How the Chinese See the Europeans
115 pages

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115 pages

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This book is the result of a study carried out in Guangzhou (Canton), financed by the European Union and focusing on the perceptions that the Chinese have of Europe and Europeans.
The perceptions tell us nothing or little about the social reality and the real behaviour of others. They are above all an implicit confrontation with the values of those who pronounce them. They act as a projection. Here, they express the framework of thought and implicit values of the Chinese, at the same time as they give a true idea of what the Chinese think of Europeans.
It is the role of the social sciences to deconstruct these perceptions in order to objectivize them, that is to say put into perspective their link with the reality described. This done, it is possible to create a certain distance in relation to what is expressed, a certain relativism, the existence of which is necessary in an intercultural perspective.



Publié par
Date de parution 08 mars 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9782304045635
Langue English

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How The Chineese See The Europeans


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© Symbiot, EU flags waving in front of European Parliament building , photo
© Éditions Le Manuscrit, 2016
EAN: 9782304045628
Preface Knowing & Accepting Europe Evolution of Chinese Perceptions of Europeans between 2000 and 2010

Lihua ZHENG & Dominique DESJEUX
In 2000, within the framework of the Eu-China Higher Education Co-operation Programme [1] , we carried out a research programme consisting in describing the perceptions that the Chinese have of Europe, its inhabitants and its products and of the relationship between China and Europe. This led to the publication of a book entitled How the Chinese See the Europeans (PUF, 2002), which was based on a qualitative study, with in-depth interviews of approximately 30 Chinese people, mainly managers, intellectuals and employees.
Time has gone by fast and since our study there has been a great change in the parameters which were important factors in the construction of the Chinese perceptions of the Europeans, mainly the configuration of the world, the financial crisis in Europe, the development of China and Chinese-European relationships. The time has now come to look at the impact that these changes have had on what the Chinese think of Europeans, given that precise knowledge of the opinions of the Chinese public is essential in decision-making in Sino-European cooperation at every level.
To compare the perceptions between the two periods, it would have been ideal to carry out another study of the same type, with the same people, or people of an equivalent nature, being interviewed and the same questions being asked. However, this was impossible, given the size of the task. Therefore, for lack of something better, we have used a very interesting study on Chinese perceptions of Europe to make a comparison. This study is the result of a series of questionnaire interviews carried out in 2007, 2008 and 2010 by the Research Centre on Europe of the China Academy of Social Sciences [2] . For our comparison, we are going to base ourselves in particular on the study carried out in 2010 which is the most recent and comes just 10 years after ours. This study was based on interviews with 2,692 people covering 6 social categories: managers, technicians, students, simple workers (in industry, agriculture or commerce), soldiers and retired people, from 8 cities representative of the whole of China: Beijing, Changchun, Lanzhou, Shanghai, Changsha, Guangzhou, Kunming and Zigong. The research covered the Chinese population’s knowledge of Europe, their judgement of Europe and their feelings about Europe. 
The 2010 study is quantitative and of a completely different nature from our qualitative study of 2000. Although the two studies converge in that they both illustrate general trends, the first is the result of a statistical representation based on probabilistic proof and the second the result of a display of the diversity of possibilities of a custom and a social phenomenon based on the capacity of the standard responses taken from what the interviewed said, given that the number of possibilities for a given phenomenon is always limited and that the diversity of possibilities can in most cases be brought down to 3, 4 or 5 variations. Another reason for choosing this data for the comparison is that it allows us to see, through the meeting of methods, whether the results of the two studies confirm, complement or contradict each other.
1. From Europe to the European Union
