Cultural internationalism in response to cultural crisis

The mutual construction and reliance between culture and politics have shaped the world order in different forms under the established material and historical environment. Meanwhile, it is not uncommon for cultural movements and cultural construction to lead and activate changes and developments of the political order on the eve of world system transitions. Especially during a crisis, cultural practices usually serve as the starting point of system transition. Therefore, analyzing cultural crisis has become an important way to study world order change.

Cultural Exceptionalism, China Threat Theory, and the extroversion of Chinese culture

In recent years, there have been three views on the potential restrictions of China's diplomacy. The first suggests that China's diplomacy is constrained by structural contradictions between China and the United States; the second argues that China's

* Most of this chapter was published in World Economics and Politics, 2018, issue 9. culture remains inaccessible for further communication with other civilizations; and the third believes that the intentional demonization of China’s rise has harmed China's diplomatic practices. From the Chinese people's perspective, China's diplomacy has had remarkable achievements since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, especially after the implementation of the reform and open-ing-up policy, such as the accession to the world economic system with the World Trade Organization as the core, and the enhancement of its role in multilateral international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the G20. However, in terms of social and cultural diplomacy—despite the continuous exchanges between China and foreign countries and the growing influence of China in multilateral cultural organizations such as United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)—China still faces shortcomings and challenges in civilization dialogue, cultural exchange, national image establishment, international mutual tmst improvement, and the construction of a community of shared future. With the current rise of isolationism, unilateralism, populism, and the China Threat Theory, China has faced a dilemma caused by “cultural exceptionalism’’, “civilization isolationism”, and the fear of a “cultural threat”.1

Cultural exceptionalism can be considered as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Chinese culture has an inherent feature of openness and inclusivity and has increasingly coordinated and interacted with western civilizations and cultures after China's reform and opening up. However, with the rise of cultural nationalism, the spiritual phenomena that many great countries have experienced have more or less appeared in emerging countries, that is, to promote the uniqueness and priority of their own national culture, which has also been called "cultural exceptionalism”. China does not advocate cultural exceptionalism, and its cultural practices that emphasize national conditions and particularities are misunderstood in public discourse. Therefore, Chinese culture might gradually be considered an outlier within the global civilizations.

A further manifestation of cultural exceptionalism is civilization isolation. If cultural exceptionalism only emerges as an internal thought, then civilization isolation would be an external cultural and political reality constructed under a specific international environment. Though world civilizations have their own characteristics, they show more similarities under international socialization and globalization. Looking back at history, the political wisdom in the growth of a great power prefers to adjust its own civilization into a form consistent with national conditions and in line with the international society, rather than construct a unique culture that is entirely different from that of other countries. At present, the economic similarities between China and the world have remarkably increased, whereas many people have described the gap in their political and social forms as widening. These arguments and conceptual constrictions, to some extent, appeared under the background of Anti-China political operation, representing a political struggle between civilization integration and civilization isolation.

The revival of Chinese civilization being mistaken for cultural exceptionalism or civilization isolation is beyond comprehension. In the past 40 years of reform and opening up, China has been deeply integrated into the world economic system. Yet, why does the world still harbor many misunderstandings toward Chinese culture? This points to the crisis of extroversion in Chinese culture. That is, the cultural practices intended initially to dispel the misconception of China's development may instead become a catalyst for a new round of "China Threat Theory”. To a large extent, this crisis has been maliciously constructed by AntiChina forces, but it is also due to the drawbacks in China's own cultural practices. In fact, with the growth of China's national strength and the rise of emerging countries, the world has entered a transitional period of historical development and order change, in which the adjustment of the relationship between China and the world plays an integral part in international politics. From the perspective of academic research, the kind of diplomatic and international relations concepts are more in line with China’s national interests and the common interests of mankind remains a theoretical question worth pondering. If this question is answered properly, it will help dispel the China Threat Theory and will add Chinese wisdom and a new theoretical perspective to the construction of a new world order. If not, there will be an extroversion crisis in China where the reconstruction and dissemination of Chinese culture, such as through the Confucius Institutes, will be misunderstood, repelled or even regarded as threats due to improper diffusion of ideas, systems, and paths.

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