Culture to lead tough reforms

By Xu Yan Source:Global Times Published: 2011-10-17 2:50:00

Top Chinese officials are convening to ponder ways of enriching cultural values, in another bid to drive the nation's reforms further and deeper.

The four-day Sixth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee of the CPC, which opened Saturday, is the first plenary session focusing on culture since 1996. The plenum is likely to pass a resolution laying out a roadmap for building "a culturally strong country under socialism with Chinese characteristics."

While some speculated that culture was merely a convenient topic all participants could agree on, observers said the issue did come under serious discussion.

"The traditionally 'soft' subject poses 'hard' challenges the country must face up to, and is even more pressing than the looming risk of a spillover from the European debt crisis," Zhang Yiwu, professor and deputy director of the Cultural Resources Research Center of Peking University, told the Global Times.

Zhang said the leaders are keen to grasp the urgency of tackling the cultural and spiritual dilemma that parallels the economic boom. "Cultural reform is essential, as China seeks to gain cultural recognition internationally and maintain social cohesion at home," he said, noting the Internet has brought added complexities in addressing the dilemma.

"As the nation's other reforms are encountering bottlenecks, cultural reforms could be the place to make breakthroughs," Hu Xingdou, professor of economics and China issues at the Beijing Institute of Technology, told the Global Times, saying they can blaze a trail to "deep-zone" reforms by filling the spiritual vacuum left by the rush to get rich and invigorating the relatively young cultural industry.

Trial programs of the reforms have been initiated in recent years, and will expand and aim to turn State-funded media, book publishing and other cultural institutions into market-oriented ones. Massive campaigns, such as the morality drive against the "three vulgarities" last year, have also been launched to boost social values.

Several top officials have spoken publicly about the urgency of deepening cultural reforms, including General Secretary of the CPC Hu Jintao in his speech marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Party.

State-owned media outlets have recently published articles calling for bolder reform efforts in culture. A long opinion piece in People's Daily Saturday stressed the importance, quoting Friedrich Engels' (1820-1895) line that each step forward in culture was a step toward freedom.

A 3,000-word front page article carried in the paper four days earlier heaped praise upon Chongqing's red culture campaign, hailing the municipality for reviving mainstream culture and being a "rising highland" of cultural reconstruction. The campaign was previously lambasted by a few activists as harking back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).

In implementation, Professor Hu believed it crucial to properly address the relationship between mainstream ideology, traditional and Western cultures before a well-grounded cultural order of the day could be established.

Analysts said the cultural reforms would be effective in boosting soft power and national morale, but for them to go further and deeper, more work would have to be done to win broad support at the grass-roots level.

Wang Gungwu, chairman of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore and former vice chancellor of University of Hong Kong, said to the Global Times, "The government is wise to encourage people to talk about such issues as morality, but the effects of the campaigns ultimately depend on the people." 

"Culture is powerful only when it touches people's hearts," Professor Hu also said.


Posted in: Politics, China Watch

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