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China Intends to Increase Soft Power by Establishing Its Own Academic Language System

[Editor’s Note: In recent years, as China has been more actively engaged with the world, it has been paying greater attention to developing its “soft power.” Since the way the Communist Party uses language has been powerful and effective within China, the Party wants to create a language system that has the same effect around the world, thereby improving China’s soft power.

The initiative started eight years ago and has gradually become more prominent in Party thinking. Qiushi Journal, a publication of the CCP Central Committee, whose mission is to spread CCP theories and policies, published an article calling for the establishment of an academic language system with Chinese characteristics and Chinese style, which would contribute to the development of this initiative. Below is an excerpt from the article] [1]

At a meeting on theoretical research and the development of Marxism (held on June 2, 2012, in Beijing), Li Changchun, the Propaganda Chief of the Communist Party, told the participants, “It is a significant and pressing task in theoretical scientific circles to interpret China’s course of development and practices using a theoretical language system that China itself has developed; to continue to come up with innovative and practical scientific concepts, new areas, and new expressions; and to create an academic language system of philosophy and social sciences that has Chinese characteristics and a Chinese style.”

1. To establish China’s language system is an important and urgent task for our era

Since the 16th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, the Party Central Committee has placed significant emphasis on the project to study, implement, and develop Marxist theory; consistently promote the compilation of Marx’s classic works; translate and study Marxism’s fundamental viewpoints; deepen the study and advocacy of the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics; promote the development of the subject and a textbook system of philosophy and social sciences; strengthen the development of college and university level courses on ideology and political theory; and conduct a significant amount of work on a plan that is effective in developing a philosophical and social sciences academic language system with Chinese characteristics and Chinese style. We should also understand that to establish China’s own language system is not only a complicated project that requires great effort; it is also an unending process that takes long and unremitting pursuit in order to reach ever newer and higher levels.

Strategic measures must be used to break the Western monopoly on language usage in which people believe what the West says.

Today’s world is undergoing great changes and major adjustments. The discussions and disputes on social systems and development models have continued to generate heated discussions; the communication among, blending of, and confrontation between different ideologies have increasingly intensified; and the contest for control over the right to develop and maintain different value systems has also increased in intensity.

As our country’s overall national strength and its international influence have steadily improved, international society has been paying more attention to China, to China’s philosophy of development, and to its development path; it hopes to end the financial crisis with China’s help.

At the same time, the Western countries are unwilling to let socialist China increase in strength. They don’t want to see a strong socialist China. They take China’s development as a challenge to Western values and its democratic system. They are intensifying their strategic plot to Westernize and divide China, strengthen their infiltration tactics, and speed up their use of new ways to infiltrate China. These tactics have made it more difficult for China to resist infiltration from Western ideologies. As China becomes stronger, it also becomes a greater challenge to the Western system

In general, although China’s comprehensive national strength has greatly increased, the international influence of what it articulates, its philosophy, and its social sciences is still relatively weak. Western culture is in an advantageous position. Some researchers in the areas of philosophy and social sciences, although unwittingly, have succumbed to its influence. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they take the Western language system as their standard; habitually copy concepts, definitions, and theories from the West; and mechanically apply the Western language system.

Given this situation, the strategic initiatives for China’s long-term plan undoubtedly suggest that China should strive to build its own language system and steadfastly improve its international discourse right [2] and the influence of its philosophy and social sciences.

It is urgent that the international community improve its understanding of China.

It is imperative that China strengthen the international influence of its development path.

China’s GDP already ranks number two in the world and its international status is rapidly rising. Therefore, China ought to have the international discourse right that corresponds to its contribution and status.

Meanwhile, the international financial crisis continues to evolve and the economic strength of the Western developed countries has decreased. The lives of the middle and lower classes in Europe have been seriously affected and the unrest in West-Asia and North Africa continues.

This being the situation, once people the world over recognize the success of China’s path of development, China’s system will have the power to shake people’s beliefs. Therefore, it is urgent that we speed up the development of China’s language system, change the situation of China’s severe “deficit” in the expansion of the international cultural exchange, enhance China’s international discourse right, and expand the recognition and influence of China’s development path in the world in order to improve China’s cultural soft power.

2. The key to building China’s language system is to use China’s value system to interpret China’s practices and its path

China’s experience is indispensable in establishing China’s language system. We should attach great importance to grasping the basic and critical role that China’s experience plays in interpreting China’s language system. We should persist in interpreting China’s practice and China’s path with China’s theoretical studies and its language system.

3. The approach to building China’s language system is to creatively come up with scientific studies and advancements in theory

The process of building China’s language system is a process that constantly introduces new concepts, new areas, and new expressions, and is also a process of consistently coming up with creative scientific studies and theoretical advances. We should use this kind of theory creation as a basic approach to obtaining tangible results in building China’s language system.

4. The important thing in building China’s language system is to manifest China’s distinct characteristics and China’s style

The more Chinese characteristics and Chinese style China’s language system has, the more unique and irreplaceable it will be worldwide. Therefore, the key point for building China’s language system must be to focus on highlighting its Chinese characteristics and Chinese style.

Marxism is the fundamental guiding ideology for our Party and our country. It determines the nature and direction of China’s language system. It is the core and the soul of China’s language system. The top priority for building China’s language system is to promote Marxism’s sinification, modernization, and popularization.

Enhancing China’s international influence and China’s language system

The purpose of developing China’s language system is to strengthen China’s cultural soft power and to develop socialism with Chinese characteristics.

With this goal, developing the language system and making it understandable to Westerners are inter-connected and inter-complementary. Developing the language system can form the basis for scientific theory with Chinese characteristics and Chinese style, while enhancing the language system can enable the language system with Chinese characteristics and Chinese style to be seen in a way that foreigners can easily accept. This will enhance the affinity, appeal, and influence of China’s philosophy and social sciences in the world, and promote China’s cultural soft power.

[1] Qiushi Journal, June 2012
[2] The concept of “discourse right” originally came from French sociologist Michel Foucault’s theory on discourse and its social power. The expression refers to “power,” not “right.” In other words, “discourse right” is not about one’s right to speak, but the power behind one’s words. China wants its voice to be given more respect.