China Perspective

A reporter in Europe: China vs the truth

By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-11-08 07:02
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BRUSSELS - Last Friday, when I met my colleague Wu Jiao, one of the journalists with President Hu Jintao's delegation to France and Portugal, I offered a joke: "You are in the circle and I am in the second-track."

I spent all last week in Paris and the French coastal resort of Nice. Apart from interviewing a business leader, a veteran politician and a professor in Paris, I spent the rest of my time on the streets. I had managed to find how ordinary French people and Chinese tourists felt about the president's tour and how they see China's development.

In Nice, I chatted with a hotel manager, a real estate agent, a taxi driver - and even a beautiful Russian woman on holiday there. I even had the chance to visit the restaurant La Petite Ferme - President Nicolas Sarkozy's venue of choice in which he hosted a private dinner for Hu last Friday.

The interviews were enlightening. From the people on the streets, I discovered how ordinary people are eager to know about China's development miracle from various dimensions. And I also learned how they have their way to interpret the benefits Hu's visit will bring.

What impressed me the most were the reflections of a taxi driver, who drove me from Nice's airport to downtown. He told me Hu's visit was a big publicity boost for the Mediterranean city. "It's a privilege for us", he said, "and with more Chinese knowing Nice, the more will come."

Indeed, once more Chinese think of a "Paris plus Nice package" the taxi driver said, "I will have more customers."

When I put down my notebook and took his picture he was surprised that I had been conducting a serious interview. He grew even more surprised when I told him that his photo would soon appear in China Daily.

His surprise recalled complaints of a Swedish friend, Dennis Pamlin, an environment advisor who frequently travels to China - and has short patience for negative stereotypes of China in the West media.

Pamlin feels that at least 70 percent of the Western media reports about China contain negative stereotypes.

Conflicts and sensationalism prevail in the norms of Western media, he said, obscuring the realities of a rich and culturally diverse China that is undergoing monumental changes every day.

In the end, he added, no one wins from such incorrect and stilted perceptions.

Consequently, ordinary Europeans - such as my taxi driver - may not enjoy accurate truths about China.

Moreover, they be left will wondering how China has made such great strides - in terms of industrial development, technology and in other areas - in spite of media reports characterizing the world's most populous nation as a troubled place.

So, how to change this situation? My suggestion to my Western colleagues is that they talk with Chinese people on the streets. They are the true history makers of China as it advances into the 21st century.

For journalists, we have the responsibility to tell the truth. Indeed, reporters have audiences that urge them to do so.

Since this July when I assumed my current posting as China Daily's first correspondent in this European capital, I have witnessed increased determination and action between China and Europe to strengthen their ties with Premier Wen Jiabao, who made his visit to Europe in October and Hu's tour this month.

Just as European observers have noticed, China has been well-prepared to push forward the bilateral momentum, but the EU remains ambivalent - with divided opinions regarding China's development.

So, what's the role of the media in such a situation? We journalists should be more constructive to shorten the learning gap - as opposed to expanding it.

It is in this way that we in the media can foster greater understanding among ordinary people - the audiences we all need.

It promises a win for all.

China Daily

(China Daily 11/08/2010 page11)