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Communist China’s Cultural Invasion of the World — Part I

— Part I: The “Culture Going Global” Strategy —

{Editor’s Notes: The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has adopted and, for many years, has carried out its strategy of “Culture Going Global.” The following is a report that Chinascope has created focusing on that strategy, on related government policies, and on the implementation of the CCP’s efforts.

The report will be published in three parts:

The full document can be downloaded here.}


The most significant phenomenon in the twentieth century is the confrontation between the Free World (Capitalist ideology) and the communist regimes. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, many Westerners relaxed and thought the fight was over. But it is not. The CCP carried on the communist flag and continued the struggle, sometimes in subtle and sometimes in overt ways, against the West.

It was not until recently that the U.S. achieved better realization of the dangers from communist China. In fact, Beijing has been, for many years, quietly taking on the Free World on many fronts: military, space, trade, technology, the economy, cyber, diplomacy, and also, in a rarely noticed area – culture.

The fact that the CCP’s cultural invasion of the West hasn’t received much attention can be attributed to a few reasons: First, in the West, it is generally private companies that carry out cultural activities; the government is rarely directly involved. Second, due to major cultural differences between the West and China, the West may not have planned to use culture as a mean to influence China and promote a change in ideology. Consequently, it may not have expected the CCP to do so, either.

Nevertheless, Beijing has attributed great importance to the issue of culture.

The competition between the capitalist world and the communist world is fairly comprehensive. Beijing has recognized that, in the modern era, using culture to conquer an opponent is more powerful than military war.

Thus, the CCP adopted the “Culture Going Global” strategy. It became one of its top strategies starting in 2009, when Beijing first heavily promoted the “China Model.” Two of the CCP’s guiding principle documents further solidified this strategy: “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Deepening Reform of the Cultural System and Promoting the Great Development and Flourishing of Socialist Culture” in 2011 and “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Comprehensively Deepening Reform” in 2013.

Under that strategy, the CCP exports “communist culture” to the world (Hereinafter, when the CCP refers to Chinese culture or to traditional Chinese culture, what it actually means is the CCP culture or Chinese culture with communist characteristics).  First, it focuses on “telling the China story,” to let people accept the CCP’s side of its story and accept “Chinese culture.” Then over time, it builds up its soft power and eventually gains international discourse power and cultural and ideology dominance.

“Culture Going Global” “is a major measure China uses to compete for global discourse power.” {1}

The “Culture Going Global” strategy complements the CCP’s two other major strategies: The Belt and Road Initiative and the Community of Mankind’s Shared Future.

Beijing implements the “Culture Going Global” strategy in a holistic approach. It mobilizes the whole nation, with the government playing a vital role, to implement it.

The involvement of the party organs and government offices includes:

  • Creating policies
  • Providing funding support and subsidies
  • Establishing various intergovernmental cultural exchanges and cultural-related leagues
  • Utilizing Chinese embassies and consulates, China’s Cultural Centers, Confucius Institutes, and the Chinese diaspora
  • Pushing state-owned media to go abroad
  • Encouraging Chinese cultural enterprises to invest in or acquire companies overseas.

To the CCP, achieving cultural dominance is not for money; it is rather for the security of what it calls its ideology, for system security, and for the CCP’s dominance of the world. The CCP is willing to back up its stance with the entire pool of the nation’s resources, including money, people, the state judicial system, and all state powers. Therefore, it has the capacity to influence or force any private company or organization in the West to succumb to its demands.


I. CCP’s “Cultural Going Global (文化走出去)” Strategy

The communist theory is based on atheist theory and class struggle. Its ideology is irreconcilable with the capitalist ideology and universal values. Therefore, from the communist point of view, a true “win-win” situation, or real co-existence between the capitalist world and the communist world is not possible. The CCP’s mission is to replace the “old” world with the new communist world.

The Manifesto of the Communist Party stated, “The Communists’ disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.” {2}

Therefore, the CCP’s adopting a market economy over the past few decades did not mean that it wanted to live with the capitalist world. It was merely buying time to build up its own power, so that it can defeat its opponent when the time comes.

The CCP mistakenly thought that its time had come when, in 2008, the financial crisis hit the U.S. and the rest of the Free World. As China’s economy remained largely intact, the CCP proudly talked about the superiority of China’s socialist system and promoted the “China Model” to the world. It declared the end of Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” theory. {3} The CCP proudly stated, “The history of capitalism has not yet ended, but it is getting closer to its end; the history of socialism has not ended either – it not only survives strongly in a crisis, but is also recognized by more and more people in the world.” {4}

It is important that our readers keep this context in mind when trying to understand Beijing’s “Culture Going Global” strategy: that Beijing does not want co-existence with the rest of the world but rather dominance over all others.