The study of 2000 showed us that, in the eyes of the Chinese, Europe, as a whole, projected the image of an old traditional continent associated with historical monuments and landscapes which had contributed to the development of the modern civilisation personified particularly by the industrial revolution and world cultures and which still inspires the Chinese with both  feelings of admiration and inferiority. We see from this that Europe was perceived more by its physical side than that of the European Union whose image remains vague for the Chinese. The 2010 study seems to show an evolution. The Chinese are beginning to become conscious of the importance of the European Union as an entity on the international scene: 73.44% think that the European Union is an important or very important influential international force; 85.32% that the European Union plays an important or very important role in the world economic system; and the role of the European Union in international politics is considered as important or very important by 80.46%. These statistics show that the image of the European Union has become clearer for the Chinese. This can be explained no doubt by the diplomatic policy of the European Union over the last 10 years which has consisted in “speaking with the same voice”towards the outside world and undertaking actions in common. This is both positive and negative in the eyes of the Chinese but the success of the Euro, the series of financial crises among the member states, and the commercial lawsuits against China, etc. have all contributed at least in reinforcing the image of the European Union among the Chinese.
Although the image of the European Union has become clearer for the Chinese, the latter still know little about it, according to the 2010 study. Only 14.19% say that they know it well or very well, whereas for the same question on the United States, Japan and Russia, the answers are respectively 34.25%, 28.19% and 17.13% ; 51.71% do not know where the headquarters of the European Union are; 71.14% do not know the exact number of the member states. This lack of knowledge about the European Union among the Chinese is due, in my opinion, to their perceptions of the European Union which they consider not as a country but more as a confederation, to the complex structures of the European Union and to the changes within the Union brought about particularly by the incessant increase in the number of members and the establishment of new rules. All of this means that the ordinary Chinese have trouble grasping how the European Union functions.
2. European Union: still seen as a pole to counterbalance the United States
The 2000 study shows that the Chinese saw the European Union as having an essentially geopolitical role helping to maintain a balance in the world and capable of counter­balancing the hegemony of the United States. In the same way, the euro was seen as a currency whose role was to counterbalance the negative effects of the dollar.
The 2010 study seems to confirm this perception of Europe. Because of its enlargement and development, the European Union is considered more and more by the Chinese as being an “important pole in a multipolar world”, one of the major forces on the world scene. The strength of its influence in international affairs is seen as important or very important (73.44%), placed well in front of that of Russia(54.45%) and Japan (32.84%), and only behind that of the United States (86.85%). 75.96% of the Chinese find Sino-European relations important or very important, higher than Sino-Japanese relations(58.92%.). However, the responses regarding Sino-American (87.78%) and Sino-Russian relations (79.34%) are higher.
Although these results confirm the importance that the Chinese give to the European Union in international power relationships, they show a change. In 2000, the European Union was thought capable of replacing the position occupied by the Soviet Union before 1989 and permitting the construction of a multiple structure based on 3 poles, China, the United States and the European Union. Russia has since gained importance in the eyes of the Chinese and has even overtaken the European Union in the priorities that China has granted to bilateral relations (79.34% to 75.96%). Because of this, in addition to the European Union’s role in balancing the strength of the United States, China can also ally itself with Russia to counterbalance the United States and sometimes even the European Union.
This perception of the European Union as a pole would seem to be the reflection of a new concrete configuration of the forces in play between the principal world powers but is also strongly linked to the traditional notion of balance among the Chinese. Chinese diplomatic policy has always been based on a balance between different poles, as is clearly shown in the historical novel The Three Kingdoms, a Chinese classic of the 14th century. The European Union has thus become a pole like the United States or, now, Russia.
3. Sino European Relations: More Economic than Political
According to our 2000 study, the Chinese were sympathetically inclined towards the European Union which they saw as a peaceful partner given that it was above all associated with a humanistic idea of union between people, synonymous of human progress, opening upon others, the general interest, and cooperation, whether it be political, economic or military. Its principal advantages for the Chinese are its size, its population and its economic development, particularly its industrial development and the quality of its products. Concerning national sentiment, the Chinese preferred Europeans to Americans, because the Americans often caused us trouble, whereas the policies of the European countries were relatively favourable to China. From this, we can see that Sino-European relations at the time were seen to be good and far-reaching, cove

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