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The Strategy of Chinese Culture Going Global, Part II

{Editor’s Note: In 2011, the Central Party School published a book with the title, An Interpretation of the Major Theoretical and Pragmatic Issues that Concerned the Party and Government Cadres after the Sixth Plenary Session of the Seventeenth Central Committee. The writing provides an excellent explanation of the Chinese Communist Party’s strategy behind promoting the Chinese culture to the world. The following is a translation of an excerpt from a chapter in the book. This is the second part, explaining the necessity of such a cultural strategy. Culture is essentially values and ideology. Behind the promotion of the so-called Chinese culture going global is a strategy to influence and change the world quietly, with Beijing’s ideology, so that many countries acknowledge and eventually adopt “socialism with Chinese characteristics.”} {1}

Second, the need to implement the strategy for the culture to go global

Let Chinese culture go global, not to assimilate others, but to share with others. Let the civilizations prosper and progress together through mutual learning and immersion.

1. Culture going global is a key expression of cultural consciousness and self-confidence.

History and reality show that a nation’s awakening is, first of all, a cultural awakening. To a large extent, the power of a political party depends on its degree of cultural self-consciousness. In the historical process of building a society of moderate prosperity in an all-around way and realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, we should establish a high degree of cultural consciousness: we must have a clear understanding of the leading position and role of Chinese culture and the relationship between Chinese culture and world civilization; we must have a profound grasp of the patterns governing the development of culture and form a correct idea of cultural development; we must assume the historical mission of realizing the rejuvenation of Chinese culture and building a great cultural power in a spirit of full responsibility to the nation and to history. At the same time, we must be highly confident in Chinese culture. In other words, we must have confidence in the excellent traditional Chinese culture, in the creativity of contemporary Chinese culture, and in the bright future of Chinese culture and world civilization. With such a high level of confidence, one can stay coolheaded and be persistent, gain the courage to forge ahead, vigorously create and innovate, and achieve cultural self-improvement.

Promoting Chinese culture going global exemplifies cultural consciousness and self-confidence. Several times in history, Chinese culture played the leading role in the world, but in modern times, it has gradually fallen behind. Since the Opium War, Chinese culture has been weak and is in a closed, conservative and passive state. The Westernization Movement, the Reform Movement of 1898, the Revolution of 1911, and the May Fourth Movement, were all born out of contact with Western culture. They were introduced by foreigners or Chinese people. Even Marxism was sent to us by the October Revolution in Russia. Since the founding of the New China, especially since the reform and opening up, our culture has been undergoing a “qualitative change.” Starting from being closed up to opening up, from being passive to acting proactively, from introducing other cultures into China to promoting Chinese culture going global. In a word, China has been growing slowly from being weak to becoming stronger, moving from the edge of the world cultural arena to its center. The fundamental reason for our implementation of the culture going global strategy is that after more than 30 years of reform and opening up, China’s economic strength and overall national power have greatly improved. We have begun to be conscious and confident about Chinese culture. The Sixth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee proposed the goal of building a strong, social, and cultural power, which will surely bring about the further cultural awakening and cultural self-confidence of our nation and people, especially among intellectuals. We can more comprehensively summarize our experience of constructing socialism with Chinese characteristics and, in particular, the experience of reform and opening up; more accurately grasp the trend of world cultural development; and more actively participate in the globalization of our economy and culture.

2. Culture going global is an inevitable requirement for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Implementing culture going global can help foreigners gain a better understanding of China and create a better international environment for China’s development. People who often go abroad have a feeling that the Chinese people’s understanding of foreigners, especially the West, is far more than the Westerners’ understanding of us. Most Chinese students know 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and even know foreign classics such as Romeo & Juliet and Red & Black. However, there are just a handful of foreigners who know the Tao Te Ching, The Analects of Confucius, and The Classic of Mountains and Seas (Shan Hai Jing). Even some Western politicians’ understanding of China is limited to some of the most basics, such as Confucius, the Great Wall, and the Forbidden City, let alone understanding the socialist system with Chinese characteristics, China’s democratic process, and China’s system of regional ethnic autonomy. This has caused these Westerners to misunderstand China and the Chinese for a long time, and has made some Western politicians with ulterior motives take advantage of the opportunity to use the so-called “human rights,” “Tibet independence,” “Xinjiang independence,” “Falun Gong,” and other issues to confuse the audience. At the same time, some foreign friends who have been to Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other big cities think that China is a great country today and has entered the ranks of modernization. They do not understand the situation of China’s vast underdeveloped western regions. Their understanding of China is also one-sided. The fundamental purpose of Chinese culture going global is to allow foreigners to understand China, the Chinese people, China’s development, its internal and external policies, and its political system more fully. Only by deepening foreigners’ understanding of China can we enhance mutual trust, promote bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and create win-wins, multi-win, and long-term win situations, as well as a good development environment for ourselves.

