Repost Oct 28, 2017 By Andrea Scarlatelli ,

"Grandma in China Fighting Property Developers Reportedly Buried Alive"; "North Korea Wants to Nuke US, So Why is China Lending a Hand?" To say that China is a misunderstood country would be a bit of an understatement. Media outlets in countries around the world paint a picture of "the Wild East" that is often misinformed or just plain inaccurate. Many of these misconceptions could be cleared up simply by living or working for an extended period of time in China itself. Since this isn’t possible for most people, I’ve put together a list of some of the more common mistakes that I feel the Western media makes about China and its people.

What does the foreign media get wrong about china
Photo: Ralphrepo

1) There is no Christianity in China
It’s true that Christianity in China is a sort of "modified" Christianity. However, many people in the West don’t think that Christianity exists at all here. Others believe that, if it does, its followers are a persecuted minority who are shunned by their fellow citizens. While this may have been true at one point in history, the facts are that Christianity in China is growing faster than at any other point in the country’s history. Mike Falkenstine, author of The Chinese Puzzle, is an expert in this area and points out that Chinese universities are increasingly adding Christian studies to their curriculum, while Bibles are handed out with government approval.

There are limits, however, to how much the population is taught. Church services taught in Chinese are open to everyone, but those taught in English are restricted to people owning foreign passports. This is because services performed for the Chinese leave out the whole Jesus thing, instead focusing on the less controversial "Love thy neighbor as thyself" idea. So while Christianity is still inhibited here, there are plenty of practicing Christians who are proud of their faith.

2) China’s government acts as a single, non-debated entity
While it’s true that China is communist and, therefore, effectively a one party government, there are actually quite a few provincial and city-level political bodies that have a limited measure of governing power. These local politicians, like those in the West, are in a constant competition with each other to satisfy the residents of their respective districts, leading to the slow but steady bettering of the common civilian’s life. Even members of the Communist party don’t always agree with each other, especially on the issue of how much personal freedom should be allowed. There is certainly a lot of room for improvement, and there will always be controversy as long as China continues to do things such as restrict internet freedom, but the Western media certainly exaggerates in many instances.

3) All Chinese women are oppressed
This is one misconception I admit I struggled with when first moving here. My image of the quiet, obedient Chinese housewife was one that had been implanted in me from movies and books from an early age. Moving to Shanghai, however, quickly corrected that image! While China is unquestionably male dominated (as are most other countries and cultures) and there are still many places here, especially in the countryside, where women are seen as second class citizens, China is on its way towards recognizing females as equals. Shanghainese women, especially, are certainly not wallflowers. I’ve witnessed plenty of times when Shanghainese women have the men running around like scared children (a funny, but also kind of scary scene).

There’s even a town in Yunnan Province that’s entirely female dominated – the men, if they displease the women, run the risk of being kicked out of their homes without a cent to their names. So while gender rights have a long way to go here, China's women are not quite the docile creatures the Western media makes them out to be.

4) China’s government is the same as it was 50 years ago
When Deng Xiaoping reformed the Communist regime 30 years ago, there was a huge change in both policy and attitude in China. As the years have progressed, China has not only accepted but actively embraced both foreign and local entrepreneurs. Capitalism, while not the governmental basis of China, has come to play a major role in the country and its development. The current president continues to uphold this trend, making China a vastly different country – both politically and economically – than it was 50 years ago.

5) China is still living in the dark ages
While many residents still living in China's rural areas are very poor and without basic necessities, there is an increasing number flocking to the cities, where wages are higher and quality of life is better. While many people still farm, it’s much more likely now that their children or grandchildren are getting proper schooling, which will allow them to become professionals in the big cities. It’s estimated that by the year 2050, 50% of Chinese residents will live in major metropolitan areas.

Just take a look around you – see all those construction sites and scaffolding? That’s just one visible sign of this country’s huge and rapid growth. As the cities continue booming, and the children of farmers send home more and more money, this developing nation will certainly lose it’s "dark ages" reputation sooner rather than later.

