China shifts tactics to manage middle class
Government hopes Chinese culture can edge out growing western influences.
In the past week, China has made headlines as the government announces its plans for the year to come. A major component of those plans is a strong emphasis on Chinese cultural production to counteract Western influences.
An expression of Chinese soft power, via the arts -- which the government hopes will edge out competing western influences.
The shift in tactics is important. As China's economy booms and a new middle class flowers, soft power becomes increasingly important as a means of preserving the primacy of Chinese tradition in the middle class.
Soft power is every bit effective as hard power, and possibly even more so. In the 1980's, the US followed a soft power strategy with the Soviet Union, exporting tastes of American pop culture to the hard-line communist country. The result was widespread discontent what exploded in 1991 causing the downfall of the Soviet government.
Chinese officials, wary of the influx of western culture are concerned that the same thing could happen in China. In addition to western influences, some have even called for a "jasmine revolution" in China, modeled after the Arab spring protests that swept the Middle East last year. The Chinese government wants to counteract these influences by subsidizing and sponsoring Chinese cultural development.
However, as the government prepares to spend money on culture and the arts and to develop new cultural centers throughout the country, critics are voicing concerns. Among the concerns is that the development of cultural industries will drive up property values and lead to a new property boom. While this may seem like a benefit, it could also serve to further heat what some say is an economic bubble in that country. It could also fuel corruption.
Artists and intellectuals have their own concerns, which are not so economic. Many contend that the effort is insincere, and suggest that if the government wants to see cultural development then it should consider easing censorship.
Chinese media is heavily censored, and artists have long complained that the censorship stifles their creativity. Artists also say that simply spending money on culture will not spur meaningful creativity. They content that China could see more art, but the quality of the art will be low.
Still, the Chinese government is very concerned about the growing influence of western culture amongst the rapidly growing and well-organized middle class. Whether or not they can counteract the influx of western culture by replacing it with native offerings, remains to be seen.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: China, culture, western, development, art
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