2000 Student-Faculty Fellows: Valparaiso University

China: Changing Chinese Popular Perception of the US in the Wake of the Embassy Bombing and the WTO Deal

Mentor: Zhimin Lin, Department of Political Science
Student Fellow: Ryan Michael Murray, ’00, Political Science and History


Ryan Michael Murray

The five weeks Professor Lin and I spent researching the Chinese popular perception of the United States were remarkably fruitful and promising, thanks to a variety of resources and the assistance of several extremely helpful individuals.

The trip itself was important to me in many ways, but two stand out as the most significant. First, as I have mentioned, I have learned much about hands-on fieldwork in a foreign country that I could never have acquired nor appreciated from any sort of classroom instruction. The second important impact of the work was to reinforce my goals for the future and also help to focus my interests. I have been interested in international relations for many years, and in China since my first year of college, but only recently did I begin to focus upon nationalism, international conflict, and perceptions that countries have of each other; by how feelings of enmity first develop, maintain their existence, and finally fade away or even completely reverse.

As I plan to enter graduate school next year, I feel that there could have been no better time to finally discover the specialty that I most enjoy studying and for which I have the greatest personal concern. I am, then, excited about our project both as a contribution to this field and for the invaluable experience it imparted to me, which should be important to the success of any future undertakings.

Prof. Zhimin Lin

This research experience was both exciting and rewarding. The timing couldn’t better. The US has intensified its scrutiny of China, as the latter, in recent years, has become something of both a rotten rod and the center of fascination in the eyes of many Americans. The research project provided fresh evidence of how the importance of perceptions increased proportionally to the advance in the level of communications across nations. I plan to use these findings to help make a central point in the upper level course I teach regularly on international relations that in this information age, perceptions or misperceptions are going to affect the course of international relations more than any time before.

While I have done cooperative research before, it was a quite different experience this time to work closely with my former student-Ryan has graduated in May. That was a very rewarding experience in itself. Ryan and I worked closely and supplement each other well. This close working relationship allowed us to maximize the time and resources we obtained through the generous support of AsiaNetwork. It was one of the key reasons that we managed to accomplish our goals in such a short period of time in a place not known for favorable environment for social science research. I treasured this experience very much and believe that I will benefit from it in multiple ways and for years to come.

Research Findings

While we are still in the process of trying to digest all the data collected from interviews and surveys, four basic findings seemed to have already stood out: (1) The Chinese views of the United States are fragmented. This divergence became even more prominent when we went beyond simple questionings and asked people through in-depth interviews about their reasons behind the confessed views; (2) Their views are contradictory. While a large portion of those who were surveyed said that they felt that the US posed a threat to China’s long-term development, an even large portion of them said that they were optimistic about the future in the bilateral relationship; (3) While many Chinese agree that the US is the strongest power in the world and are impressed by it, a lot of them are resentful that the US, being in such a strong position, would not tolerate even some minor increase of influence by China; (4) There are clear indications that many of the established Chinese perceptions of the US reflect the influence of Chinese media (both official media and semi-official sources).