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Keywords: China rules China etiquette

55 Comments Add your comment



While I agree the foreign Media does not yet "get China", I believe it is partly Cjina's fault. What is the media to do when they are denied access to the news. Almost daily we hear about a incidents where foreigners and the foreign press are not allowed access. One example is the Chinese legal system. They cannot have it both ways. if they wish to be understood the need for transparency is obvious.

Apr 22, 2010 13:50 Report Abuse



Docile women indeed! I have many friends from Sichuan and from Hunan and I can tell you that these are among the sweetest and nicest women you could ever meet, BUT once they get angry, God Help You! Scary!

Apr 22, 2010 20:52 Report Abuse



Chinese women take pride in being feminine. What a relief.

Nov 05, 2011 20:57 Report Abuse



The foreign media especially those with agenda to grind intentionally try to mislead the public about China. By writing about China and Chinese people in a bad light, the foreign media can also pump up their own race and superiority

Apr 23, 2010 16:29 Report Abuse


Dave Rogers

While I enjoy seeing articles like this one I need to correct a few things that you have wrote here. 1. While there is Christianity in China, many Chinese join because they see the charity that they do, but in fact dont really understand what it is. In many areas that I have visited many of the priest and nuns or sisters in Christian and Catholic churchs in China can not read and write. Even many members do not understand the ideas behind the stories in the bible. 2. China is not a one party system. Though the government is communist, there is a Independent party and a democratic party. China also has independent areas that have their own governments. 3. While there are no laws in China protecting women from their spouse, China is one of the few countries where women get equal pay and equal job oppertunities. There are also many areas besides Yunan where women are in charge in China. In fact before the first dynasty women were the leaders in their villages. While articles like this are good it is important to get the facts straight.

Apr 23, 2010 19:09 Report Abuse



Hello. Thanks for the article-- About woman in China- just look at the UN facts about girls in China. China and India are the only countries in the world where a girl under the age of 5 has a 2.5 times chance of dying than a boy. So JUST ask the question WHY WHY. Money spend on health care is mostly spend on boys- alot of these deeper issues goes back to Confucius beliefs that the boy carry on the family name and is thus more important than girls. Another fact- I read and heard stories of foreigners stopping a man from backing up his wife in public and guess what teh foreigner goes to jail. Wife abuse is considered a private family affair despite the Chinese Consitution that calls for equal right of woman!!!! I lived in China for 18 months and I have gone there 7 times. YES YES I love Yunnan Province town you mentioned it is quite amazing!!!

Apr 24, 2010 12:03 Report Abuse



I would say that either you are not a Chinese or know very little about India & China.
What you write probably was 40 years back in India. I know that for shure as I am an Indian. Regarding China, i have known quite a lot by this time, by virtue of staying inChina for 2 years.
After having toured more then a dozen of countries, I can tell you that the governess in China is one of the best in the world. The country has progressed & still progressing at a rate which no one in the world could have ever imagined. Regarding dominance of Male over female, I would say that Females are equally dominant as their counterpart male. Regarding religion, dont you feel that its a personel choice. In this regard, please tell me how many christians in the west follow christianity strictly. Religion is for self discipline & you will agree that one can be self disciplined even with out a religion. To me religion as taught by our parents lasts till we are 18 years and then most of us tend to firget that. So my opinion about China is, being a big country with the higest population, China sets an example to the world about good governess, progress, respect to its citizens & foreigners & above all modest to admit that its still a developing country.
Journalists & Press: Trust me the gates will open soon, when China would be a country with the maximum no of press & foreign journalists.

Oct 15, 2011 04:26 Report Abuse



I have been in Shanghai for 8 months. I've witnessed husbands and boyfriends beating their wives/girlfriends in public. It has always been from afar and over before I could intervene. However, last night in a very public venue I saw a husband (very drunk) beating and stomping his wife. I immediately intervened.

