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Pushing beyond stereotypes: Becoming curious about the real China

As we near the end of our study abroad trip to China, it’s becoming clearer to me that America is lacking the full picture of China.

In some ways, there is a level of ignorance by many Americans about what China is, what it represents and what it eventually will become. And this ignorance is creating communication problems.

We increasingly hear that China is a nation to “fear” in the future but what do many Americans truly know about China?

As Americans we may think in stereotypes, that the Chinese run around wearing rice hats and doing kung fu. We see pictures of Mao Ze Dong wearing cowboy hats and think of a funky sounding language. We see communism, censorship and an oppressed culture. This doesn’t even begin to describe the “real”  China.

The back alley of a market near People's Square in Shanghai

Though it’s true that China is nearly impossible to understand because it is so complex and is developing so rapidly, people in America need to develop a hunger for learning about the Chinese culture — mostly because as the country moves forward, business cannot be understood without it.

China already has the largest car market and is the manufacturing hub of the world. The country is setting the price tag for consumer products worldwide and will continue to affect all global markets as it progresses.

The problem with the country’s progress is that the “perception gap,” as journalism professor Xu Wu calls it, will increase if the people living in our society do not awaken to the reality that China is and will continue to be a major player in the global sphere. To begin understanding, it is key to view China in three different lights, Wu said.

“There is the developed China, the in-line China and the remote China,” he said.

Wu also noted that even he, a native from Beijing, cannot fully understand China because there are so many areas that must be taken into consideration just to scratch the surface.

It is his hope that this study abroad course will give Cronkite students a better understanding of his country and enable us to spread the desire to become more curious about China and not to just rely on stereotypes for a matter of fact.

As Wu puts it, we will be the generation to either bridge or further the gap between America and China. Considering the current state of that gap, it will be an important role to carry.

In TrendingTopic, Trip to China.

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