I keep being struck, whenever I travel between China and Australia, of the strange sense of two worlds or two planets … and two Chinas.

Let me put it in terms of a couple of conversations I had during the last few months in China.

The first was held in Shanghai, with someone who spent some time in Canada a while back. She reflected on reading local newspaper stories about China. They depicted a terrible, dystopian place, with a ‘totalitarian’ government hell-bent on suppressing its people. At the same time, she was in regular communication with her family and friends back in China. That world was completely different.

The second conversation happened recently in Beijing. We were discussing the idea of the ‘Chinese Dream’, as proposed by Xi Jinping. My interlocutor had undertaken a study of reporting on the ‘Chinese Dream’ in foreign media. She was appalled, not only at the willful misrepresentation and attribution of sinister motives, but also at the way the supposedly ‘free’ (aka corporate) press could speak with one voice. She wondered at how newspapers that championed ‘investigative reporting’ could all line up to say the same thing.