Rhetoric and reality: The making of Chinese perceptions of the United States, 1949-1989
Smith, Richard J.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
When the people of a given society contemplate the outside world, they do so with inherited but constantly changing values, assumptions, preoccupations, and aspirations. Who they are, one might say, largely determines what they perceive. For a variety of reasons, the Chinese have long had a fascination with the United States--a country which has not only been an active participant in Chinese affairs for well over a century, but which has also served as an idea and an example. Naturally, China's direct and indirect experiences with America, together with the vast cultural and political differences that still separate the two countries, have shaped Chinese perceptions. In China's search for a new political, social and economic order, America, as both a world power and as a concept, has played a major role. This dissertation examines the way images of America were transmitted to China in the twentieth century, and how these images were debated and represented (or misrepresented) by three main social groups of Chinese--the Chinese state, Chinese intellectuals, and the Chinese masses. Although America has unquestionably played a part in shaping modern China, the Chinese, for various reasons and in different ways, have constructed their own distinctive "America."