China’s changing role in the world is one of the most interesting phenomena today. Many have called the 21st Century the “China century” and regardless of what aspects of society you are interested in: scientific, cultural, ethical, economic, industrial, environmental, etc. China will play an important role.

China, like everything else that is complex and important, can be seen from many different perspectives. One example of how different perspectives result in different images is how China’s economic role in the world is seen. From a short-term perspective China is an emerging economic super power, from a longer-term perspective China is a re-emerging economic super power that today is returning to its “normal” position. None of these perspectives are more correct than the other; they just use two different time-horizons.

This page focuses on the images of China in the global (western) media. Is China seen as a threat/something that is difficult/impossible to have a dialogue with, or as friendly/open and possible to have a dialogue with? This question also highlights more complex questions: What do we mean when we talk about China? Is it the central government of China, local governments in China, Chinese companies, Chinese art, Chinese scientists, Chinese entrepreneurs, Chinese philosophy, Chinese history, etc.?

"China" has many different faces and many of them are unknown to most foreigners. Something as complex, broadly defined and important obviously has both negative and positive aspects.

The aim with this initiative is to increase the understanding of China and support a discussion that moves beyond simple stereotypes. Given that there is a bias towards negative/aggressive images of China, the project also aims to explore and highlight attempts to illustrate aspects of China that encourage dialogue.

The project is based on the assumption that it is important to provide space for dialogue regardless of whether there are strong disagreements between stakeholders on different issues and aspects of development. This initiative seeks to contribute to such dialogue between Chinese and non-Chinese stakeholders by providing information on how China is portrayed in global (western) media as well as possibilities to make your own rating.

The aim is not to discuss individual covers and illustrations, but rather to discuss the overall images, themes in global media and how the discussion about and with China can become as constructive as possible. In many ways this page is not about China; rather it is about the images that global media provide us with, and how we can/should approach the challenges and opportunities in the 21st century.

Cover Images

The reason for initially focusing on cover images is that these images are very important. Today western media are dominating the global agenda in many ways and it is therefore important to understand and reflect upon how they portray China and why. As China, and what’s happening in China, become a more important part of people’s lives around the world, the need for dialogue will increase.

The assumption is that the cover images of the major global magazines can be seen as a proxy for values among influential western and stakeholders. The balance between media as an agenda setter and as a passive reflection of values among key players in the west is however not explored. This initiative is not meant to analyze the actual articles in the magazines that the cover images relate to; only to assess what kind of images of China the covers convey. No attempt is made to judge if the images are "correct"/"justified" or not, that is up to the viewer to judge. The initiative aims to provide an opportunity for those interested in China and China’s global role to discuss the different images that major magazines provide.

If images of China as a dialogue partner are lacking there is a significant risk that we will face increased tensions around the world, especially between the “west” that has dominated the world over the past centuries, and China that is re-emerging as an important economic powerhouse on the global scene. With more “dialogue images”, that is which convey the possibility of understanding and joint actions, the challenges ahead could more easily be turned into opportunities.

We are entering a time of rapid change, and the need for dialogue between China and the rest of the world has probably never been greater.

The index and trend

The way the webpage is created allows for users to change the focus and weighting of the index, as well as create a personal profile to explore how they see China’s global media image over time. It is also possible to submit covers which will be posted as long as the covers belong to a credible news media. As soon as possible a feature will be added that will allow groups to be created and where it will possible to invite people to discuss the way you and your network rate and comment the illustrations.

The page is also designed to explore how web-tools can be used to encourage discussions about important issues. The structure could be used for other issues; it does not have to be a country, it could be any important issue, such as poverty, climate change, transparency, nanotechnology, urbanization, measures of progress, etc. Please send an email if you are interested in setting up a similar page to discuss another issue.

To start with we have decided to not have any real-time comment function. We want reflected input based on dialogue, and this is not the culture that blogs tend to promote today.

