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Report: Global impression of China continues to improve

Author  :  Mao Li     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-01-22

Visitors stroll stalls of the “Shanghai Flavor” intangible cultural heritage fair at the Grand Central Terminal in New York on Jan. 10. The fair was part of the “Happy Chinese New Year - Shanghai Week” held in the city from Jan. 9 to 12. In recent years, China has stepped up efforts to enhance its abilities in international communication. (PHOTO: XINHUA)

A recent global survey of more than 11,000 people from 22 countries shows that China’s overall image is increasingly favorable.

The China National Image Global Survey 2016-2017 was released on Jan. 5 by the Institute for Contemporary China and World Studies, formerly the Center for International Communication Studies (CICS) at the China Foreign Language Publishing Administration, in conjunction with market research firms Millward Brown-ACSR and Lightspeed GMI.

This is the fifth global survey the Institute for Contemporary China and World Studies has conducted on the topic. It includes hot issues that were absent from previous reports, such as the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, BRICS cooperative mechanism, Chinese food and traditional Chinese medicine, giving a portrait of China’s overall profile and influence in the spheres of politics, diplomacy, economy, culture, and science and technology.

According to the report, overseas respondents aged between 18 and 35 years old spoke more highly of China’s handling of domestic and foreign affairs, had a better impression of the country, and were more optimistic about its future development than the elder cohort.

The number of respondents expecting China to become the world’s largest economy is increasing annually: 17 percent in 2013, 20 percent in 2014, 24 percent in 2015 and 33 percent during 2016 and 2017, according to the report.

Particularly, China’s capacities in scientific and technological innovation have won global acclaim, according to the report. Nearly 60 percent of overseas respondents reported admiration for China’s scientific and technological progress. If limited to those from developing countries, the figure is 71 percent.

High-speed rail is China’s most recognized achievement in the field of science and technology, followed by manned space technology and supercomputing, according to the report.

The building of a community of shared future for mankind and the “Belt and Road” (“B&R”) initiative have contributed Chinese wisdom and proposals to global governance, boosting China’s national image in the new era. According to the report, the proportion of respondents who were aware of the “B&R” initiative grew from 6 percent in 2014 to 18 percent during 2016-2017, and more than 40 percent of the surveyed from countries along the routes, like Indonesia, acknowledged the initiative.

Those acquainted with the “B&R” initiative generally held that it is of positive significance to individuals, nations and regions as well as the world economy and global governance.

Wang Gangyi, deputy director of the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration, said that since the 18th CPC National Congress, China’s national image has improved comprehensively as it approaches the center of the world arena. This reflects that the international community is affirming the remarkable achievements that the CPC Central Committee, with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, has made in state governance, Wang added.

“We have achieved initial results in securing a greater say on the global stage,” said Cheng Manli, head of the National Institute of Strategic Communication at Peking University.

In recent years, China has stepped up efforts to enhance its abilities in international communication, making Chinese wisdom and proposals increasingly known to and recognized by the outside world, especially the majority of developing nations, Cheng noted.

More gratifyingly, the younger generation overseas has a more positive opinion of China, Cheng said, adding that the young people are more open-minded and less vulnerable to stereotypes than the older generation, which has been deeply influenced by the Cold War mindset. In addition, the increasing exchange between youths at home and abroad has also played a role.

The global survey not only informs the Chinese people of the nation’s image worldwide but also provides the basis for the country to improve its profile. Wang Wen, executive director of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, said that “China hands” in the West, Western think tanks and pollsters are the three forces dominating the evaluation of China, underscoring the need to wrest back the upper hand and discourse power of self-evaluation.

Shi Anbin, deputy dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at Tsinghua University, said that building a brand in independent polling is a vital starting point for taking back discourse power.

Agenda setting by Western polling agencies can hardly shake the influence of Western-centrism, hence their failure to present a real, objective and well-rounded national image of China, Shi said, “We should strive to construct an international polling system free from the impact of Western-centric theories and innovate in concept and methodology.”

Editor: Yu Hui

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