Kinas militære og økonomiske magt er vokset i de seneste år. Men den kulturelle? Nej. Tværtimod. Den er om noget blevet mindre.
Siden begyndelsen af januar har der været megen snak om Kinas soft power, for her offentliggjorde præsident Hu Jintao en kronik i et magasin, der er tilknyttet Kinas Kommunistparti. Den kan du læse om for eksempel her og her. Her skriver han, at Kina befinder sig i en »kulturel krig« med Vesten, og at »internationale og fjendtlige kræfter har intensiveret deres strategiske plot for at vesternisere og splitte Kina.«
What China seems not to appreciate is that using culture and narrative to create soft power is not easy when they are inconsistent with domestic realities.
The 2008 Olympics were a success, but shortly afterwards, China’s domestic crackdown in Tibet and Xianjiang, and on human rights activists, undercut its soft power gains. The Shanghai Expo was also a great success, but was followed by the jailing of the Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo and the artist Ai Weiwei. And for all the efforts to turn Xinhua and China Central Television into competitors for CNN and the BBC, there is little international audience for brittle propaganda.
Now, in the aftermath of the Middle East revolutions, China is clamping down on the Internet and jailing human rights lawyers, once again torpedoing its soft power campaign.
As Han Han, a novelist and popular blogger, argued in December, “the restriction on cultural activities makes it impossible for China to influence literature and cinema on a global basis or for us culturati to raise our heads up proud.”
The development of soft power need not be a zero sum game. All countries can gain from finding attraction in one anothers’ cultures. But for China to succeed, it will need to unleash the talents of its civil society. Unfortunately, that does not seem about to happen soon.
For et par uger siden skrev David Cohen også i The Diplomat om Kinas soft power og præsident Hu Jintaos kronik.
Paradoxically, the call for strengthening Chinese culture may mean pulling popular (and apolitical) homegrown content off the air and out of the cinemas – there has been a recent spate of bans directed at popular Chinese TV, including dating shows and, most eccentrically, dramas that involve time travel. Of course, this type of cultural censorship has a long history in China, including a previous ineffectual effort to force moviegoers to watch a martial arts epic about Confucius instead of Avatar.
Censorship is likely to cripple the international prong of cultural security – the effort to build a high-powered cultural industry. China’s efforts, such as the recent “Flowers of War,” which starred Christian Bale in what was an effort to communicate the Chinese perspective on World War II to a foreign audience, are frequently overshadowed by negative stories. In this case, Bale was forcibly prevented from meeting a rights activist under informal house arrest.
Jeffrey Wasserstrom skriver i Asia Society “What Will Hu Jintao Think of ‘Titanic 3D’?“:
What we have seen since then is a series of invocations of the need for increased “vigilance” to ensure stability at a special moment. The lead-up to the Olympics was one such moment; then it was the coming of the 2009 anniversaries (both the dangerous ones, such as that of the Tiananmen struggle, and the allegedly glorious ones, such as the 60th birthday of the country); and after that, it was described as crucial to maintain control so that the 2010 Shanghai Expo went off with a hitch. 2011 brought with it an expected excuse for “vigilance” (the run-up to the Party turning 90), as well as an unexpected one (fear that the revolutionary whiff of Jasmine would waft from the Middle East to the Middle Kingdom).
What is troubling about the latest speeches calling for renewed vigilance is that they suggest that the pattern won’t be ending again this year. There’s yet another excuse being offered, of course: the need to ensure an orderly transition in the fall from Hu and company to Xi and company. At some point, with restiveness spreading to different segments of the population and a boom that can’t continue forever, the Party will need to start thinking more creatively about how to reposition itself. For now, it is just sticking with the increasingly tired Olympic year playbook.
We could call Hu’s speeches part of the dialog from Remain Vigilant in the 21st Century: The Fifth Chapter. The Chinese Communist Party may claim to stand for values antithetical to those of Hollywood, but at the moment it seems to share the big studios’ fondness for churning out sequels of played out franchises that are well past their sell-by date.
:: Filmplakaten er fra “Confucius“, der er en af de mest elendige film nogensinde lavet. Stor, stor film. Alt er stort. Og flot. Meget dramatisk. Hvis man kan holde sig vågen. Jeg opgav. Zzzz…