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China's culture once influenced the world, and it can again   [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2012-12-4 18:30:00 |Display all floors
(Shanghai Daily/Illustration by Zhou Tao)

For at least four centuries, from the 14th to the 18th, China was looked upon by the West with awe. The Venetian trader Marco Polo (1254-1324), whose family had long been travelers on the Silk Road, spent over 20 years exploring Asia, including much of China and Mongolia.

Upon his return he published his "Travels," in which he wrote admiringly of the great wealth and wisdom of China, images that captured the Western imagination.

In the 16th century Jesuit missionaries came to China, the most famous of whom was Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), known in Chinese as Li Matou.

Confucianism extolled

The Jesuits were active agents of transmission of culture and science between China and the West; in their writings the Jesuits extolled the great virtues of Chinese philosophy, especially Confucianism.

Their works were read by early philosophers of the European Enlightenment, notably the Germans Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) and Christian Wolff (1679-1754). They in turn had a significant influence on the great Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).

In developing his natural philosophy, Kant drew considerable inspiration from Taoism and Confucianism, as transmitted by the Jesuits and then to the philosophers. Ultimately Chinese cultural and philosophical influence spread across much of the Enlightenment, including the French Voltaire (1694-1778).

Although China was remote physically and had virtually no contact with the West, it loomed large as a major cultural force in European thought and especially in its influence on the Enlightenment.

On the artistic front, from the Renaissance until the late 18th century China had a significant influence encapsulated in the generic term Chinoiseries.

This was especially the case in ceramics, both in attempts to copy Chinese styles and in the importation of Chinese works to adorn the salons of palaces.

Subsequently Chinese-style gardens with pagodas came into fashion. Among the richest examples of Chinoiseries can be found in the Schonbrunn Palace, the residence of the Hapsburg monarchs outside Vienna, which flourished especially during the great reign of the Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780).

Throughout these centuries while China was a great cultural power, it was also the world's leading economic power, accounting for 30 percent or more of global GDP.

Everything changed

Then in the early 19th century, with the industrial revolution and the rise of Western global supremacy, everything changed.

China was initially still perceived as wealthy and a great market - illustrated in the 1850s slogan: "if every Chinaman adds four inches to his shirt-tails, Lancashire mills will be kept busy for generations" - but its civilization came to be derided; the sacking of the Summer Palace by French and British troops in 1860, during the Second Opium War, ranks among the most perfidious acts of cultural vandalism.

From then came a steep decline in numerous respects, economically, politically and culturally. Western writing on China was almost invariably derisive. There were some exceptions, for example the French poet and author Victor Hugo (1802-1885), who bewailed the sacking of the Summer Palace. But this was exceptional.

In the course of the 20th century, China's image was reflected especially in two stereotypes in the West: on the one hand that of "evil" incarnate, for example, in the series of novels (also put into film) of the character Fu Manchu by British author Sax Rohmer (1883-1959); on the other as a pitiful victim of poverty, most famously represented in the novel by Pearl Buck (1892-1973) "The Good Earth."

With the Liberation (in 1949), China regained sovereignty and dignity, and following the reforms unleashed in the late 1970s it has emerged as a daunting global economic superpower, second only to the United States and expected to become number one within less than a decade.

In that sense, China is resuming its former position as economic powerhouse.

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Post time 2012-12-4 18:31:03 |Display all floors
This post was edited by ttt222 at 2012-12-4 18:31

Soft power

What about cultural power?

Another word for cultural power is "soft power," a subject that has increasingly over recent years challenged Chinese policymakers and thought leaders.

There have been some developments. The opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics projected some brilliant images of Chinese tradition; the Chinese pavilion of the Shanghai World Exposition in 2010 was an architectural masterpiece, while its techno-artistic display of the recreation of the scroll "Along the River during the Qingming Festival by" Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145) was simply brilliant.

Similarly, Chinese contemporary authors are getting to be much better known in the world, a trend which should get a spurt with this year's award of the Nobel Prize of Literature to Mo Yan (born in 1955).

China's rising cultural flourishing is reflected not only in the traditional arts, but also in its absorption of Western culture. China stands out especially in its embrace of Western classical music; the annual Beijing Music Festival is becoming increasingly known and hailed.

While these developments are important and impressive, it no doubt remains the case that China's global cultural reach remains modest when compared to that of the US and some European countries.

Though Chinese universities are attracting more and more foreign students, the numbers pale in comparison with American, European and Australian universities. Indeed, Western soft power still exerts great impact on China as many of its students flock to Western universities.

As its economic power matures and its population ages, China should increasingly develop its cultural fields. In the course of the decades ahead, as China may be exporting fewer goods, it should aim at exporting more culture.

Soft (cultural) power is the best means to make friends and influence people.

Dr Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor of international political economy at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland, and Founder of The Evian Group.

Source: Shanghai Daily

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Post time 2012-12-4 21:34:15 |Display all floors
Dr Jean-Pierre Lehmann is emeritus professor of international political economy at IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland, and Founder of The Evian Group.

Although he's a professor at such a prestigous institution, he seems to have slightly misunderstood Joseph Nye's concept of Soft Power.

You don't improve a country's soft power by spending huge amounts of money on nice events - because you can't hide the way ordinary people live. It didn't work in Nazi Germany, it didn't work in Sovjet Russia - both nations that were richer than today's China - so it certainly won't work in China.

To increase a country's Soft Power, you have to make it's way of life appealing to others! You have to show the world how much you can enjoy life in your nation - so that they want their nation to become a little bit more like yours and are willing to learn from you.
That's hard for a country as poor as China - so perhaps, the way to go would rather be increasing people's income, making them participate more in social and cultural activities and make them generally happy. Because if ordinary people are happy, people from other places will try to understand why they are happy - learn from their culture - and give the nation more Soft Power!

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Post time 2012-12-5 03:48:20 |Display all floors
Future president Xi Jinping loves watching Hollywood films which perhaps he would push China to produce much better films especially on animation which made Japan's anime a phenomenal influence around the world mainly among youngsters. Cosplay, cyborg, magical girls, robots, ninjas and even 18+ stuffs... you name it.
Of course not forgetting US 3D animation like Kung Fu Panda which caused a soul searching among Chinese when it was released, why can't they produce such animation which is related to their culture? The Chinese animation, Legend of a Rabbit was rather dissappointing where its viewers receive its message as China's culture, copy, edit and paste.

Video gaming is another sector which can't be ignored and with the rise of android powered smartphones China should take the opportunity to invest its gaming market which is fairly new compare to well established ones found on consoles.

If China wish to conquer the world with soft power, animation and video gaming is a must, innovative and creative ones that is. Many Chinese I believe are happy watching films and playing video games every now and then but how many of them is created by China?

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Post time 2012-12-6 16:14:02 |Display all floors
you don't "conquer the world with soft power"

culture is its own enjoyment, not a competition!
(beast ex machina)

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Post time 2012-12-6 16:34:56 |Display all floors
lebeast Post time: 2012-12-6 16:14
you don't "conquer the world with soft power"

culture is its own enjoyment, not a competition!

all i know is Chinese culture = yellow =
so they wana influence ppl to become

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Post time 2012-12-6 16:46:49 |Display all floors
although, video games are competitive

and there are surprisingly few chinese style games on the market, and really good chinese games would be great, no doubt

your point about innovation and creation is important

but China must create the right educational and legal environment for this

(beast ex machina)

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