show unless those two criteria are met.
For me, this again goes back to the rich argument. Hollywood can make a Kungfu Panda which was a huge hit in China. China hasn’t yet made a Harry Potter. Why is that? When China is sufficiently rich with enough talents in these industries, then chance of making such a movie is dramatically improved.
For now, as we watch China’s Got Talent, many of China’s talented people are still stuck growing vegetables in the country side.
i believe China itself does have the talent and the resources; the problem insofar as i see is the protectionism of the hollywood industry and the ideology of its proponents. Tsui Hark and Jackie Chan and Raymond Chan were universally recognised for their work, but since the american market was the predominant market, they only enjoyed marginal success compared to the american produced kung fu panda.
Hopefully, as the Chinese market and PPP outpace the American market, many films will be geared towards accomodating those views. Why is the hero never Chinese, even in a joint china-american production? where’s the Chinese sex symbol? Why don’t American girls have pictures of Chinese idols on their folders? you get the idea
I once asked a Malaysian tourist guide what is his impression toward tourist from different nationality, a brief of his personal experience:
White – courteous, good tipping, discipline
Chinese – noisy, lots of complaint, spend lavishly
Japanese – courteous, discipline but odd
Middle East (Arab?) – arrogance, stingy.
His favorite is Chinese because he made most of his commission from them, but I notice he has high respect toward the White, so money can’t buy positive image.
With regard to soft power and culture aspect, all non-English speaking nation include Europe have a hard time to compete. Mulan and Kungfu Panda demonstrate that Hollywood able to make movie that appeal to universal taste, simply the good versus the bad and that’s all. If compare against “亲密敌人 (Dear Enemy)”, the theme and story sound global, perhaps more than 20% time the actor/actress converse in English, but just can’t depart from sense of nationalism in the end, it is still a movie made for the Chinese I think.
Great article and discussion!
I feel the reason that Hollywood films are more accepted in China has a variety of reasons:
1. Chinese people are used to subtitles. In fact, I think virtually every show and movie (Mandarin or not) already has subtitles so to the average Chinese, watching a non-Mandarin film isn’t a huge leap because they’re so used to reading the subtitles.
Whereas in the US, the vast majority of people will avoid subtitles. I’m not sure what it’s like in the rest of the world though.
2. I feel that the best Chinese TV shows and movies often started out as books first and then were adapted. The reason is that when I watch other non-book versions, the story is really incoherent and choppy.
The problem is that there’s too much emphasis on the celebrity stars and not enough on the writers. Though there have been some pretty good Chinese films recently, the problem is that there’s also a lot of bad ones.
Whereas only the really good Hollywood films make it to China, so there’s this perception that they produce the best stuff.
If China could aim their focus like South Korea did, they could be a powerhouse.
3. Lack of IP protection. I know this exists in the US as well, but the fact is that because it’s so rampart in China and the Greater Asia, it really limits what a production company is willing to risk to produce great entertainment.
This is why so many TV shows will remake Jin Yong’s (金庸) books because they know it will do well. And it’s also why they have shows they would rather fill with idols who can’t act vs. those who can.
4. Dubbing and sound. This is a nitpick but this has to stop. Really. I hate that they dub over certain actors voices because they don’t “sound” right. It looks weird sometimes and the sound doesn’t always match up when one is clearly studio recorded while was done while filming.
I realize they may want a particular accent or perhaps the actor can’t act, but I feel it cheapens the production and makes it seem like an inferior product.
5. SARFT. Look, I realize they play an important role sometimes, but I truly believe some of their censorship has truly affected the quality of Chinese entertainment.
There quite a few TV series that I’ve seen where the editing just seems weird and then I learn it’s because SARFT didn’t like how something was portrayed so they had to remove it.
Or they had to change the plot or change the dialogue just to suit it. It completely messes with the flow of the story because a lot of these changes are made during the editing phase so they no longer have time to re-shoot scenes.
As a result some things just seem off.
It’s funny and disappointing because while a lot of the Mainland films and TV shows are visually much more beautiful, the TVB or even Taiwanese stories just flow so much better.
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Ultimately, I’m pretty excited with the direction that Chinese entertainment is heading, but I feel there needs to be less pandering to the West. Stop trying to create a product that will suit other people’s needs and instead focus on what Chinese people will like.
And lastly, I also hope to see a great pan-Asian collaboration. There’s a lot of good films coming out from other Asian countries so it would be nice to see them working together.
Soft power due to spending? Sounds a little far fetched. China soft power will come to be when they develop their own luxury brands instead of buying other people’s luxury brands.
Agreed. A country can only have true soft power if her people are confident about their own culture or products. But a little political alignment helps too. Take S. Korea as an example, as of now I dare say she has more soft power than China. S. Korea has Samsung and Hyundai, global corporate powerhouses, and her popular entertainment products have even managed to break into the American market (Wondergirls have made an impact in America). Of course, she would not have been able to do so if she was part of a “communist bloc”.
Contrast her with China. China has yet to create a real conglomerate the scope of Samsung or Sony of Japan. China is getting there, but she faces many hurdles. Her people are not confident of her own products. They are concerned about shoddy workmanship and tainted products. It is telling that GM has a strong presence in China’s automobile market, the only East Asian country it is able to do so. Only when the Chinese have the same faith and the same love for their home-grown brands like the Koreans and Japanese can they radiate soft power. Also, China’s innovators have not yet arrived en mass. Innovation in terms of products and services is the number one way to win appreciation. China should invest more on R&D. Just today, I heard that Samsung has invested $1.2 billion to research on a next-generation computer chip.
Finally, Chinese governmental censorship is stifling the creativity of the Chinese entertainment industry. Chinese cinema today does not approach the vibrancy and dynamism of say, Hong Kong cinema in the late 80s and early 90s. It is not surprising Hong Kong movies have a wider reach to global audiences than Mainland ones, even today.
China already has her work cut out for her because the richest markets she’s trying to break into all belong to countries who are suspicious of her. She must start winning over her domestic markets before she can win over other countries.
As melektaus has stated wealth doesn’t mean respect in many cultures. In fact Jews are still being discriminated against in most Western nations for being greedy. I would give a second example: The wealthy Hong Konger who immigrated to Canada in the 90s. The Canadian locals simply hated the HKers.
IMO one of the reasons why Chinese tourists are being looked down upon is preciously because they are too much into conspicuous spending, while most people still think of China as a whole as poor. This reminds me of how white racists in Southern US feel about wealthy, flashy blacks; The former resents the wealthier blacks even more than the poor ones because they think blacks should “know their place” instead of trying to prove themselves otherwise. At the end of the day the problem is both the Chinese should show more humility, and those who simply can’t accept the existence of wealthier Chinese population.
GM is doing good in China rather than Japan/Korea because the later put more taxes on foreign cars, whereas GM China is half owned by Chinese. Plus, the Chinese auto industry is just starting whereas Korean/Japanese car makers have been doing it for decades. GM cars themselves are not all that shabby either and entered the Chinese market early.
I am also not sure whether innovation is all that important for developing countries. Japanese came to power not because it was innovative, its major companies such as Sony and Toyota reversed engineers American products then produced them en mass at cheaper prices. Only after they gained market share did these companies become innovative. The same with Korean products, which copied the Japanese.
That said, I don’t think most people truly understand nor appreciate the extent of technology in China. Technology in general is far more challenging to manage in China due to its size. Whereas a large US bank serve merely a few million users a day, a large bank in China serves a magnitude more. I would say that China is now driving a lot of requirements for technology especially in terms of scalability. Innovation will follow inevitably because solutions from outside of China can’t keep up with China’s environment. It’s only a matter of time Chinese will have to innovate for domestic consumption.
Sigmar’s assessment is interesting. For one, I agree with many of his assessments on where things are at the moment with respect to China, South Korea, and Japan. Let me try to link back to being rich.
Right. However, your confidence is vastly boosted when your socioeconomic status is superior to others. Military might flows from that. Which poor country can make the best of breed everyday products we use? When a population can be uplifted from subsistence and participate in industry, and when it can be educated, then you see the country increasingly able to make superior products. This is a virtuous cycle, because when you participate in industry, that in turn upgrade your skills.
India is a democracy, but can you identify what is the Indian soft power? Can you name products that are dominant in the global market place?
Very true. Though you can make the same argument against South Korea few decades ago. Then, you won’t be able to point to Samsung or Hyundai. Samsung may have reached a zenith right now, and Hyundai might still have a lot of mileage in terms of how far it could climb.
China has Lenovo, Huawei, ZTE, TCL, and a long list of upcoming companies. In a decade or two, the landscape will completely change.
We hear this line of thinking all the time in the West. Some Chinese filmmakers also say so.
I don’t think censorship stifles creativity that much. So what if Kate Winslet’s boobs were censored. Does that make Titanic less of a film? Did Avatar or Kung Fu panda get censored? No.
You could argue political censorship might stifle some creativity in political films. But I don’t think that’s any worse than what’s already reality on the grounds in places where is creative. Try to have a Hawaiian independence film made and see how that turns out in the U.S. market. Sure, the U.S. government wouldn’t even need to lift one hair in terms of censoring it (or influencing it). Big American movie studios would just never approve such a project.
Pick your censorship man: the government or the market place.
If we look at films from China in the last couple of decades – it’s access to modern film-making equipment, computer, software, and a burgeoning populace who can afford movies that’s pulling the industry forward. And of course, it’s people. Before, majority of the Chinese were toiling in the farms. The talent pool to participate in this industry has dramatically increased because of wealth.
Again, it’s a virtuous cycle. Better movies made helps recognition within the market. More movie theaters get build. The bigger the market, the bigger the budgets for movies. When the budget is big enough, you can do more effects and mayhem which are what everybody wants.
Agreed with most of what you said, except I wouldn’t use the word, “copy” to describe how the Japanese and the Koreans made their products.
