Links within blockquotes added during translation.
Huang Jianjun (黄建军) is assistant professor at Wuhan University’s Politics and Public Administration faculty. You’d better note his name, because the man has just written a path-breaking article about soft power. Provided that Beijing Normal University’s School of Marxism (School of Political Science and International Studies) notice of June 20 means a thing, that is:
On June 19, “Guangming Daily” (theory edition) published an essay by our post-doctoral researcher, assistant professor Huang Jianjun – “Ways to Raise National Cultural Soft Power” – which has led to rather many reactions. CCP News Net, People’s Daily Net, Guangming Net, China Social Science Net, Qiu Shi Theory Net, Xinhua Net, rmlt.com.cn, cnci.gov.cn, qiyedangjian.com1), Guangdong News, ccmedu.com2), i. e. some ten important academic websites swiftly republished the complete text. The author points out that the vigorous enhancement of national cultural soft power requires continuous improvement of our country’s international cultural competitiveness and clout, with strategic consciousness, global vision, innovative minds, growing development of cultural productivity, efforts extended to the strengthening of cultural cohesion, and active improvement of cultural dissemination. This academic point of view received widespread attention and approval from academic peers. This is another masterpiece, following [Huang's] “Building Strong Fortifications from the Party’s Grassroot Organizations” and “Effective Ways of Actively Exploring and Building Learning Party Organizations”, published by Guangming Daily’s theory edition on December 21, 2010 and November 21, 2011, respectively. [...]
Guangming Daily‘s publication of Huang Jianjun’s complete essay can be found here (a total of three online pages, republished by People’s Daily Net). It comes across as a somewhat stronger, but by no mean systematic (let alone “strategic”) emphasis on technical means of disseminating soft power – a mere enumeration of “the internet”, “broadband”, gadgets, digital television, and what have you, plus the pathbreaking statement that
the system of socialist core values are the core values of national cultural soft power (社会主义核心价值体系是国家文化软实力的核心).
That’s sort of innovative, because the 17th Central Committee’s 6th Plenary Session’s “cultural decision” itself stated it somewhat differently in October 2011:
Socialist core values are the spirit [or soul] of the country’s rejuvenation, the essence of advanced socialist culture, and determine the direction of socialism with Chinese characteristics’ development (社会主义核心价值体系是兴国之魂，是社会主义先进文化的精髓，决定着中国特色社会主义发展方向).
Or, when it comes to the cohesive power of culture:
A nation, a country, if without its own distinctive culture, is soulless, will lose its cohesion and vitality. Culture is an important source for a nation’s vitality3), its cohesive strength, and its creativity, having the function of guiding society, educating the people, and binding communities together.
Cohesion, on the other hand, has been a rather universal criterion for soft power. There seems to be agreement among – comparatively – liberal and strictly party-line researchers (and, not least, Bo Xilai‘s old or former fans) that soft power doesn’t only matter abroad, but at home, too. Obviously, it found its way into the press, too – by natural workings of public opinion, or under the guidance of the CCP propaganda department. A Huanqiu Shibao article in March which appeared to reflect editor-in-chief Hu Xijin‘s views told the paper’s (widely nationalist and frequently angry) readership that
every one of us has the right to encourage this country, and at the same time, every one of us is a determinant in China’s cohesive power.
The 17th Central Commission’s 6th Plenary Session’s decision had made cohesion a topic, too, and may have influenced all the articles mentioned above.
It sure influenced Huang. His essay, as rendered above by People’s Daily’s online edition anyway, basically comes across as a re-hash of the central-committee decision itself, and the introduction, either by Huang himself or by People’s Daily’s editors, Zhu Shuyuan (朱书缘) and Gao Wei (高巍), states that
the enhancement of national cultural power is the Party’s 17th Central Committee’s 6th Plenary Session’s profound summary of our national cultural reform and development’s abundant practice and valuable experience, a strategic task on the foundations of scientific analysis of new trends and tasks, but also an important measure to build a strong country of socialist culture.
The rest of the intro is the same wording as the Beijing Normal University’s School of Marxism (School of Political Science and International Studies) notice of June 20 (see first blockquote within this post – I’m repeating myself here):
the vigorous enhancement of national cultural soft power requires continuous improvement of our country’s international cultural competitiveness and clout, with strategic consciousness, global vision, innovative minds, growing development of cultural productivity, efforts extended to the strengthening of cultural cohesion, and active improvement of cultural dissemination.
If the praise for and dissemination of Huang’s essay – as reflected by People’s Daily – is indicative of the current discussion, and the CCP’s role in it, it seems to be degenerating into mere rituals of submission to the partyline, rather than still being a serious – let alone fashionable – topic among Chinese academics. Soft power may actually be on the backburner, for now.
1) a website guiding the work of party cells within companies
2) Ministry of Culture website
3) Vitality didn’t seem to matter in the Central Committee’s “cultural decision”, but apparently emerged more recently – possibly in Zhou Yongkang‘s speech at University of Political Science and Law on May 9, or in an article published by the Huanqiu Shibao‘s article on Yu Jie on January 20 this year, written by Shan Renping.