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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 14:39, October 10, 2005
Let China's "soft strength" be real strength
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The opening of the Chinese Culture Festival in the United States is extraordinary, in the month-long period of time, Chinese culture will have a face-to-face exchange with the American people. This activity, so far the largest in the history of Sino-US cultural exchange, creates an unprecedented sensation in the concept of "soft strength".

For a time, there have been many discussions. Some exclaim: this represents harmonious dialogs between Chinese and American cultures. Some ask a question in reply: Shouldn't China and the United States clasp their hands more tightly? Some express their joy: The upgrade of China's soft strength has brought about an important opportunity. Others offer their suggestion: Mighty yet mild Chinese soft strength should be built up.

The "soft strength" concept put forward 15 years has eventually been no longer uncommon.

We have discovered through watching the womanish and touching S. Korean play "Dae Jang Geum" (a girl medical practitioner), the Chinese have come to understand South Koreans' character and the culture of the Republic of Korea (ROK), at the same time, thanks to the show of this TV play, South Korean mobile phones and motor cars have been selling like hot cakes; the Japanese government has claimed long before that the 21st century is an era for the trial of "soft strengths", combating by reliance on military and economic "hard strengths" alone can hardly command respect from various countries. Japanese catering industry even put forward a "soft strength" strategy, hoping to open up a new diplomatic phase with things like "sashimi" as the lead. The United States, on its part, not only possesses the world's largest political and military hegemony, but also has in its hands the biggest media and cultural hegemony. The "soft strength" of Western news media far surpasses its economic "hard strength".

As we look back on past events, we find that in the past 26 years, China's average annual economic growth has touched 9.4 percent and the enhancement of its overall national strength has changed the world's economic and political pattern. During the period, we seldom have such big things as US full-length films, French fashions, Japanese animated cartoons and South Korean TV serials.

We have come to realize that this big cultural country has not only experienced a serious "import excess of culture", the "Chinese stories" have also been told by others: First was about the world factory, as products are marked by "made in China"; there are also such allegations as energy crisis, China a "hungry tiger"; as well as sharp increase in military power, and "China threat".

We hope that China's wisdom and charm - these "soft strengths" full of hardness and quality will, like "sashimi", be turned into "charismatic missiles" and "identification aircraft carriers", thereby winning time, space and enduring motivation for China's development, winning markets for "made in China" products, and adding lubricants for removing the "China threat" frictions.

A "soft strength" upsurge is already in sight, but we must bear in mind that "soft strength" is not a "hard strength" tie-in sale product, it is not aimed merely at putting up a stage for "hard strength" singing and performing, it is not merely the hurried passing by of "hard strength" and comic talks performed between acts. Hardware without the content of software is actually not hard. Material development without being supplemented by civilization can't go any farther. The construction of "soft strength" is aimed primarily at the building of physique, self-improvement, the inheritance and multiplication of civilization.

It should be understood that "soft strength" is not merely the posture and decoration of a country on the international stage, not merely a means and weapon for reducing foreign trade frictions, international environmental pressure and the resistance to a peaceful rise. China has gone through a historical evolution of 5,000 years, its sediment is grand and broad, the country puts people first and regards peace as most precious, mild, mellow and pure and simple, it has many beautiful things, but it does not brag about them. While it learns to give international expressions to its "soft strength", there is no need to be unsettled and short-tempered, or anxious to achieve quick success.

When "soft strength" really spills out to become the natural sprinkle of the vitality of the Chinese nation, the natural expression of the charm of Chinese culture, and the natural radiation China possesses when its economy and society develop to a certain stage, then China's "soft strength" will be real strength.

This article, written by Wang Xiaohui, deputy editor-in-chief of the China News Service, is published on the front page of People's Daily Overseas Edition October 10 and translated by People's Daily Online

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