The concept of ‘media representation of the other’ proposes that Western-led media tend to be biased against third world countries and communist others—portraying them as a bad other. Traditionally, Western media present China and Vietnam in negative Cold War frames. By identifying the media frames and tones used to communicate about China and Vietnam, our study examined the national images of the two countries as portrayed during the global (SARS) crisis in 2003 in three mainstream Western-led English newspapers. Various factors that might have influenced Western media representation of these two countries were considered. Our findings show that China and Vietnam received different media treatment during the period. China received a bad press whilst Vietnam was shown in a positive light. We contend that the differences in image representation are mainly due to their different approaches to handling SARS, resulting from both internal factors and external forces at work in each country. Any society must have undergone a dynamic process of news production and images creation in mass media as a whole. Current popular conceptual premise of media construction of the other is arguably limited in informing news production. A comprehensive perspective and contextual approach are called for understanding and defusing the complex dilemma of the ‘media representation of the other’ process.
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