Indiana University

Indiana University School of Journalism

Willnat, Metzgar to present research in China

Ryan Dorgan | March 7, 2011
Professor Lars Willnat and assistant professor Emily Metzgar will be among 18 Hoosiers traveling to Indiana’s sister province of Zhejiang, China, over spring break to take part in a symposium on business relations between the U.S. and China.

The conference, “U.S.-China Business Cooperation in the 21st Century: U.S.-China economic and trade relations during the period of the post-global economic crisis,” will be led by IU’s Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business and the Center for International Business Education and Research. It will be at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou.

March 14, Willnat and Metzgar will present their research on U.S. media attitudes toward China. It focuses on public perception of China and its people, and was collected in the form of a representative online survey of 1,012 American adults shortly after Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States in January. (Read the results of the survey.)

“It’s sort of a general assessment of American opinion of China. The interest is not just economic issues, not just security issues, but cultural issues as well,” said Metzgar.

The conference is the second conducted as part of a three-year initiative exploring U.S.-China business relations in light of recent global economic circumstances, and regulatory and economic environments within the two countries.

“The trip is a return visit for a conference that IU held in 2009,” said associate professor Scott Kennedy, delegation leader and director of RCCPB. “The real distinct feature of the current trip is an emphasis on helping Midwestern media understand China and report on China.”

Following the 2009 conference, Kennedy approached School of Journalism Dean Brad Hamm about any prospective interest the school may have had in participating in the initiative, according to Metzgar. Hamm then talked to Metzgar and Willnat, each of whom have worked in Asia.

Metzgar worked with the National Defense University and the U.S. Institute of Peace, focusing largely on East Asian issues. She is also an alumna of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Willnat taught for four years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and has been a guest professor in Singapore and Malaysia.

“Lars and I identified some research that we wanted to do together that Scott thought would be useful for the work that he was doing, and he invited us to formally present this research at the conference,” said Metzgar.

The survey’s findings come at an unstable time for business in both countries. And many Hoosiers have certainly felt the brunt of that instability.

“There’s some anxiety about China in the Midwest, partly because the Midwest has such a manufacturing-based economy and a lot of the jobs that our parents might have had have moved to China where wages are so much lower,” said Greg Andrews, BA’87, managing editor of the Indianapolis Business Journal, who also will travel with the group. He'll be blogging during the trip at the IBJ website.

“I think when an economy grows quickly, and at some point China’s economy will actually be larger than that of the United States, there’s a tendency to view that country as a threat,” he said. “In some ways it does create challenges for Indiana, but in other ways there are actually opportunities and ways the Indiana economy could benefit.”

Andrews cited American “anxiety” during the 1980s toward Japan’s growing economy, which eventually provided great growth here at home.

“Obviously, now Japan has auto plants around the state that employ thousands of people,” he said. “Some of those plants that were a little more controversial back then are certainly seen as beneficial to the economy now.”

As the delegation’s departure draws nearer, Kennedy said he is fortunate to have such a mixed group of academics, business professionals and journalists on the trip.

“I think everyone’s very excited,” he said. “We’ve put in several months preparation for the trip. We’re ready to go.”

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