For example, the narrative isn’t one of ‘copying’ when Apple made the graphical user interface for the Mac. It’s genuine innovation when you can make a similar product with just one of the following:
1. With much lower cost
2. With higher reliability
3. With better performance
4. With more applicability
The Western press like to defame poorer countries as copycats and intellectual property thieves. This is a very mean-spirited way of looking at other peoples.
Even the rich West constantly “copies” ideas from the poorer countries. I like to use the Nike example where they send designers to China to ‘observe’ what’s selling well at stores.
Or, if we look at computer games, I would say, virtual items you pay real money for are copied from the Chinese and the Koreans. They are ‘copying’ a business model.
I am not saying there is no copying going on. There are. There are people making knockoffs. But such are likely exception rather the norm.
@pugster and others.
I’m not saying superficial spending will boost the image and soft powers of China, but underlying real wealth will. First, wealth, in itself, is very much admired. Second, wealth will lead to development of hard and soft powers. Development of technology, creativity, media and PR, arms, etc etc is only possible if you have the wealth to spend on it. Not just cold hard capital, but enough social wealth where individuals no longer need to worry about basic needs such as food and retirement-so that they can take risks and pursue higher value endeavors. The products of such will create soft power. No one will take you seriously if you are a society of dirt poor subsistance farmers and unable to demonstrate your human capital’s abilities. You’ll never be seen and compared as an equal if you don’t have equal means. It’s absolutely critical that China continue to grow wealthy as a platform for everything else.
I don’t just mean Chinese people in China but Chinese people all over the world where they have much more expendable cash. However, I believe more and more 2nd generation Asians (and presumably Chinese) in the US are going into other fields that are contributing to media image.
However, if China does not move more aggressively and in larger numbers towards the media broadly construed, the western media will be the dominant narrative and basically do do the Chinese what they have done to Jews during the 19th and early 20th centuries: that is, defame us so much that it makes calamitous disaster impossible to avoid.
Chinese Americans and Chinese in many countries (such as Indonesia, e.i.) has made the mistake in the past into believing that just because the Chinese community has a degree of economic power that that translates into social and political power. In both cases, the Chinese community suffered for that naive belief tremendously suffering pogroms and discrimination of the worst kinds for that assumption.
Economic power is a double edged sword as we saw for the Jewish community in Europe. China needs to learn from our own experiences before it becomes too late for the kinds of disasters like we saw against Jews.
I am starting to read Christopher Buckley’s satirical novel, “They Eat Puppies, Don’t They?” and the parallels between satire and life are interesting. Buckley is a Washington insider and he has mentioned that this book is far closer to the truth than people may realize (it’s about the defense industry making up a story about the Chinese trying to assassinate the Dalai Lama to anger and scare the American public into supporting conflict with China). If there is no counter pressure against that current of maligning China from the Chinese people, the western media is allowed full reign and do whatever they please to cast whatever kinds of images of us and China they please. We cannot allow that kind of danger to befall the world.
This is true, the main obstacle is Hollywood’s racism. However, you have to remember that even smaller films or TV shows now a days can get sometimes large attention from the public but the way to do that is through small scale fundings and promotion. If few Chinese/Asians in the US support (fund, watch, campaign, make) films or TV shows or are even in the industry as executives or producers, even these smaller media arenas are closed off. So it has to begin with interest in and desire for change. Not enough Asians and Chinese are interested in my experience to even demand and pursue that kind of course.
I disagree with the assessment of the Chinese film industry. In the 80s and 90s, I think it was the most vibrant and creative and best film industry in the world with Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and the other 4th generation film makers. they were making films no one else could that were ground breaking. But today, the Chinese industry is trying too hard to be liked by Hollywood and that has stifled creativity (Hollywood is actually one of the least creative industries in the world because it copies or remakes everything it does).
A “quality” image often comes before quality itself. Quality and its image are two totally different things. I am typing right now on a Lenovo. It is as good as any laptop computer I have ever owned. It is cheaper than comparable Dell’s and Macs, and HPs. But it doesn’t have a famous name in the US associated with quality.
Now take a look at Apple products. They managed to build their image first and their product’s quality followed because they were able to generate profits which then went into R&D.
Apple products are actually way overrated in their quality and their main selling point is their image as quality products and design (and social factors such as a ‘cool” image). Why would anyone pay an extra 200-800 dollars for a Mac than a comparable PC? it’s not the quality, it’s the image. So there seems to be a complicated dynamic between the image and the product.
‘However, if China does not move more aggressively and in larger numbers towards the media broadly construed”
How are the chinese supposed to this if the mass of the chinese are poor and focused on day to day basic needs? How are the einsteins and keynes and twains of china going to develop their greatness when they are preoccupied with feeding themselves and their families? Or if the society they are in is always uncertain due to potential chaos from poverty.
I beleieve we will see progress en masse when the children of the current middle and upper class generation start to make their mark on society. They won’t be tethered by fear of lacking basic needs and will be free to pursue their dreams.
Also, I don’t think the discrimination of the weathy minorities in Indonesia and other places are good analogies for the chinese getting wealthy. The ethnic chinese in malaysia and indonesia may have controled a large percentage of those countries’ wealth, but as a whole they were still too tiny for anyone to pay any attention or respect to. If China’s mass of people get weathy enough (don’t need to be absolutely rich, mind you, just wealthy enough), there will be critical mass to change the worldview in all aspects of the global society.
“How are the chinese supposed to this if the mass of the chinese are poor and focused on day to day basic needs?”
I already answered this question in my post. Please read it again.
“The ethnic chinese in malaysia and indonesia may have controled a large percentage of those countries’ wealth, but as a whole they were still too tiny for anyone to pay any attention or respect to.”
No, the reason they have not been able to gain political and social power in those countries is not because they are a small minority (small minorities can attain political power if they aspire to it and have influences). The main reasons are that they have been the victims of hideously discriminatory policies and as a result of political ignorance, naivite and apathy on their own behalf.
This blog has very up to date news about Asian American. Have you guys seen it?
In the 1950s, not just the Japanese built crappy cars, BMW too! Take a look at what they make:
China’s industry today is not exactly like Japan in the 1950s or 1990s. In 1950s, it is all cheap and in 1990s only high end manufacturing. China is sort of a hybrid because it is so big and with an under developed rural areas.
As we can see from the BMW Isetta story, an industry has to survive and make products people will or can buy. It also take time to build up a brand. In the 1960s, Mini from UK (designed by a Greek immigrant from Turkey) was kicking BMW’s butt. Can you imagine the British auto industry beating the German today? During the 1950s, the high end and desirable mainstream cars from Europe are Alfa Romeo, Rover, Citroen, Mercedes etc. We are just too young to remember.
Japanese industries don’t have the capital to make better cars until the 1980s hence they are the late comers and considered to have less pedigree. After 40 yrs the German and the Japanese (split 80/20) dominate the international high end market. Basically, it would take China a few more decades to achieve that. However, if you have the capital and market you can take a short cut. For example, Geely bought Volvo and Tata bought Rover/Jaguar. Even BMW spent 50 million pound just to buy the Rolls Royce brand. Despite their reputation, nobody would pay $300k for a BMW, ditto Audi/VW who bought Bugatti, Lamborgini and Bentley.
Let face it, people look at brand first before looking at the specification of the product. Have you heard of a car company called Maybach? It is supposed to be a high end brand by Mercedes Benze. It just got out of business because it is not that well known. If you want a new one you better hurry, they are giving a $100k discount now.
Someone used the Apple example as a case study. I totally agree and would like to add the auto, watch, cosmetic and high fashion industry. Product quality alone is no guarantee of success, you need to create a perception, a brand image. Basically, I think it is just a way of fooling consumers. However, this is pretty much the same idea of building up China as a brand.
There is nothing the west can do short of waging nuclear armageddon against China. Remember China is 1.5 billion people, something Jews can only wish for.
So no matter how much ethnocentric propaganda they direct at the Chinese or more specifically Han Chinese – e.g. Encourage/supporting Tibetans to racially target Han chinese, Han rule, Han culture, in order to obfuscating race and politics as a way of trying to racially/politically isolate China – there will always be more Chinese.
I watch more Chinese entertainment than others so I definitely fee that the censorship affects the types of movies and stories being told.
It seems like all the best Chinese films and TV series are all set in pre-Modern China. The reason is because the writers are able to get away with more stuff before SARFT jumps in and forces them to change things.
Whereas modern-day shows are dominated by romantic comedies or slice-of-life stories because many things can’t be shown in a negative light. As a result the shows tend to lack a certain punch that the pre-Modern China shows can tell.
In addition, this also means a complete lack of futuristic sci-fi shows. You can’t tell a post-China story where the government doesn’t exist or is replaced by something completely different.
In the end, these types of restrictions severely limits the types of stories being told and why a lot of Chinese shows end up being repetitive or remakes or based in ancient China.
Zhang Yimou, Chen Kaige and their peers are indeed a golden generation of film-makers, however from the view of Southeast Asia at least, directors from Hong Kong such as Tsui Hark, Sammo Hung and John Woo broke the most ground and made the most impact in terms of cinematic entertainment, the latter even enjoyed a short and eventful stint in Hollywood. Even Wong Jing managed to make his mark with “The God of Gamblers”. And then we have Stephen Chow and the action choreography of Yuen Wo Ping (and now Donnie Yen).
I agree that marketing plays an important part in promoting a brand. But in Apple’s case, they have proven to be real innovators with the iphone. Also, various media did not try their best to magnify any flaws in their products.
Hong Konger says
I agree with Melektaus and Pug_ster that this is not particularly deep symbol of respect for China.
Western shopkeepers are nicer to the Chinese because they want rich customers. They’re also nicer to rich Russians, and, a generation ago, rich Japanese. But it’s superficial, like a gold-digger who pretends to like a wealthy man.
Like Pug_ster, I would like to see the rise of Chinese brands. I probably have far more interest in fashion than you do! I see no major Chinese high-fashion labels. There are a few on the fringes, like Shanghai Tang or Vivienne Tam, but they are mostly from Hong Kong or America. There’s no Chinese equivalent to Chanel, LV, Dior, etc. Even a step down, there’s no Chinese Levis, Nike, etc.
