On Cultural Branding Transformations in China-West Realm

Regarding the formation of a cultural brand with Chinese characteristics, three issues are mainly involved: 1. The important role of culture in international competition, especially its practical significance. 2. The various efforts and achievements China has made in the process of cultural “going out” over the years, and analyzing the reasons why Chinese culture cannot successfully “go out”. 3. How to build a cultural brand with Chinese characteristics? We will cite a few cases to illustrate this problem.

1. What important role does culture play in international competition?

We know that culture, like economy and politics, is an important dimension for participating in international competition. The prosperity of a country is not only economic prosperity, but also politically, such as the soundness of the political system. At the same time, it must also have a high degree of culture. The richness of this helps Chinese build their international image and actively participate in international competition. Moreover, Chinese civilization is different from other civilizations in the world. It is a civilization of this kind that has not been interrupted in the world. This requires us to “return to the original and create new” and participate in international competition on the basis of Chinese traditional culture. Because Chinese emphasize that they must construct a Chinese cultural image with “new Chineseness”.

Why build an international cultural image? Precisely because, after the “Westernization” trend of thought in the 1980s, the contemporary Chinese culture was once “de-sinicized”. In the 1990s, after the rise of neo-conservatism, China began to emphasize retrieving its own cultural identity. In this way, the construction of contemporary China’s international “cultural image” has gone through a process from “de-sinicization” to “re-sinicization”.

In the new century, people just want to construct a Chinese cultural image with a “new Chinese character” to participate in international competition and to gain a foothold among the nations of the world. This requires that they pay great attention to the importance of culture, focusing on the interactive role of culture in promoting economic and political development.

We can compare like this: The United States has only a culture of more than 300 years, but now it has formed a cultural influence in the world. Why? In 2005, there was a book called “Cultural Giants-Contemporary American Cultural Industry Research”, which explored such a problem. Why did the United States, a civilization with a very young culture, create a cultural industry model that gains global influence? In that book, the author analyzed five reasons: first, “free economy and the operation of transnational capital”, second, “opening strategy and political power operation”, and third, “electronic age and the spread of global media” , Fourth, “value integration and output of cultural capital”, and fifth, “discourse influence and multi-ethnic identity.”

The globalization of American culture has given Chinese culture its very due position in the international arena, and it has given us many important enlightenments. “Stones from other mountains” will give Chinese some reference. How does Chinese culture “go out”?

We know that this requires two paths: one is “cultural export” and the other is “cultural industry”. “Cultural export” and “cultural industry” are precisely a result of the formation of culture, economy, and politics. “Cultural export” can be said to be a direct promotion of culture by politics, while “cultural industry” is an integration of economy into culture. Contemporary China wants to establish its “Chinese cultural image”, especially to establish such a good image in the world. China must carry out “cultural export” as well as the construction of “cultural industry”.

How to integrate Chinese culture into the international arena? We can take at least three steps. These three steps can be said to show how cultural exchanges are formed. How do cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries interact?  It can be divided into three levels, that is, from “comparative culture”, to “cross-cultural”, to “interculturality”.

What is “comparative culture”? “Comparative culture” is like two parallel lines, which is to compare Chinese and foreign cultures. We seek the “differences in the sameness” and “sameness in the differences” between cultures. “Cross-cultural” is like a bridge connecting two or more different cultures. If “comparative culture” does not emphasize intersection, “intercultural” just emphasizes communication. However, “cross-cultural” is not enough. After cultural communication, interactions between different cultures are needed. This must enter the highest level, which is an interaction of “interculturality”. The interaction of “interculturality” especially emphasizes the mutual integration between cultures.

In short, from “comparative culture”, from “to cross-cultural”, to “interculturality”, they represent three different important tasks of cultural exchange. In the stage of “comparative culture”, the important thing is “differentiation”, that is, there is a difference between cultures. In the “intercultural” stage, the important thing is “interaction”, that is, the interaction between cultures. The highest “interculturality” transition stage, the most important is “integration”. From “comparison”, “leapfrogging”, and then to “intersexuality”, in this way, following these three steps, Chinese culture can be very well integrated into the pattern of world culture.

