AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 502

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Session 502: Global Representation of China

Organizer: Karen Christensen, Berkshire Publishing, USA

Chair: Xu Wu, Arizona State University, USA

Images of China have always been complex, fluid, and controversial, and China’s rapid rise in recent years has not led to significant improvement in how the country is perceived abroad, especially in the Western media. Joshua Ramo recently observed that China’s image abroad could become her “strategic threat.” With the continued emergence of China as a global power, especially in the wake of the Olympics and in the context of the current global economic slowdown, it is more important than ever before to improve the understanding between China and the world. With this in mind, this panel series “Global Representations of China” examines important factors in the way China is understood, represented, portrayed, and explained in the international world, including the mass media. The media are particularly important because popular perceptions of China are largely shaped by the mass media. Popular perceptions in turn influence the actions of government and corporations. This panel series brings together scholars who reflect on global representations of China, contemporary and historic. It aims to present critical analysis on key issues that affect global perception and portrayals of China, as well as to explore how understanding between China and the world could be improved. The panellists present papers that are historical, theoretical, or practical, using specific case studies from different disciplinary areas. There are three panels in this series: (1) Western representation of China, (2) Global representation of China, (3) Western media on China, and (4) Historical Views of China.

Party Crasher? –How Will Foreign Correspondents Cover Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s 90th Birthday Party
Xu Wu, Arizona State University, USA

The year of 2011 will mark two politically important and attention-grabbing anniversaries for China: (1) the 90th birthday party for China’s ruling party on July 1, 2011, and (2) the 100th anniversary of 1911 Revolution on October 10, (also known as the Xinhai Revolution) which ended China’s last empire: Qing Dynasty. On the heel of the successful Beijing Olympics party and the still ongoing Shanghai World Expo, the CCP’s propaganda machines and preparation team have been on high alert and begin soliciting ideas on how to stage another spectacular party. Like in the past, China-based foreign correspondents are the ones that are least likely to jump onto the celebration bandwagon. However, they have been the most important China-watchers for these events, if not the most effective party-crashers. What is on their minds in terms of how to cover these events? For example, what are their top three themes or story ideas for these occasions, what is their general impression of CCP’s top officials, and what obstacles they have encountered while covering CCP-related stories? Global representations of China is inevitably related to, and sometimes even determined by, global representations of Chinese Communist Party. A survey of more than 50 senior-level foreign reporters and editors in China will reveal some fresh, frontline, and hopefully fascinating viewpoints and observations from those China messengers. The survey is assisted by Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China and will be wrapped up by late August, 2010.

How does the world respond to China's 60th anniversary celebration during the global economic recession?
Jiangnan Zhu, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

This paper studies how the world responds to the rising status of China through examining the worldwide coverage on the spectacular 60th national anniversary of China in Oct. 2009. Some countries take China’s military buildup, rising economy, and communist values as a salient threat. Others might regard China as their role model of development and beneficial for the international community. Previous research on the implications of the “ascending dragon” has either focused on a specific group of countries or counted on a limited number of case studies, without offering a systematic comparative perspective for analysis. Taking advantage of a worldwide coverage of China’s spectacular celebration of its 60th national day, we scrutinize how and why countries respond to this event differently. We analyze mainstream news coverage from 1) major western powers like the U.S., the U.K, France, and Germany, 2) Asian competitors like India, Japan, and South Korea, etc, 3) communist and former communist countries like Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Russia, and central Asia,;4) the Great China Community of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau; 5) other authoritarian countries like Singapore and Egypt. By comparing their respective media coverage of China’s celebration, we examine the relationship between their respective socioeconomic, political and ideological features and their responses to the rise of China during the ongoing global recession. This will significantly enrich our understandings on the implications of a rising China to the world and more subtle dynamics underlying the hot debate of a “China threat”.

Views from Afar: How Latin America Sees China
Ariel Armony, University of Miami, USA

This paper seeks to understand how Latin America construes “China.” China’s engagement with Latin America elicits competing reactions. While China offers a suggestive model of state-led development and a counterweight to U.S. power in the hemisphere, its involvement in Latin America has been criticized in the region for its allegedly negative environmental and human impact (deforestation, contamination, rural depopulation, and land conflicts), and economic and social impact (unfair competition in some manufacturing sectors, aggressive attempts to takeover mining operations, and reputed excessive spoils of Chinese expatriate communities).  My paper will address public and elite representations of China in Latin America: It will explore the diversity of Latin American perceptions of China, from the ambivalent views of public officials to the distress of industrial manufacturers and communities negatively affected by large Chinese operations. It will examine how Latin Americans and the media interpret official Chinese pronouncements about its “peaceful rise” and pursuit of “harmonious global development.” It will pay special attention to the various ways in which Latin American audiences construe the “Beijing Consensus” as a potential paradigm for development and international diplomacy. This study draws on in-depth, open-ended interviews, statistical discourse analysis of Internet forums, qualitative content analysis of different types of publications and news, and public opinion data. The study emphasizes views from two countries in the region: Argentina and Venezuela.

Disputed Borders, Conflicting Media: The ‘China threat’ Perception in India
Louise Merrington, Australian National University, Australia

In India, perceptions of China are still heavily influenced by the institutional memory of the 1962 Sino-Indian War, exacerbated by what is arguably the world’s most voracious tabloid media. The close Chinese relationship with Pakistan is also a major contributing factor, and 2009 was a particularly bad year for the Sino-Indian relationship, with constant media reports on both sides of incursions along the disputed border. Interestingly, this negative perception of China is found mainly in the public sphere and the more hawkish end of the defence establishment, rather than in government, where views tend to be much more positive and engagement with China is promoted. The airing of pro-China views in the Indian media (whether from politicians or journalists), however, tends to be received extremely negatively by other sections of the media and seen as unpatriotic. These misunderstandings are further exacerbated by major differences in media systems. The Indian media, which, like the Western media, operate on a commercial platform, tend to see all reports which come out of China – whether from official sources or on the internet – as being the views of the Communist Party, while those that don’t, such as The Hindu newspaper, are ridiculed as being apologists for the Chinese government. That said, Indian views of China are often beset by contradictions: the desire to ‘learn’ from China’s development versus suspicion about Chinese motives; the desire to engage China economically versus increasing competition on the world stage.

Perception of China and Chinese in Angolan and Zambian Media
Jaroslaw Jura, Lazarski University, Poland

The paper is a part of the broader project which aim is to investigate the perception of China and Chinese in Africa. The aim of the paper is to categorize the way how China and Chinese are presented in local media: if the picture is negative or positive, in what context they usually appear. And finally if this picture has been changing during last few years. I have chosen Zambia and Angola mostly due to the fact that the historical background and economical context of Chinese expansion in these countries differ significantly. Angola is a country that has suffered a lot during domestic war, while Zambia is one of the countries that remain quite peaceful after getting the independence. The Chinese have developed significantly infrastructure in Angola and seem to be perceived there in quite positive way, while in Zambia they seem to be seen more as a threat for local industry, employment and working conditions. Thus the perception of China and Chinese and the picture of China and Chinese presented in those countries' media shall differ significantly as well. The data analysed in this paper is the content of Internet news portals and online versions of local newspapers in Zambia and Angola. Moreover, to provide a broader perspective, content of some Pan-African online media will be also incorporated into the analysis. The content analysis (both quantitative and qualitative) is the main method used in this research.