Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night: Soft Power Starts at Home

The following are an unofficial paper (本站内容未经许可) by a Soft-Power study group at Beijing University (北京大学软实力课题组), published by Renmin Wang (People’s Daily website) on September 16, 2009).

Links within blockquotes added during translation. Main Link: http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/166866/166886/10068388.html

Translated off the reel, and posted right away – if you see inconsistencies or mistakes in the following post, let me know, and we can take another look at the original.

Low Cultural Development, Lacking Propagation Abroad (文化发展水平低,对外传播不足)

Owing to the low starting point of China’s cultural development, even though it is currently pushed ahead at a faster pace, its attractiveness is still extremely limited.

由于中国文化发展的起点太低,尽管当前推进速度比较快,但是吸引力还是极其有限的。

When it comes to languages, China shows a deficit in its exchange with the West. In 2003, Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer at the time, said that while Britain imported electric household appliances, textiles, and other goods from China, this could be balanced with the English language. The value of English teaching as an export item has risen from 6.5 billion British Pounds to 103  10.3 billion [update: within five years], or about one per cent of Britain’s GDP. As for Britain, it is evident that Chinese language education is hardly worth mentioning. Not only can’t it be compared with its exports of goods, but there is no need to talk about it competing with the Export of British English.

在语言方面,中国和西方的交流处于严重逆差状态。2003年,英国当时的财政大臣布朗来中国时说,英国从中国进口的越来越多的家电、服装和其他东西可以用出口的一样东西来平衡,这就是英语。英语教学作为一项出口项目,它的价值在5年里已经从65亿英镑增加到了103亿英镑,大约占英国GDP的1%。可见,对英国来说,中国的语言教学出口甚至根本就不值一提,不仅无法与产品出口相比较,更谈不上与英国的英语出口相竞争。

As for higher education, the quality of Chinese universities is far behind America’s. There is no Chinese university which makes it into the top ranks of global higher education. Even students from Tsinghua University as an institution of higher learning go to American universities as overseas students, and when American universities make their annual rounds through China to present themselves, they are swarmed with visitors.

在高等教育方面,中国的大学质量远远地落后于美国,没有一所大学能够入围世界顶尖高校之列。由于教育水平落后于人,甚至清华北大这些中国顶级学府的学生,都每年成百上千地赴美留学;而美国大学每年来中国巡展,场场都是门庭若市。

As for academic research, no Chinese national within China has won a Nobel Prize today. As the ministry of education’s social-sciences director Yuan Zhengguo (袁振国) pointed out, every year, nearly 20,000 books on philosophy and social sciences and 200,000 papers are published, but only few of them can be introduced to a foreign readership. For many years, our trade in copyrights has run deficits; and exports in this regard only amount to ten per cent of imports. Besides, the major share of these exports is about copyrights concerning gardening and forestry, architecture (or construction), food, textiles, vintage, etc. Our values, culture, philosophical and social-science ideas, thoughts and concepts are hardly exported at all. Books are mainly exported to some other Asian countries and to the Chinese regions of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, European and American exports outperform China’s by more than 100 to 1. China, the country of origin of a more than 5,000-years-old civilization, only exports television sets, but no thoughts and concepts, and it’s no wonder that people say that China is a “hardware factory”.

在学术研究方面,时至今日,没有一个中国人在国内获得诺贝尔奖。教育部社会科学司副司长袁振国指出,现在全国每年出版哲学社会科学专著近2万部,发表专业论文20万篇,但是能够被介绍到国外的很少。多年来,我们的版权贸易一直存在着巨大的逆差,每年出口的版权只有进口版权的十分之一,而且出口的版权绝大部分是园林、建筑、饮食、服装、古董这些东西,我们的价值观、文化、哲学社会科学理念、思想观念的东西几乎没有出口。出口的图书也主要是到一些亚洲国家和中国的港澳台地区,面对欧美的逆差则达100:1以上。作为一个拥有5000多年文明史的文化发源地,中国只出口电视机,不出口思想观念,难怪有人说,中国是个“硬件加工厂”。

When it comes to the performing arts, the situation isn’t too different. From 1999 to 2002, 285 Russian artistic groups came to China to perform here, but only 30 Chinese groups went to Russia to perform – i. e. about one tenth of the Russian number. Moreover, Chinese performances abroad have long been in the low-price segment. As many performances abroad are controlled by foreign managements, and for the lack of presentable brands [on our part], all China has provided over many years is cheap labor. In sharp contrast, the “Three Tenors”, during their performances in China, made sales of hundreds of thousands of US-dollars; European and American four big musicals1) and the world’s ten big orchestras etc. sell top-price tickets at 5,000 Yuan RMB, and earn huge scales of money. By comparison, China, when it depends on its cultural attractiveness to create economic value, is seriously weakened.

