Suggestions for making Chinese culture more accessible
As the situations, public opinions and discoursal conditions in different countries across the world become more nuanced in the current conditions, the mission of helping Chinese cultures "go out" will entail new, unforeseeable risks and challenges.
Successfully managing these risks, in light of Chinese wisdom, calls for a rational global deployment of resources in a planned manner, step by step, with special attention to distinct national conditions. Premium should also be placed on the long term, with promotional effort committed to some region as a holistic whole.
Needless to say, the means of expression should be acclimatized and adapted to a distinct region or audience, with a view to achieving harmonious development.
Specifically, this strategy should proceed along the following lines.
First, Chinese cultural resources should target specific areas with more precision. As a responsible major power, China has demonstrated remarkable sincerity in sharing its experience and achievement with the rest of the world.
Nevertheless, since ours is still a developing country, this strategy should be pursued in a more orderly manner of proper prioritization, so that the sharing is effected intensively, rather than extensively, with special emphasis on pivotal areas, thus achieving greater efficiency in the results.
To make this happen, there arises the need for scientific deployment of the limited resources in view of target areas and means, so as to arrive at a more differentiated propagation approach.
Hopefully, there might be a cultural "going out" strategy that is at once pragmatic and aligning with China's national strength, that is long-term where efficacy and quality can be guaranteed.
Second, the cultural going out should aim at achieving self-sufficiency and self-development. Since the funding problem remains a crippling issue for overseas Chinese language education and sustainable Chinese culture propagation, there is the urgency for providing the means rather than merely the resources, so that this enterprise could be sustained further on by exploiting indigenous cultural resources.
Tapping into local resources is key to the success of this strategy.
There are instances of some culturally underdeveloped regions which, given their relatively weak capacity for cultural regeneration, rely heavily on China for cultural input, with the efficacy of the propagation somewhat compromised.
Ideally, there should emerge a funding mechanism which is, under the guidance of the government, dominated by domestic and overseas private capital, and supported by revenue accruing from operation of the mainstream cultural propagation endeavor.
Thirdly, as far as the content is concerned, the Chinese language course-books and relevant cultural material should be timely updated to keep abreast of the time.
Today, as the course-books and reading material fail to be updated in time, there is a conspicuous lack of new concepts, paradigms and expressions that could more effectively reach the overseas audience.
Meanwhile, explanations of some distinctly Chinese theoretical concepts fail to be supported by distinctly Chinese theoretical framework or discourses. Hence the importance of compilation of course-books with heightened political awareness, sharpened global perspective, and greater efficiency, so that these textbooks and materials would be more in sync with Chinese developments.
Fourth, there should be greater emphasis on coordinating the protection of the Chinese and foreign national languages. In the case of Chinese culture "going out," this might result in an immediate encounter between the Chinese language and myriad other foreign national languages.
Thus, in order to create an environment where the Chinese language can coexist with other national languages in common prosperity, effort should be made for protective development and utilization of the national languages in question. This effort should be informed by Chinese theories and practice in protecting and passing on of cultural resources in indigenous languages.
Given a heightened awareness of the multiple value of all national languages, it is imperative to build a global language and cultural databank beyond spatio-temporal constraints, national borders, and regional cultural restrictions.
Sun Yixue is professor of Tongji University and Center for Sino-German People-to-People Dialogue at the university.