70% of foreigners know little about China: survey

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-8 0:08:02

US most familiar with Chinese culture

Most foreigners have little knowledge about Chinese culture, according to the latest survey. 

The survey, conducted by  Beijing Normal University and the research platform Survey Sampling International from October to December last year, polled 2,407 respondents aged between 18 and 65 from six countries consisting of the UK, France, the US, Japan, Australia and South Korea. 

According to the survey, foreigners showed little knowledge about Chinese culture as a whole. About 74 percent failed in the test. Respondents from the US showed the greatest familiarity with Chinese culture, followed by Japan and South Korea, while those from France and Australia were less familiar with Chinese culture. 

The respondents were asked about what they know about Chinese culture in terms of Chinese historical icons, philosophies, arts, natural resources, lifestyle and humanistic resources. 

"Japan and South Korea differed in their impression and interest in Chinese culture, with South Koreans being more positive while the Japanese more negative, and that might be related to bilateral relations and their nationals' mindset," said Yu Dan, a professor at the university who led the survey.

"People in the West know about China's past glory more than its contemporary achievements. It will take some years for greater awareness of these achievements," John Ross, senior fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, told the Global Times.

Ross explained that the Japanese and South Koreans are more familiar with Chinese culture because they share certain cultural traditions, while the US studies China because it thinks China will be the next great power. 

Respondents recognized specific cultural symbols such as "panda" and "green tea" but were unfamiliar with more abstract ones like Chinese philosophies and the arts, said the survey. 

Most cultures are founded on a religion but Confucianism dominated Chinese culture. It is in some way easier for Europeans to understand a religious framework, said Ross. 

Meanwhile, the survey said the respondents showed a strong willingness to know more about Chinese culture, but most of them were hesitant to see them in a positive way. 

"As China becomes more powerful and prosperous, interest in China will rise. Even if its soft power projection is very skillful, it cannot change foreigners' perception as much as China's hard power," said Ross.

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