Perceptual Gaps in Modern US-Sino Relations As Portrayed by the Western Media
As my friends and I look forward to graduating this 2004, we are burdened with the task of carrying ourselves as delegates and agents of our respective societies. The challenge is even more exhaustive in the sense that the global landscape has been significantly altered as such so that we now live in a world which runs on a new breed of geopolitics; theories of interdependence perpetually interlock nation states in enduring fellowships of cooperation. Keeping this and the lessons that we've learned (both in the classroom and otherwise) in mind, there is an urgency to prevent and avoid future mass conflicts and ensure peaceful change. While this remains a worthy objective, the scope and complexities of modern-day world politics demands an understanding of a much wider range of issues. Moreover, new conceptual frameworks and theories are required to improve our understanding and assist in the development of better policies and practices. By human nature there naturally exists self-imposed obstacles and boundaries, which threaten to hinder progress. A more sophisticated knowledge and thorough education become essential countermeasures to safeguard growth and development. Within the realm of a research paper, the investigation and analysis of this subject can hardly be brought to a satisfactory conclusion within a reasonable amount of time. Therefore I choose to concentrate on the mechanisms, which shape the relationship between two highly visible, dominant and powerful global antagonists: the United States of America and the People's Republic of China. With the end of the Cold War era and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States was solidified as the most potent contender in the international arena. This title endured relatively undisputed and has remained fairly unchanged for the next decade thereafter. Interestingly enough though it was during this same period that China was concurrently grabbing headlines with its rapid development in many sectors. Analysts, professionals and experts are all in concurrence when they predict that by the first half of the 21st century this traditional Asian powerhouse will have met or surpassed the United States in stature and influence. It is reasonable, and accurate, to assume that US-Sino relations will have an unparalleled influence within the spectrum of international cooperation politically, culturally, and economically. Presently nations are vigilantly forming implicit alliances as they conceptually allocate themselves in favorable positions for the resurrection of a bipolar global infrastructure. From my delimited personal experience, I have unfortunately discovered a significant number of my peers are ignorant of these developing trends and the implications of this interrelationship. The purpose of this thesis is to converse with an audience comprised of individuals similar to those that I have met in these past four years, namely: intelligent and educated young Americans who are simply not informed of the nature, potential and circumstances surrounding US-Sino relations and policy. In this light, I intend to further specify the concentration of this study largely on the relationship that western media has with US-Sino relations. There will be a special emphasis and focus on the modern issue of human rights and trade. Furthermore, the bulk of the analysis will be limited within the timeframe of the three most recent American presidencies: George Bush (1989-1993), Bill Clinton (1993-2001), and George W. Bush (2001-present). The purpose of the first chapter is to give the reader a solid idea of the general issues that have plagued US-Sino relations in recent modern history. Again from personal experience it has come to my attention that the average American student has a narrow education concerning US-Sino relations often pervaded with misconceptions, which are not compensated for in personal readings. This recess of knowledge is particularly apparent concerning all episodes and trends that took place prior to the birth and maturation of our generation; mainly everything that took place before the early post-Cold war era of the 1980's. I feel that in order to have a solid grasp of current US-Sino relations, one must construct a respectable appreciation and foundation of knowledge concerning the historical events that took place from 1971 to the present.After this brief history lesson the thesis will explore the composite components that make up the media. It is from these resources that most college students in American draw their first and sometimes, only, impression of US-Sino relations. This section attempts to create a framework by which the media is broken down into its fundamental and more understandable elements. It is necessary to analyze the fabrics of the media; from the concept of self-perception, stereotypes, propaganda, and interest groups to the purpose that it serves as a median by which images of diplomatic-strategy are marketed. In short, the second chapter attempts to place the western media in a comprehensible light, enough so that the reader may continue with the remainder of the thesis with enough insight to make educated judgments. The dilemma between trade incentive and democratic moral ground is the key example that this thesis will use to illustrate the behavior of the mass media and the manners in which it can exert pressure on policy-making. Thus, a more mature understanding of the human rights debate is required. The third chapter explores the human rights issue in depth; tracing the evolution of the issue through contemporary history whilst highlighting this narrative with headlines from the press and mass media. The third chapter will additionally explore economics and trade relations in a similar manner using samples taken from primary sources. Finally, the core debate concerning these two issues will be scrutinized, analyzed and illustrated with headlines and proper examples from the media. In this realm analysis will naturally require some elements of subjective interpretation to hold any meaning. It is my hope that my audience will be able to walk away with that cultivated and deeper understanding not only of the media's capacity in shaping US foreign policy towards China but also the misleading conclusion that are often drawn from such a habit. It is important to keep in mind that perceptual gaps whether based on diverging cultures, histories, ideologies or all three, can be dangerous mental barriers. Because a significant portion of this thesis will also be concentrating on the manner in which lucrative trade and investment potential more often than not edge out the human rights concerns in modern US-Sino relations debates, the moral of the story will have to be interpreted by the reader him/herself. However, due to the fact that these issues, as well as the periphery issues that surround it, are so new and in a state of constant re-evolution, the fluidity of the subject makes it fairly difficult to draw conclusions. Moreover, it is also rather problematic to make firm stances and opinions either for one side or the other but I will write briefly on my own thoughts and opinions. Thus, ultimately I write this thesis in hopes to raise the issue of US-Sino cooperation into the consciousness of the young American mindset by providing an intelligent background upon which they may draw their own summations while being conscious of the influential ideas propagated by the media and the press around them.