China's global image online
Updated: 2012-11-02 08:03
By Dennis Pamlin (China Daily)
Connected world provides opportunities to engage in dialogue to alter outdated and prejudiced views of the country
While China is now constantly discussed around the world, it is still portrayed in the global media as aggressive and not open to dialogue.
But if the world's media took the time to learn about China and support a constructive dialogue it would see that this is not the case. Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen as many of the rich countries today are in decline and adopting a retrograde mentality. Because of this, old ideas and stereotypes about China still dominate the global media, both traditional and new social media.
However, in the coming years China's image will be increasingly shaped in a connected world, a world in which people will not only be passive consumers of information, many of them will be active providers of information through different social media. In a connected world people will trust their social networks more than traditional media, and the social networks with the most trust will create a virtual image of China.
This digital image of China will be determined by the images, stories, comments, blogs and videos posted online, rather than through the print media, television and radio. So China must pay attention to its "digital twin".
In a connected world it is no longer enough to do good things and tell people about them, it is also necessary to engage in dialogue with people around the world. If China does not engage in these dialogues, its digital twin will end up distorted.
We are rapidly moving into a hyper-connected society where transparency and enormous amounts of information are creating new opportunities and new challenges. In order to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities it is important that China, and those with an understanding of China, explore new ways to encourage dialogue so that its digital twin is not shaped to suit others' agendas.
It is important to acknowledge that China's re-emergence as a strong global voice will result in tensions and that there will be areas where significant differences will surface. But it is also important to acknowledge that the major global challenges will not be solved without the active participation of China. These challenges range from climate change and water scarcity to the growing resistance to antibiotics and poverty.
To increase dialogue and transparency, China could support the establishment of a global platform where actions to help solve the global challenges in different countries can be put forward. In order to ensure that the platform is user driven and that it selects the criteria necessary to find the best practices, it should involve governments, United Nations organizations, non-governmental organizations and academics. Moreover, leading bloggers with high credibility should also be invited to provide input and suggestions regarding the areas to be discussed.
The platform could also be used as a database so that people can find examples of effective solutions applied in different countries. As well as an opportunity to increase dialogue, the possibility to engage with different stakeholders would be a way to increase transparency and demonstrate the concrete work that China is doing.
The challenges humanity faces in the 21st century will require concepts other than those already used by Western countries in creating the current international system. Few countries are such a treasure house of concepts that can help humanity navigate the complex challenges as China.
Many global challenges have reasonably simple solutions, but rather than engage in constructive dialogue, countries choose to blame each other for being the cause of the problem. Today most initiatives are based on national or multilateral grounds, something that is not optimal for achieving practical solutions to global challenges.
China could establish collaboration teams with the participation of many different countries to help address the world's challenges from a global perspective. Focusing on practical collaboration rather than polarization, would enable progress to be made on many issues.
As part of a long-term discussion about the values and concepts needed to guide global development, China could support an initiative to develop educational material for global citizens. Such educational material could present different concepts from around the world and explain how they can be used to help address global challenges. The first global classes with participation from all corners of the world could be part of such an initiative.
These are only examples and much more can be done to establish China as a dialogue partner and create a digital twin that reflects the reality of China as a responsible stakeholder in the international community.
The author is founder of 21st New Frontiers, a consultany organization in Sweden.
(China Daily 11/02/2012 page8)