Sunday

China according to The Global Times

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I read the Global Times fairly regularly. I find it an interesting public diplomacy initiative of the Chinese. The Global Times, the Chinese say, is an attempt to promote an “accurate” image of China abroad since international reporting, especially the Western media, on China is often flawed, lacking in understanding of China and the Chinese culture. Almost Al-Jazeera like, its an attempt to get a share of voice in a world dominated by Western media conglomerates and present the Chinese viewpoint on important developments. Intended for an international audience/readership, the Global Times also tries to allay fears of a resurgent China threatening to disturb the present international order.

Editorials in the Global Times make it very clear that the newspaper has an agenda. Two editorials caught my attention recently: 60 foreigners who helped shape China's 60 years (Sep. 18, 2009) and Editorial: What China can contribute to the world? (Aug. 24, 2009) Both the pieces convey the image of a China that is open, freely engaging with the rest of the world, borrowing ideas to build itself and also actively contributing towards other cultures. Through such writings the newspaper argues China is not a closed society but has always been open and globalised … its just that the political system is unique when compared to the West, of which, the Western world, obviously has no understanding of.

The “60 foreigners” editorial was widely reported in the Indian press because Nehru and Tagore were included in the list of foreigners who helped shape modern China. The list was prepared based on an internet poll by the newspaper. It states, “Looking back on the nation's 60 years of tremendous changes, it's evident that foreigners have been much more than witnesses in the development of the People's Republic of China. Whether intentionally or accidentally, directly or indirectly, positively or negatively, they have become important pieces of the China puzzle – helping shape and globalize the nation… Marx and Lenin enlightened China; Richard Nixon and former Singapore president Lee Kuan Yew promoted China; Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton have impressed generations of Chinese; and Michael Jordan and Bill Gates became idols of young Chinese, to name a few.”

In What China can contribute to the world, the edit clearly aims to reassure the world that a rising China stands for a harmonious world and Chinese culture can enrich other cultures. Unlike Western cultures, Chinese culture is best suited to create “a harmonious world” as unlike Western cultures it doesn’t operate within the binaries of “good” and “evil”. The edit concludes: “The fundamental reason is that Chinese culture is advancing with the times and willing to absorb ideas from other cultures to enrich itself. It is open rather than closed; inclusive rather than exclusive. Chinese culture is part of Asian culture. With the rise of the Asian region, maybe it is time for Chinese culture to make greater contributions to the world. In the 21st century, what China could contribute to the world is probably not made-in-China products, but Chinese culture.”

Recently, there have been a plethora of articles in the newspaper that attempts to portray a China that is open with free flow of ideas unlike Western media’s perceptions of it being a closed society. It’s just a unique culture with a own unique political system that seeks to participate in the new world order based on the 2000 year old Chinese principle of “Harmony in Diversity.” What’s worrisome is the tonality in such articles which tends to assert, very subtly, the superiority of the Chinese culture. In politics it can be dangerous.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

Madhur

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