A. The Significance of Culture

Culture claims a very high position in communist theory. It is a key foundation of the socialist or communist system.

“In Marx’s view, culture is the deeper factor that influences the social system. The social system, during its development, tends to evolve into a cultural concept.” {5}

Mao Zedong stated, “Culture not only reflects but can also guide political fighting and economical struggle. Culture is indispensable for the development of any society.” {6}

Therefore, the CCP’s recent guiding principle document “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Comprehensively Deepening Reform,” passed at the CCP’s Third Plenum of the 18th Party Congress on November 12, 2013, listed culture in the third position among six major areas to work on: the economic system, political system, cultural system, social system, ecological civilization system, and party development. {7}

Moreover, the CCP raises culture as a secret weapon, in its war to take over the world. To win the battle, everything can be used, and everything should be used. Thus, culture, in the CCP’s eyes, is not just an art, custom, or social form that people created or formed, but rather a powerful weapon in its battle against the rest of the world.

“With a culture war unfolding on the boundless battlefield in the information age, the traditional army and weapons are no longer able to provide national security at the grand strategic level, nor can they safeguard national interests and sovereignty. War is now beyond the scope of the military. It is, more and more, becoming the work of politicians, philosophers, cultural leaders, scientists, and even bankers. This is the culture war in the globalizing information era.” {8}

“In the future war, the status and role of culture are increasingly prominent. The dazzling victorious crown often belongs to the side with superior culture.” {9}

The CCP theorists also pointed out the importance of culture in the soft power and diplomacy competition, and thus generating the global influence.

“Military struggle and economic trade reflect the countries’ hard power; whereas culture exchange and civilization interaction represent each one’s soft power.” {10}

The “‘Culture Going Global’ strategy is not just a culture strategy, but more a political strategy. It is a major measure for China to compete for global discourse power. It is a major measure to safeguard China’s culture security and ideology security, under non-traditional-security threats.” {11}

“Culture can change people’s thoughts in subtle ways. It is the highest form of conquest. Only by further implementing a ‘Culture Going Global’ strategy, can we obtain favorable position in international contest.” {12}

“In the current world, if a country’s culture is at the center position, other countries will automatically get closer to it; once a country’s value system and diplomatic policies dominate the world order, that country will for sure become the world’s leader. Therefore, today and in the future, the world competition mainly takes place in the culture field.” {13}


B. Strategy

The CCP’s cultural strategy is simple: “Culture Going Global.”  It involves exporting “red culture” or the communist ideology to the world.

This “Culture Going Global” strategy was first raised in the middle of 1990s. In the early 2010s, two of CCP’s prominent guiding principle documents defined this strategy as the center piece of CCP’s culture work.

The first guiding principle document, “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Deepening Reform of the Cultural System and Promoting the Great Development and Flourishing of Socialist Culture,” was passed by the CCP’s Sixth Plenum of the 17th Party Congress on October 18, 2011. {14} It listed the following methods used to “promote Chinese culture around the world”:

  • Develop multi-channel, multi-format, and multi-level cultural exchanges. Participate in world civilization dialog, promote culture exchanges, improve Chinese culture’s appeal and influence in the world, and maintain the diversity of culture.
  • Innovate overseas propaganda method, improve international discourse power, properly respond to external concerns, improve the international communities’ better understanding of China’s basic national conditions, values, development path, and internal and external policies, and demonstrate China’s civilization, democracy, openness, and progress.
  • Carry out “Culture Going Global” project, enhance policies to support cultural products and services to go abroad, support key main stream media to set up branches overseas, develop a group of competitive cultural enterprises and agencies, and improve support mechanism on translation, promotion, and consultation (for foreign market), to develop international cultural market.
  • Strengthen the development of overseas China Cultural Centers and Confucius Institutes, encourage (China’s) academia groups and arts organizations to constructively affect international organizations, and organize the translation of Chinese academic research and cultural products into foreign languages.
  • Construct culture exchange mechanisms: utilize both government sponsored exchanges and private exchanges, leverage the influence of non-state-owned cultural enterprises and non-profit cultural organizations in overseas culture exchange, and support Chinese diaspora overseas to conduct exchange.
  • Establish culture exchange mechanism for youths in other countries and set up Chinese culture international promotion award and international level cultural awards.

The second guiding principle document, “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Comprehensively Deepening Reform” was passed on November 12, 2013. {15} It outlined the “Culture Going Aboard” strategy in item #41 “Improve the level of cultural openness”:

  • Adhere to (the strategy of) “the government to set direction, companies to implement, market to operate, and society to participate.” Adhere to expanding cultural exchanges and strengthening the development of international communication capabilities and discourse power, to push Chinese culture to the world.
  • Coordinate the internal propaganda and overseas propaganda systems. Support key media to expand both internally and overseas.
  • Develop cultural enterprises for overseas markets and support cultural enterprises in developing overseas markets.
  • Encourage social organizations and state-funded institutions to participate in the development of Confucius Institutes and overseas cultural centers, to carry out cultural exchange programs.


