Zachary Karabell, who was on the “China: The Next Super Power?” panel at UCLA, April 24, said that there is a perception problem ( due to ignorance) between the citizens of the United States and China.
For more than two millennia, Chinese society has been based on collective rights—not individual rights. When there is a piece in the People’s Daily, the Chinese people know that the collective voice of their government is speaking. If a Chinese citizen disagrees, they usually keep their opinion to themselves and it is not for public consumption as in America.
Most Chinese cannot understand that in America there are many individual, outspoken voices and opinions in the media. If a senator or congressional representative is quoted in the media blaming China for poisoned infant formula or drywall or taking jobs away from Americans, many Chinese see this as the voice of America’s leadership even if it isn’t.
The reporters and editors for China’s state media do not need to be told what to write or say. Since they are Chinese with the same collective cultural beliefs, they know what is unacceptable without being told. The only way these perceptions change is if the leadership at the top signals a change by telling the state media to cover stores that were off limits. This is alien to American citizens who grew up in a culture based on individual rights.
That does not mean the Chinese people do not have a voice. To understand, read the Power of Public Debate in China.
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