2. The problems encountered by Chinese culture going global and the achievements it has achieved

Everyone is very concerned about this topic. That’s why Chinese culture can’t successfully “go out” and spread globally like European and American culture? We know that cultural “going out” is still carried out in the form of political output, rather than based on economics. Therefore, why do we emphasize that while politically promoting, we must continue to promote “cultural industry” and “cultural creativity” Industry” development.

In recent years, the “going global” of Chinese culture can be said to have made very important achievements, but it has also faced many experiences and lessons. First of all, we have to explore, why can’t Chinese culture go out? I think there are three main reasons:

First, in the world cultural pattern, China from time to time describes “European and American centrism” as absolutely dominant. Although this global “cultural pattern” is being challenged, its inertia still may exist.

We know that European culture is home to ancient Greek culture. Since then, it has emphasized “rational centralism”, which is a kind of “logocentrism”. The West speaks of “Logos” and China speaks of “Logos”.  This kind of “male centrism” and “European centrism” is the regional “Western centrism”, which has continued to the present, and this has always been a dominant trend of thought.

However, with the gradual development of China’s economy, China has become the second largest economy in the world, and accordingly it has put forward higher requirements on Chinese culture. This change in the world structure is different from the Russia-Soviet competition for hegemony in the Cold War era. It is a new state of “harmony without difference” in the coexistence of multiculturalism under multiple conditions. We can call this state “multiple symbiosis”. The rise of Chinese culture does face an important challenge from European and American centrism. This requires Chinese culture to “challenge” this, so that the world stage is filled with the voice of Chinese culture.

Second, the language problem has brought about a cultural barrier.

We know that Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, but English has become the mainstream “world language” in the world today. Here, language barriers have also made the export of Chinese culture quite difficult. Take academics as an example. The current situation is that European and American academics occupy global hegemony. Although Chinese academics have just emerged on a global scale, they are still stuck in a “center and edge” structure. This kind of “equal difference structure” with Europe and the United States as the center and non-European and American worlds at the edge determines that the center does not need to see the edge, but the edge always looks at the center.

For example, Sinology. Sinology is still a marginal subject among Western studies. Sinologists have formed a situation where they were very deserted when they were abroad, but they are very lively in China. In fact, the reason is very simple, because people are studying you, your sinology is not the core knowledge of European and American studies, but as a marginal cultural existence, it always looks at the center. Just like for more than 150 years, Chinese have always been “looking out” and subconsciously taking the center as the standard. Therefore, many “culture-based people” call for the time to abandon the West.

In Sinology, whether it is “translating from foreign to Chinese”, translating foreign documents into Chinese, or “translating from Chinese to foreign”, which focuses on secondary schools, is the translation of Chinese classical and modern documents into foreign languages. The huge trade deficit means that we have to translate far more foreign things than Chinese things.

Third, if China’s value and local value are to be globalized, it will take time.

We know that there is always a saying in Chinese cultural circles today that “the east wind should overwhelm the west wind”. In fact, this statement itself is once you have overwhelmed me, I will overwhelm you in the future! In fact, Chinese believe they should use a harmonious but different discourse to describe this relationship. Even if the East and West have truly formed an evenly matched relationship, it will take time.

The true globalization of Eastern culture, as represented by China, will probably take hundreds of years. However, now we have reached an era of “the East is both white”. Mr. Ji Xianlin once had a famous saying called “Thirty Years in Hedong, Thirty Years in Hexi”. He once made such a thesis. He believed that the Western tradition, he said, was the “analytic tradition” that had come to an end. In another thirty years, the “comprehensive” tradition of the East would be the leader. However, regardless of whether this comparison between the East and the West is reasonable, it is said that the West is analytic and China is comprehensive. In fact, this historical cycle must be longer. It will take at least one year of Jiazi, sixty years before China can obtain its due “right to speak” internationally and from the West. Now is an era in which everyone will work together.

