My friends, what do you want from us?

The title is cited from the poem which is written by a Chinese diaspora, the following is the website about the poem:

The poem is talking about the misunderstanding between the Western view and Chinese view. I thought this poem also ties closely with Corman’s article “A 21st century model for communication in the global war of ideas”.

Corman with his colleagues propose the strategic communication for the 21st century.  As we all know, in the global war of ideas, it is really important to win the hearts and minds. Corman compares and contrasts the conventional message influence model of communication and pragmatic complexity model.

Corman says that “There is no “magic bullet”, —no single message–however well crafted–that can be delivered within the existing system that is likely to change it.” If Western world tries to promote democracy to the remaining world such as Muslim world and East Asia regions, they need to understand that the way how receivers interpret the message might be dramatically different than the sender who transmit the message. Corman emphasizes that the complexity of communication as a meaning-making process. So the message always matters, but the message transmitter need to think about the complex reality.

I think Corman’s pragmatic model is very important, especially when the nation states are dealing with another nation state who has rich traditional culture. As Corman explains that “once a social reality is created, it has a tendency to sustain itself even in the face of contradictory information and persuasive campaigns. Members of the system, routinely and often unconsciously, work to preserve the existing framework of meaning.”

Just to give several examples to elaborate my understanding about his pragmatic complexity model. In the development communication field, communication is served as conduit of knowledge transfer to facilitate economic, social and political development. In the 1950-1960s, modernization approach is very prevalent. Many Westerners believe this model can enhance the economy of the developing countries, if their governments adopt the approach in the top-down manner. The innovation diffusion plays the central role in the model. But many Western scholars do not take the specific culture into consideration, so in reality, the modernization approach does not fit well for every developing countries.

The Bush Administration attempted to promote democracy in the Middle East. But they pay too much attention on how to construct the message, but overlooking how the receivers will interpret the message. So the Salafi extremists interpreted this message as yet another attempt by the Western Crusaders to impose their foreign values on Muslims. So there is no mutual understanding between those twp parties. On the contrary, this message could incite violence, which was far away from Bush Administration’s intention.

Another good example is human rights in China. As the Western media keeps blaming the human rights violation in China, people in China interpret human rights in different ways. The Chinese government legitimizes the family planing law in order to control the population size, but Western media blames that family planning should not be coercive, instead it should depends on people’s free choices. So the human rights debate on family planning in China between Western media and Chinese side might be destined to fail. Because each party has different interpretation of the message.


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