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Western Antagonism about Chinas Development - A Case Study on German Mass Media Reports

Hausarbeit 2007 13 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Region: Ferner Osten


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. China’s Reforms from a German Perspective

3. China’s Reforms from a Chinese Perspective

4. Five Misperceptions and Misunderstandings
4.1. Nature of Political System
4.2. Nature of Economical Reforms
4.3. Nature of Social Reforms
4.4. Nature of Chinese foreign politics
4.5. Nature of Transition

5. Future Challenges and Pitfalls

6. Conclusion

7. Literature

1. Introduction

Scanning western media reports one can observe strong a certain kind of antagonism about China’s development. On one hand, China is pressed for reforms on all fronts. But on the other hand, China’s success causes worries and is often described as a “threat” or “danger” to the western economy. It is not the fact that China’s reforms are criticized, which is striking. Criticism can be an indispensable and valuable tool to accompany a country’s development.[1] It is the overall negativity tenor in the critics in mass media that causes worries. Every faction from the left to the right finds something to disagree with China. The more successful China develops, the more often it finds itself confronted with a no-win situation in western media. However, it seems that the large majority of western journalists remain largely uniformed about the backgrounds of today’s and tomorrow’s developments[2].

This paper asks for reasons for this issue and takes German mass media reports as an example to illustrate the ambivalence of perceptions[3]. Are Germans just unsettled when it comes to China’s growth in global economical and political power or is there a certain truth hidden in their perspective?

2. China’s Reforms from a German Perspective

In the early 19th century the French emperor Napoléon Bonaparte compared China with a ‘sleeping dragon’ and warned that when it would awake, it would shake the world. What Napoléon anticipated 200 years ago seems to hold true. The uprise of China has great effects on the world market. In the global community no country can ignore the effects for long ... particularly Germany as the world’s top exporter.[4] Germany, due to its high degree of internationalisation, is among those countries which feel the global changes the most.

It seems that nothing what China does can fully please the German spectators. If China passes reforms for a further liberalisation of foreign trade, journalists and politicians conjure up horror scenarios how Chinese goods will flood the German market and will destroy thousands of jobs.[5] If China attempts to slow down its liberalisation process, journalists and CEO’s complain about the lack of a willingness to change and throb on WTO-obligations China undertook in 2001. China tends not to be analyzed rationally by German mass media. It seems that China is often blamed blindly and held permanently responsible.

3. China’s Reforms from a Chinese Perspective

Chinese self-perception is very different from the view described before. Chinese are likely to view their “rise in power” more as a restoration. China sees itself as a global power in making to restore its leading position[6]. Furthermore, the rise in power is to be achieved in strength and not in force. China’s ambition has never been territorial and its influence not imperialistic – unlike western countries. Keeping billion people fed, housed and content has always been a rather full agenda. Apart from the sea journeys of Admiral Zheng He (張郃) in the 15th century China has never concerned itself with cultures apart from its own.

Furthermore, China’s path of reforms is clearly raised upon China’s values. China tries to find an own way through the challenges of globalization and tries to learn from mistakes its competitors (especially Japan) made in the past. When reading articles of Chinese scholars one gets the impression that the western pressure on China is observed rather as a last jealous outcry of shading superpowers, than as a helpful advice offered from partners on equal footing[7]. And a certain truth seems to be hidden in their sharp remarks. Of course, western lobbyers try to push China’s reforms in a direction they favour the most. And what right do we have to deny China the progenies the West has enjoyed so much in recent years?

4. Five Misperceptions and Misunderstandings

There are five big misperceptions in German mass media about China which make it difficult for Germans to reach for the big picture of China’s restore in power[8].

4.1. Nature of Political System

The number one misperception is rooted in our own history. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu wrote that people tend to observe events through glasses draggled by their own norms and culture.[9] The German experiences with the communist regime in the former German Democratic Republic seem to play a large role in our image of the Chinese political system. German mass media and even scholars with a good reputation reflect their image of communism on the Chinese political system. The result is that the Chinese communist system is often viewed as an organism with an overpowering CCP in Beijing, powerless regional and local authorities and most important, the state is said to overrule the interests of the population. By this the complexity of the Chinese political system is wrongfully simplified to Stalinism. Structural asymmetries – especially in terms of the separation of powers between national, regional and local level – tend to get ignored[10].

Furthermore, empirical evidence of the development of China in the last 30 years make this assumption implausible. It is often forgotten that the reform policy of Deng Xiaoping (邓小平) lifted 200 million farmers out of dire poverty. On October 1999 a tribute to him in Asia Week magazine stated that “Deng lifted more people out of poverty than any other world leader, anytime, anywhere.”[11]


[1] Immanuel Wallerstein, 1986, p. 86 ff.

[2] Qiu, 2006, p. 59.

[3] This is a phenomenon applies to the wide majority of western countries. Germany is taken as the country of focus for this case study because the author lives in this country and is often confronted with the prejudices and misperceptions of China’s development in his daily work.

[4] China is about to take over the position as the top exporting country from Germany.

[5] Examples for this were the reactions to the expiration of the Mulit Fibre Arrangement (Agreement on Textiles and Clothing) on 1 January 2005.

[6] Qiu, 2007, p. 59.

[7] for example: Qiu, 2007 or Fang, Wang, Song, 2001.

[8] Lin-Huber 2001, p. 35.

[9] see Bourdieu 1979.

[10] Subrahmanyan 2005, p. 21.

[11] Crowell, Hon Wing Polin 1999.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
445 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Fudan University Shanghai – International Center for Graduate Studies
Western Antagonism Chinas Development Case Study German Mass Media Reports China’s Economic Reforms Their Social Political Implications




Titel: Western Antagonism about Chinas Development - A Case Study on German Mass Media Reports