C. The Goal

The CCP’s goal is to use communist ideology to rule the world. One part of that rule is to use communist culture to gain dominance over the world.

“Building leadership power over culture is one of the CCP’s cultural missions.” {16}

However, Beijing knows very well that it will not be able to achieve dominance immediately; it has to establish its cultural leadership position step by step.

“Antonio Francesco Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher and communist politician, believed that communists cannot win over the West in a quick battle. They should carry on the long-term battle and win gradually. Proletariats should first become the (cultural) leaders so as to become the (cultural) rulers in the end. They should conduct cultural and ideological battles and gradually grab the cultural leadership position.” {17}

The strategic goal of the first step that many CCP scholars mentioned is to “tell the China story,” or to let the rest of the world accept the CCP’s side of the story. “Cultural communication is the way to communicate China’s wisdom and China’s story effectively. Obtaining a greater measure of the world’s understanding and recognition has become an indispensable part of China’s national strategy.” {18}

The second step is to use culture to build up the CCP’s soft power over time. “Culture is more and more prominent in international politics and plays an important role. Cultural diplomacy is the most effective way in the international soft power competition.” {19}

A Study Times article suggested the culture development targets needed to “become a country with strong cultural competitiveness by 2050” and “to become one of the top-ranking countries in cultural competitiveness by 2100.” {20}

Then, the ultimate goal is to use communist values to dominate the international order.

The State Council Information Office (国务院新闻办公室), also known as the International Communication Office of the CCP Central Committee (中共中央对外宣传办公室), explained what it called “the two meanings” of “Culture Going Global”: {21}

“‘China’s Culture Going Global’ has two meanings. The first one is the direct meaning or what people normally think it is, with the goal to let people from other countries understand and become familiar with Chinese culture. Our setting up Confucius Institutes and teaching the Chinese language, translating Chinese writings into other languages, sending cultural groups and individuals for visits and exchanges, and similar activities are all for this purpose.

“The second meaning is a deeper one.  It relates to people’s value systems. The goal is to let people from other countries understand and accept China’s values. It is, through cultural exchanges, to let people understand and accept Chinese culture. The key to accepting Chinese culture is to accept its values.

“Obviously, the two meanings of ‘China’s Culture Going Global’ actually represent the two stages or two levels of ‘Culture Going Global.’ The second meaning must be established on the foundation of the first one.”


D. Using Culture to Promote CCP Initiatives

Many articles in Chinese media have discussed the connection of the “Culture Going Global” strategy to the CCP’s two prominent frameworks: The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) (一带一路战略) and the Community of Mankind’s Shared Future (人类命运共同体).


1. The Connection to the BRI

Initially the BRI targeted countries along the “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “21st-century Maritime Silk Road.” Beijing has also been pushing countries not on the route to join the BRI. Chinese media have used the BRI as a broader reference to conduct economic development and cultural exchanges around the world.

Chinese scholars view the BRI and “Culture Going Global” as being mutually beneficial to each other.

On one hand, the BRI provides a platform for Beijing to carry out its “Culture Going Global” strategy. On the other hand, the “Culture Going Global” strategy offers cultural programs for Beijing to implement the BRI within targeted countries and strengthen connections with them. In the end, the “Culture Going Global” strategy will implant the CCP’s values in those countries and “secure China’s long-lasting influence (over them).” {22}

“The BRI not only provides an opportunity for economic development, but also offers a golden opportunity for Chinese culture to go global. Only when we push our culture globally, can we let the world understand China’s values, demonstrate our confidence in choosing the Socialist Path with Chinese Characteristics, and use China’s discourse power to fix the Western prejudice and international community’s misunderstanding of China.” {23}

“The BRI strategy can be called China’s ‘smart power’ strategy, because it allows China not only to harvest historical influences over those countries, but also to reconstruct the global community’s recognition of Chinese culture. China can leverage the joint economic development practices and common views with those countries, refresh their recognition of China’s culture and secure China’s long-lasting influence (over them). {24}

“To obtain the global status matching its economic, political, and military power, China must develop its own global media and new communication order. The BRI provides an unprecedented opportunity for China to develop this global communication infrastructure during its process of building a global supply chain, cash flow channel, and resource flow channel.” {25}

“The BRI uses culture to connect history, the present, and the future together. It is a strategic framework for China to go global. Culture is the soul of the BRI.