文艺演出也有类似状况。从1999年到2002年,仅俄罗斯就有285个文艺团体到中国演出,同期中国到俄罗斯演出的文艺团体只有30个,相差10倍。而且,中国对外演出长期以来都处于廉价交易的状态。由于很多对外演出都由外国经纪人把持,也由于缺少像样的品牌,中外文化交流开展多年,中国提供的都只是廉价劳动力。与此对比强烈的是,“世界三大男高音”来中国演出的出场费动辄数十万美元,欧美四大音乐剧、世界十大交响乐团等来华演出的最高票价卖到5000元,每次演出都赚了个盆盈钵满。相比之下,中国依靠文化吸引力创造经济价值的能力被严重削弱了。

The soft-culture working group deplores that in the field of movies, in shaping musical idols, etc., China even lags behind South Korea and Japan, and that hardly anyone could name a famous or prominent Chinese writer.

In March 2009, chief state councillor Wen Jiabao emphasized the need to have an animated-cartoon industry (动漫产业) of our own: “Sometimes, I find that my grandson likes cartoons, but if animated or not, it’s always someting by Altman (奥特曼)2).

2009年3月,温家宝总理强调我们应该有自己的动漫产业:“我有时看我孙子喜欢看动画片,但是动不动就是奥特曼。”

[…]

In September 2006, the British Foreign Policy Center released a study with numbers collected from a Chinese national “brands” survey. They came to two conclusions: Firstly, despite the attention China got from other countries, its brands were weak, this country wasn’t understood abroad, and secondly, the views Chinese people held of themselves, and of other nations elsewhere in the world respectively, widely differed from each other.

2006年9月,英国外交政策中心发表了一份研究报告,使用了从中国国家“品牌”调查活动中得到的数据。这次调查得出了两个结论:首先,尽管中国受到各国重视,但其品牌很弱,这个国家不为海外所了解;其次,中国人对自己的看法与世界其他民族对他们的看法有很大差别。

On April 5, 2006, Singapore’s United Morning News (联合早报) wrote in an article titled “China is looking for a new development concept”:
While China grows rapidly in terms of material power, its development of cultural attractiveness or soft power3) hasn’t kept up. (…) A cultural renaissance is an essential condition for turning the dream of a strong country into reality. Without strong cultural power, there will be no great comprehensive national strength. (…) Cultural invigoration is a fundamental [element] in building China’s strategic concept.

2006年4月5日,新加坡《联合早报》的一篇题为《中国寻找新的发展理念》的文章中评论指出:
中国在物质力量高速增长的同时,文化吸引力或者说软力量的建设却没有跟上……文化复兴是实现强国梦的必备条件。没有强大的文化力量,就没有强大的综合国力……文化振兴是中国新战略理念的构建的根基。

In 2007, 中评社4) published an article on the international position of China’s culture, and came to a rather comprehensive assessment:
There is no way to suggest that China’s cultural global influence were great. Compared with America’s culture, China’s, in a global context, is insufficient in many ways. Firstly, it hasn’t become a popular culture within the global society. Secondly, it hasn’t turned into a culture of corresponding influence. And thirdly, it hasn’t turned into a culture that would drive global economic development.

2007年,中评社发表社评文章对中国文化的国际地位做出了比较综合的评价:
中国文化在世界的影响力,绝对不可以说是巨大的。与美国文化相比较,中国文化在世界范畴中许多方面都是不足的。一,没有在国际社会成为一种流行的文化。二,没有形成有相当影响力的文化。三,没有成为推动世界经济发展的一股力量文化。

Lack of Core Values (核心价值观缺失)

During thirty years of reform and opening up, China has been in an era of fastest-developing social transformation, in which society’s traditional value foundations disappeared quickly. At the same time, all kinds of cultures and concepts, good or jumbled, emerged and gradually entered peoples’ lives and minds. By them, people were knowingly or unknowingly influenced. In such a clash between social foundations and new cultures, the absence of core values became evident.

改革开放30年中,我国一直处于变化最快、发展也最快的社会转型时期,传统价值观的社会基础迅速消失;与此同时,各种外来的文化和观念杂乱纷呈,纷纷进入人们的生活和头脑,人们自觉或不自觉地受到了影响。在这种社会基础与新文化的冲击下,核心价值观缺位的问题就出现了。

Beijing University professor Pan Wei believes that lacking core social values are one of the main problems in China’s reality, and that if China wants to rise, this can’t happen without the rebuilding of core values. Humanities and social science associate professor Kuang Xinnian of Tsinghua University also points out that since the 1990s, Chinese social values were lost, that their significance disappeared, and, to use Dong Li’s words, went into a state of nervous breakdown. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ sociologist, playwright, and the “International Social Science Journal’s” Chinese edition’s deputy chief-editor Huang Jisu believes that Chinese society’s polarization had led to social upheaval and the collapse of national virtues.

