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Yan Zhaozhu: Strengthening Cultural Soft Power Interaction Promoting World Peace and Development


Keynote Speech at the Third Annual Conference
of Taihu World Cultural Forum
Yan Zhaozhu
President of Taihu World Cultural Forum
Former Director of the Cultural Research Bureau,
Policy Research Office of the CPC Central Committee

Distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen,

I am here on behalf of World Cultural Forum, sincerely extending our cordial welcome to all the distinguished guests home and abroad, expressing our heartfelt thanks to all the well-known experts and friends from all walks of life, government agencies, cultural and academic societies, enterprises and public institutions which have offered generous support for this annual conference.

As we all know, after 30 years of the adoption of open and reform policy, the peaceful development of China, featuring as the nearly 10 percent annual GDP growth rate and the becoming of world second-largest economy in 2010, has created the remarkable China Speed and China opportunities. China’s development has constantly improved the living standards of 1.3 billion Chinese people whose income per-capita has risen nearly 80 times from 76 dollar in 1978 to 6076 dollar in 2012. In last 30 years, about 620 million Chinese people has been lifted out of poverty, which has been regarded as the most important achievement of the poverty reduction goal in UN Millennium Development Goals. The countries of the world have shared the bonus of the peaceful development with China. In 2013,the contribution of China‘s economic development accounted for more than 50 percents of world economic growth, which far outweighs the account of China's GDP in world’s overall output.

What is the mystery of “the China miracle”? What kind of consequences will an increasingly powerful China bring to the world, blessing or disaster?  How will China make use of her ever growing national strength? What kind of world does China expect to have? In my opinion, Culture is the key to solve the mystery of China.

1.Understanding China’s peaceful development and her future direction from the perspective of culture.

Culture is the soul of one nation. The behavior pattern of one nation is rooted in its culture. Since the ancient times, China has been advocating a spirit of accepting advices from other people and generosity. China admires and learns from the merits and advantages of other nations and embraces and follows the truth and knowledge of other nations. Meanwhile ,China has constantly scoffed at the ideas of blind imitation and the copying of coping’s sake. China has always been adhering to seek truth from facts, self-improvement as well as search for new road. Buddhism originated from India and flourished in China. However, Buddhism in China has been localized with the integration of the thoughts of Confucianism and Taoism, especially the emergence of the new genres as Zen Buddhism which has deeply affected the ideology and culture of the East Asian countries and their religions. The cultural tradition of toleration, learning and innovation is vigorous and fruitful. Marxism and socialism came from Europe. But been studied by the pioneer of the Chinese revolution, they proceed from reality after arduous exploration and sacrifice, and chose a revolutionary road based on “rural areas encircle the cities” which was different from Russia. Thus, success was achieved and the new China was established as well. After the adoption of open and reform policy, China combined the socialist system and the market economy which has created a new road for modernization. This is unprecedented indeed in the world.

Chinese culture preaches “peace is most precious”, values the trustworthiness and harmonious relations with others and cherishes the benevolence and good-neighborliness. More than 600 years ago, Zheng He, leading the most powerful fleet in the world, sailed seven times to the western sea; however, the aim of his voyage was not to robbed jewelry land but to seek friendship and good neighborliness, to conduct cultural exchange and promote trade of mutual benefit. In the modern times, China has severely suffered from the invasion and bullies from foreign powers, and formed a deep awareness of the value of national sovereignty, national dignity and world peace. China has been able to gain brilliant achievement since the reform and opening is just because of keeping up with the trend of the world and adhering to the path of peaceful development. In the 1980’s, when the cold war is not over, China was the first country in the world to suggest that the theme of the world was peaceful development, and China promoted the peaceful development trend with their own actions. After entering this century, facing all sorts of domestic and foreign difficulties, obstacles and challenges, China clearly put forward unswervingly adhere to the road of peaceful development. China sticks to the peaceful development which aims at safeguarding the peace of world and promoting common development in a more effective way. Facts speak louder than words. Despite some turbulent situations in the world, the last 30 years of China’s economic take off is also a golden period of peace, security and common prosperity that all Asian nations share. The sleeping China lion has already wake up, and it is not the frightening king of the beasts but the mascot for friends around the world. Chinese people are now striving for fulfilling the China dream which is the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation. The China dream is in complete harmony with world dream of peace and pursuit of development that people in other countries share. The rejuvenation of Chinese nation will definitely make greater contribution to the development and peace in the world. 

2. China peaceful development needs to strengthen the interaction of cultural soft power.

First, the strengthening of the interaction of cultural soft power is immediate need and long term guarantee of the relationship of good neighborliness, friendship, cooperation and win-win situation between China and other countries in the world.

Now all countries in the world are strengthening the construction of comprehensive national strength, especially the comprehensive national strength of a group of developing countries has improved significantly. However, the traditional thinking regarded the comprehensive national strength competition as a zero-sum game, and it also regarded the soft power interaction as a new battle irreconcilable. Actually, there is more cooperation than competition in the construction of the comprehensive national strength. And the core of the soft power is culture. Thus, the cultural soft power is cultural affinity, attraction, and it is realized through cultural exchanges and is confirmed by understanding, recognition and appreciation. Therefore, the interaction of cultural soft power is beneficial to promote mutual understanding and trust between different countries, and lay the ideological, cultural and psychological foundation for the friendly cooperation between various countries.