I yelled and got between them and stopped him. He began crying and slapping himself. His friends grabbed me and told me not to interfere.

They woman was beaten so bad, she would not get off the ground or show her swollen bleeding face. As I tried to assist her, the husband's friends confronted me. I had to shove them and threaten them to get them to back off.

The husband began hitting his wife again, and I grabbed him and shoved him, and then had to fight off his two friends. I am a strong enough man to have been able to beat some justice into these men, but I have heard that foreigners doing this will see jail time. I stood my ground and helped the woman leave the scene.

I went around asking every man and woman that witnessed what had happened why they would not help. A total of about 40 people.

Only one Chinese man said he would stand with me and fight if they came back. All of the other men and women said it was not right for me to get involved. When I asked if we should just watch the man beat her to death, they just shrugged their shoulders. Many of the men laughed at me even considering trying to help.

I went to the security guards in the area, and asked for help. Nothing doing. I found the police, and they said it was not my business, and if I had hit the Chinese husband, they would have taken me to jail.

I have been traveling to China since 1998. I have always maintained a very high opinion of the Chinese people, but actually living in China and witnessing this sort of violence against women and the cowardice of Chinese men and women refusing to aid the woman and stop the man has changed my opinion of the Chinese people over night. I have been physically sick ever since the entire event. The worst part is so many people just watching it happen and not caring.

Nov 14, 2011 03:32 Report Abuse



Your thesis and headline is that foreign media gets it wrong about China yet you offer no proof of this..Only your own opinion. Number 1 point you mention "people" but nothing about Western media. What people ? Number 2, 3, 4 and 5 have no mention of Western media. Your article is not convincing, is completely biased based on your own experience and you are not a credible journalist. Suggest change the headline and thesis.

Apr 24, 2010 20:50 Report Abuse


Big L

Andy makes a very good point.

Apr 24, 2010 23:28 Report Abuse



I think it's worth getting everything into perspective. All five points are quite good starters as to where China is miss-read in the west but there are far more. But what the western media is actually scared to tell its readers/viewers/netziens etc is actually how fast China is growing, and will overtake Japan this year as the world's second largest economy, and in time (though that's less clear when) the US. So much is scaremongering and keeping people in ignorance - because at the end of the day western politicians don't want to own up to how they let it happen...or their media.

Apr 25, 2010 10:14 Report Abuse



There does still seem to be open season for 'China bashing' in the western media. Perhaps with people losing jobs, homes, etc, people are looking for someone to blame. There is a long list of those to direct their ire at; including banks, Wall St., and China. So don't expect balanced reporting about any of these.

Apr 25, 2010 16:43 Report Abuse



On Andy's comment on foreign media transparency: I think it is more of an issue for the West to understand China rather than China wanting to be understood by the West. China are able to learn a lot about the West and does, however this isn't a two way street. If you know yourself, and you know your enemy, you will win every battle.

Apr 26, 2010 01:52 Report Abuse



^The more i learn about China from living here, the more i think the locals don't actually care about being understood by the west! Just a vibe i get.

Fair do's!

Jun 15, 2011 01:09 Report Abuse



you are right!

Jun 16, 2011 06:56 Report Abuse



It's hard to know where to start. I haven't yet read the other comments, so I can't gauge the conventional response. Chinese women? Shanghai women? There's a big difference between the two. Suicide and abortions? Several times a week I see a man beating a woman on the street, often with several male onlookers supporting him. In Shanghai. Your premise is worthy, but I think that you're protesting too much regarding how China is perceived by western media. Usually, I think, the way China is depicted is fairly accurate...and there aren't enough axes to grind that can change a country increasingly uninterested in making friends with the rest of the world. Its ascendancy is fraught with intrinsic problems. We're all complicit, I suppose, in trotting out repeatedly the 'developing country' trope. Locally, it's a very tense society. Are things good? Not very good, but as good as who expects? Damn, its own people tell me they expect better.