But there is another aspect of the problem. Can we completely abandon the West and talk about it? We know that in the 1980s, the Chinese cultural circle was “Westernized”. From the 1990s, conservatism and cultural standardism began to regain momentum, thus forming a more mixed historical situation. We have indeed gone through the so-called “western learning to the east” process for more than 150 years. Some people say that the entire Western culture is now frustrated in China, but this is just a superficial judgment. In fact, Chinese culture and Chinese academics for more than a hundred years , are based on the integration of Chinese and Western cultures, that is, we are always between China and the West.

If Chinese culture wants to “return to the original”, it just wants to absorb foreign countries and build on the local. In the past, Zhang Zhidong talked about “Chinese learning for application”, “Chinese learning for application, and western learning for application”. Mr. Li Zehou said that Chinese should “use in Western style”, that is, the culture of our artifacts and institutional culture are largely from the West, but the spiritual culture of China can still be local. In these two aspects, in terms of “body” and “use”, Chinese can achieve better integration.

In the past, Chinese used to say that only the nation is the world. This sentence is not necessarily true. In many cases, the more the nation is, the more difficult it is to globalize. The nation that is to be included in the global perspective. Sex is the nationality of the world and the nationality of globalization.

3. How to build a Chinese cultural brand

How to build a Chinese cultural brand is also a very important practical issue. We know that the core of Chinese traditional culture is Confucian culture. Of course, on the basis of Confucian culture, we have more Taoism and Buddhism. China has a variety of cultures. China also has Central Plains and border culture. Chinese culture is actually a very complex structure of “multiple symbiosis”, but today we only talk about Confucian culture. How can China build a brand of Chinese Confucian culture internationally? Because Confucianism is the core of Chinese thought, we say that the East Asian cultural circle is also based on Confucian culture. This involves the question of how Confucianism is globalized.

At present, the Chinese ideological and cultural circles are debating whether Confucianism can return to the core of politics and religion. In fact, our “political Confucianism” has become very popular, and everyone has different opinions. But we can at least give two types of judgments of fact and value.

First of all, in fact Confucianism has not yet returned to the center of politics and religion. Although Confucianism has made efforts to return to value, facts and values ​​are two different things. This is a judgment.

The second judgment that can be given is that Confucianism can certainly become the dominant Chinese culture. From the Han Dynasty’s dominance of Confucianism to the late Qing Dynasty, its overall dominance is basically the same. Even if Confucianism is the dominant one, we still have to ask, what is the important relationship between this “orthodox,” “political,” and “learning”? In fact, one of the more important traditions of Confucianism is the tradition of “life theory”, which is the tradition of returning to the “daily life” of the people. The reason why Confucianism has not broken is because its various principles and ideas have been impregnated into the lives of the Chinese people today. In fact, we just want to restore this Confucian “life theory” tradition, not the “political theory” tradition.

Third, the last judgment is that even if Confucianism is to become unified, this unification is not “great unification.” For example, in traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism and Taoism complement each other. Confucianism and Taoism often form an internal and external structure. Confucianism emphasizes active entry into the world, and Taoism emphasizes negative emergence. At the same time, we have also absorbed many elements of Buddhism and Chan, and combined wisdom such as ink and method. This is the completeness of Chinese culture. Healthy pedigree, that Chinese export to the world is precisely such a pedigree.

At present, what role does Confucianism play in global cultural values? In other words, which Confucian cultural principles can be globalized in global discourse? Let’s see, there are at least the following:

First, the principle of “do not do to others what you do not want to do”. This principle is called the “Golden Rule of Morality”, and it is a part of Confucianism that is particularly connected to other religious cultures in the world.

Second, the principle of coexistence between cultures of “harmonious but different”, according to the opposite of this principle-“the same will not continue”, there must be differences between different cultures, and they form a whole “and”.

