Is it Good to Have Americans Staring at You?

Is it good for China to be the focus of so much American attention? According to this op-ed article from China's state-controlled Oriental Morning Post, this kind of attention is not nearly as bad for the People's Republic of China as it was for the Soviet Union.

Translated By Mark Klingman

April 4, 2006

China - Oriental Morning Post - Original Article (Chinese)    

President Bush and Communist Party Chief
Hu Jintao at the White House: Now That We
Have Your Attention ... (above and below)


Chatting with ordinary Americans, one discovers that they are paying attention to China like never before. A recent U.S. Senate investigation indicated that, compared with 10 years ago, the number of Americans who know something about Sino-American relations has increased from 18% to 60%. The New York Times last year published nearly 3,700 articles about China, more than three times the number in 1995; meanwhile, the number of front-page articles doubled.

If Americans are paying more attention to China, does that mean that relations between our two countries are getting better? Looking at the present situation, we obviously cannot make a firm reply. In fact, what we see is that as Americans increase their awareness of China, questions and problems have only increased and grown more complex.

The reasons for this newfound interest among Americans are many, but most can be traced to the fact that China's development is impinging more and more on American's own interests. Looking at the front-page articles in The New York Times from last year, we see that Chinese affairs are often intertwined with American economic issues - for instance, the Central Bank of China's adjustment of the remnembi exchange rate and CNOOC's attempted purchase of Unocal. Conflicts over economics and trade could therefore become the most important issues in Sino-American relations, since they are most closely related to the well-being of the American people.

Of course, people will always care most about what benefits them. Political, ideological, and ethical questions can no doubt affect one person's view of another, and even provoke intense emotion. But at the end of the day, you find their hearts centered on the well-being of their own households.

In the past we often said that the desire of the Chinese to understand America far outweighed the desire of Americans to understand China. This was because Americans never really had any pressing need to do so. Now a new hope has arisen for closer contact and we are finally starting to pull even in this respect. But paying attention to China doesn't necessarily lead to a deep understanding of China. Who knows what their mood is as they watch? They may be bristling with fear and anxiety, while the seeds of hostility are sown in their hearts.

Americans certainly don't pay equal attention to every country. But as a saying well puts it: "If America is staring at you, that's probably not a good thing." We can draw on many examples to illustrate this point - for instance, during the Cold War, the Soviet Union was the country that America watched the most.

America's Banker: The People's Republic of China.


The fact that Americans pay attention to the attitudes of other countries has to do with both America's present international standing and American tradition. The U.S. is certainly the world's most formidable country, and in American eyes, it is the best and happiest on earth, and is worth giving everything to protect. The view of Americans encompasses the globe; they regard the world as their marketplace, and are willing to transform it for the sake of their own national security. But at the same time they maintain a deep weariness for this world. One can see this in their arrogant appearance, which hides a heart full of doubt.

Certainly, the way America looks at China today is completely different from the way it once looked at the Soviet Union. At that time, America stared across in fright, since war with the Soviets would have meant nuclear doomsday. Now, as America looks over at China, the fear is not quite as serious, but the contradictions are greater.

The main difference today is that Sino-American relations are incredibly diverse. America looks at China from a wide variety of angles and with conflicting emotions. For instance, look at the difference between exporters and retail merchants; or automobile engineers and software designers; or investment bankers and steel workers. Again, through contact with China, some American enterprises have expanded their market while others have possibly lost theirs. The emotions are all over the map.

As Sino-American relations diversify, the affairs of the countries will be woven together more tightly. There will be many kinds of benefit for all, as well as many nagging problems, and it will be harder and harder to speak in black-and-white terms. As we often say, "I've got you in me; you've got me in you."

On the surface, the attention of Americans on China seems a bit anxious. But nowadays, when you mention China to an American, he can see the present diversification as practical progress on such issues as human rights and democratic reform. This reflects the fact that relations are extending into every plane of society, as the trend of government policymaking shifts more and more to a bottom-up model.

Receiving this kind of American attention can involve us in contradictions and questions of increasing complexity. We must try and help the American populace understand China better, but first we must pass through a long and involved period of misunderstanding and mutual friction. Americans look at China with increasing confusion: they are guarded, surprised, worried, anxious, curious ... but these feelings may lead them to understand China's true nature. Their casual glance will slowly transform into a full, rounded view. This is precisely the road China and America must take together for our two great nations to mature in our relationship.

Therefore, in the long run, it's a good thing that Americans pay more attention to China. In the history of Sino-American relations, America has never wanted to understand China as it does today, and there has never been such a large-scale exchange between the two peoples. One could not wish for a more favorable climate for cultural relations to flower. We should both prepare ourselves for a quite a long tea-time with one another.

(The author is a "People's Daily" senior reporter)

Chinese Version Below


丁刚 责任编辑 刘景任大刚单雪菱   

2006-4-4 2:01:15  

普通美国人聊天,你会发现,他们对中国的关注度从来没有像今天这样高。美国"百人会"不久前的调查表明,同10年前相比,了解美中关系的人由18%上升到 60%。而《纽约时报》去年刊登了近3700篇涉及中国的报道,与1995年相比,报道总量是原来的3倍多,头版的文章数翻了一番。
美国老百姓对中国更加关注,原因很多,但最主要还是中国的发展已经更多地关系到了美国人的切身利益。就拿《纽约时报》去年头版刊登的有关中国的报道来说, 就有相当一部分涉及经贸关系,比如中国央行调整人民币汇率、中海油收购尤尼科等。经贸争端之所以会成为中美关系目前最重要的问题,就是因为它与美国普通百 姓利益相关。
美国人关注别国的心态与美国现在的国际地位有关,也与美国人的传统有关。美国是世界上最强大的国家,在美国人眼里,这个国家的一切都是最美好的,都是值得 好好保护的,所以要随时提防坏人的破坏。美国人有世界眼光,把整个世界都当成自己的市场,把改造世界视为保障自身安全的目标。但同时,他们也就会为这个世 界所累,表面上总是趾高气扬,内心深处却常常疑心忡忡。
最主要的不同,是中美关系已经越来越多样化了。美国人看中国有了不同的视角和不同的感受。比如,出口商与零售商就不一样,制造汽车的工程师和设计软件的程 序员也不一样,投资银行的老板和钢铁工人更不一样。再比如,在与中国的交往中,一些美国企业扩大了出口市场,另一些则可能失去原有的市场,大家的感受各不 相同。
受美国人关注虽然会意味着矛盾、问题的增多,但要想让美国民众对中国更加了解,还必须得经过这样一个漫长而充满了曲折与摩擦的阶段。美国人看中国,心态十 分复杂:防范、惊讶、担心、疑虑、好奇而所有这些心态都会促使他们更多地了解中国,进而促使他们对中国的关注从俯视慢慢地转变为平视,而这正是中美两 个大国的关系走向成熟的必经之路。
因此,从长远看,美国人更关心中国又是一件好事情。毕竟在中美关系史上,美国人还从来没有像现在这样,有了想了解中国的需求,美中之间也从来没有出现过这 样大规模的民间交流。中美关系走到今天这一步,你就是不想让美国人关注中国,也已经不大可能了。对此,我们显然还需要有更充分、更长期的心理准备。