“Soft power” will be proven when Europeans are flocking to buy the hot new Chinese designer, replying on Chinese media for their hard-hitting international news coverage, and fawning over the latest Mando-pop star. I think that will be a long way away.
Of all the criticisms one hears of China, “not rich enough” is not one of them. In fact, I think media coverage is skewed too much towards the nouveau riche Chinese, and not enough on the daily reality in the countryside (though that’s a different story).
Here is Hong Kong, rich Mainland Chinese are looked down upon for all sorts of reasons, like bad manners and corrupt business practices. They are also seen as being dishonest, as in using loopholes to take advantage of social services. The Beijing government is seen as censorious and cruel. I’m not saying this is fair — it’s just what I see.
The fact that mainland Chinese can now afford designer bags does not seem to have improved their standing. But, the influx of real Chinese migrants (not those who just drop in to have kids and shop) has improved their image — “soft power” comes from those who move here to excel in their studies and work, and who succeed and integrate into the society.
To improve its image in the world, China has to do more than just spend money.
Hong Konger says
Colin — I partly agree with you on needing money to create soft power with the media.
You do need money to pay for TV stations, correspondents and the huge support staff — producers, editors, photographers, web designers, etc.
Part of CCTV’s problem was that all their sets and graphics looked cheap and old. Now they’re looking newer and modern. Plus, they’re getting rid of their anchors’ terrible 80s’ outfits and heavy accents. While that’s a superficial change, it’s something people notice.
But money is not everything. Nowadays, Chinese media is awash in cash, both from government subsidies, and from ads from government-linked companies.
They can have a Xinhua newsroom in New York and a CCTV center in Washington, plus hire top international journalists.
But the resulting coverage, so far, is still quite stilted. There are a few good programs. But major controversial news topics are missing entirely. The quality of the writing and production is not great. Much of it is still extremely boring, like a government press release. Basically, it’s not ready to appeal to a broad non-Chinese audience.
So they need to spend the money. But they also need to give their staff the freedom to work like everyone else does in the world. They need both.
That may be true but a large population does not automatically guarantee influence and a positive image.
The iphone only became innovative after they had some considerable success if I’m not mistaken. And besides, I really don’t think any of their products are truly innovative. (I actually worked for them for a little while and can tell you that even their employees will admit this)
“No, the reason they have not been able to gain political and social power in those countries is not because they are a small minority (small minorities can attain political power if they aspire to it and have influences). The main reasons are that they have been the victims of hideously discriminatory policies and as a result of political ignorance, naivite and apathy on their own behalf.”
I would hardly assign blame for those oppressions on the victim chinese themselves. As a relatively wealthy minority, against a poor and uneducated majority, they will always naturally be the target of jealous discrimination ,ignorance, and violence by the majority.
Can you show me examples of where a clear small minority has been able to keep reigns on power without severe physical repression of the majority?
But back to my original point, the experience of the wealthy minorities those countries has little bearing on china’s situation. If China develops sufficient wealth (loose definition of weath), it won’t be a tiny helpless minority without resources of it’s own to protect it’s interests. It will be a major power on in every aspect due to sheer size and critical mass.
Maybe the cnn story in the original post is a bad example. When I say wealth, I don’t mean hard cash being flaunted to purchase trinkets. What I mean is that there needs to be enough wealth in the social sense so that individuals don’t have to worry about eating hand to mouth, so their true abilities can be unlocked. By wealth, I include: a good enough income to easily cover necessities like food and housing (lacking today); enough funding for social programs like health and retirement (lacking today); enough funding for education for all who want it (lacking today).
When the chinese are wealthy enough so that they can put aside worries about day to day necessities, then their human potential and greatness can be unlocked. And then we will see progress and breakthroughs in all areas. It will be these “hard” breakthroughs that will change the image of china and the chinese.
I guess there are “3rd tier” brands like Giordano, G2000, and Esprit but the worst thing about these brands is that they tend to disguise themselves as foreign brands by having non-Asian models in their advertisements.
There’s nothing wrong with diversity of course, but they do it at the expense of Asian models completely. Essentially, they pretend they’re imports, and thus further perpetrate this idea that only foreign brands are desirable.
From my observation, it seems like only the Japanese high-end brands that have some pride and proudly declare they were “Made in Japan.”
A lot of BS here. The influx of “real Chinese immigrants” is the major reason why so many HKers are upset, they are afraid of their jobs being lost to the new immigrants. After all, it’s alot easier to bash the new comers than to improve yourself, especially when the new comers work harder and smarter. So what is the tactic to smear the new comers? The locals would complain about that the new comers are unethical, loud, unmannered, etc. This is nothing new. Complaints from HKers against mainlanders in are almost identical to how Canadians complained about the massive HK immigrants starting from the 90s. HKers should know better but I guess that’s just human nature.
The whole fashion industry itself is superficial, as with most who care about fashion. However, the point of a business is to cater to their most likely customers. How is catering to rich mainlanders, nouveau riche or not, superficial? That’s the way it’s supposed to work.
Looking at GINI Index, Hong Kong has one of the most unequal income distribution in the world. This is because you get so many from mainlanders and Indian immigrants who are willing to work their asses off for cheap, and then they get treated like shit by the locals who think the later is better because they have more money.
I didn’t intend to say that the Chinese were responsible for their oppression. They clearly were not. The responsibility lay in Indonesian society and even in the US where the US helped to spread anti-communist and Chinese sinophobia in Indonesia.
“Can you show me examples of where a clear small minority has been able to keep reigns on power without severe physical repression of the majority?”
There’s too many examples. One major example today in the US is the populations of Jews (about 2.5 percent). Jews do not suffer great discrimination (certainly no “severe physical repression”) today. they have considerable political, economic and cultural influence. The discrimination they do suffer are relatively minor compared to many other minorities.
Like I said, many examples of political power from a small minority and even without major discrimination by the majority. Another example is the ethnic Chinese in Thailand. They make up about 10% of the population of Thailand yet almost all of their prime ministers and top government officials within the last 40 years claim ethnic Chinese Hakka ancestry. They also have considerable power culturally and economically. This is despite their relatively small population size. It is because Thai society does not systematically discriminate against ethnic Chinese like Indonesia and because the Chinese in Thai society are more politically conscious and active.
Hong Konger says
LOLZ — I don’t know if you live in HK, but that’s just not true.
My neighborhood is half HK / half mainland, and everyone gets along just fine. I’m part of a social group that’s about 50-50, and there are no tensions. People genuinely appreciate Chinese workers, whether they are nannies or IT professionals. Chinese students at universities here fit in well.
The anger is towards rich mainlanders who drop in to have babies, find loopholes to collect social services, go shopping, and then leave without contributing to our society. Nobody minds the shopping, except that they are exceptionally rude. These are minor tycoons (usually provincial cadres and factory owners) who are pandered to on the mainland. So when they get here, they shove people aside in taxi queues, scream at salesgirls, etc. There are also bigger issues, like those same officials / tycoons who use HK property for money laundering.
Likeability is a big part of “soft power.” This is a good example of how a smaller group can create a negative image, even though most ordinary mainland Chinese in HK are polite and welcome. From what I hear, even other mainlanders don’t like those corrupt officials bringing their mistresses down for shopping sprees!
China’s soft power problem lies in big issues like corruption (which is rampant), censorship, bad governance and a lack of rights. When people criticize China, it’s because of these issues, not because its clothing brands are not famous enough. That was my point about the media. CCTV is not taken seriously because it’s seen as propaganda. Just buying nicer sets is easy enough, but it doesn’t fix the main problem that entire major news events are sometimes chopped out of coverage.
By the way, Giordano uses mostly local Chinese models from HK agencies. Maybe the models are more mixed for overseas advertising, but it’s definitely mostly Asian. Giordano’s great, but it’s not an aspirational brand or an international one. It’s a perfectly fine place to go to grab affordable t-shirts for your kids, but nobody is wowwed by it.
LOLZ — you say, who cares about fashion? I care about fashion, and am impressed every season by what I see coming out of Europe and Japan. I don’t care about technology brands. It’s just a matter of taste.
But in either case, China is just not seen as being very cool. whether in clothes, film, media, technology.
…to find loophole to collect social service….without contributing…
Have you asked who caused that? Exact those whom you trust 100 pct.
On soft power:
Soft power is mostly in the hand of media an journalists.
For example, you love “power to the people”, right?
But wha if it has been expressed in different way, like:
Power to the rich, power to the media and journalists, power to the greedy, power to the parasites, and finally power to the hard working people.
WHICH ONE IS CLOSER TO REALITY?
China’s soft power issues lies in…
That is because those issue is what western media cares , therefore it becomes the ONLY thing you care when you talk about china.
In us, the anger towards the rich and big corps is not what “free” rich-run media cares, therefore you dont care. As you should know, the news about kim k the bitch is far more important than ows and corruption.
You have no idea of how seroius the corruption is in america because the “free” media doesnt expose it, dont you?
First passed by Hong Kong as a young(er) man, on my way to an American college. Growing up in the poorer mainland, I was impressed by its tidiness, which then I figured it had to be we Chinese innately being unclean (Ugly Chinaman), and the British being cleaner, like folks such as Bo Yang, Liu Xiaobo suggested.
Well, that’d been simply not true, for millennia.
City of London was built by the Romans. Much like Rome itself, The Romans built an underground sewerage system in London. However, as the Roman Empire ended, the London sewerage fell into disrepair, and was subsequently abandoned. For the ensuing centuries, Londoners basically just dumped human waste directly above ground or into the Thames. Eventually in 1858 (during the 2nd Opium War!), the Great Stink of London finally forced the city to build its city-wide underground sewerage system. Moreover, the Brits did not bathe much. (Heard of the joke of British hiding their wallets/family jewelries under their soaps?). All of these were drastically contrary to the Chinese cities in the same eras. If you had a time machine and was able to go back in time, just for the smell, you should pick living in China.