北京大学教授潘维认为,社会核心价值观缺位是中国现实中最严重的问题之一,中国要崛起,就无法回避重建社会核心价值观。清华大学人文社会科学学院中文系副教授旷新年则指出,上个世纪90年代以来,中国社会价值失落,意义真空,用祝东力先生的话说,处于一种“精神崩溃”的状态。中国社会科学院社会学家、剧作家、《国际社会科学杂志》(中文版)副主编黄纪苏认为,中国社会的两极分化导致了社会震荡和民族道德的崩溃。

During the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2007, the NPC delegates and CPPCC members paid close attention to the issue as to how the Chinese people had gone astray in terms of core values, and voices calling for “intensifying the establishment of a system of core value system” were once again raised. Delegates and members contributed ideas and exerted efforts, aspiring for building value orientation which would have Chinese characteristics and with which the Chinese people would universally identify, thus make social forces coherent, promote social harmony, and the building of the nation. At the 17th party congress, secretary-general Hu Jintao put forward that the need to build a “socialist core value system” was actually a tactful acknowledgment of China’s social core value issues.

2007年两会期间,来自各地的人大代表、政协委员十分关注中国人核心价值迷失的问题,“加紧构建社会核心价值体系”的呼声再度高涨,代表委员们纷纷献计献策,希冀尽快形成具有中国特色的、获得国民普遍认同的价值取向,以凝聚起全社会的力量,促进社会和谐与国家建设。胡锦涛总书记在第十七次党代会上提出,要“建设社会主义核心价值体系”,实际上也是在委婉地承认中国社会核心价值观方面的问题。

The Cultural Management System’s and Ability’s Backwardness (文化管理体制与能力落后)

In China’s transition from a planned to a market economy, reform of the cultural management system is an important aspect. Given that change takes time, the goals can’t be reached in one step, and therefore, even as the government is working hard on deepening the cultural management system’s reform and even as it is making great achievements, the traditional planning systems do still exist to some extent, and cultural managers can’t fully adapt to the new type of cultural management yet. Therefore, China’s cultural productivity can’t be fully released at once, the needs in the people’s cultural life can’t be fully satisfied, and China’s international cultural competitiveness remains rather weak. Especially when it comes to cultural exports, government guidance constitutes two kinds of harm to China’s cultural attractiveness abroad: on the one hand, it limits China’s cultural productivity, and on the other hand, too much government involvement causes misgivings, concerns and antipathy within the international community. They believe that China’s cultural exports, because of the government being a factor, has political aims, and should therefore be handled with caution. Foreign Affairs University president Wu Jianmin  therefore says:

文化管理体制的改革是中国由计划经济体制向市场经济体制过渡的一个重要方面。由于改革需要时间,不能一蹴而就,所以虽然目前政府正在努力深化文化管理体制改革并已取得巨大的成就,但是传统的计划体制还在一定程度上和一定范围内存在,文化管理者还不能完全适应新型的文化管理方式,从而使得我国的文化生产力难以充分释放,进一步导致人民群众的文化生活需求得不到充分的满足,以及我国文化的国际竞争力相对薄弱。尤其在文化输出上,政府主导对我国文化的对外吸引力构成双重损害:一方面,制约了我国的文化生产力;另一方面,政府过多的介入引起了国际社会的疑虑、担忧和反感——他们认为,中国的文化输出因为政府的作用而具有了政治目的,要谨慎对待。为此,外交学院院长吴建民表示:

The enhancement of China’s soft power, and the promotion of Chinese culture heading to the world, must not be a campaign.5) If the significance of propaganda becomes too strong, it can easily evoke the other side’s suspicions and resentment. This would exactly go against the fundamental characteristics of soft power. The promotion of Chinese culture going into the world should resemble the way Du Fu described in his “Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night”:

It drifts in on the wind, steals in by night,
Its fine drops drench, yet make no sound at all.

This is the best and most effective way.

提升中国的软实力,推动中华文化走向世界不能搞运动。因为那样宣传意味太浓,容易引起对方的怀疑和反感。这样做,又恰恰违背软实力的基本特点。推动中华文化走向世界要像杜甫那首题为《春夜喜雨》诗中所说的:“随风潜入夜,润物细无声。”这是最好的办法,也是最有效的办法。

Therefore, to increase our country’s cultural productivity, to broaden our country’s culture’s international influence, reform of our cultural system must be carried forward in a firm, rapid, and dependable manner.