Apr 26, 2010 10:52 Report Abuse



Where on the hell you see men beat women on the street??? It is so strange ! i was born in China and grow up in china. in my life the frequency of seeing weirdos is much much less that I heard form expats. What on the hell you are doing here!!??

Apr 28, 2010 20:24 Report Abuse



i saw it in nantong jiangsu at 8 pm, when an old woman grocerer dropped or hit some fruit basket and the basket fall down, her husband picked up a stone and throw at her as i witness with my eyes.. luckily i was nearly missed with the stone. i watched this until the fight ended. but that man did beat his old wife on the road at night. it was really harsh i still for sorry for the old lady.
another one the same city but a different place. i was eating dinner in a resturanut suddenly me and my friend heard loud noise near the shop. the husband near the shop beat her wife on the foot path. but the woman also return many punches and kicks even some stones as well. but woman got some bruises on her face, little bit blood as well........

i am the eye witness of this and it happened in 2009 summers or after that as far as i can remember them.

Jun 22, 2011 08:53 Report Abuse



I saw it too, 2 times, and both time I was not able to help - coz others help the man. the woman once almost felt under the truck wheel which just run around ... second time the man was kicking the wife in his mercedes benz, kicking, catch the hair, beating with fists. i was unable to stop the car that time. sorry to that woman.

Oct 15, 2011 01:19 Report Abuse



I have lived in Guangzhou for about 10 months now, and I've seen men beating women, seemingliy unprovoked, a total of three times now. Once on a bus. Once in a restaurant. And once on the street. The first two I intervened and stopped. The last one, well, the guy was so old he couldn't do any damage to the woman if he wanted to. It was funny. In all of these incidences, Chinese people just stood by and did nothing, and so did the friends of the scumbag women beaters...

Apr 29, 2010 17:06 Report Abuse



Interesting opinion but lacking in social context. First, 10 months in China is not even scratching the surface of reality. Where are you from? I am a expat New York City person, and speaking about brutality is a daily way of life there. So lets not compare apples and oranges. Do you not know in other cultures outside the western box , that family honor and saving face may have been involved in the incident you viewed as cruel. What do they call that in the west? Before you express your opinion about something you do not know, I suggest asking the people what is going on? I get the impression you are a young person with very little life traveled experience, and really do not know about global cultures outside your sheltered homeland. Wife and husband bashing has been going on since the cave days, regardless of where and why. I personally have lived throughout Asia since 1966 and lived in many countries, and not once have I seen elder people get mugged and knocked to the ground like in my home city New York. So before you criticize China society think of yours, I bet you ignore the truth when you see it, just look in the mirror.

Apr 30, 2010 00:48 Report Abuse


Just J

Wow, as a fellow New Yorker, you really don't sound like you are from New York... Maybe you should try visiting there some time, or visit some of the countryside of New York. There is much more to the USA than "crime ridden streets" in the big cities... Just something that Chinese media gets wrong about the USA. Of course, neither America nor China are perfect, so we just have to live with being where we are in the world, and make the best of it by being a good representative of our respective countries.

Oct 14, 2011 16:59 Report Abuse



No one has said the US is better than China or that China is better than the US.
What does or does not happen in the US has nothing to do with the topic.

Your English is very strange for someone from the US ;)

Oct 14, 2011 22:30 Report Abuse



I have been in a city in England and seen a man attack a woman's car with a hammer, at a road junction. At the traffic lights, at night, he smashed up the lights of the car and dragged the woman out of the car by her hair. This was a rough city. However, in my home town I never saw this. And so when you want to compare a city in China, be aware that a particular city may not represent China. A bit like crime levels in some areas of Detriot are not representative of the USA.

Apr 30, 2010 06:51 Report Abuse



Yes. Honor. Saving face. He slept with his female student. Wife was angry. He was saving his face and beat her. Hypocrites! Face savers damn you!

May 15, 2010 11:30 Report Abuse