Yet as time has gone by, things have changed. When the Chinese during the Cultural Revolution likely bathed less frequently than Song Chinese, the British smelled not just far better than their ancestors, but also their Chinese peers. Whenever the British overtook the Chinese in the pleasant smell department (and the overall tidiness in the living surroundings), it was the first time ever in a long long while — oh, how one rose and the other fell.
Not many people seem to understand a major driving force in the world that is taking place in front of our eyes, and will likely shape all facets of our lives: fashion, film, culture, technology, etc. for the decades if not centuries to come, is that the average lifetime school hours of Chinese youths, have overtaken the ones of their Western peers. When I went to college, the former was about half of the latter; and when my parents went to college, the former was about 30% to 40% of the latter.
If you appreciate films like Reservoir Dogs (Tarantino) and Memento (Nolan), follow Chinese films.
One of the take-aways for jxie’s recounting of the Great Stink of London is that image is a transitory thing. China not that long before the Opium Wars were deeply admired in Europe. The Europeans couldn’t get enough of porcelain and silk. They built many knockoff factories. Many pieces from those factories from time to time appear on programs like the Antique Roadshow, even with Chinese seals stamped to the bottom to look authentic.
That’s really neat and would make for a great article to counter all those propaganda about how only China pirates stuff.
~ ~ ~
Interesting, I’ve never really paid attention to Giordano when I went to HK so I don’t remember their ads. My comment was mainly based on the ads I see in Taiwan.
This statement makes no sense whatsoever. First of all, rich mainlanders do not need to drop off to have babies in HK. HK’s social benefits are not all that great compared to say, Canada or Australia. But even if this were true that rich mainlanders are vying for HK citizen status, that is actually better for HK from contribution point of view. This is because rich mainlanders’ networth are typically far higher than the average HKer, thus they will pay more taxes if they or their kids become HK citizens. Second by buying stuff in HK en mass, these mainlanders are directly contributing to HK economy, which ultimately benefits HK people.
Half of my family are from HK. My close cousins all immigrated to Toronto in the 90s then returned back to HK after 97. My current job is regional so I have an office in HK although I am based out of Singapore. The sentiments against mainlanders between Singapore and HK are actually very similar. The local press complain about the rich mainlanders, they are the ones who get on the news when they do anything wrong. But the locals true worry lies on the migrants, who they view as being competitive when it comes to jobs and “stealing their social services”. As I posted already, many Canadians had the exact same arguments against HKers who flooded Canada in the 90s. There are two major theme here, the locals who are envious/jealous of the rich immigrants because the later’s ability to project wealth, and at the sametime the locals are fearful of the poor immigrants because of threat of competition and cheap labor.
Finally, I wrote that the fashion industry is superficial. From my personal experience people who are obsessed with fashion brand names tend to be superficial as well. I used to buy only Italian brands when I was in my early 20s, that was silly. Most of my cloths now are custom tailored in Singapore and Shanghai, you get perfectly fitting cloths with the materials which you want.
I’m not saying it does. Again look at the Jews, no amount of Jewish activism has dampened anti-Semitism, sure, there might be more political correctness and awareness but they’re still not looked upon with great fondness. Truth is westerners will never truly accept an non-white lead collective as equals much less defer power to them.
Look at Singapore and Japan, they are as rich and as developed if not more so than many OECD countries yet they are not looked upon with any great admiration. In fact, under many circumstances they’re still on the receiving end of western critics more often than not, unless of course those same critics find something useful that can be used against China than it’s all praises and “common values”. Asians will always be the “smart BUT imperfect, always one step behind whites” race of people.
China can’t compete on a 1:1 basis against cultural imperialism from the west, and no amount of appeasement will guarantee China’s positive image. More Chinese brands won’t guarantee more cordial attitude from the west; after all, China already subsidises so much of the west’s consumerism yet this only warrants more hostility – It is akin to an American thinking every time someone goes to McDonald’s they do it to promote America and her freedoms. So no matter how many brands China produces, the west will happily shovel it down while putting on an act of indignation. More importantly China can’t compete on a 1:1 basis – in a sense this is a very western way of thinking; to narrate everything from point of the view of the west — brand for brand, propaganda for propaganda. China needn’t and shouldn’t fight the west on their terms. Obviously I’m not suggesting China should give up and let the west walk over her, there is much they can learn about how the west promote anti-china propaganda. But I don’t think that acceptance will come willingly or peacefully.
That’s just simply untrue. Jewish activism has substantially worked in making anti-Semitism less prevelant and less virulent at least in the west. There is far less anti-Semitism today than in the early 20th century and that has a large part to do with Jewish activism and influence in the media.
I never said it did. I don’t see what this has to do with what I said.
Who said anything about “cultural imperialism”? I’m not talking about cultural imperialism whatever that is. I’m talking about a more positive image. That’s the subject of the discussion. that would depend on how strong and effective future Chinese media becomes. I actually am very optimistic and believe that to a large degree both in non western world and even in much of the west, China will, if it so develops it media, have a much much more positive image. I see no reason to think otherwise. Sure western culture is severely racist and eurocentric etc, but culture changes and it changes according to media representation as the Jewish examples shows. Jews are a small minority and yet have a much better image than many other minorities. Israel is probably one of the most brutal human rights abusers in the world and criticisms of the state is systematically muffled in the west mainly because of a fear of anti-semitism charges.
I’m not saying that Asians or Chinese will ever have a image that is more positive than whites in the west. I’m saying that the current image can greatly improve and that size of the population of Asians and their wealth is only a small factor in that equation. Much more relevant is effectiveness of media.
Again, I’m not saying it is and I fail to see the relevance.
I don’t really understand what this means and why its relevant but it seems to me to be a case fatalistic defeatism. China doesn’t have a choice but to compete with the west on a image level. It’s naive to think that the 21st century will resort to a less information based world society. In fact, it will be even more information and thus image dominant and if China does not compete, it will lose gravely, economically, culturally, maybe even militarily.
Not at all. I am not suggesting China doesn’t compete but rather that no matter how much improvement China makes, it will not change the west opinion or their sense of superiority over the east – I was simply using Singapore and Japan to illustrate that point.
Again I’m not suggesting China to give up and become anti-technology or anything like that, only that it’s a mistake to frame everything from the perspective of the west and assuming that must be the benchmark to which China must work in.
Well, a great deal of white guilt does come into play, but still, this is only true on the surface, dig a little deeper and there is still plenty of anti-Semitism. Personally I don’t think the Jewish example is a particularly good example to follow, Jews are some of the most ethnocentric people in the world and the disproportionate amount influence wielding Jews in particular is a constant source of anti-Semitism. Lastly, Jews have the luxury of being able to blend in, it’s not uncommon for many Jews to change their names or hide their Jewish roots.
This is a good point. China shouldn’t try to compete in the games the West plays because they will always change the rules to their advantage. In addition, doing so might erode our culture if all we’re doing is trying to play catch up.
At the same time, China does need to counter the anti-Sinitic attacks so it’s really about balancing multiple efforts.
Personally I feel the effort needs to start at home and for now, I guess the effort is to lift the rest of the people out of poverty first before they move to the next phase.
That’s ridiculous. First of all, it’s not “improvement” if it doesn’t effect a better image. Second, there’s no evidence that you cannot effect a better image. In fact, plenty of examples of a small minority improving their image in the west substantially. Jews are just one example. Just as a groups image can grow worse, it can grow better and the fact that the media has much to play in that is without doubt.
Who said anything about “anti-technology”? I think you are really going off topic. I really don’t see the relevance of much of what you are saying. I said that a positive image of China and Chinese people depends much on the media (how the information is presented in movies, TV, news, etc). That’s what this whole thread is about, positive images of China and Chinese people. That’s why the title is called “a more positive image”. It’s not even about technology overall or anti-technology.
And how did that “white” guilt come about? It came about through media portrayals of Jewish suffering in the holocaust. So again, this is really a thesis that supports what I have been saying.
That’s great but what does any of that have to do with anything I or anyone else have said about Jews being an example of a minority that improved its image in the west through promoting a more positive media portrayal? Nothing. Of course they have a large influence in the world of the media. that’s the point. That just means it’s more effective for that small minority to achieve a positive image when it has more influence. That obvious. That actually supports what I’ve been saying which is that media influence rather than overall size of the population or wealth per se is what counts. So what you really are saying is actually supporting what I’ve said. Some of the other things you said though does not seem to be even relevant and just confused. Please try to stay on topic.
I’d like to reiterate what JJ quoted from aeiou above, which is important:
At the moment, I believe the Chinese government is truly practicing “中庸.” This was stated recently by an executive at CCTV (interviewed by the Columbia School of Journalism). She said that the role of Chinese media is not to cause trouble. They try really hard to stay truthful.
Even in the West, I think the tide could turn some decades from now, because I think Western societies desperately need “中庸.”
At the moment, I think the hawks in the Western press would simply like to provoke. More harsh reactions from China will then be used by them to further rile up Westerners antagonisms within the Western press.
Some may argue the Chinese government feels very insecure. I often don’t. For example, China and Japan just recently started conducting trade in their own currencies, completely bypassing the USD. Politically, that is a nail in the coffin for the dominance of the USD as an international currency. Don’t get me wrong though – the U.S. is still incredibly strong and stable, and hence the USD will have it’s dominance for decades to come. However, China-Japan trade are now less hostage to risks related to American monetary policy (and to the extend U.S. uses it’s monetary policy to influence other nations).
The BRICS are looking into forming their own development bank. Bold steps are being taken on the global stage to re-proportion the influence of the U.S.-led West.
So, the international chorus looking for a more fair and equitable world order is strong and determined – THAT – despite the intense defamation brought against China (and much of the developing world) in the Western press.
And, they are not so noisy about it.