因此,为了尽快提高我国的文化生产力,扩大我国文化的国际影响力,我们的文化体制改革必须坚定不移、快速稳妥地向前推进。

The Political and Economic System is not Perfect (政治与经济制度不够完善)

Usually, when it comes to developing countries, its system is frequently its weak spot, which is a key reason in its lagging behind. China is no exception. Despite its stable and rapid development, and the system’s contribution can’t be ignored, we also have to acknowledge that no matter if we talk about the political or the economic side, the establishment of a perfect system is still a long way off, and there is still much room for modelling and innovation.

一般而言,对于一个发展中国家来说,制度常常是它的软肋,而且是导致它落后的关键原因。这一点在中国也不例外。虽然三十年来中国的稳定和高速发展,制度创新的贡献不容抹煞,但我们还是要承认,无论是政治方面,还是经济方面,中国要建立完善的制度体系都还有很长的路要走,制度模仿和创新的空间都还相当大。

On the political level, China’s large-scale corruption and frequent mass incidents illustrate many problems: excessive concentration of power, with democratic centralism often being a mere formality, sometimes to an extent where once the boss has spoken, the decision has been made; power goes without effective checks and balances, administrative power accroaches legislative power, acting as the country’s or region’s highest organ of power, not letting the people’s congresses play their due role; the judiciary’s impartiality is harmed by executive power; power lacks effective supervision, and the building of responsible “sunshine government” still remains a long way to go, etc..

在政治层面上,中国大面积的腐败和经常发生的群体性事件说明了很多问题:权力过度集中,民主集中制常常流于形式,以至出现完全是“一把手”说了算的“一言堂”现象;权力未得到有效制衡,行政权力僭越立法和司法权力,作为国家和地方最高权力机关的人民代表大会发挥不了应有的作用,司法的公正性受到行政权力的戕害;权力缺乏有效的监督,“阳光政府”建设依然任重道远等等。

When describing the economic level, the paper re-iterated the transition from a planned to a market economy, and especially the corresponding system’s bureaucratic remnants on the local level. The study group noted that the financial system didn’t meet the needs of China’s economy either, especially when it came to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). An appeal to authority was included, too: “It is exactly for this reason that in September 2007, secretary general Hu Jintao explicitly pointed out the need to attach importance to the financial system’s development and perfection.” In their description of the economic aspects, the authors also cited legal uncertainties concerning property, anti-monopoly measures, and, even more than that, administrative monopolies (行政垄断). Neither cultural differences between China and other countries, nor a lack of united ideological understanding were left out as explanation for a less-than-satisfying legal situation, and inadequate leaning on foreign legal experience was also mentioned as an explanation. But the next line seems to chime in with statements made by state chief councillor Wen Jiabao’s statements two years ago:

Therefore, as a conservative informal system can only look forward to the official system’s innovative lead into the direction of development, the absence of such an official system in turn becomes a particularly serious problem.

因此,保守的非正式制度也只能靠正式制度的创新来引领发展,正式制度的缺位就变成一个尤其严重的问题。

The “Chinese model” had led to nearly thirty years of rapid economic growth, the study group wrote, but had at the same time created problems:

  • the income gaps (between industries, i. e. particularly farming and industries, but also regionally), and polarization. Of course, the measures taken by the fifth generation of leadership had achieved some success (第五代领导人上台以来,坚定不移的采取缩小收入差距的政策措施,目前已取得一定的成效)
  • environmental pollution and a crisis in terms of resources
  • Inadequate social security [or insurance], with undesirable constraints on the building of a harmonious society
  • protection of the public’s, or the masses’, rights.
  • corruption (with a reference to Tianjin party secretary Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), who had described corruption prevention as a matter of life of death for the party.

It is only here that the paper comes back to international issues, and, concerning economic issues, showing a more defiant attitude than in its previous reference, about soft power and propaganda (including the Du Fu quote):

No matter how the international community understands the Chinese model, and no matter what their attitude towards this model is, China’s development pattern needs to be adjusted. In the face of the international economic crisis, these adjustment become only more urgent. What earned the Chinese model general acknowledgment, and the characteristics which earned it the admiration6): strong government leadership, should be moderately extenuated. This is something clear-headed political leaders must recognize. In fact, China’s leaders have understood that the “Chinese model” is still developing.

无论国际社会怎样理解中国模式,无论他们对这一模式抱有何种态度,中国的发展模式都必须进行调整。尤其是在国际经济危机面前,这一调整更显紧迫。像中国模式公认的、也是让这一模式令西方羡慕的一个特点——强有力的政府主导,就需要适度削弱。这是清醒的政治领导人必须认识到的。实际上,中国领导人确实已经认识到,“中国模式”还处于发展之中。

In October 2003, the sixteenth central committee’s third plenary session put forward the concept of scientific development. If conscientiously carried out, it will become a cornerstone in the CCP’s lawful political power. Therefore, it will be a new source of the party’s and even China’s soft power.

