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Ideological gap – an inevitable misunderstanding

By Liying Zhang
Created 23/09/2008 - 14:01

This contribution has been submitted to Webdiary by a student in the Online Journalism unit for the Masters in Media Practice and Masters in Publishing courses at The University of Sydney as part of the unit's assessment. The topics covered in the pieces awaiting publication are interesting – and diverse. We hope that Webdiarists will enjoy reading them, as well as giving these aspiring journalists plenty of constructive commentary.


Ideological gap – an inevitable misunderstanding
by LiYing Zhang

Because of the recurring of Chairman Mao’s headshot and The Little Red Notebook on the Sydney Morning Herald every day during the Olympics, I post a commentary on Open Forum arguing that the Chinese not as ideologically stubborn as the West thinks. In China, since the 1980s, we seldom mention Mao. He has not been a national icon for near three decades. But in Sydney in the past year, I often heard people mentioning Mao when talking about China.

Yes, besides economical connection, there is an ideological gap between China and the rest of the world.

When we are talking about globalization, ideological gaps are ubiquitous. When and how to fill them? We are certainly too close to the history to see for sure. Dr Antonio Castillo, a veteran journalist and Senior Lecturer of the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney, agrees with me, saying that most western media don’t take an objective position when reporting China. “Some even hate China,” adds Castillo. Originally from Spain, he is a fanatical exotic-culture-digger. He has travelled China several times. His comprehension to the Chinese culture is more than the average westerner.

I did a quick research on SMH’s coverage on China over the past year and I could find very few positive stories. Stories in the past six months mainly include baby milk scandal, lacking media freedom, Tibet riot, Olympic torch hit by protests, earthquakes, flood, autocracy, corruption, propaganda machine, human rights issues, pollution, etc. I could imagine the impact of these stories on the audience’s understanding to China especially in a lack of interest in approaching other information sources.

Meanwhile, Dr Yingjie Guo, an expert in Chinese Studies at the University of Technology Sydney, argues that this gap is natural and unavoidable. “I just don't think 'China' and 'the West' can be taken as unifying, homogenous collectivities.”

“I'm not convinced though that it's simply an ideological gap between China and the West - How many family members understand each other? I guess I'm trying to say that the lack of understanding is commonplace in every day life. Facilitating understanding is all the more important for that reason.” says Guo.

Quite often what people need is accurate information. Some deliberately get things wrong or create misunderstanding. I don't think there's much one can do about that. In any case, I've learnt to concentrate on facilitating understanding between individual Chinese and Australians through providing reliable information and explaining things whenever I can.

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