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View China objectively - By Wu Hongbo (China Daily)
2010/07/08

German media should drop prejudiced stance and reflect progress shown by the developing nation

A recent report published by Germany's Heinrich Boll Foundation shows that more than half of the 8,700 articles on China in the European country's media showed a prejudiced or derogative perspective about the Asian nation.

My personal work experiences in Germany tell me that the foundation's report is credible.

Like their Western counterparts, some German media and journalists with prejudiced viewpoints about China have long held a particular interest in covering the country's ethnicity, freedom, human rights and other sensitive issues, while stinting space on coverage about the enormous progresses Beijing has achieved in improving people's livelihood and on science and technology, education and culture.

In the latest such incident, a German newspaper lashed out at China for its "espionage" in Germany on its front page. Such a groundless report is certain to adversely affect bilateral ties between the two countries.

A country's media undertake some definite responsibilities for its society and play an important role in facilitating the development of its ties with foreign countries. Objective, authentic and unbiased reports will help the public get a correct picture about a foreign country and its opposite will lead the public in the reverse direction.

According to a recent survey, 80 percent of Chinese hold a positive opinion about Germany, in sharp contrast to 70 percent of Germans who hold negative opinions about China. Such an outcome is largely the result of completely different perspectives adopted by the two countries' media in their coverage about the other.

The German media's prejudiced reports about China will not only negatively impact mutual understanding between the two peoples, but will also dent their own credibility as objective and impartial outlets of news dissemination.

China has a total area that is double that of the 27-member European Union (EU) and a population more than two and a half times the bloc's total. As a developing country, China bears multiple economic, technological and social characteristics, with advances in airspace and high-speed rail technology coexisting with underdeveloped animal-driven trucks. The economic and social progress achieved since the reform and opening up have not changed the fact that its economic development is still on an uneven keel.

China's gross domestic product (GDP) was only $18 billion in 1949, but it touched $4.9 trillion in 2009, ranking it the world's third largest economy. China's admirable economic aggregate, however, has not changed its low per capita index. Compared with the $44,000 in Germany, China's per capita GDP was only $3,000, ranking it 104th in the world.

The country is still a rural-dominant society, with 800 million of its 1.3 billion people living in rural areas and its urbanization level only standing at 46 percent, lower than the 50 percent world average. On its way to industrialization, modernization and urbanization, China still faces the arduous task of transforming its economic development model and narrowing the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor.

China is well aware of the difficulties and challenges ahead and is making active efforts to explore a development model suited to its national conditions. While sharing the country's economic fruit, Chinese people are also enjoying unprecedented freedoms and rights. The country has laid down a well-developed legal infrastructure to guarantee freedom of speech for its citizens.

However, it is China's long-cherished stance that there is no such thing as absolute freedom of speech and that any speech should conform to the country's laws. For instance, remarks aimed at publicizing or spreading Nazism and those antagonizing Jewish sentiment are also prohibited in Germany.

With a population of 400 million netizens and 220 million bloggers, opinions have always remained particularly active on the Internet, some of which hold a critical attitude toward the government. The Chinese government has long paid high attention to various kinds of criticisms and proposals, especially those over the Internet.

It is the whole world's common aspiration to promote progress on human rights. Like their counterparts in the rest of the world, the Chinese government has long thrown its weight behind its people's pursuit of democracy and human rights and made remarkable progresses in promoting people's human rights.

It is the Chinese government's proposal that human rights include not only political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights and that rights for subsistence and development serve as the primary human rights for a developing nation.

There does not exist a political model in the world that is viable to all countries. Western countries' failure to transplant their political models to developing countries after World War II is also testimony that any political system and development model can only be built on certain national conditions. It is China's stated position that the world should have diversified development models and that every country's desire to choose its own development path according to its own national conditions should be respected.

A developing country with a 1.3-billion population, China will make a huge contribution to the world if it can handle well its domestic issues. At the most difficult time of the global financial crisis, the Chinese government adhered to cooperation with other countries to tackle the crisis.

As an important player in the international arena, China has actively participated in UN efforts for the settlement of some international hot button issues and has played an active role in promoting the handling of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and Iran. It has also made its deserved contribution on climate change and greenhouse gas emission reduction.

An open China has drawn more and more attention from foreign media. We welcome all opinion and proposals expressed in good faith, including critical opinion about our shortcomings.

But it is hoped that the Western media, including Germany's media, will look at and cover the ancient and booming Asian nation in the true journalistic perspective and in an objective and impartial manner.

The author is China's ambassador in Germany.

(China Daily 07/06/2010 page8)

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