2003年10月召开的中国共产党十六届三中全会提出了科学发展观。作为一种符合时代要求的发展观,如果得到切实执行,它将成为中共政权合法性的新基石。因此,它是中共乃至中国软实力的一种新来源。

The Limits of Diplomacy (外交上的局限)

Over the years, Chinese diplomacy has matured and made huge achievements. This is something no clear-sighted person will deny. But to improve the level of our country’s diplomacy further and to safeguard our national interests still better, there will be a continued need to examine our diplomacy comprehensively, carefully, and thoroughly, identify the shortcomings within, and put it to a still higher level.

这些年来,中国的外交日渐成熟,并取得了巨大的外交成就,这是任何一个明眼人都无法否认的事实。但是,出于进一步提高我国外交水平,更好地维护国家利益的目的,我们仍然需要对我们的外交做全面、细致、深入的审视,发现其中的不足,以使我们的外交更上一层楼。

Our country is guided by Marxist ideology. Historical materialism, and dialectical materialism are not only reflected in our internal development, but also in our diplomatic practice. But given that practice is much more complicated than theory, deviations between practice and theory are hardly avoidable at certain times and in certain situations. When taking a comprehensive look at our diplomatic practice, one will find strong industries but weak culture, the country’s strong international position but also its feeble image, its inherent cultivation but weak external publicity [or propaganda], strong hard power but feeble soft power tendencies which coexist to some extent. For example, international relations depend heavily on economic power. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Africa Research Office’s director He Wenping once said that “when I tell African friends that China remains a developing country, they just begin to laugh”. Their laughter illustrates that in their view, a developing country couldn’t afford undertake the investment and aid China provides in Africa.” In “Charm Offensive – How China’s Soft Power  is Transforming the World”, Joshua Kurlantzick once wrote: “China’s influence comes from its ability to dispense no-questions-asked largesse, and it would decline sharply if China experienced an economic downturn.” Although this opinion is very one-sided, the dependence of our diplomacy on our economic strength does require sufficient attention.

我国是一个以马克思主义为指导思想的国家,历史唯物主义和辩证唯物主义不仅体现在我们的内部建设上,同样也贯彻在我们的外交实践之中。但是,由于实践远比理论来得复杂,在某些时候或某些场合,实践对理论一定程度的偏离是在所难免的。综观我国的外交实践,人们可以看到,一种重经济而轻文化,重国际地位而轻国际形象,重内在修为而轻外部宣传,重硬实力而轻软实力的倾向在一定程度上存在着。例如,国际关系倚重经济实力。中国社会科学院非洲研究室主任贺文萍曾表示,“当我向非洲朋友们解释中国仍是一个发展中国家时,他们就开始笑。”非洲朋友的这一笑充分说明,在他们看来,中国向非洲的投资和援助已经不是一个发展中国家所能承担得起的了。《魅力攻势———中国的软实力是如何改变世界的?》一书的作者柯兰齐克曾说:“中国的影响力来自它派发不加疑问的慷慨,而且如果中国经历经济低迷,它将大幅度下降”。这种说法虽然非常片面,但是我们的外交对于经济实力的依赖性也需要引起足够的重视。

Following the rapid economic development, China’s international position and influence has actually increased rapidly, too. At the same time, the international environment has undergone great changes. Therefore, diplomacy’s domestic and foreign conditions have changed a lot already. In this kind of situation, our country must rethink its diplomatic methods and make adjustments in accordance with the changes in its domestic and foreign environment. Also, to see a continued rise in our country’s international status during the coming years, updates in our leaders’ thoughts about good diplomatic practice in the future are necessary. For example, we may have to re-examine the principles ad positions of our diplomacy, and to fundamentally change our diplomatic strategies.

实际上,随着经济实力的迅速发展,中国的国际地位和国际影响力也在迅速提高。同时,国际环境本身也发生了巨大变化。因此,外交的内外部条件都已经今非昔比。在这种情形下,我国有必要重新考虑自己的外交方式,根据内外部环境的变化做适度的调整。另外,由于未来若干年内,我国的国际地位还会继续迅速上升,这就要求我们的领导人为将来更新的外交做好思想上的准备。例如,我们可能需要重新审视我们的外交原则和立场,从根本上改变我们的外交战略。

Citizen Quality and Poor Image (国民素质和形象较差)

Our country’s citizen quality has been a soft spot, impeding its image. Notices in the streets of Paris in Chinese, like “please don’t bawl7), or notices in Chinese in New York, saying “please don’t jump the queue” are a great embarrassment for Chinese people, and uncivilized behavior of tourists make into the headlines in New York time and again. There are experts who say that “the biggest difference between China and America is in average citizen quality”, and there are other experts who say that “the difference in citizen quality between China and Japan translates into 30 years”. In 2007, the famous travelling website Expedia interviewed 15,000 persons from the European hotel and restaurant industry, and did a rating survey of tourists from different countries. Chinese ranked as the third-worst, after the  French and the Indians. Former Beijing mayor Wang Qishan (王岐山) admitted frankly his greatest fear – that during the 2008 Olympic Games, with five billion people worldwide looking on, Beijing’s citizen’s cultural quality would not pass the test.

