Making the 'China Mirage' vanish

Updated: 2015-05-08 10:58

By Hua Shengdun in Washington(China Daily USA)

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China and the US should deepen mutual understanding to break the "China mirage" created by the US, according to a best-selling American writer.

"Instead of the reality of China, we created a mirage that China wanted to be Christianized and Westernized, and China would take over Asia," James Bradley told China Daily on Wednesday. "That was a theory we spent billions of dollars and 68,000 American lives on. But it is just a mirage that does not exist in China."

Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and an historian specializing in the Pacific region, discussed and signed his new book, The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, at the Tysons Corner Mall in Virginia on Thursday.

When Bradley was in Seattle years ago, he went to a bookstore and bought 16 mainstream magazines. Seeing only one negative article about China, he started to wonder how America could ever get to know about China.

Bradley said that this "China mirage" originated from American merchants and missionaries returning from China in the 19th century, and was strengthened by the lack of mutual communication for decades over the last century. This imaginary vision of China has distorted US policy towards Asia for generations.

With his father, Jack Bradley, who was injured in Asia during the World War II, and his brother who nearly died in Vietnam, Bradley's family has a special relationship with Asia.

Bradley said all those preventable wars - the Korean War and Vietnam War - were the result of a lack of understanding about China.

Asked about the real image of China, Bradley said that China "is not a Third World country arising", but is "just getting back to their usual status", since China was the No 1 nation throughout history.

"Humanity has one highway, and on that highway, America is a vehicle," he said. "But the biggest vehicle on the highway is Chinese. Instead of watching where that vehicle is going, we are debating how we want China to live - that will eventually hurt America."

"We have to build bridges. It is urgent to send American students to China, so that America can better appreciate its culture," said Bradley, who established the James Bradley Peace Foundation to foster understanding between America and Asia by sending American students to China to study.

"There's been a real recognition that Asia is a rising power in its own right in higher education," said Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice-president for research at the Institute of International Education. "There is a need to understand Asia better."

Some in Washington are calling for canceling China's invitation to the maritime military exercises because of China's activities in disputed waters, according to Bloomberg.

Bradley dismissed the notion that China is militarized and aggressive in the region, saying that the US is actually the one who "moves its border from the West Coast of America out to China, and it is the US military that's surrounding China."

"None of the reality of China gets through the American press, but just those negative striking stories about China, like militarized China, polluted China, threatening China," Bradley said.

"The China Mirage is a vivid, bracing and careful study," said Murray Polner, writer and book review editor for History News Network.

"It is Bradley's contention that Americans have misunderstood and misjudged China, wedded as they were to the fantasy that China's vast population was yearning to be Westernized and Americanized while ignoring that it had national interests of its own."

Liu Xiaoxian in Washington contributed to this story.

 Making the 'China Mirage' vanish

James Bradley, author of Flags of Our Fathers and historian specializing in the Pacific region, discusses his latest book, The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, at Tysons Corner Mall in Virginia on Thursday. Cai Chunying / China Daily

(China Daily USA 05/08/2015 page2)