Third, the internal “benevolent governance” and external “kingdom” that Confucian culture talks about also constitute Chinese-style nationalism.

This involves a very important issue, that is, how to construct a Chinese-style, sinicized cultural nationalism, that is, the issue of our Chinese cultural nationalism. If China’s cultural nationalism is to be integrated into the cosmopolitan pattern, how can Chinese integrate into the pattern of the world without losing our national characteristics?

“External temperance” is expressed as the “degree” of moderate integration into cosmopolitanism. In fact, there is no nationalism that is fully integrated into cosmopolitanism, but a kind of “moderate nationalism” is a kind of nationalism that does not reject cosmopolitanism. It is a new form of trying to integrate into the global system and do what the nation should do, thereby integrating into the pattern of world culture. This is “external restraint.”

“Internal restraint” is also manifested in its grasping and moderately converging the “degree” of nationality, manifested in the nationalism restricted by “people’s livelihood” and “civil rights”. If there is no “people’s livelihood” as the foundation, nationalism will often sacrifice the “people’s livelihood”, such as consuming the economy for unnecessary wars; if there is no “civil rights” as the foundation, nationalism will often harm democracy.

Chinese implement “rule of benevolent government” internally, and “rule of benevolent government” externally. The so-called “benevolent government” is not harsh governance, and the so-called “kingdom” is not hegemony. This is precisely a very solid path for Chinese culture in the future.

In this way, it returns to a very important issue, that is, if Chinese culture is to be globalized, the very important issue is how to carry out cultural “self-innovation”. In fact, the key point of the problem lies in “cultural creation”. If you remember, Mr. Lu Xun asked in 1934: Have the Chinese lost their confidence? Today we obviously have no lack of self-confidence, but to a large extent, we have lost the ability to innovate and the ability to create. We have to ask, has Chinese culture lost its “creativity”? We know that the success of European and American culture lies in its continuous innovation consciousness. In fact, a culture without creativity can only become a repeater of our “own culture” or a simple imitator of “foreign culture”. Just like mobile phone culture, many of us are imitations of foreign brands, but now things have changed.

How to realize the creation of Chinese culture? This is the core of the problem. We know that Mr. Lin Yusheng once raised the issue of “creative transformation”. Mr. Li Zehou reversed his words and called it “transformative creation”. Lin Yusheng focused on transformation, while Li Zehou focused on creation. In fact, Chinese are pursuing that they do not use existing Western models as our targets for imitating pursuit and transformation, but to create a new paradigm and new model based on China’s own history and China’s current status quo. Therefore, this “creative transformation” and “transformation creation” have become very important. To put it simply, there is transformation only when there is creation, and only when transformation is successful is creation.

As long as Chinese culture has this kind of self-creation and this kind of creativity, it culture is a kind of “self-creation”. This makes China put forward a very high requirement for the innovation and creativity of today’s Chinese culture. Only through creation can people continue to form a leading trend among the world’s forests, and Chinese culture will usher in its own very glorious future in the future.

Finally, to summarize. How does Chinese culture build its cultural brand in the world today? How does Chinese culture participate in the historical process of globalization? How can Chinese culture gain a foothold among the nations of the world with a new look?  Here, as a very important dimension, culture has indeed participated in the reconstruction of the new identity of the Chinese nation. In this sense, we can actually take the two-legged road of “cultural export” and “cultural industry”. On the one hand, China will focus on the promotion of culture by politics, and on the other hand, also on the integration of economy into culture.

A core aspect is how to rediscover the creativity of Chinese culture. Based on this creation, we can construct a cultural brand or cultural form with “new Chineseness”. The construction of this kind of cultural brand is neither isolated from the world, but often participating in the global pattern. This kind of culture can be recognized, and understood by the cultures of the world. At the same time, it also expresses the characteristics and features of Chinese culture itself. How they create a Chinese cultural form that is both global and local will be a very important task for Chinese now.

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