Innovation in all aspects key to better int'l communication, March 11, 2016

Political advisor Zhou Mingwei said that innovation in all aspects is paramount to better publicity in an exclusive interview with on the opening day of the fourth annual session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Political advisor Zhou Mingwei said that innovation in all aspects is paramount to better publicity and telling Chinese stories is the best way of explaining China to the international community. [Photo/]

Political advisor Zhou Mingwei said that innovation in all aspects is paramount to better publicity and telling Chinese stories is the best way of explaining China to the international community. [Photo/]

Zhou, president of China International Publishing Group and a CPPCC member, told his opinions on how to fulfill the concept of innovation in international communication.

In his opinion, innovation is at the core of the five concepts for development which were expounded by President Xi Jinping at the Fifth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 2015. It not only embodies the direction and route of Chinese social and economic development, but also makes requirements for China's international communication.

"First, we have to change our communication models and content. We are inclined to use language to explain language and use concepts to explain concepts. However, foreigners have different culture and concepts. So, our efforts can receive only limited results," Zhou said.

He praised the method of "telling Chinese stories" which was raised by President Xi, saying it's the best way for international communication. "A specific story is neither a teaching nor a simple discourse of reasons. It has specific time and space, and concerns specific people and institutions. It will bring more connections between Chinese and the target group than the traditional ways."

To him, language is an important requirement for telling a good story. The translation of language is not easy, let alone an expression of the culture behind the language. Therefore, foreigners like to understand and feel China in their own way. Moreover, they have various responses to China's development due to the clashes of the right of discourse, of the interests and ideology. So, it requires the Chinese media to have a higher persuasiveness, influence and credibility when telling a story.

He also noticed the challenge of new technology. "The microphone used to tell a story is not only on your side. Everyone has their own microphone. The procedure of telling a story is a procedure of information exchange. Nowadays, the audience has many options. If your story is not appealing, not touching or not competitive, they will not choose yours even though you have invested a lot of time and effort in the story," Zhou said.

"In this background, we have to spend a lot of time and effort in this direction and innovative thinking is paramount," Zhou added.

Regarding the skills needed in telling a story, Zhou raised three points. The first is the way of writing. "If you cannot grasp the audience with the first three sentences in your work, you will lose them. They will give up on you before you tell them your main idea," said Zhou.

The second is to understand foreigner's way of thinking. To Zhou, whether Chinese culture can "expand" or how far it can go will not only depend on the wonderful stories we present to the world, but also depend on how much we know about the world and foreign cultures. "For example, some figures in our stories may be common to us, but overwhelming to the international community, because the Chinese market is so big. It's hard for them to understand those figures from their own living conditions and development stage," Zhou said. "If we only do simple comparisons of figures or list absolute numbers without any background reference, foreigners may make extreme conclusions. And you cannot blame them for it, let alone the fact that many foreigners look at China through blinkers," Zhou added. "Do not take for granted that foreigners can accept your simple way of telling Chinese stories just because China is big and does well in development. We should explain Chinese culture to the world in a calm and peaceful way."

Third, the storytellers, including commentators and spokesmen, should know about the concerns and interests of their foreign audience. And they should use smart and proper methods to attract the audience's attention and then guide and influence their opinions for our interests.

As for the negative theories on China's development like the "collapse of China" and "China as a free rider", Zhou said that the Chinese economy is in a state of transition which will bring structural upgrades and a growth rate slowdown. Some people therefore blame China for the current global economic turbulence as a way to distract international attention. It's neither fair nor objective. He cited Japan's economic development as an example. As the former second largest economy in the world, Japan's economic growth has remained low for nearly 20 years. However, not many people blame the country for the same reason. In fact, even though China's annual growth rate has stayed at 6 to 7 percent, its amount is equal to the annual GDP of a moderately developed country in Europe.

China's economy now has entered the stage of "new normal." It should be understood as a procedure of structural upgrading and a driving force shift so as to lead the Chinese economy to a path of higher and healthier sustainable development. This procedure is not only a need, but also a must for the Chinese economy. And it is also a procedure that the Chinese economy must cooperate and coordinate with the world economy.

"China hopes to further promote policies of opening up and cooperation with the global economy, and achieve mutual benefits and win-win results during the process," Zhou said.

The Chinese economy is still the driving force of world economic growth. More than 20 percent of the world economic growth is from China. "Either from the economic theories or from the current situation, Chinese people have the confidence to say that the current economic transition will have a positive and long-term influence on the stable development of the world economy," Zhou added.

According to Zhou, those negative international opinions are the natural result of the rapid development of China. It demands that Chinese journalists be active and that their work be targeted while telling Chinese stories and sharing Chinese opinions.

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