The West is using cultural warfare to divide China, Chinese President Hu Jintao warned the Communist Party on Monday.
“Hostile international powers are strengthening their efforts to Westernize and divide us,” Hu wrote in the latest edition of Communist Party’s magazine, 求是 (Seeking the Truth).
In his piece, “Unswwervingly Take the Road of Development of Socialist Culture with Chinese Characteristics and Strive to Build a Socialist Culture of Power,” Hu argues that “The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak” and that the “ideological and cultural fields are their [western forces’] main targets.”
So the Chinese government has taken the cultural fight to the enemy (that’s us), spending big bucks to expand its message overseas, including US and UK editions of the party newspaper, The China Daily, the state news agency Xinhua, and China Central Television’s (CCTV) multilingual news and cultural programming. A quick review of those sites shows why the Party is so worried about losing hearts and minds, because to use an expression favored by Yankee cultural imperialists, they suck.
Hu recognizes that the Communist Party of China must meet the “growing spiritual and cultural demands of the people,” which is a problem, because the communists are too uptight to permit the kind of sparkle and sluttiness needed to succeed in the global pop culture pressure cooker.
In the last half of the 20th century, other East Asian garrison states, such as Japan and South Korea, attempted to resist foreign cultural influence, but prohibition only fueled emulation. It wasn’t until those neo-Confucian elites lowered the cultural gates to Western trash that they were able to assert their cultural identities globally. Now, all the East Asian democracies, thoroughly steeped in the tropes of Hollywood and Lady Gaga soft-core, are busily exporting their own unique version of mindless entertainment to global acclaim. (Here’s some J-pop and K-pop on YouTube, included for educational purposes only.)
The reason China is culturally “weak” has nothing to do with the West, insidious as we may be. It’s because the Chinese government is desperate to keep the lid on China’s long-overdue cultural interaction with the rest of the world. The way it works these days, you can’t give, unless you take. With 2011 just the beginning the start of a global revolution/revulsion against incompetent and corrupt power, the Chinese ruling class is desperate to keep foreign influence at bay, even if it means limiting Chinese “soft power” abroad.
A global culture has grown thanks to decades of global ad budgets that have helped to shape a global consumer sensibility that requires English, just a little bit at least for tag-line or lyrical hook.
As the Chinese government tries to keep English from sullying Chinese, they are shooting themselves in the cultural foot. Until Chinese cultural enterprises embrace foreign ways, that nation’s voice on the world stage will be absent, boredom being the one unforgivable sin in the new global culture. Because of the tones of the spoken language and the ideographs of the written language are so difficult for non-Chinese to master, China’s cultural rise will most likely have to be accompanied at every step by global English and the global lack of values it has come to represent.