Everyday voices vital to building China’s global image: forum
Published: Jun 04, 2017 05:35 PM
The everyday stories of regular Chinese and foreigners alike are vital parts in helping shape China’s positive global image, according to officials and scholars during the China's Image and Global Communications High-end Forum in Shanghai on Saturday.

It is these stories – told directly by people who call China home – that potentially have more impact in portraying China to a global audience than traditional media, explained Zhao Qizheng, dean of the school of journalism at Renmin University of China. 

"These personal stories and experience are not philosophies or slogans… They’re just plain story-telling," Zhao said during the forum at Shanghai International Studies University (SISU). 

Experts said that varied points of view are valuable because impressions of China, both positive and negative, vary from country to country.  

Plus they’re constantly changing. Guo Ke, Dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at SISU, leads a “Global Public Opinion” team that tracks Chinese-related news coverage in different countries over time. 

"Keywords used by Western media when reporting on China have changed from ‘threat,’ ‘collapse’ and ‘demon’ to most recently ‘opportunity’ and ‘development,’" said Guo. 

Voices from everyday people in their native languages not only counteract hostility toward China generated by international media, they can also “cultivate a more accurate image of China,” said Guo. 

The same concept also applies to China’s cities. Foreigners who give voice to life in places like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou reflect on the country at large. 

Surveys of foreigners living in Chinese cities could help the government better tailor its messages on the regional and levels, said Zheng Hua, a public affairs expert from Shanghai Jiao Tong University. 

“Results from surveys of foreigners in Shanghai reveal that they are more satisfied with the city’s public transportation system and its security than food safety and medical services, which comes as a surprise to policymakers,” said Zheng.

Touching on this point was a video shown at the forum produced by Global Times. 

The video, “China is one of the safest countries in the world,” features around a dozen random street interviews of people from North America, Europe and Africa now living in Shanghai.

The interviewees used for the video, which has so far garnered more than 10 million views since it was posted in April, unanimously agree that China is a safe country.

But experts at the forum also pointed out that nuanced messages are key in order to provide a more “a balanced and complete” image of China.