The report delivered by Xi Jinping to the party congress sounds, as a whole, sensible, except the ‘highlight’ under the subtitle of New Era with New Thought. This highlight says that Socialism with Chinese characteristics enters new era “… of securing a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society” and of “moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind”.
True, even as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, China is far from the center stage of the prevailing world order dictated by the United States. For many reasons China has a need to move a bit closer to the center. I am sure that the Chinese theorists and administrators somehow are aware of and confident in surpassing the ‘Middle Income Trap’, materializing the “Belt and Road Initiative’, skipping the ‘Thucydides Trap’… just name a few of the long agenda list. Economically, politically and militarily speaking, China is able to meet the requirements for being ‘closer’ to the center. However, I am of the view that, culturally speaking, China is far too remote from being so within this century.
The Western civilization can firmly stand at the center for three centuries mainly because it has drenched its soul with critical philosophical ideas, enlightened its mind with sophisticated reasoning logic, sublimed its spirit with heart-touching music and art, replaced its blue blood with elitist blood … through the Renaissance. China has so far done too little in this respect. Not until can we see the emergence of a large and diversified group of elites equivalent to Nietzsche, Hobbes, da Vinci, Voltaire, Mozart, Bach, Hugo, van Gogh, Bismarck, Ricardo, Gauss, Shakespeare …… I do not see any sign that China can be closer to the center of the stage.
The Chinese civilization has the potential but needs to find various ways to enrich its contents and deepen its cognition of humanity to the extent that and on this ground that it can move closer to the center of the world stage, even though the Western Civilization has probably passed its zenith with reference to such great historians as Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975) and Pitirim Sorokin (1889-1968).
One of the possible ways, in my view which may sound authoritarian, is that Beijing has to prevent the anti-intellectual sub-culture (which has ruined the Hong Kong society) from spreading through the entertainment industry. This problem, though mentioned in the American academic circle repetitively, has been generally overlooked. Although censorship may sound negative in some areas, it can serve as a constructive tool to wipe out the ‘dirt’ that drags civilization backward, especially in the wake of the recent prohibition of hate speech in Germany.
In short, culture is still the weakest link in China’s rise.
The opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of China Daily Mail.