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Fred Dervin

'China Angst': Spirit of the Time?

In his recent book Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon? subtitled Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World, Yong Zhao (2014) seems to share the current 'China Angst' or Changst described by Chu (2013), or the fear of the West and other parts of the world of losing influence to 'mysterious' China and being overtaken by her. By choosing such a title to deal with Chinese education, the author appears to follow a current trend in the 'West'. As such, many volumes were recently published with the following titles, also revealing a 'fear' of China: China Shakes The World: The Rise of a Hungry Nation (Kynge, 2009); When China Rules The World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order (Jacques, 2012); Tiger Head, Snake Tails: China Today, How It Got There, and Where It Is Heading (Fenby, 2013). Politically, this is also felt in the way, for example, decision-makers talk about the Middle Kingdom. For example, at the 2014 Northern Future Forum organized in Finland, where prime ministers, business leaders, entrepreneurs and policy makers from 9 northern European countries 'focus(ed) on how to foster equality, wellbeing and competitiveness under the current economic challenges' (event website). British Prime Minister David Cameron ventured a questionable comparison between a new 'imagined' community that he had created ('northern Europeans'), Russia and China:

Finally for me I think we are very rational northern Europeans ... we come together and we talk about our problems, some of the difficulties that we have ... I think we should also celebrate our successes and I think that one of the successes that we should celebrate is the fact that I profoundly believe that societies like ours that are open, democratic and liberal and tolerant and disputatious and argumentative, we are more creative and more inventive than closed societies whether in China or in Russia or elsewhere.

This new kind of ethnocentrism (or 'regiocentrism') reflects some of the stereotypes about China that date back from at least the first Christian missionaries' expeditions to the country (Griffiths, 2013, p. 5): China represents another (strange) world, a lesser world than 'ours' (Billetier, 2000, p. 9). Implicitly Cameron's discourse could signal Chu's Changst and divided Europe's fear of losing its hegemony.

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