我国的国民素质一直是制约我国国家形象的一项软肋。法国巴黎街头“请勿喧哗”的中文标识和美国纽约地铁站“请勿插队”的中文提醒让中国人十分尴尬,不文明的游客现丑的新闻一次次成为报章头条。有专家称“中国与美国的最大差距是国民平均素质的差距”,更有专家称“中国日本国民素质差距有30年”。2007年,著名旅游服务网站Expedia访问了1.5万名欧洲酒店业人士,对各国游客的表现进行了一次调查评比,中国人排名第三差,仅次于法国和印度。北京市前市长王岐山坦言,2008年奥运会,他最担心的就是在世界50亿双眼睛的注视下,市民的文明素质是否经受得起考验。

A country’s culture is the capital the country can apply abroad (外化), plus, perhaps, the traditional nature of cultural products, just as when people talk about Chinese culture, they frequently refer to traditional culture, which is possibly a greater distance to reality. In contrast, citizen quality is a country’s domestic capital, which is close to reality. Here, having a grasp [or clear idea] of that country’s government’s and people’s behavior, there are more significant [material] you can take into consideration, and which warrants closer attention. In this sense, and in the context of building our country’s soft power, improving citizen quality is no less important than the significance of cultural dissemination. Our country’s tendencies in citizen quality influence the level of our country’s soft power, and an important part of building its soft power.

一国的文化是该国外化的文化资本,加上文化产品可能的传统性——正如目前人们所谈论的中国文化更多的是指传统文化,它可能离现实更为遥远。相比之下,国民素质是一国内化的文化资本,它与现实更为切近,对于在博弈中把握该国政府和人民的行为可能更有参考意义,因而更为重要,更加得到关注。从这种意义上讲,对于我国软实力的建设而言,国民素质的提高具有不下于文化传播的重要意义。因此,我国低下的国民素质势必显著影响我国的软实力水平,必须作为国家软实力建设的重要一环来抓。

Lack of Influential NGOs and Individuals (缺少有影响力的民间组织和个人)

From the perspective of building soft power, non-governmental organizations, or social [societal] organizations, NGOs, as well as individuals with strong influence within society (all to be referred to as NGOs hereafter) play a dual role.

从建设软实力的角度看,民间组织——或者说社会组织、NGO——以及拥有强大社会影响力的个人(以下简称民间组织)具有双重作用。

On the one hand, NGOs are important as they assist governments in solving social problems. In the wake of social development, issues of humankind’s sustainable development can’t be  solved by merely depending on government and the market, and NGOs are what it takes to make up for government and market insufficiencies. NGOs are also seen as “pressure reduction valves” for a government, and a “balancer” for public opinion, plus a spiritual function which shouldn’t be ignored either. Therefore, NGOs can help governments to solve social problems, thus eliminating society’s dissatisfaction with government. In this sense, NGOs obviously increase governments’ legitimacy and cohesion within society, and are therefore positive factors in increasing domestic soft power.

一方面,民间组织是帮助政府解决社会问题的重要助手。随着社会的发展,仅仅依靠传统的政府和市场两级还无法解决人类的可持续发展问题,民间组织正为了弥补政府和市场的不足而诞生。民间组织则被认为是政府的“减压阀”和民意的“平衡器”,还有着不可忽视的精神功能。因此,民间组织可以帮助政府解决社会问题,从而消除社会对政府的不满。从这种意义上讲,民间组织显然是提高政府合法性和社会凝聚力的积极因素,因而是提高国内软实力的积极因素。

On the other hand, NGOs have some kind of particular advantage, compared with government: objective neutrality. In general, a government is a representative of a country’s interests, but at times, it is also a representative of self-interest. Words and deeds of a government are therefore always suspected of acting out of interest requirements, which marks an inherent disadvantage. So in a real sense, NGOs have a stronger objective neutrality, and in a certain sense, this is the basis of certain NGOs’ coming into life. Therefore, no matter if you face domestic or international society, NGOs are more likely to earn trust, and information they provide is more persuasive.

