The final thing I’d say about China is that if you stopped one hundred people on the street right now, and you asked them, “What are the first three things you know about China?” I can guarantee you that the first one—and maybe all three—would have to do with the country’s recent successes. The first thing they would say is not that China is a country of awful human rights, or is a country of 500 million poor people. I can almost guarantee you that they would emphasize the success of the recent rich before they would emphasize the continued existence of the poor.

The question then becomes something else. Most of these people you stop have never been to China. Which means they have had to receive these viewpoints from somewhere. I would posit that they got these viewpoints from the media. So you have these two somewhat difficult to sustain points of view. The Chinese view is that the Western media is so tough on them, always beating up on them, and always emphasizing bad things. And then the fact that the public point of view of China is predominated, I would say, by word of China’s recent successes.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.