Foreigners have better view of China post-Olympics

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
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Flag of China  ,
Monday, November 24, 2008

Seems like the millions of dollars invested into the Beijing Olympics is paying off. At least in terms of overseas perceptions of China.

As Xinhua reports:
A survey organized by the Communication University of China (CUC) in Beijing shows that foreigners like China better after the Beijing Olympics, but still hold negative opinions about some of the Chinese people's behavior.

An online survey and face-to-face interviews in Beijing found that foreigners' general impressions of China were better after the Olympics, whether they came to the Games or not.

China's economic image in their eyes rose from 3.1 to 3.2; cultural image rose from 3.0 to slightly higher; political image remained the same, at 2.6; image of the Beijing city rose from 3.0 to 3.1.

Those interviewed got to know China by watching the Olympic Games, touring around China, making friends with the Chinese, watching Chinese films, using goods made here, eating in Chinese restaurants and so on.

But, criticisms still existed, showed the survey. The image of the Chinese people remained the same after the Olympics.

The interviewees who had traveled more to China gave lower ratings for Chinese people's friendliness, enthusiasm toward work and their ability to keep promises than those who have only limited travel experience.

"This is very surprising," Ke said, "and it is also beyond my expectation that they are less critical about littering after more contact with the people and the culture." He didn't elaborate any further.

The survey found that foreigners who were staying in Beijing during the Olympics had more positive impressions of China than those who were not.

According to Ke, this was because they had more chances to be in direct contact with Chinese society.

The survey also showed that foreigners' knowledge about China was still at a low level.

"For example, when asked who is the President of China now, even those who were staying in Beijing at the time didn't know it was Hu Jintao. Only 40 percent of them gave the right answer," Ke said.

Ashley Esarey, of the Fairbank Center of Chinese Studies at Harvard University, agreed at the forum that the Olympics did change the way most people look at China.

Before the Games, some Americans were against China because of human rights and environmental issues, according to Esarey. "But many people's perspectives changed during the Olympics. They were astonished at how well the Olympic Games were organized, and showed more interest in China," he said, adding that the number of supporters for the Beijing Games increased afterwards by 10 percent over the figure before the Games was held.



The quote that gets me is:
Jeff Ruffolo, senior consultant at the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad, compared the Beijing Olympics to "the summer of love".


My question is 'how did you compare it to the summer of love?' Did he say it was the opposite of the summer of love?


So basically the survey found that the more foreigners know about China and visit the country, the higher positive image it gets, but not its people.


Younger and wealthier interviewees give the image of China higher marks, but lower scores for the Chinese people. And even Singapore, a nation with close cultural bonds with China, holds higher attitudes towards image of China but a lower assessment of Chinese people than that of the UK and the US.

However, the statistics also point out films with Chinese elements, the Beijing Olympic Games and Chinese products are the top three communication channels which have the strongest relationship with China's cultural image, the image of Beijing and China's economic image respectively.

Media outside of China, Chinese products, Chinese cities or Chinatown restaurants, and films with Chinese elements rank the top of the list of how foreigners to get access to China.

But of all the channels to become familiar with China, Chinese media was at the bottom of the list, even though the credibility of Chinese media improved during the Olympics.

The follow-up in-depth interviews explain that unbalanced reports in the Chinese media result in the lack of credibility, and professor Ke suggested "we should adopt an easier media environment and utilize overseas media more to serve our national image."

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-11/18/content_7216714.htm

Some interesting comments arose on the China Daily website in response to the survey, including this one:

I note that all of this occured over a period of time when Chinese were crying and babbling like babies about western media bias and portayal of China...many suggesting there was a western conspiracy to suppress China and YET, the respondents in this survey suggested that they took their information from that same media and yet carried a positive image....which then of course makes one wonder- WHY on Earth would Chinese PEOPLE have ranked so lowly? It's a very interesting outcome. It suggests that westerners DO NOT have a mission to suppress China, but that the Chinese paranoia, Chinese instant defensiveness, Chinese attitudes that everyone is against them, Chinese habits, Chinese arrogance are all things (among others) that grate people and make them unsettled about the people, notwithstanding their admiration and affection for the country itself. Suggests to me that while this story was a positive and good outcome, actually the underlying truth is one that Chinese PEOPLE should really think about openly and address (without defensiveness, paranoia, victim complexes or complete denial)...rather than the response that will presumably happen, which is that Westerners are racist, foreigners don't understand Chinese people, foreigners always look down on Chinese...if you avoid this mindset and start with a clean sheet of paper as to what are the common flaws of people in this country (without resort to "But Americans do this, or Singaporeans do that")...you might start to figure a few things out about how this study came to the results it did.

It's also pretty dull respondents who regard the Olympics as a channel for China's cultural image! I mean seriously, it was a sports event attended by most nations in the world, it had a human cultural image, the only thing that attempted to carry Chinese culture was the ceremonies. The ceremonies have very little to do with the cultural image....the guy on the money did not feature once in either ceremony, yet he features prominently all over China and at major landmarks...how could that be? He also helped establish (with others) the basis for the political system still in use in China today, something which guides the very foundations, including the education of China. Further, ceremonies of Olympics are a mickey mouse way to present a nation's cultural image.

Finally, interesting that the Chinese media's unbalanced reports were at the bottom of the list and were considered unreliable....YET, these people still had a positive image of China. Perhaps it's time for the bashing of westerners on these pages, based only on what is seen on CNN and BBC to stop because at the end of the day, it seems that there must be other media sources in the west and that western people can critically evaluate what is told to them through their media and form their own opinions, through a pluarity of ideas....rather than having mass run media attempt to spin a positive message all the time and have people simply believe it (eg why are there so few stories about the Chinese domestic football league? Or why was the melamine scandal covered up). This combination of factors is very telling and should give readers cause to think about how they themselves read China's media and evaluate what is being said and challenge and think critically about what is published...for if westerners can form a view (which Chinese presumably agree with) of China that is positive, DESPITE supposed unrelenting negative news campaigns, then isn't it the case that thinking for oneself outside the spectre of what's put in our face by a government run news system would be closer to reaching a realistic point of view?
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