Journal of Intercultural Communication, issue 3, 2000

Magnus Bergquist & Magnus Mörck

From fever to flu: the rhetoric of reporting Asia in a Swedish business magazine


Stereotypes are generally considered to be the opposite of good information, which of course should be accurate and have some degree of complexity. At their worst stereotypes spread prejudice, at the best they may contain a 'kernel of truth'. However, as globalization moves on the demand for simplified understanding of complex, large-scale phenomena grows. In our article an analysis of some aspects of east-west image making is offered showing an ambivalent use of difference and similarity. How do western observers make sense of recent dramatic changes in the East in the context of telecom? What simplifications are thought to bring home the basic meaning of this drama? If stereotypes pin point difference, metaphors are about similarity and promotes a cognitive world-view of basic interchangeability.

This article contains some observations of both, the distinctiveness and the affinity of Asia as seen by particular western observers. The point of departure for our discussion of how stereotypes are used in the west to make Asia and especially China manageable is 'Business Weekly' (in Swedish: Veckans Affärer), a Swedish business magazine. All issues released during the last three years have been examined. Articles about Asia, different countries in Asia, Swedish companies operating in Asia, people doing business in Asia, and Asians operating in the west, have been examined. We will show how China and Japan were presented to the Swedish business community during these three years of rapid and turbulent change.

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