另一方面,相比政府,民间组织具有一种独特的优势:客观中立性。一般而言,政府是国家利益的代表,有时候甚至是自身利益的代表。因此,政府的一言一行总要被人怀疑是出于利益的需要,其立场具有先天的劣势。而真正意义上的民间组织则具有更强的客观中立性——实际上,从一定意义上讲,这也正是某些民间组织得以产生的根据。所以,在面对无论国内还是国际社会时,它们更能获得信任,所提供的信息也就更有说服力。

Although NGOs have these important social and political roles to play, it is also known to all that our country lacks such organizations, and there is no need to list statistics. The main source for this situation is that the government is inclined to take some kind of politicized view on the development of NGOs, and maintains some kind of vigilant attitude towards them.

尽管民间组织具有这样重要的社会和政治功能,但众所周知的是,我国的民间组织依然非常缺乏,具体的数据是无须列举的。造成这种情况的根本原因就在于,政府倾向于用一种政治化的眼光来看待民间组织的发展,对民间组织持一种防范心态。

To build a truly harmonious society, and to increase our country’s international influence, our country’s government must change its attitude towards NGOs, eliminate inappropriate sensitivities towards NGOs, and create room for their development by adopting tolerant8)  policies on them.

为了建设真正的和谐社会,同时也为了进一步扩大我国的国际影响力,我国政府需要转变对民间组织的态度,消除对民间组织的不适当的敏感性,以宽容的政策为民间组织的发展释放空间。

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Notes

1) I’m not familiar with the big global musicals, but according to Baike.Baidu, Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “Cats” and “the Phantom of the Opera” would be among the four.
2) Just as with musicals, I don’t know a great deal about cartoons. But Wen’s alleged quote about Altman or 奥特曼 seems to refer to Robert Altman, although I’m not sure if he made animated movies, or rather turned an animated movie into a musical. (Maybe this was part of Wen’s joke.)
3) the Chinese term used here is 软力量 (ruǎn lìliàng), which can be translated as “soft power”. However, it isn’t the term normally used when Chinese academics refer to Joseph Nye‘s soft power concept these days – that would be 软实力 (ruǎn shílì).
4) 中评社 seems to refer to ChinaReviewNews.
5) There may be other translations for 不能搞运动, too, and these paragraphs should be looked at closely to decide if my translation is adequate. It should also be remembered that this, even though published on the People’s Daily’s (Net) theory pages, this is both an “inofficial” document, and, I believe, one that has since been superseded by the CCP central committee’s “cultural document”.
6) or envy – 羡慕, but I seem to understand that this is not necessarily a negative expression in Chinese.
7) “请勿喧哗” – another translation could be “noisy”.
8) another translation for 宽容 would be tolerant.

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Related

» The Center Forever, March 13, 2011
» Confucianism and Modernity, May 30, 2009

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24 Responses to “Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night: Soft Power Starts at Home”

  1. I agree that NGOs have a place in society, but to say they may “naturally” have a more “objective” position than government in creating a just and harmonious society to me is absurd. NGOs are special interest organizations – no more, no less. As such, they can be angels – as well as devils. In today’s political regimes, only the government (whether democratically elected or not) is tasked with serving the people – not NGOs, not corporations, not even International organizations like the UN (which are bureaucracies that serve diplomacy, not the people of the world).

    So yes, just as private for-profit can play a role in helping to contribute to welfare of society, so can NGOs. But to make the quantum leap that they can as a category be more “objective” than gov’t to me is insane. No … government is still the steward – and only steward – of the people. The others – be they companies or special interests including NGOs – are not. They are not tasked with governance; they are not tasked with addressing the needs of the people like a gov’t is. They can help to channel the needs and desires of the people, maybe, perhaps, but they should still always be seen as what they are, private interest groups – interest groups that in reality often serve a narrow ideology or interests of a few.

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  2. I’m not necessarily taking points made on the People’s Daiy‘s theory pages at face value, and in this case, I rather see them as part of a struggle. And I obviously can’t take the seat of the authors and argue in their place – they may mean things very different from my interpretation -, but I believe that in a totalitarian state, the demand for NGOs amounts to a demand for liberalization, and that in the end, the party leadership chose the opposite direction. This unofficial paper was published in 2009, and as far as I can see, there hasn’t been such a debate on Renmin Net for about half a year or longer.

    But while this probably isn’t what the authors meant, I do believe that NGOs, coming from a variety of walks of life, would help to get a more objective picture of China’s realities. Liberalization in general – beyond NGOs – would make a greater difference in China, than in many other countries.

    I disagree that only the government has the task of serving the people in whichever kind of country. The Salvation Army would disagree, and I think they’d have a point.

