China’s Real Challenge is the Western Public

ChinaGeeks translates a piece from Southern Weekend:

As the world develops, communication improves, and the internet continues to widen its reach, the influence of popular opinion on public policy increases with each passing day, regardless of political or electoral systems. Accordingly, rulers are increasingly sensitive to public feedback. These deep changes are also being reflected in Chinese political life. For example, even though the scope and damage of the Yushu earthquake in Qinghai two months ago was not as extensive as the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, [for the sake of public opinion] Chairman Hu Jintao concluded an important summit in Japan and returned to China to direct rebuilding efforts, and Premier Wen Jiabao [...] quickly went to the disaster area to observe.

This is a significant change from previous government thinking. In the past, if something similar happened, the Chinese way of thinking would dictate that the government persist in its foreign relations activities, “turning grief into strength”, they felt this was the best way to support the country. These days, putting the people first, when something happens national leaders are duty-bound to return home; taking on the duty of rescue and relief efforts is common practice in the international community, and is [therefore] the best form of diplomacy [anyway]. When leaders put the safety of the people first, that kind of politician and that kind of country is worth trusting. Taking responsibility [in a time of disaster] is the humanitarian way.

The problem is that while China’s leaders may have changed their way of thinking, in the diplomatic field, especially in the field of observing foreign countries, many leaders still cling to an outmoded “party jargon” dogmatic way of thinking. For example, when China and another country are having a dispute or when relations are tense, [they] often say that this anti-China politician is just stirring up trouble, the common people are OK, but the facts or lack of facts have led to an issue in relations.