“The Cultural industry has three strategic positions in BRI. First, to make China’s proposal (of BRI) the consensus of the international community; the most important pre-condition of that is to achieve consensus on culture and the recognition of (China’s) value, via the culture industry’s work. Second, the consensus on culture is the foundation for BRI. It is dependent on comingling the cultural values (of China and targeted countries) and establishing new values. Third, culture and the culture industry can be the breakthrough and key projects to start BRI.” “The strategic value and effect of the culture industry (to BRI) is no less than what the infrastructure buildup is to telecommunication.” {26}


2. The Connection to the Community of Mankind’s Shared Future

Xi Jinping first mentioned the “Community of Mankind’s Shared Future” (also translated as “Community of Mankind’s Destiny”) in 2013. This term is often used to guide the CCP’s diplomatic practice. Under this concept, the CCP promotes a “new relationship between countries” – to establish a new world order and break away from the current Western dominated system. It emphasizes economic development and avoids discussion of ideology and universal values (since the CCP cannot openly sell its communist ideology and values to the world yet). It also promotes regional development and security cooperation to build up Beijing’s influence over its neighboring countries.

Xi’s speech at the United Nations on September 30, 2015, revealed the CCP’s agenda to reduce the influence of the U.S. and the West and to defend and promote the communist system: “All countries are equals. The big, strong and rich should not bully the small, weak and poor.” “The principle of sovereignty … also means that all countries’ rights to choose their social systems and development paths independently should be upheld.” {27}

An article explained how the cultural exchange can help China to build the “Community of Mankind’s Shared Future.” “Further expansion of cultural exchanges can help explain the concept of the ‘Community of Mankind’s Shared Future’ to the world and let people from all countries accept this concept.” “Deeper cultural exchanges can mingle China’s experiences, oriental wisdom, and humankind’s ideals together. This will build up the discourse vocabulary and system for the ‘Community of Mankind’s Shared Future’ and make it truly the leading ideological product that the CCP provides to the world.” {28}



{1} The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference website, “Regarding the Proposal of ‘Culture Going Global,” February 24, 2012.
{2}, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” Chapter IV.
{3} The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama, 1992.
In his book, Fukuyama argued that the advent of Western liberal democracy may signal the endpoint of humanity’s sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government. This is in direct contradiction to Marx’s theory that communism would displace capitalism.
{4} People’s Daily, “Comment on Fukuyama’s End of History,” September 29, 2009.
{5} Qiushi, “Culture Confidence Is the Foundation for System Confidence and National Competition Power,” February 23, 2017.
{6} The Collections of Mao Zedong, Third Volume, “On the Culture and Education Issue at the Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region,” March 22, 1944.
{7} Xinhua, “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Comprehensively Deepening Reform,” November 15, 2013.
{8} Study Times, “Conquer without a War,” November 23, 2009.
{9} People’s Daily, “The Victory of War Is Determined by Culture,” July 2, 2012.
{10} China Trade and Financial, “Examination of China’s Soft Power under the BRI,” February 2, 2017.
{11} The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference website, “Regarding the Proposal of ‘Culture Going Global,’” February 24, 2012.
{12} Perfect Dissertation, “Study of China’s Culture Going Global Mechanism,” November 17, 2017.
{13} Qiushi, “Red Culture and Culture Confidence,” June 23, 2017.
{14} People’s Daily, “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Deepening Reform of the Cultural System and Promoting the Great Development and Flourishing of Socialist Culture,” October 18, 2011.
{15} Xinhua, “The Decision of the CCP Central Committee on Major Issues Pertaining to Comprehensively Deepening Reform,” November 15, 2013.
{16} People’s Daily, “The CCP’s ‘Cultural Leadership’ History,” November 10, 2009.
{17} People’s Daily, “The CCP’s ‘Cultural Leadership’ History,” November 10, 2009.
{18} People’s Daily, “Cultural Communication: National Strategy Based on Culture Confidence,” August 23, 2017.
{19}, “Study of China’s Cultural Diplomacy in the New Era.”
{20} Study Times, “The Strategic Choice for China’s Cultural Modernization,” May 25, 2009.
{21} The State Council Information Office website, “The Two Meanings of China’s Culture Going Global,” October 10, 2016.
{22} The Academy of Social Science of China website, “Communication over Culture in the BRI,” June 24, 2016.
{23} The Academy of Social Science of China website, “BRI Helps Chinese Culture Going Global,” November 7, 2017.
{24} The Academy of Social Science of China website, “Communication over Culture in the BRI,” June 24, 2016.
{25} ibid.
{26} China Economy, “Direction and Aspects of the Culture Industry’s Development in BRI,” March 28, 2015.
{27} Xinhua, “Xin Jinping’s Speech at the General Debate of the 70th United Nations General Assembly,” September 29, 2015.
{28} Sohu, “Jiang Li: Culture Exchange with Aspect to Building ‘Community of Mankind’s Shared Future,’” August 8, 2018.