Implementing culture going global helps strengthen China’s cultural soft power. In today’s world, culture is becoming an increasingly important factor in the competition of comprehensive national strength. Whoever occupies the commanding heights of cultural development will be able to take the initiative in the fierce international competition. Without the active guidance of culture, without the great enrichment of the people’s spiritual world, and without the full exertion of the spiritual power of the whole nation, it is impossible for a country or a nation to stand firmly in the forest of the nations around the world. Without the support of culture, a prosperous economy alone cannot establish and hold a country as a great power. Look around the world and one may find out that many developed countries have distinctive national culture and compelling cultural soft power. More and more countries have prioritized the development of culture and the enhancement of cultural soft power to the level of a national strategy, and make it a strategic choice for improving overall national strength and international competitiveness. Cultural soft power and economic hard power have been developing ever stronger mutual interdependence. At present, China’s comprehensive national strength has been significantly enhanced. In response to the impact of the global financial crisis, China has fully exhibited the advantages of its development path and development model, which has received the attention and recognition of many countries. At the same time, we should also see that China is a cultural power with a long history and splendid civilization, but its rich cultural resources have not yet been transformed into strong cultural soft power. The role of China as an importer of cultural products does not match its role as an exporter of material goods. The international influence of its culture is not commensurate with the influence of its economy. The task of safeguarding national cultural security is even more arduous. In particular, the significant growth of China’s national strength has caused doubts and discomfort in some countries. An important goal of our culture going global is to increase the international community’s understanding and recognition of China’s idea of peaceful development and a harmonious world, making China more influential politically, more competitive economically, more affable in its image, and more appealing morally.

3. Culture going global is a huge driving force in building a harmonious world.

The essence of Chinese traditional culture “values harmony.” Chinese civilization advocates tolerance, and thus give rise to the values of harmony as the highest goal.

Culture is the man-made second nature. It includes three major research areas: the relationship between man and nature, the relationship between man and man, and the relationship between man and self. Pursuing the universal harmony between man and nature, man and man, and man and self is the basic feature of Chinese culture. The path to knowing nature, others, and oneself embodies the spiritual essence of Chinese culture. Chinese culture pays attention to the relationship between man and nature. It does not advocate the one-sided conquest of nature, and advocates the unity and harmony between man and nature. Man must follow the laws of nature so as to reach the realm of oneness of all things in heaven and earth. Chinese culture attaches great importance to the harmonious coexistence of people. It advocates the spirit of “benevolence,” and advocates treating other people as one would oneself, seeking common ground while preserving differences, and being good to others in order to achieve harmony in interpersonal relationships. Confucius said, “In practicing ethics, harmony should be valued. The ancient kings take that as excellency.” Mencius said, “Favorable timing isn’t as important as advantageous geography, which isn’t as important as human harmony.” Both expressed the pursuit of a harmonious relationship between people. In terms of the relationship between man and self, Chinese culture pursues harmony between body and mind and advocates self-awareness. Laozi said, “It is wisdom to know others; it is enlightenment to know one’s self.” This means clearly to know oneself. On the basis of knowing oneself, one must temper and improve oneself, and be kind to oneself, so as to achieve being contented and happy, a state of physical and mental harmony.

In today’s world, there are 7 billion people, more than 6,000 languages, more than 2,500 ethnic groups, more than 200 countries, and a large number of religious beliefs. As there are different interests, ideas, and beliefs between people and people, it is inevitable that conflicts and contradictions will arise. To achieve a harmonious coexistence, we must propose an ethic that achieves global consensus. As early as 1993, more than 6,000 representatives from more than 120 religious groups in the world held the “Parliament of the World’s Religions” in Chicago. The document “Towards a Global Ethic: Initial Declaration” adopted by the conference has Jesus Christ’s “We must treat others as we wish others to treat us.” and Confucius’ “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” as the “global ethics.” It further points out that this is “an irrevocable, unconditional norm for all areas of life, for families and communities, for races, nations, and religions.” This means that some basic spirits of Chinese culture have begun to be noticed and accepted by the people in the world.

The theme of the modern era is peace and development, but the world in front of us is not harmonious. Human beings are constantly plagued by many issues such as the struggle for natural resources, the balance of the international order, the cognition of ideologies, and the beliefs of religions and civilizations. These have caused problems such as hegemonism, power politics, territorial disputes, regional conflicts, terrorism, the spread of poverty, rising suicide, environmental pollution, and global warming. In other words, there have been serious conflicts between man and nature, man and man, man and self. This has triggered a humanity crisis, a spiritual crisis and an ecological crisis. This is the common challenge facing mankind in the 21st century and matters for the survival and development of mankind in the future. The picture of a harmonious world should be that a human being can scientifically and reasonably treat his relationship with nature, with others, and with himself, so as to achieve harmony between man and nature, man and man, and man and self. China’s unique “harmony” culture will bring new wisdom and strength to resolve the crises and conflicts facing mankind and to build a harmonious world.

{1} Excerpt from An Interpretation of the Major Theoretical and Pragmatic Issues Concerned the Party and Government Cadres after the Sixth Plenary Session of the Seventeenth Central Committee. (《十七届六中全会后党政干部关注的重大理论与现实问题解读》) It’s a book published by Central Party School in 2011.