Monday, July 13, 2009

China - Perception challenges & Public Diplomacy

The recent riots at China's restive Xinjiang province presents a good opportunity to analyze developments that stretched China's public diplomacy machinery. The Global Times, in the meantime, has written a scathing editorial criticising Western press on their coverage of the Urumqi riots and for deliberately maligning China's image. Read it here.
A few other "perception" challenges of China in recent times include:
  • Western observers routinely talk about the fact that China’s economic success has not been accompanied by significant political reforms and the single-party regime remains in force, even as the public sector is being rolled up.
  • Taiwan's refusal to allow the path of the running of the Olympic torch through its territory.
  • It's censorhip of information and the country was in news recently when it blocked Google for an hour.
  • Its support for the government at Sudan. This was an issue that was raised prior to the Beijin Olympics in 2008.
  • The contaminated pet food fiasco in North America last year which put into doubt the credibility & quality control in Chinese companies.
  • Attacks on an oil installation in Ethiopia that killed 9 Chinese workers.
  • The riots in Jharkhand in India between local laborers and workers of Sinosteel.
  • It's abysmal human rights record and the Tibetan issue.

China, just few days ago, objected to financial aid from Asian Development Bank to Arunachal Pradesh in India disputing Arunachal's status as an Indian state. This was disapponting considering the recent efforts to build trust between the countries. This will also definitely not go down well with the Indian people who remain wary of the Chinese threat. Besides, China's support of Pakistan is well known. Does the Chinese establishment care about a charm offensive targeted towards Indians? Positive perception of China in India is crucial to ensure that conflict (be it political or military) doesn't disrupt the growth momentum of these Asian giants.

-- Madhur