Local News

Chinese Try To Improve Image In U.S.

Posted August 29, 2000

— Visiting Chinese officials are on a cross-country quest to improve Beijing's image with ordinary Americans, though they acknowledge China is more ``positive'' about them than it is about their government.

China's information minister insisted Wednesday the effort has nothing to do with an impending Senate vote on permanent trade relations.

Chinese cultural groups are spending millions of dollars on a nine-city tour of the United States aimed at improving ties and exposing Americans to Chinese culture. The series of exhibits, concerts and speaking engagements, combined with an ad campaign, is the first major attempt by China to use public relations and marketing to reach out to Americans.

Accusing U.S. media of presenting false images of China, Information Minister Zhao Qizheng said Wednesday that America has a good image in China and has referred to in Chinese as ``beautiful country.'' But he said the Chinese are concerned that Americans often have a poor image of China.

``It's clear that good relations between us will help both sides and conflict will hurt both sides,'' Zhao said in a National Press Club speech. Describing a China open to Americans and their culture, he showed slides of U.S. fast-food restaurants and advertisements of American cigarette brands.

``But the development of relations between us has been a bumpy one,'' he said. ``China is not quite as positive about American government as we are about American people.''

He noted differences over U.S. military assistance to Taiwan, status of the Tibetan Dalai Lama, accusations of human rights abuses and concern over the trade deficit that favors China.

A major Chinese government exhibit scheduled for Sept. 5-15 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, and other events were arranged long before it became apparent the Senate would vote on permanent normal trading status for China in September, Zhao said.

But he called it a happy coincidence that the major Chinese government campaign to appeal to Americans is under way now. It includes concerts by the Chinese National Music Orchestra in Washington, New York, Indianapolis, Chicago, Des Moines, St. Louis and San Francisco. Other presentations are scheduled or have already taken place in Los Angeles and San Jose, Calif.

Some of the events include question-and-answer sessions with Americans similar to one conducted by Zhao.

Unlike the Cultural Revolution of 1960, which sought to repress Chinese culture, the campaign is highlighting it with booklets, contemporary masterworks and expressions of Chinese fashion.

``The Chinese government has totally negated the Cultural Revolution,'' Zhao said, but he said Americans might have missed that fact because it came amid poor U.S.-Chinese relations.


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