Scholars share views on public diplomacy

Yang Meiping Zhang Chaoyan
Zhao Qizheng, dean of the School of Journalism at the Renmin University of China, says there are still countries that have a hostile attitude toward China.
Yang Meiping Zhang Chaoyan

Comparative literature is the important backbone of public diplomacy, experts said during a forum at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The university invited three high-profile scholars to share their views on the relationship between public diplomacy and comparative literature.

Zhao Qizheng, dean of the School of Journalism at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, said China has been developing fast in terms of economy and international influence, but there are still countries and people that have doubts about China’s development or even have a hostile attitude toward China when misdirected.

Zhao has initiated the concept of "public diplomacy.”

“The purpose of public diplomacy is to explain China, Chinese culture, Chinese history and Chinese policies to the world and answer what foreigners don't understand,” said Zhao.

He said how to do a good job in public diplomacy is a serious science, and put forward the concept of "China's stance, international expression.”

“We need to overcome cultural barriers and express ourselves in an artistic way, in a way that can be understood internationally,” he said.

Comparative literature can help Chinese express themselves correctly to be internationally understood, he said. A proverb that used to be wrongly translated as “to blaze us a trail of blood,” for instance, is now properly translated as “to open up a new path” due to such studies.

“The study of comparative literature can help us speak in an international manner that makes sense to foreigners,” Zhao said.

Zhao also suggested colleges and universities do a good job in training cross-cultural talent so more young people and intellectuals join the field of public diplomacy, and let the world know about the real China with their words and deeds.

Wang Ning, initiator of the concept of "global humanities,” emphasized the role of people-to-people exchanges in public diplomacy.

He said even when the China-US relations are experiencing tensions, people-to-people exchanges still took place. With efforts by Chinese and American scholars, some American scholars who knew nothing about Chinese literature or culture became interested and called for courses on Chinese literature and culture in the US education system.

Bella, a woman writer living in Canada, proposed the concept of “story diplomacy” and highlighted the importance of humanitarianism.

“Influential Chinese writers, artists and scholars can step onto the international stage by means of cultural communication in their professional fields and tell real China stories to make their voices heard by foreigners,” she said.

She also said the intersection of literature and diplomacy lay in humanitarianism.

“I prefer to stand on the height of cosmopolitanism and deliver real stories to the world as a cultural envoy of ‘story diplomacy.’ To show Chinese humanitarianism is the key value of my literary creation.”

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