Tim Manning Explore Why Do Westerners Fear or Show Disrespect for China

Posted on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 at 7:35 am in

Why do Westerners fear or show disrespect for China when
•    it has produced the biggest movement of people out of poverty in world history,
•    has done more to provide an economic base for Africa than decades of Western aid have been
able to achieve,
•    has grown over 40% since the global financial crisis while Western economies have struggled,
•    has delivered trillions of dollars in cheap goods to Western consumers, and
•    when China’s history for five millennia is one of physical containment as a near land-locked civilisation, which professes itself as having a “peaceful rise” advocating non-interference in other states?

There are many reasons, some valid, some not justified, and all good topics for debate. This document runs through 55 of those reasons in no particular order of importance apart from the first item. Research for this list started in September 2012 and although there will be factors relevant to the discussion which are not mentioned here, eventually a cut-off date had to be selected. The material comes from a wide variety of sources – mainly day to day media rather than academic publications.

The author Tony Alexander is Chief Economist at the Bank of New Zealand, is based in Wellington New
Zealand, and can be contacted at this email address tony.alexander@bnz.co.nz

As noted, the 55 factors are presented in no particular order of importance, apart from the first. And it should be noted that one could undertake a similar exercise for every other country, including New Zealand.

Facelessness

We do not know how mainland Chinese live and what they think. In the West people do not know the Chinese well enough to be able to see them in the same family, living, social situations facing the same joys, delights, problems, and procedures that we experience. We do not know what the inside of a low, middle or upper income Chinese house or apartment looks like. We do not know at what time schools start and finish, how long people spend in university, what the national sports are which children might play after school, how hard it is to get a job etc.

This is a problem because plentiful scope exists for imagining the worst about the Chinese, their values, their lifestyles, and their actions.

The same applies to Chinese leaders. Traditionally Chinese politicians have been remote from their people, communicating in written form and engaging neither in communication through oratory nor familiarisation through participation in typical family activities (attending a baseball game, watching netball and rugby) – though domestically efforts were made to portray previous Premier Wu as grandfatherly. The new Premier has started a Twitter-like account.

We cannot form an opinion as to the honesty and integrity of Chinese leaders which is very problematic because we continually judge and have systems in place to facilitate the judging of those who lead us in the West. Our system of rule is based around continual monitoring of those to whom we give power.

Written by Tony Alexander, Chief Economist of the Bank of New Zealand.

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