Some of you might have seen CCTV America. That channel’s views are much more patient, longer term, and more about seeking win-win.
And, there you go, you have seemingly intelligent journalists in the West who try to be eloquent about the Chinese having no dreams or they cannot innovate as if there is something inherently wrong with them. Actually, all they try to say is if you don’t have the ‘democracy’ religion you cannot innovate and cannot dream. What a steamy pile of shit.
I’d also like to go back to melektaus’ important point way up top:
Lang Lang, U.S. Ambassador Locke, Yoyo Ma, Jacky Chang, U.S. Energy Secretary Chew, and others are having a huge impact towards a more positive image in terms of Chinese as a race. Obama, too, for Africans.
1.3 billion is a lot of Chinese to go around. So, indeed, I hope more pursue ever broader areas.
I agree with you and melektaus.
But in addition to these measures, there need to be institutions that address the media and political issues more systematically. This takes money, organization and commitment.
Elsewhere I posted that Indian-American are emulating Jewish-Americans by organizing institutions that reach out to politicians, to other groups, as well as defending Indian media images.
The NYTimes article I cited referred to several Indian-American organization that promote Indian-American interests, and the Jewish American organizations that the Indians are trying to emulate:
U.S. India Political Action Committee
India Community Center in Milpitas, California
Hindu American Foundation
American Jewish Committee
“Inspired by the Wiesenthal Center, which produces a CD annually that compiles Internet hate speech, the Hindu American Foundation issued its own report this year about “online hatred and bigotry against Hindus,” Suhag Shukla, the foundation’s legal counsel, said. The foundation also learned from the success of Jewish groups that it needed a full-time staff member to lobby Congress.””
What are the equivalent groups in the US that Chinese can turn to?
No need to be so literal, it was merely an analogy.
Jews don’t, if ever had a positive image. I mean, what is particularly positive about the idea of Jews controlling the media or that they are disproportionately represented in the top echelons of power? It only breeds contempt and conspiracy theories. It’s just that it’s so taboo to say anything negative about Jews that people have been silenced by political correctness; it’s just another form of censorship, it does little to garner respect or remove the underlying animosities; it’s ultimately an unequal relationship that isn’t sustainable long term – self segregation, nationalism, anti-immigration on the rise everywhere. This is why it is so difficult to criticise Israel because you are automatically shouted down as a anti-semite, yet anti-Jewish/Israeli sentiments continue to thrive. Conversely the same discourse is at play when we talk about China, you branded with all sorts of dismissive labels and names if you do not subscribe to the established western liberal agenda.
Lets see.. Tibetans, Blacks, Jews, Native Indians. Do you see a common theme here? All former subjects of white colonialism or surrogates to white liberal idealism or the 21st century version of the white mans burden; It’s self serving and condescending. The west only has reverence for itself, they are defending their ideas, their history, you shouldn’t expect them to be sympathetic toward someone that might put an end to that hegemony.
Short of completely subjugating itself to the whims of the west – and join the ranks of the legions of democratic coolies – how the west perceives China will ultimately have to come from the west itself. Frankly I don’t see how peddling “soft-power” against “soft-power” of the global propaganda of the west will win the admiration of self reverential westerners; the west will always look down upon the east until the day they find themselves looking up. For example: America over the last decade has had a pretty poor public image, there is huge amount of anti-Americanism in many parts of Europe. Yet, if you were to give them a choice between China or the USA, who do you imagine they will side with? The USA obviously. Why? it could be that common heritage plays a part and people identify with those who are most like themselves – but there are non-western nations who would also root the the USA; or it could be that they recognise the immense power that America commands and no matter how barbarous American foreign policy has been, people are willing to tag along and bet on the guy with the bigger gun. So I guess what I am saying is that power is the one universal constant not the silly PR games that America plays, not democracy, not hotdogs or Mcdonalds – but power – and until China can demonstrate power than no body cares what they have to say. Only when westerners recognise that China has carved an alternate path to the top will they stand up and take notice and reassess their beliefs. But by than it would have been too late and discussions like this would seem immaterial. Perhaps in the end China might just be more like the west than the west is comfortable with, just like the America always wished it would, that would be ironic.
First of all, analogies have to be relevant. Please explain what relevance it has with anything I said.
First of all, Jews have both positive and negative images (positive include intelligent, successful, well educated, etc. negative include, stingy, greedy, conspiratorial, etc) Second, what does this have to do with anything I’ve said? I was talking about the improvement of Jewish image. Are you saying that the Jewish image hasn’t improved today than it was during Nazi Germany? Sorry, that’s just dumb.
Who said these images were positive?
Again, what does the fact that they were former victims of “colonialism” have to do with the fact that they improved their image? You are again and again going off topic with silly assertions that have nothing to do with any of the points I or ostensibly anyone else raised in this thread.
If you can’t remain on topic and actually address the topic or what someone said in it with points that advance the debate, I’m afraid that I will have to delete your further posts, so consider this a warning. You are beginning to distract the thread and sidetrack it from what it was about when you start talking about all these other things which you do not make clear what relevance they have for the thread.
I think both of you are making interesting points.
If I may try to summarize each of your positions (at the risk of distorting, so please forgive, I’m trying to do this quickly):
Melektaus seems to be hopeful that (a) the passage of time (b) the continual improvement in China’s and Chinese’s economic situation and (c) active efforts to change China/Chinese images in media will lead to (1) changes in perception by Westerners and broadly by non-Chinese (and even the Chinese themselves) and (2) a better overall image. Melektaus offers recent (post WW2) history of Jewish community in America as an example where such improvements occurred, and believes that China/Chinese can follow this.
aeiou seems to be more pessimistic that the (a) passage of time (b) continual improvement in China’s and Chinese’s economic situation and (c) active efforts at Chinese media management will lead to (1) meaningful changes in perception by Westerners and broadly by non-Chinese (and even the Chinese themselves) and (2) a better overall image. aeiou cites 2 key factors: (A) resistance from western powers for China as competitor, leading to continual Western efforts to undermine that image and (B) even where publicly expressed views may seem more positive, at heart the real opinions Westerners have are hard to change and may never change.
aeiou points to continuing entrenched anti-semitism, and continuing negative views towards Japan and Singapore, despite their progress on the economic front, as evidence of the futility of these efforts.
But aeiou also is not completely pessimistic, because he thinks (x) China / Chinese do not face elimination from the world due to large population and so will always survive as a people and live to fight another day and (y) China/Chinese should not care so much what Westerners think and just focus on improving themselves – why try so hard to live up to Western standards and expectations?
I think each of Melektaus and aeiou are presenting valid interpretations
If I may draw a fanciful analogy to the three blind men and the elephant, the big elephant in the room is the image of China/Chinese, and each of Melektaus and aeiou are observing different parts of the same elephant. And like a lot of things, each one is looking at things up close, so are focusing on different facts and different interpretations of those facts.
For me, hearing all of your views is helpful in trying to take in the whole elephant (even if each of you don’t agree on what you are seeing). You don’t have to agree to make it useful.
The other thing about the elephant story is that if you really listen to each other, you can see another way of looking at the same data, which leads to entirely new perspectives that try to make sense of the incongruent data.
even if that is what he is saying (and he certainly hasn’t made it clear what he is saying) then those points still simply aren’t relevant to what I’ve been saying.
I’m not making a “pessimistic” or “optimistic” forecast of China’s economic or whatever development.
I’m simply saying that it takes more than economic development to improve China’s image. I’m also saying that the best way to improve China’s image and possibly the only robust way is through developing a China positive media (in all facets).
Of course that is gonna be hard. Of course the western cultural, political status quo will inhibit that from happening. Of course it’s gonna take many fronts to establish Chinese media influence. I never said anything to the contrary. But does that mean that we shouldn’t wish or try for improvement of China’s image through those means? No.
This isn’t about “survival” of the Chinese people or economic development per se. This, as the title suggests, is about the image (positive, negative, neutral) of the Chinese people and of China and how we can best improve that.
So again, I fail to see what he has said to contribute anything to this topic or to add on to or refute what I have said.
Hong Konger says
The Global Times, a Chinese state newspaper, had an interesting editorial from a Beijing TV writer
He talks about how China produces a huge number of TV shows, but they make a “tiny” impact overseas.
Meanwhile, smaller nations are able to create much more popular programming.
Here in Asia, that would be Korea. My family love Korean soap operas, movies and music. And, stemming from that, Korean food, celebrities, design, technology, are also in — even though nobody here speaks Korean. Even a friend who works for Chinese state media is always going on about Korean fashion, not Chinese fashion. It’s now popular to go to Korea as a long weekend holiday.
Globally, a better example would be England. Compared to China, Russia, America, it is relatively small. It also has economic and other problems. But the world loves British TV shows, movies, pop stars and books.
The Global Times editorial writer talks about how they are constrained, not just by political means, but by selfish actors who want to rewrite scrips, by production companies that don’t pay writers properly, etc. My view is that partly it’s censorship, but partly it’s bad business and corruption.
China needs to loosen up, and to invest more in these cultural products.
While I don’t particularly care about Korean related stuff, I fail to see what does the ‘big bad’ Chinese government has to do with this. Considering that Hong Kong doesn’t have the problems of censorship, bad business and corruption that China has, still TVB and ATV is not exactly that innovative either.
@Hong Konger #57
I read your link to the Global Times op-ed. The op-ed is written by a writer for television dramas in China. He talks about the poor marketability and quality of Chinese TV dramas compared with countries like Korea. He blames this on the fact that writers in Chinese dramas have no power, no financial security, and others determine what they write and change scripts.
But hang on – these are exactly the same complaints that writers make about Hollywood.
