Beauty - and Beast

Beauty - and Beast

Wang Jisi

In a recent survey of Chinese attitudes toward America, the respondents--a cross-section of Chinese society--were...

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In a recent survey of Chinese attitudes toward America, the respondents--a cross-section of Chinese society--were asked to give the first words that came to mind at the mention of the United States. Thirty-four percent of them answered "modernization," "affluence," or "high-tech"; 11.6 percent said "democracy" or "freedom"; and 29 percent responded "overbearing," "hegemonic," "arrogant," or "the world´s policeman."

The sum of those responses is a fair representation of China´s ambivalent sentiments about America, a nation whose name translates literally into Chinese as "Beautiful Country" (Meiguo). When the Chinese focus on America within its own boundaries, they see a nation that is beautifully developed, governed, and maintained. But when they view the United States as a player on the international scene, most Chinese see an unattractive and malign presence. The Chinese are similarly ambivalent about what they assume to be America´s attitude toward China. Sixty percent of the respondents in the survey said they thought that America supports the process of reform and opening that is taking place in China, but an equal number said that the United States wants to prevent China from becoming a great power. They believe that Americans will accept only a China that goes the American way--and will hinder the nation´s development if it does not.

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