Chinese Scholars and Media on Cultural Reform
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Editor-in-chief, Caixin Media
In the cultural reform section of China’s 18th National Congress report, statements about values transcend ideology. The core values advocated by the 18th National Congress are more pragmatic than those proclaimed by the 17th National Congress. The 24-Chinese-character socialist core values reflect the common values of mankind and can be regarded as social values. China’s rapid transformation has led to widespread loss of [social] values. Therefore, revising and reconstructing social values is vital. A higher-level of social values and moral standards is essential if China wants to overcome the middle-income trap and advance to become a high-income society.
But how should we rebuild and promote social values? Older styles of propaganda no longer create positive influence, but instead stimulate resistance and rebellion. There should be a clear separation between “cultural undertakings” (governmental organizations that provide spiritual products and cultural services for society) and private “cultural industries.” Cultural reform should not be isolated from the market economic structure. In fact, the core issue of reform remains the relationship between the government and the market. Private cultural industries need to be the driving force; the market should be the foundation for resource allocation.
As demonstrated by the 18th National Congress, the cultural sector also needs to adhere to the standards of rule by law, strengthen public ownership, and encourage the development of non-public sectors. However, cultural enterprises have lagged far behind in these endeavors. Thus, the cultural sector should be more active in participating in market competition and promoting legal protection (for cultural products). Rule by law will inevitably touch on the speech and press freedoms (guaranteed in) Article 35 of the Constitution. Although this will take time, we need broad discussion, comprehensive plans, and concrete action. The press law should be put on the agenda.
Professor of Finance & Economics, Yale School of Management
"Confucianism can restrain the development of the financial market. Confucianism creates a social order that attempts to distribute resources in non-monetary terms, which is different from how the market economy and financial markets work. In the past, Confucianism was helpful in maintaining the stability of Chinese society. Since Confucianism emphasizes the role of family in individual welfare, the welfare state and financial markets have less influence."
"However, the development of transportation and technology in the last century has created a completely different environment. Modern Chinese increasingly rely on marketization and social welfare. Therefore, marketization will defeat the system of “three cardinal guides and five constant virtues” [三纲五常] established by Confucianism."
Professor of East Asian Studies and Comparative Literature, New York University
"Education, academia, art and ideology, cannot and should not directly “represent” or solve issues in economics, politics, and governance. For example, the “China Dream” is related to the individual human desire to restore Chinese civilization and to matters and statements at the national level. When should we talk about them separately, and when should we discuss them together? This is a difficult question for which we have yet to find a satisfying approach."
"The rise of Confucianism in recent years appears to be fueled primarily by external conditions, but reinterpretation of Confucian tradition doesn’t have an impact on contemporary problems and has offered no effective guide to dealing with complex modern issues."
Professor of Politics, New York University
No politician since 1949 is quite like Xi Jinping, who places traditional Chinese culture among the common spiritual wealth of mankind and underscores its universal cultural value. Not only does he pay respect to this culture through his attitude, he also proactively connects Chinese cultural and historical essences with the notion of “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” For Xi, traditional Chinese culture, particularly Confucianism, is not an obsolete burden but a unique “strategic resource” that can be modernized and used to rejuvenate the nation.
China faces a cultural crisis. China’s is rapidly accumulating material wealth, but is vulnerable because it lacks a cultural essence. The Chinese have gradually lost their cultural identity. The Chinese peoples’ understanding of their own culture remains confined to basic cultural symbols: the Chinese knot, kung-fu, Chinese cuisine. There have been strong calls to rebuild this culture so that China can reach its goal of “rejuvenating the nation.”
Modern Chinese hold polarized views toward Confucius and traditional Chinese culture. Various problems, including corruption and the imperfect market economy, are attributed to traditional Chinese culture.
Xi Jinping’s challenge is to prevent China from becoming a country without an independent culture and spirit. He has to awaken and modernize China’s outstanding traditional cultural genes. Xi also believes that traditional Chinese culture can help mankind find solutions to common challenges. He talks about ways that ancient philosophies can serve the present. He considers developing Confucianism into a knowledge system that has global significance. China must undertake this task if it is to become a great power.
The “China Dream” is not a daydream because it is rooted in “Chinese characteristics.” The “China Dream” can not only provide a good life for one-fifth of the world population, it can also forge a new path and create a new type of civilization for mankind. The “China Dream” is not only about China; it is also about creating a greater “open, inclusive, win-win, and cooperative” dream that benefits the rest of the world.
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