A quick 1 minute search for “problems of writers in Hollywood” turned up several articles that talked about this theme. In fact, they complain about exactly the same problems, and make it sound even worse. For example, here’s a review of a book about why Hollywood sucks:
“Lennon and Garant’s causal reason for Hollywood sucking begins with Wall Street. We all know at least one person from high school or college who has accidentally become filthy rich due to Wall Street. As Smith puts it, “Hollywood is happy to cash checks from Greenwich horndogs who want to meet Anna Faris. So way too many movies get made.” Because of this, actors without any actual star power are still pushed as if they were stars. Just because an actor makes a film that earns boatloads of money does not mean that he/she has power; however, every star thinks that he or she is powerful.
Movie stars have way too much power. They try to rewrite scripts as they see fit. If a writer doesn’t incorporate an actor’s suggestions, said writer is fired. On the flip side, if a writer’s work earns the respect and approval of an actor, then said writer is set golden.
Despite not being the highest person on the Totem Pole of Authority, actors certainly have a huge influence over their directors as well. Lennon and Garant believe that “Director is the only entry-level position left in the movie business. You can’t START as the property master or sound mixer. Or even as the assistant director. You have to work your way up. The only job you can get on a movie set with no experience whatsoever is: director. So is it like joining the Army and being made a four-star general on the same day? Yes, it is. And it happens all the time.”
Of course, directors have to answer to studios – but guess what? According to Smith, studios suck too. Studio executives are so frequently hired and fired that one must step on egg shells to make a long-term career. If an executive makes a movie similar to a past release, he/she can defend the decision by claiming, “It worked before. Who knew it wouldn’t work again? Can I please stay in this nice comfy office?” Now you know why content déjà vu is so prevalent these days.
The fact that nepotism is alive and well within Hollywood doesn’t help much either. The unqualified grandchildren of studio heads are clogging the system. Uneducated in the art of film, they keep their jobs due to family connections – not because they do anything to better the family business.
Which leads us to the final problem with Hollywood: it’s run like a nothing more than a business. Smith uses the example of the upcoming ‘Red Dawn’ remake, which has changed the story’s villains from Chinese to North Korean in post-production simply so that the film can play in the lucrative Chinese market. It’s all about business.
In my interview with ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ creator Phil Rosenthal last week, he criticized the Hollywood system for its overuse of merchandise-friendly films. “It’s very hard to get a movie made nowadays if you’re not selling a toy,” he said. See Morgan Spurlock’s documentary ‘The Greatest Movie Ever Sold’ for real-life examples of how product placement damages the integrity of the art.
Marketing, product placement and sequels are destroying original filmmaking, but ultimately, the audiences who attend such terrible films are primarily to blame. If the masses would stop handing over their hard-earned cash for sub-par entertainment, Hollywood would stop churning it out. Unfortunately, until that happens, nothing will change.”
Comparisons with Korea need to keep in mind the huge difference in GDP per capita between the two countries, and Korea’s economic history.
Korea has a GDP per capita (PPP) of roughly US$30,000 while China is US$8,000. South Korea has been a comparatively wealthy country for over 20 years – after following a state-led industrialization program dominated by SOEs, as well as foreign aid. It’s now considered a “high-income developed country.”
This has huge implications. South Koreans have been travelling all over the world since the 1960s. They have had years of experience as exporters, and living overseas as expats all over Asia and the West. It was only after it attained a high level of economic development that Korean cultural production began to have impact overseas.
My Korean friends who grew up with Samsung as a third-rate domestic Korean brand were shocked a decade ago when Samsung began its advertising drive to establish itself as a quality brand overseas. Now Samsung is considered a good brand, but it was not always the case.
I think China needs to keep doing what it has been good at doing, which is increasing the GDP per capita until the poverty level goes effectively to zero and achieve “middle class” status for at least the majority of the population. This will take measures to redistribute income and promote economic development in the inland and rural areas. When China’s GDP per capita gets to around $30,000, the “cultural production” will come naturally.
In fact, take a look at the list of countries by GDP per capita.
Is there any country with strong cultural exports with less than US$30,000 per capita GDP (PPP)? The only country on that list worth mentioning is Thailand which has a GDP per capita slightly better than China, but manages to produce a “Thai TV drama” craze. These have to do with unique factors to Thailand – its beautiful scenery, and good looking actors and actresses – as well as romantic plots. This is hardly cutting edge cultural production!
According to Beijing Today: “Last month, the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Shanghai launched a survey asking, “Why do you love Thailand TV dramas?” on its microblog. Respondents said they enjoyed Thailand’s beautiful scenery, their good-looking actors and actresses and the romantic plot. Ge Chengzhi, dean of Qiyi’s research academy, said Thai shows are challenging South Korean ones in popularity.He said 15- to 30-year-old females are the core demographic for both Thai and Korean shows. Thai show viewers tend to be a little younger. He said viewers of Korean shows tend to pay more attention to daily consumption, while Thai show viewers are more concerned about leisure and entertainment.”
According to this Wikipedia article on Thai Television Soap Operas (known as “Lakorn” or “play” in Thai), the plots follow a formula and encourage simplistic, stupid thinking:
“Lakorns have very distinctive, though formulaic, characters and narrative conventions. Though some stray from these conventions, most adhere to them, especially ones that are very popular among Thai viewers.
They are always about achieving a perfect ending in which the leading characters marry their soulmates and live happily ever after.
The two main lovers are established at the beginning of the series. Viewers have no difficulties singling them out of the crowd for they tend to be the most popular soap-opera stars of the moment. The Male Lead role usually called Phra Ek (พระเอก) as the main actress had named Nang Ek (นางเอก)
The presence of one “bad” female character, sometimes more, is commonplace. This is the person who is totally in love with the male lead and will do all that is necessary to stop the two would-be lovers from fulfilling their destined ending. She tries everything to be the main actor’s girlfriend and always tries to get rid of the main actress. She is often a stereotypical character who does not hesitate to do bad, bad things to the main actress including trying to steal her boyfriend before the wedding. She mostly a rich girl or comes from a good family background, but has the nasty behaviour and is manipulative. Few of these characters are kind. She is usually a living person, but a few of these characters can be evil, dead women who come back as ghosts. The most popular ones are Poot Mae Nam Khong or the remake of Pob Pee Fa. Nang Rai or Nang Itcha (นางอิจฉา) is a famous name for Thai viewer.
“Katoei” (กะเทย – man dressed like a woman) are often used as comic relief. Sapai Look Tung is a popular for this role.
In the end, all conflicts in the story must be resolved. Everyone forgives each other. The “bad” guys receive their punishments and the “good” guys receive their rewards. However, some lakorns end with unsolvable problems such as Poot Mae Nam Khong.
Lakorns are often melodramatic to the point of becoming camp. Most productions are written and produced with the assumption that the more melodramatic it is, the better. This is why situations are grossly exaggerated, actions are overly theatrical, and screams and shrieks (from the bad female) numerous.
The negative influence of Lakorn
Because Lakorn present a melodramatic storyline featuring simple one-dimensional characterizations to capture the broadest viewership and commercial sponsorship, they generally do not foster critical insight, reasoning or problem-solving skills, nor a multi-perspective consideration of the human drama being viewed. They are simply an attempt to create dramatic tension and a “showdown” between the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s). Several Lakorn adhere to this simple format which, over an extended period, may cause some viewers to develop a skewed view of reality. At least one critic contends that the recent political problems in Thailand may be at least partially attributable to the negative influence of Lakorn, surmising that it is the disregard of common sense and common human wisdom that causes people to shy away from thinking critically, and as a result, becoming prone to manipulation.
In year 2008, Thai Airways flight attendants urged the government to remove a prime-time TV drama (“Songkhram Nang Fah”) because it showed stewardesses wearing short skirts fighting while in uniform over a male pilot. They complained the soap opera portrayed hostesses in a negative light.
Evolution of lakorns
Most lakorns portray the upper class of Thai society, usually through the male lead, but sometimes from both leads. The male lead is usually rich, like Phak in Dao pra sook. Early on, the male leads were nobility, usually junior princes, such as a Mom Chao, because, back then, these were the rich people in Thai society. The rich male has since evolved into businessmen from influential families. This change mirrors the change in Thai society with the upper class now filled with business people and not so much from the royal and noble classes.”
Yeah, Chinese TV should really emulate Thai TV dramas.
@Hong Konger #57
“Globally, a better example would be England. Compared to China, Russia, America, it is relatively small. It also has economic and other problems. But the world loves British TV shows, movies, pop stars and books.”
Why do you think that is the case? What factors do you think account for that influence?
Uh-oh, just read this report about a 19-year old girl from Hong Kong, Jessica Lo Hiu-tung, studying in San Diego, who went missing last week en route back to Hong Kong:
“In San Diego, authorities and loved ones are searching for a Mesa College graduate who never got on the flight to Hong Kong she was supposed to take last week: Mesa College grad disappears before Hong Kong flight.
20-year-old Hiu-Tung “Jessica” Lo was scheduled fly to Hong Kong on Wednesday to spend the summer with her parents. A friend was supposedly going to take her to the airport, but she never checked in for her flight. Her last communication was a voice mail to her landlord:
Lo told her parents she planned to move her belongings to a girlfriend’s home until her return, and the friend would take her to Lindbergh Field. Mak said they don’t know who that friend is, and whether both women have gotten into an accident. Lo never checked in for her 8:05 a.m. flight.
Mak said Lo and her parents rented the Linda Vista apartment about three years ago, but that her parents spend most of their time in Hong Kong. Lo has no car or driver’s license, and took the bus to Mesa College, where she graduated this month.
Lo talked to her mother Tuesday night and texted her father about midnight, making some reference to perhaps going to see the sun rise since she had to be up early for her flight, Mak said.
More here: San Diego College Student Reported Missing. Anyone with any information about Jessica’s whereabouts is asked to contact San Diego police at (619) 531-2000.”
For those who pray, please pray for her safe return.
Perspectivehere, you have an excellent point. The American Hollywood industry is exactly like that. Many of the Hollywood blockbusters are either sequels, movie based on some comic book, or both. I don’t see alot of original work that make it would normally made it to the oscars.
