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Do Americans Hold “Simple” Ideas about China’s Economy?

May 19, 2011

Wang Qishan, China's vice-premier, caused a bit of a stir this week when he accused Americans of having “simple” ideas about his nation during an interview on “The Charlie Rose Show.” According to a transcript, Wang said:

It is not easy to really know China because China is an ancient civilization and we are of the oriental culture. And for the Americans, the United States is the world's number one superpower, and the American people are a very simple people. If they're asked to choose to understand a foreign country, their first choice would be the European countries, and the South American countries may come second. It was not only until recent years that the American people have begun to pay more attention to China. But over the years American media coverage of China has been scarce, and if there were some coverage, most of them are lopsided.

Wang's comments got me thinking about American attitudes towards the China-U.S. economic relationship. In my opinion, many Americans don't seem to fully grasp the complexity of the Chinese economy and U.S.-China economic ties, and that generates tensions between the two countries. There is a gap – and in some cases, a pretty wide one, in my opinion – between what many Americans seem to believe about China and what is truly the reality on the ground. Here are what I believe are some common misperceptions…

Michael Schuman is an American author and journalist who specializes in Asian economics, politics and history. He is currently the Asia business correspondent for TIME Magazine, based in Hong Kong

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