Focus on dialogue, or lack thereof

This initiative focuses on how China is described as open to dialogue and vice versa how China is described as hostile/impossible to have a dialogue with. As dialogue is a two-way street it is important to discuss not only China's openness to dialogue, but also if the west (and the rest of the world) is open to a dialogue with China. The assumption is that regardless of the different opinions regarding the actual topics and challenges facing humanity, the possibility for a dialogue is crucial and therefore it is also important to assess if - and how - dialogue is supported, or not.

The people

This is a collaborative project and the idea was developed in dialogue with many people who have been working with in China, or in projects related to China.

Founder and coordinator
> Dennis Pamlin
Dennis Pamlin has been working with, and in, China for more than ten years. He has been working with/advising Chinese companies, the Chinese government, Chinese universities, Chinese NGO’s as well as governments, companies, universities and NGO’s working with China.

Pamlin has been active in China different ways, from arranging the first side-event about sustainable trade with MOFCOM during the WTO meeting in Hong Kong and sustainability projects in cities (e.g. Baoding and Shanghai), to projects about Chinese export of solar solutions and how media students include global challenges in their work. He’s been a Senior Associate at CASS (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) and is an Advisor to CREEC (China Renewable Energy Entrepreneurs Club). He is a regular contributor to China Daily.

Reports and articles about China include Chinese companies in the 21st Century (2005), Rethink Chinese outward investments (2007), The import of CO2 emissions from China and India (2007), Low-carbon innovation versus trade war (2009), It's dangerous to make China a climate scapegoat (2010) and China, EU need to overcome five communication challenges to build a low-carbon future (2011).

For more information (including downloading the reports and articles) please have a look at www.pamlin.net

The Panel
The panel of professional media students is coordinated by Professor 郑保卫 Zheng Baowei at the Research Center of Journalism and Social Development at Renmin university in China. The role of the panel is to analyze the covers and in particular provide information about how these covers images can be seen from a Chinese perspective.

The students that are part of the panel are:

赵丽君 Lijun Zhao (Lily) [Coordinator]
Education Background 2011.9: Ph. D. student, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University of China
2006.9: Master of Arts, School of Journalism, Xiamen University of China
2003.9: Bachelor of Arts , School of International Relations, Sichuan International Studies

陆佳怡 Jiayi Lu (Jenny)
Educational Background:
2011.9: Ph.D. student, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University of China
2005.6: Master of Arts, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University of China
2003.6: Bachelor of Arts, School of International Studies, University of International Business and Economics

李华 Hua Li (Lisa)
Education Background:
2011.9: Ph. D. student, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University of China.
2004.6: Master of Arts, School of Journalism and Communication, Wuhan University
2001.6: Bachelor of Arts , College of Liberal Arts, Hubei University

李晓喻 Li Xiaoyu ( Blair)
Education Background:
2011.9: Master student, School of Journalism and Communication, Renmin University
2011.6: Bachlor of Arts, School of Literature, Nankai University

Their comments are their personal comments based on their studies and do not represent the view of any particular organization or group. The individual panel members do not necessarily agree with all the comments.

The Network
The network is coordinated by Penny Davies (pd) and Deborah Brautigam (db) (TBC). Everyone in the network has an interest in China and all have spent significant time in China and/or been working with China related issues for many years.

People in the network include (alphabetic order):
Dale Wen (dw), China Project Fellow at International Forum on Globalization
Henry Hall (hh), China-Africa blogger
Ma Lu (ml), Filmmaker
Mohammed Saqib (ms), Secretary General of India-China Economic and Cultural Council and Fellow at Rajiv Gandhi Foundation
Krishna Brunoni de Souza (kbs), Cultural nomad
Peng Lei (pl), just out of Harvard and expert in Chinese solutions for the world

Their comments are made in a personal capacity and the coordinators gather them and post them on the web with their initials. The people part of the network, including the coordinators, do not necessarily agree with all the comments.

The design of the indicator for the index

The indicator is based on two of the groundbreaking inventions from China. The background pattern is from what is believed to the world’s oldest surviving paper book the Phi Yü Ching or "Parable sütra", from 256AD.

The “needle” of the index is shaped in the same way as what many believe the world’s first compass, "Si Nan", looked like. This version is from the Han Dynasty 206 BC- 220 AD.