Chinese youngsters more confident, objective facing the West, GT survey shows
Know our advantages, admitting disadvantages ‘a higher level of confidence’
Published: Oct 21, 2022 12:00 AM
People take selfies with China's national flag while attending a flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square on October 1, 2022.Photo:IC

People take selfies with China's national flag while attending a flag-raising ceremony at Tiananmen Square on October 1, 2022.Photo:IC

 More Chinese youngsters hold less favorable attitude toward the West in the past year mainly due to some Western countries' suppression, double standards and ideological confrontation against China as well as their failures. But there are also a notable part of them who acknowledge that China still lags behind the West in some aspects such as technologies, social welfare and film and television industries, and call for enhanced exchanges with Western countries, according to a latest survey of the Global Times Research Center. 

The results, seemingly contradictory, showed that nowadays Chinese youngsters are growingly confident in their own country given China's magnificent achievements, but meanwhile they also have a very objective and clear understanding that the major gap between China and the West lies in the field of ideology. To achieve the long-term development goal, China still needs to continue efforts and learn and cooperate with the West in various fields, analysts said.  

Being confident when facing the West while also acknowledging our own shortcomings, this is in fact a higher level of confidence, Yang Xiyu, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

The West in this survey includes the US, member nations of the European Union, the UK, Japan, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

The survey, conducted in September and October covering 1,655youngsters aged 14-35 from 110 Chinese cities, showed that nearly 44 percent of the respondents agreed that, when it comes to the West, their perception worsened in 2022. The percentage of respondents who thought so in 2021 was 40.6 percent.

Meanwhile, 13.7 percent of the respondents said their perception about the West grew better in 2022. The percentage of this group was less than four percent in 2021.

More than half - 53.3 percent - of the respondents who had worsening perception toward the West attributed the change to some Western countries' exclusion, containing, suppression or hostility to China; 50.3 percent said it is because of the West's arrogance and double standards toward China and 43 percent said it is because of some Western countries' ideological confrontation against China. 

The results of the survey demonstrated that the changes in the relationship between China and the West, especially those in the China-US ties, have indeed affected Chinese youngsters' perception about the West as they had seen a strong desire from some Western countries to decouple with China and contain China, Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University, told the Global Times. 

"I think that the West is indeed inappropriate in this regard. Restricting China's development and viewing China as a strategic threat has caused a negative impact in the view of young Chinese," Zhang noted. 

According to the survey, about 72 percent of the 1,655 respondents had a bad impression of the US among the seven countries listed above. More than 70 percent of them agreed that it is the US that is deliberately provoking conflicts between the West and China. Nearly 40 percent agreed that Western media reported China too negatively.

The image of the US has not only deteriorated in China, but all over the world. This is an inevitable result of its own hegemonic diplomacy, Yang noted.

How Chinese Youth View the West Graphic: Deng Zijun/GT

How Chinese Youth View the West Graphic: Deng Zijun/GT

A higher-level of confidence

The survey showed that nearly 65 percent of the respondents agreed that now China can look at the West from an equal position, with two main reasons that "it is the natural result of China's continuous development and strengthening" and "China plays a prominent role in the international arena and should be more confident." Some of the group agreed that China and the West have their own advantages in different fields and can learn from each other.

This generation of young people grew up in an age when China began to accumulate capacity. They have witnessed the process of China's rapid progress to a modernized state, and have enjoyed the benefits of modernization, Yang noted. 

During this process of growth, they understand that China is not inferior to, even superior to the West in many aspects. This is the basis for the young generation's confidence when looking at the West, Yang Xiyu explained.

Some Western countries' recent struggles in dealing with domestic economic and social problems also contribute to Chinese youngsters' growing confidence. "When these Western countries are battered by various problems, China continues to develop and move toward its goal steadily despite challenges. Under this circumstance, it is a natural result that Chinese youngsters' confidence grows," Zhang Yiwu stressed.

Despite the confidence, Chinese youngsters are aware that China still has a long way to exceed the West in many other fields and achieved its long-term development goal.  

According to the survey, 2.5 percent of the respondents warned that "there is still an obvious gap between China and the West, so we should not be blindly overconfident."

In specific fields, 24.5 percent of the respondents agreed China still lags behind the West in technologies; 22.6 percent thought China is behind the West in social welfare and 16.6 percent thought we lag behind the West in film and television industry.

About 37 percent of the respondents called for strengthening exchanges and communications with the West via social media platform; 31.8 percent called on more cooperation in environment protection and 31.1 percent called for expanded trade and investment.

The younger generation in China has shown confidence in viewing the West, and they can also see some of our own shortcomings, and I think admitting our own shortcomings is a higher level of self-confidence, Yang noted.

Having the courage to admit inadequacies and face up to the gaps are actually an important part of strategic self-confidence. In other words, self-confidence includes not only challenging competitors, but also valuing competitors and facing them squarely, according to Yang. 

How Chinese Youth View the West Graphic: Deng Zijun/GT

How Chinese Youth View the West Graphic: Deng Zijun/GT