So much talk has been devoted to China’s cultural development in the past two weeks that it became one of the major topics at this year’s NPC and CPPCC sessions, which concluded on Friday.
Quite a few delegates demonstrated a sense of urgency in their discussion about China’s “cultural rise,” as well as protecting and reviving China’s traditional culture, and seemed to agree that it is time to strengthen China’s soft power.
“Today China’s peaceful rise is not only the rise of economy and politics, but also should be the rise of Chinese culture,” Pan Guiyu, a CPPCC member and vice director of National Population and Family Planning Commission, said in a speech to a CPPCC plenary this week.
“For China to achieve national revitalization, it is necessary to strengthen her cultural soft power,” said CPPCC member Gui Xiaofeng, who is also former vice director of China’s press and publication administration.
They see China’s huge “cultural trade deficit” as a major problem. “Chinese economy is gaining increasingly prominent status in the world, but China’s broad and profound traditional culture has little say,” said CPPCC member Liu Yunlai, a school-teacher-turned-politician.
Several delegates thus say China’s cultural security is at risk. Ms. Pan Guiyu is among those who urge protection. “Cultural security is the prerequisite for the country’s stable development and national revitalization,” she said.
How to protect? “We can’t always passively defend against the penetration of other culture. Chinese culture should walk out [into the world] with full confidence,” Ms. Pan said.
To advance Chinese culture’s international influence, Ms. Pan and her colleagues’ proposal is to develop China’s culture industry. She suggested the government to loosen control on culture industry and let it grow in the market.
CPPCC member Jin Man, a famous ethnic Korean singer, proposed the government to include culture export into its development strategy and provide more support. She also said it is necessary to learn other countries' tactics of marketing culture and train more talents in order to successfully promote Chinese culture overseas. Meanwhile, the delegates stated that they don’t resist foreign culture.
Meanwhile, the meeting delegates stressed the importance of protecting and reviving China’s rich cultural legacy. What makes them concerned, however, is the fact that traditional Chinese culture is waning in the wake of huge influx of foreign culture, such as Hollywood movies and Western pop music, which have growing influence on Chinese youth.
“Today our pupils can still read poems from the eighth century, which is a miracle in the world. But we ourselves seem not aware of it at all, as if our ancestors did not leave us anything, and instead pursue Western culture as something trendy,” vice chairman of the NPC standing committee Xu Jialu, a famous linguist, said during a media interview.
They contributed many suggestions to revive China’s traditional culture, such as making hanfu, the outfit of Chinese people in Ming dynasty (14-17th century) as the “national costume,” protecting historical sites like the Jing-hang Great Canal and establishing a Chinese Mother’s Day in contrast to American Mother’s Day, which has been celebrated by many Chinese people for years.
But most important is to educate the youth. The meeting members worry that Chinese children now regard the Superman or Spider-Man as their hero, but know little about China’s historical heroes like Yue Fei. They also see it as troubling that students put too much effort trying to master English while unable to use their native language very well, especially in writing. To tackle these problems, they provide ideas varying from bringing Peking Opera to campuses to better education of Chinese language.
The meeting delegates who advocate for cultural revitalization are mostly well-established artists, intellectuals and politicians, or in other words, social elites. But there are still many common Chinese who share their view.
“We should feel happy and proud that our ancestors left us so many beautiful legacies, and cherish and study them,” one public comment posted online reads. “Only this way, we can be real Chinese.”
Another poster is concerned that “today’s people don’t study China’s classics, don’t understand Confucius, but only like foreign movies and trash music.”
There are also people who don’t buy the reviving theory and call the delegates who proposed making hanfu the national costume as “nationalist” and such ideas as “feudalism residue.” Another denied that learning English or modern science and technology is being keen about Western culture.
China in Transition: 2007 NPC, CPPCC Journal, Day 6
China in Transition: 2007 NPC, CPPCC Journal, Day 5
Pan Guiyu comments
Jin Man comments
Xu Jialu comments
Some public comments
The annual session of the NPC concluded on Friday and Premier Wen Jiabao met the press.