Historical features and practical significance of cultural internationalism

Three dimensions of cultural internationalism

Cultural internationalism and its practice are generally embodied in three approaches. The first approach relies on global and multilateral cultural and social governance instimtions represented by UNESCO, which bring together the strength of a large number of non-governmental organizations, transnational corporations, and individuals (including efforts from environmental protection, religion, and science). In history, the climax of cultural internationalism was in international society after WWI. At that time, people regarded internationalism as a charitable act, envisioned the establishment of a supranational international institution similar to the world federation, and believed that the establishment of a world government could maintain world peace. Countries that support this cultural internationalism have been considered advanced in promoting human progress and improving their national image. The second approach depends on regional international organizations, which usually have a good reputation among regional member states. By arranging cultural cooperation in higher integration, they can spread their achievement and promote cultural development in other regions. Meanwhile, they also play an initiatory, supportive, and contributive role in the United Nations' relevant cultural issues. The third approach counts on countries with a sense of international responsibility and world mission, especially great powers, which have a strong will to strengthen cultural soft power and international cultural cooperation and can initiate cultural governance proposals to the international society, seeking the support of the United Nations and regional international organizations.

These three forces and paths contribute to varying degrees of cultural internationalism and represent the concurrence of power politics and idealism; however, they all have pros and cons. The first approach seems to be more pacifist, idealistic, and multilateral. Although it has strong international legitimacy, it still faces difficulties in operation due to the insufficient international authority of global organizations such as the United Nations. The second approach belongs to the category of idealism and multilateralism as well. However, there usually emerge internal cultural integration problems and external cultural strategic competitions in regional and interregional cultural cooperation, which could paradoxically set a negative example for other regions. Yet, such cultural cooperation shows more operability with the policy support from regional organizations. The third approach is characterized by the interaction between idealism and realism. To be more specific, a country always centers on first promoting its cultural interests and national image, and then it might move to pursuing global cultural interests and the requirement of global cultural governance. Once the country moves cultural soft power and the pursuit of global cultural interests to the top of its agenda, it will seek to mobilize its allies and the international society to establish a new world order that benefits both its own culture and international cultural cooperation. From a historical perspective, however, the world's cultural order was often established by a dominant nation. Therefore, the reconstruction of the world’s cultural order requires a comprehensive study of the functions and effects of different forces and approaches, but the key still lies in powers with huge cultural influences and international responsibilities. Hence, to avoid following the hegemonic stability theory and as a great cultural power, China should not only strengthen the influence of Chinese civilization in international society, but must also pay attention to demands of non-Western cultures, reinforcing the plurality, inclusiveness, and coordination of world order.

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