People of all countries are in favor of strengthening the use and cooperation of cultural soft power, since culture exchange spreads and shares the achievements of civilizations of different nations, satiates spiritual needs, lifts the spiritual realm, promotes mutual understanding, connects each other’s heart and develops friendship among different countries and nations. It is conducive to stability and promotes the international political and economic cooperation. When some interest adjustment and opinion division emerges, the culture exchange will encourage countries involved to adopt long term perspectives, consult with each other on the basis of equality, properly handle the differences and seek mutual benefits and cooperation. The more complex and changeable international configuration becomes, the more importance we should attach to the communication between the Chinese and foreign people. We should carry out the ideas of Chinese nation such that “harmonious is the most precious” and “harmonious in diversity”throughout the political and economic cooperation between China and other countries in the world so as to achieve a win-win result.

Second , strengthen the interaction of cultural soft power is the important channel and effective support of the formation of Sino-US new type of major countries relationship and the promotion of peace and development in the world.

In recent years, some people argue about the “Thucydides's trap” which considers that the conflicts between the rapid rising power and established power are inevitable and worries that the rapid developing China and the current Superpower United States will also be entrenched in this type of historic fatal tragedy.

As proved in the history that China never seeks invasion and expansion and never pursues a hegemonic position even when the national strength was strong. China firmly believes that as long as countries adhere to the principles of mutual respect and win-win cooperation, countries of different social institutions and economic developmental phases can completely share peace and common development. In fact, China and the US is becoming each other’s most important trading partner. China has been the fastest growing export market for the US in past 10 years and is the second largest trading partner of the US and the third largest export market as well as the largest source of imports. China and the US enjoy the enormous potentiality to cooperate and the common interests of both countries far outweigh the difference, and both countries will benefit from peaceful coexistence and lose from conflicts. The consensus of building Sino-US New Type of Major Countries Relationship achieved by President Xi Jinping and President Obama in Sunnyland last year is to explore a new path that major powers develop a relationship of no confrontation, no conflict, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

Amity of people holds the key to sound relations between states. Similar to the life giving spring breeze which silently lubricates all nature, culture exchange is the most effective means to connect people’s hearts. Efforts should be made through culture exchange to strengthen the interaction of the cultural soft power between China and the United States, and to let the building of Sino-US new type of major countries relationship become the common will of the people of the two countries. Despite the difference of historical and cultural background between China and the US, both countries’ culture features the prominent toleration. Wide hearts embrace all. It conforms to the fundamental interests of Chinese people and American people to enhance understanding in mutual tolerance, to learn from others' strong points to offset one's weakness in mutual attraction, and to seek win-win cooperation in the mutual trust. As long as the people in two countries are willing to work together, this will generate the power and intelligence to remove any obstacles, build and develop the Sino-US new type of major countries relation.

3. Strengthening the Chinese and foreign cultural soft power and promoting the development of the community of human destiny.

The world is undergoing profound changes. Global challenges such as climate change is increasingly serious, and no country is immune from it. The economic globalization is gradually deepening, and the informatization and networking are making astounding advances. Thus, the interests of the countries all over the world have been connected together unprecedented and the contact between them has been ever closer. Mankind has never shared so much hardship as it is today, and has gradually become a common destiny which is interdependent. We can no longer walk on the old way which merely a few countries looked after their own security and prosperity by sacrificing the interests of most states. The international community should start from reality and ideals of the human destiny community, and broadening the historical horizons and the spiritual space, for letting the ideology and culture follow the times. To abandon all sorts of old traditional thinking and strengthen the cultural communication, for promoting countries in the world to learn from each other, mutual support and improvement in the interaction of cultural soft power, as well as promoting lasting peace and common development of the world.

A large gap exists between developing countries and developed countries in mastering of international voice, culture communication ability and experience should be seen. The mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual trust are far from enough between various countries, civilizations and cultures. Especially, discrimination and double standards still exist in the traditional thinking for the cultures of the developing countries. For instance, the splendid culture created by Chinese nation during its 5000 years history has laid the most profound foundation for China’s cultural soft power. However, today’s international community, especially western societies still holds much estrangement, misunderstanding and stereotype to Chinese culture whether it is ancient, modern or contemporary times. In the meantime, we are also lack of detailed knowledge and deep comprehension of many aspects of the respectable merits of other countries’ culture and contemporary experience in the development of cultural undertakings and culture industry that is worth of learning and borrowing from. This situation should be changed.

The development of the community of human destiny is both challenge and opportunity. For example, the international community had reached a consensus to respect the cultural diversity. But we talked about it much more than putting it into practice. However, without respect for cultural diversity, there is no real cultural exchanges and no veritable interaction of cultural soft power. Now, the development of the community of human destiny provides a rare historical opportunity. We should seize the opportunity for turning the international consensus of respecting the cultural diversity into consciously practice of the international community.

We expect that the annual conference this year can make solid progress in reinforcing the cultural exchange between China and the world , enabling the world to achieve a better understanding of China and China better understanding of the world. We expect that through the interaction of Chinese and foreign cultural soft power,  the strengthening of the construction of cultural soft power and interaction can be promoted, as well as promoting the mutual respect and toleration, mutual learning and attraction so as to shape the mood of times which embodies equal treatment, seeking common grounds while reserving difference, learning from others' strong points to offset one's weakness and common progress. This is not only conducive to the peace and development in the world but also a blessing to people of all countries in the world and our future generation.

I wish this annual conference a complete success and wish all of you a pleasant stay in Shanghai, the city of oriental pearl.

Thank you!