I think this is what the GT oped is all about. The writers are basically asked to write up shows that are moneymakers which have a proven track record, but have little originality. It has little to do with the Chinese government itself. Many of these Chinese networks are probably afraid to ‘try out new things,’ because it might risk losing viewership. Yes it is sad, that many tv shows just want to entertain people, not a show that will challenge people to watch.
Here’s a documentary about South Korea’s Pop wave. These young bands have little originality too.
There’s no difference in quality with Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, American, Korean, pop entertainment. They all suck terribly. The problem is not with making them, the problem is with marketing them. It takes money and marketing skill to market them to a foreign audience. China’s entertainment industry right now has neither but only recently they have at least acquired the will from what I understand. I think within the next 10 years, we will see much more popularity internationally for Chinese popular entertainment because the entertainment industry is growing.
I can tell you this. I once seriously studied film. In fact, I had professors who worked for decades in the entertainment industry. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone but it often is. But US films and TV shows are all copies of earlier stuff. The average sitcom writer for example, spends about 10 hours a day watching TV shows and only 2-4 hours writing. They recycle every jokes, every plot. In fact, there’s a inside saying in the industry that if you’re writing something new or deep, you are doing it all wrong. The entertainment industry bets on the limited short term memories of its audience and their low intellectual capacity.
Anyone that’s worked in entertainment has all told me that the skills they learned were comparable to skills plummer learn, that is, something that requires little actual talent but some diligent practice. it’s a template that everyone follows to write a script. Sometimes you mix and match etc, taking bits and pieces from some elements and replacing it with others but the basic process is always the same.
One professor told me that he was surprised that screenwriting computer programs hasn’t replaced film script writers yet because many of the auto script programs already available are every bit as good as real script writers. It’s really about nepotism and favoritism that gets people working in the industry rather than any kind of talent.
Ha! I never heard of the Three Blind Men and the Elephant before so it was quite interesting. Thanks for that.
I remember reading that back in the late-90s the Taiwan produced Princess Pearl ( 還珠格格 ) was the number 1 show in most of Asia, and especially South Korea. It was such a success that the SK government set up laws to limit the amount of Taiwanese media so they could grow their local industry.
And now, less than 20 years later, SK media is doing so well in Taiwan that the TW government recently enacted laws to limit the amount of Korean media in prime time spots!
Thanks for the comment.
Princess Pearl ( 還珠格格 ) I seem to recall was a Mainland China production. It starred that big-eyed actress Zhao Wei (趙薇) who became a celebrity because of the series.
According to Wikipedia, Princess Pearl ( 還珠格格 ) was a Hunan Television production, so definitely Mainland Chinese.
Looking at it now, it’s hard to remember how new and fresh it seemed at the time. I think HK and overseas Chinese at the time were quite happily surprised to see a popular and entertaining Mainland China production, which was not people’s expectation.
My favorite Mainland produced television series is Qiao Jia Da Yuan (乔家大院) (Qiao’s Grand Courtyard), which I think tells an interesting story and is pretty well acted, for the most part. It won “Best Drama Series” at the Seoul International Drama Award 2006.
If there is someone who would do a good English subtitling or good English dubbing of the series, and it were marketed properly, it would find an audience internationally. I agree with melektaus that in the TV series business, visibility is more about marketing and distribution than quality. China needs better marketing and distribution networks. These relationships take time to develop, but someday someone will get it right and make a bundle. I think there is big money to be made for people who can figure out the formula for marketing and distributing Chinese cultural products to non-Chinese speaking audiences around the world.
Quentin Tarantino has done an enormous amount in introducing general American audiences to Asian cinema, especially Hong Kong cinema. It’s about selecting, interpreting and explaining something which American audiences may not “get”, but with the right guide, will lead to an enjoyable entertainment experience. These kinds of cultural guides are sorely needed, and stand to do well financially and culturally if they succeed.
I remember it being broadcast on prime-time on national TV in Taiwan and from what I remember, Taiwan only allows local shows to be shown at that time. So I think it might have been a “joint production. Either way, it was definitely a great collaboration with actors from both sides.
Also, I disagree that the quality doesn’t matter. The recent re-make of Princess Pearl failed in China and Taiwan, despite having a huge marketing campaign behind it. Now perhaps people just don’t like remakes, but I tried to watch a few episodes of the new version and it was atrocious: the acting, plot, and characters were just horrible to watch.
Of course I agree that marketing and distribution is important. But at least for me, the quality must at least be met.
And 乔家大院 looks interesting, I’ll check it out sometimes, thanks!
Getting back to the OP’s topic about the effect of Chinese tourists luxury goods purchases, this news article appearing a few days ago (and picked up by many media outlets – just google the headline “http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47907789/ns/travel/t/us-hotels-chinese-treated-comforts-home/”) shows the influence of the Chinese consumer/tourist on spreading cultural understanding in the American hotel industry.
At US hotels, Chinese treated to comforts of home
By MEGHAN BARR Associated Press updated 6/21/2012 4:21:39 PM ET
“NEW YORK — Major hotel brands are bending over backward to cater to the needs of the world’s most sought-after traveler: the Chinese tourist.
Now arriving on American shores in unprecedented numbers thanks to a streamlined visa process and a rising Chinese middle class, Chinese tourists are being treated to the comforts of home when they check in at the front desk. That means hot tea in their rooms, congee for breakfast and Mandarin-speaking hotel employees at their disposal.
Chinese “welcome programs” at reputable chains like Marriott and Hilton even address delicate cultural differences: No Chinese tour group should be placed on a floor containing the number four, which sounds like the word for death in Mandarin.
“They’re very relieved, like finally somebody’s doing these things that make sense,” said Robert Armstrong, a sales manager who handles all bookings for incoming Chinese travelers at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. “Finally somebody’s catering to them.”
More than a million Chinese visited the U.S. in 2011, contributing more than $5.7 billion to the U.S. economy. That’s up 36 percent from 2010, according to the Department of Commerce. By 2016, that figure is expected to reach 2.6 million Chinese.
In a striking departure from the traditional Chinese business traveler, a growing number of them are simply coming to America for fun — with lots of cash on hand. (The average Chinese visitor spends more than $6,000 per trip.)
And so hotels are openly competing to win the hearts of the Chinese, who generally travel in large groups and stick to a tight itinerary, often packing multiple cities into a two-week American tour. What they’re looking for is a hotel that makes them feel at ease with their surroundings, said Roy Graff, a travel consultant who educates hotels in proper Chinese culture and hospitality.
That may take the form of slippers and a tea kettle in the hotel room or a Mandarin-speaking employee at the front desk — or all of the above.
“They drink tea. Eastern style, everything cold,” explained Charlie Shao, president of Galaxy Tours, a New York City-based Chinese tour agency, who used to frequently request special amenities for his clients. “They don’t walk inside the room with bare feet.”
It’s rare that Shao has to ask hotels for anything anymore. Marriott International, for example, now offers not one but several Chinese breakfasts, depending upon which region of China the traveler hails from: there are salted duck eggs and pickled vegetables for eastern Chinese, for example, and dim sum and sliced pig’s liver for the southerners.
Major chains are also training employees to avoid cultural missteps that would offend a Chinese visitor. Superstition is a big one: Red is considered a lucky color, along with the number eight, which signifies wealth. The color white, meanwhile, is frowned upon, not to mention the cursed number four.
But some experts say the U.S. still lags far behind other countries, especially in Europe, when it comes to attracting Chinese tourists. Despite President Barack Obama’s recent push to promote tourism, America is woefully ill-prepared to welcome China at an industry-wide level, especially at restaurants and major attractions, said Rich Harrill, director of the Sloan Foundation Travel & Tourism Industry Center at the University of South Carolina.
“We’re not as ready as we should be,” Harrill said. “We don’t have the language skills. We have an opportunity to be on the ground floor of something that could be very, very big.”
As an American who has lived in Asia for many years, all I can say is, “finally people back home are getting it!”
I put the blame on our media outlets in the US for why Americans are behind the rest of the world (ie Europe and also Southeast Asia/ASEAN and Australia – see http://www.tourism.australia.com/en-au/downloads/TA_China_2020_Strategic_Plan.pdf) in adapting to the world of the China tourist/consumer, and for the ignorance that most Americans and American businesses have about China / Chinese culture. It’s not too late, and there are more job opportunities available for business people who have cultural understanding of China and Chinese.
Unfortunately, when the press only focuses on China in terms of human rights abuses, dissidents, environmental problems, religious persecution, shoddy products, government control etc. to the exclusion of anything else (which seems to be the norm in the US press), it causes people to miss out on positive trends, like the ability of significant numbers of Chinese to travel internationally. The bad news crowds out the good. What there needs to be a balance and sadly the US media does not provide that, to our economy’s detriment.
The smart Americans are in fact recognizing the trend. For example, many American universities actively recruit for students inside China. And, you are right, those susceptible to propaganda are not able to leverage the trend.
Every time I encounter something like this, I am reminded the amazing wisdom of Confucius’ “中庸.”
Are you familiar with The Committee of 100? This is a fairly influential organization in the US with a membership of prominent Chinese-Americans that seeks to provide a Chinese perspective on important issues in Chinese-American relations. Its motto is “Seeking Common Ground while Respecting Differences”. Here is their “About us” page:
The Committee of 100 is an international, non-profit, non-partisan membership organization that brings a Chinese American perspective to issues concerning Asian Americans and U.S.-China relations. Our organization draws upon the collective experience, knowledge and resources of our members – Chinese Americans who have achieved prominence in a variety of fields and work in partnership towards our mission.
The Committee of 100 is committed to a dual mission:
– To encourage constructive relations between the peoples of the United States and Greater China.
– To promote the full participation of Chinese Americans in all fields of American life.
The Committee of 100 was founded in early 1990 to provide a collective voice for Chinese American leaders to speak to both U.S. and international issues.
The concept of founding the Committee came from renowned architect, I.M. Pei, who was inundated with calls from reporters seeking his reaction, as an influential Chinese American, to the Tiananmen Square events in June 1989. Pei felt that no single individual could adequately represent the Chinese American perspective, and instead envisioned a group of prominent Chinese Americans joining together to serve as a strong forum for the Chinese American community. By the end of 1990, the core group of I.M. Pei, Yo-Yo Ma, Shirley Young, Oscar Tang, Henry Tang, and Chien-Shiung Wu had recruited other distinguished Chinese Americans from the arts, business, academia, public service, and the sciences to serve on the Committee of 100.
The founders determined that the Committee would not be politically driven and at the same time, not shy away from taking a stance in the political arena. Many of the issues addressed by the Committee have strong public policy implications, including foreign relations, trade policy, civil rights, and social justice. As a non-partisan organization, the Committee’s stance on these issues is independent and does not align with any political party in the United States or with any government in Asia.
Seeking Common Ground While Respecting Differences is the precept guiding all Committee actions. As U.S. citizens of Chinese descent, including American-born and naturalized citizens, Committee members share a natural desire for mutual understanding and peaceful relations between the United States and Greater China.
With more than 20 years of impactful action, the Committee is respected as a strategic adviser to government leaders in both the U.S. and China and has received public and media recognition for its involvement in issues affecting the advancement of Asian Americans and the progress of U.S. -China relations.”
Available in Bilingual (1989-present): English | Chinese
Since 2005 The Committee of 100 has been conducting opinion surveys of attitudes in US and China towards each other.
The most recent 2012 Survey is available at the Committee of 100 website. The website report is interactive, and allows the web user to compare results from 2007 and 2005, where comparative data are available. The report is also available for pdf download.
I was especially fascinated by the results from this page, “1. Impressions of Each Country”:
The report breaks down survey results into 4 groups: General Public, Business Leaders, Policy Makers and Opinion Leaders. In the United States,
– Favorable opinion has increased among all US respondent groups since 2007, particularly among business leaders (from 54% to 72%).
– Unfavorable opinion decreased significantly in the US since 2007 across all groups: public (45% to 37%); opinion leaders (43% to 35%); and business leaders (41% to 27%).
Interestingly, among US Policy Makers, there has been an astounding improvement in opinion since 2005. Whereas in 2005, 16% had “very unfavorable”, 63% had “somewhat unfavorable”, 18% had “somewhat favorable” and 1% had “favorable” impressions of China, in 2012, impressions improved to 8%, 39%, 33% and 8%, respectively.
Meanwhile, in China, favorable opinion among the general public has held steady between 2007 and 2012 at 60.7% and 59.3%, respectively, while unfavorable opinion has increased slightly by 4.6%.
Favorable opinion among opinion leaders (93.5%) and business leaders (90.2%) remains high, although the level decreased slightly by 3.8% among business leaders since 2007.
It seems that in general, opinions in the US have improved towards China in the last 5-7 years. This is a hopeful trend which you cannot really tell by looking at / listening to the US media!
The 2012 Survey shows skepticism of media sources in both countries. From the Executive Summary:
The American public receives news about China primarily through English-language television. American elites receive their news about China primarily through English-language newspapers and secondarily through English-language Internet, a significant increase from 2007. Very few US adults rely on Chinese-language media sources.
The Chinese public receives news about the US primarily through Chinese-language television and secondarily through Chinese language Internet and newspaper. Over 80% of Chinese elites rely on the Chinese-language Internet to obtain news about the US; at least one-third of them also use English-language Internet. Chinese public and elites’ usage of English language media for news exceeds their US counterparts’ use of Chinese language media.
Perceived truth in media reporting:
The high degree of skepticism from American and Chinese public and elites about the other nation’s media reporting of their own nation is an indication of mutual distrust.
A majority of Americans do not believe the Chinese media portrays an accurate picture of the US, and a majority of the Chinese respondents do not believe the American media portrays an accurate picture of China.
More surprisingly, Americans and Chinese are also skeptical about their own nation’s media reporting of the other nation—a majority of Americans do not believe the American media reports truthfully about China, and a majority of Chinese elites do not believe the Chinese media reports truthfully about the US. About half of the Chinese public (49%) think Chinese media reports about the US are accurate.”
Some modest headway China Daily has made is causing some adverse reactions. Interesting to see how this Mark Mackinnon puts it – he needs to get a load of himself!
Thanks for the link. I found the reader comments to the piece as or more interesting than the piece itself.
The link was broken – here it is again:
Here’s a good example of how a Chinese effort to promote something positive is twisted and trashed by the tabloid British press.
Chengdu wants to promote tourism, and seeks to raise its profile during the London Olympics. To do so, they hired 50 London cabs, painted them and called them Panda Cabs. It hired celebrity lookalikes to pose as the Queen, Will and Kate in a tongue in cheek commercial. See here:
Now here is the British press reaction from the Daily Mail:
“Kate is branded a gold-digger in bizarre promotional video for Chinese city
Bizarre advertisement sees royal lookalikes trying to hail a taxi
It shows the ‘Duchess’ moaning because she can’t use the royal limo
Video appears to mock Kate for failing to carve out her own career
“However, it attracted swift online criticism from Britons who saw it.
According to the Express, Janet Steele wrote: ‘I think this is disgraceful, where is the harmless fun in mocking such lovely people?’
While Keith Harrison added: ‘Hmm, the same nation that believes dried, ground tiger penis to be a medicine has the right to ridicule our monarchy?
‘Only WE are allowed to ridicule our monarchy! And the Queen deserves more respect than this!’
“Kate Middleton Is A Gold Digger? Chinese Tourism Video Insults The Duchess Of Cambridge
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/267500/kate-middleton-gold-digger-video/”
Kate Middleton’s double mocks her as crass in video sparking outrage
‘Commoners want to see us tightening our belts’: Kate Middleton slapped down as work-shy gold digger in Chinese viral
Cheeky ad sees Duchess of Cambridge lookalike whinging: “I just don’t understand why we cannot take the royal limo. I didn’t marry royalty to schlep around in a taxi.”
There’s two ways to look at this reaction. (1) This is faux outrage, amplified to make China look bad. (2) This is real outrage, which shows how thin-skinned Brits are when Chinese make fun of their royalty. Either way, it shows how China and Chinese can never win with the British media.
Actually, the ad was probably written and produced by a British ad agency. If the ad was not paid for / and for the benefit of a Chinese project, there would probably be little criticism of it; the British themselves and people all over the world parody the royals all the time. For example, this funny movie scene of Frank Drebin and the Queen..
The fact that the ad was paid for by Chengdu, a Chinese city, seems to be what is arousing controversy.
It is as though it is all right for others around the world to poke fun at royalty, but when China joins in, now that is unacceptable.
Or maybe it is because of this:
The Royals Ban Satirical Coverage of Kate and Wills’ Big Day
A video feed rule change and CJR’s call for a royal boycott
Apparently, the news feed of the Kate and Will’s wedding is not allowed to be used for “comedy [or] satirical” purposes. It looks like the Brits put a lot into “image management” of the royals and effectively exercises censorship all over the world.
“Poke fun at William and Kate’s royal wedding? The censors say no.”
“The incident is likely to increase unease about the special treatment the British monarchy receives, particularly when it comes to suppressing criticism from those with antiroyal views. While many people are sympathetic with the royal family’s desire to maintain a degree of control over the event, critics believe restrictive measures, which include the police’s intended hard-line toward protesters on Friday, illustrate an unacceptable level of influence the monarchy continues to exert over the state and beyond.”
“Organizations championing freedom of expression have questioned whether the royals should have the right to impose such restrictions, especially given that the taxpayer will pick up most of the costs involved in organizing the event.
Padraig Reidy, news editor at Britain’s Index on Censorship, describes the royal family’s control of the coverage as “bizarre.” He adds that plans for preemptive arrests and restrictions on the right to protest were even more concerning, branding as “unprecedented” the police’s intended approach.
“The level of stage management with such an event might not be surprising, but certainly the police promise to use the Public Order Act on the day to deal with anyone who even slightly tries to interfere with the spectacle is rather worrying in our view,” he says.
Republican groups are incensed over suggestions by Metropolitan Police Commander Christine Jones that antiroyal placards in the vicinity of the ceremony would be removed on the day. Graham Smith, spokesman for Republic, a group that advocates a “democratic alternative to the monarchy,” says, “Republicans have every right to make their voice heard on the day of the royal wedding, and the police have a fundamental duty to protect that right. The idea that political dissent should be silenced in order to protect the image of the royals goes against every democratic principle.””
“The hostility toward some of the constraints imposed as a result of the wedding is bound to reignite condemnation of the royal family’s privileged position. The monarchy has often been criticized for the special treatment it receives, particularly with regard to the law. Correspondence between members of the royal family and government departments are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, for example.
“The whole system is designed so that the royals are not above the law but slightly outside of it,” said Index on Censorship’s Mr. Reidy. “We know Prince Charles very regularly speaks his mind and writes to government on various matters such as healthcare and public architecture. If someone is trying to influence government policy in any way, then it does seem rather unfair that they should be exempt from freedom of information.”
MPs may not make critical remarks about the monarcy
The special treatment extends even to Parliament. Under House of Commons rules, MPs are banned from making critical remarks about the royals. In March, Labour MP Paul Flynn was prevented from speaking about the behavior of Prince Andrew, whose role as a UK trade envoy has recently come under scrutiny.
“It’s quite outrageous that as elected parliamentarians, we aren’t allowed to criticize,” said Mr. Flynn. “It’s crazy that we have our mouths bandaged about matters of important public interest, in this case how we’re represented abroad.”
Describing the treatment the royal family received as “very privileged,” he added, “The Queen is shielded from all criticism and her family are protected in the same way. It’s a piece of the privileged litter from the past and has no place in a modern parliament.”
So this is how the Brits project a favorable image of the royal family – good ol’ fashioned censorship.
And a British press that not only goes along with it, but protects the royal family even from the “harmless fun” of a parody ad.
Now that’s bizarre!