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  3. I agree that a demand for NGO is effectively a demand for liberalization of power of some sort – at least some decentralization. Historically, the gov’t actually plays a minimal role in people’s lives – with most of the policing handed over to family / clans. Today, the gov’t – in name of rule of law – has usurped a large part of that. I think a demand for decentralization back to to institutions closer to the people is good. However, NGOs – including salvation army – is not the savior. They need to be watched just like any for-profit companies ought to be watched.

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  4. They need to be watched just like any for-profit companies ought to be watched.

    What or who does not need to be watched, Allen?

    That the “central government”, the imperial court, etc. were traditionally often invisible or remote doesn’t say much about their power over all walks of life in their country. As long as the heads of different units at different levels within society – as decentralized as such a society may be in organizational terms – respond to the next-higher level, and as long as this goes through the whole cellular hierarchy to the top, control can be extremely tight. There were binding ideologies in the past, too, and I haven’t seen much to date that would convince me that they were necessarily less stifling than Leninist structures or concepts. In fact, it seems very unlikely to me that too many current Chinese leaders want to micro-control things these days. They only want the party to have the last word – in any case they might define as crucial.

    Wang Zhicheng, from Zhejiang Province, once quoted Tu Weiming as saying that a thoroughly politicized Confucianist society would be more into persecution and coercion than a purely Legalist society, because Confucianism didn’t only dominate peoples’ body, but also wanted to control peoples’ minds, whereas Legalism only wanted to control those who didn’t obey the law.

    The degree to which a state or society is decentralized doesn’t say much about the degree of liberalization that would be possible within those structures. It has been argued decades ago that the danwei system resembled the clan system – and the clan itself, or family itself, may be obliged to live in accordance with a central ideology anyway.

    Obviously, NGOs aren’t the savior. Nor is government. There’s no such savior. Once in a while, people might save each other, in everyday life.

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  5. 當我們看中國的外交,卻發現她很多時會在違背自身價值觀和利益的情況下,向各國妥協。可見中國外交的失敗。

    中國所實行的睦鄰政策,可說是徹底的失敗。中國現在的領導人奉行鄧小平那套所謂的「韜光養晦」政策。但其實,這只是一種逃避挑戰的鴕鳥政策。當今中國所面臨的惡劣國際環境,則決定了這種鴕鳥政策必然失敗。

    在這種鴕鳥政策主導下,中國外交不僅畏首畏尾,更胸無大志,既沒有系統的外交戰略,也沒有長遠的外交目標。這種頭痛醫頭、腳痛醫腳式的外交政策,直接導致中國外交在面對各種挑釁時束手無策,盡顯軟弱之態,面對大好機遇時,也因毫無戰略準備而無所作為。

    對印度對日本甚至是越南,中國都是畏首畏尾,一昧退讓,實行韜光養晦。本來,鄧小平的韜光養晦,是指平時積蓄力量,關鍵時刻果斷出手,是一種積極進取的外交思維。但現在,卻成了一種鴕鳥政策,令人無奈。

    其實,按照中國現在的實力,根本不用如此讓步,中國對東南亞國家,對日本,甚至是越南,都讓得太多。完全顯示不到大國風範,畏首畏尾的外交政策,只會令中國人蒙羞!

    至於對印度和越南的外交處理手法,中國簡直令人覺得恥辱。情況就好像當年清政府打贏法國,但仍然賠償法國一樣。令人覺得是絕大的恥辱。

    中國在和俄羅斯,印度,日本,越南等周遍強國的政治經濟往來中,沒有佔到多少便宜,也沒有讓這些列強放棄對中國崛起的偏見和敵視,自身利益不斷被侵占,不能不說中國的外交政策有很大缺陷,這是中國國家佈局計劃和外交政策慘敗的最佳體現。

    中國常常想成為一等一的大國,但他的外交卻事事以懦弱的方式勉強了事,實在不能給人任何強國的風範。

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  6. Hmmm – I think my aside on the clan / family distracted from the point I was making.

    Let me reiterate this way: the main thrust of the article (translated) was that China should not be so suspicious of NGOs – that NGOs have a legitimate role to play – roles that people may have traditionally looked to the gov’t.

    To me, that itself is a sort of policitization. The presumption is that NGOs ought to usurp some of the power of gov’t. To me that is absurd. The gov’t is the only entity in the world that is responsible to the “people.” The NGOs are not. They may think they are do gooders, but they are not legally or morally or normatively responsible to the people. In fact, in developing nations, NGOs are often private entities funded by external money. What are their ideology? What are their funding sources? Are they agents of other gov’ts (i.e. sponsored by NED, etc.)?

    As such, NGOs – like corporations and any other private entity – must be viewed with suspicion by the local people.

    Of course, some may say the gov’t ought to be viewed suspiciously, too – but that is a different sort of suspicion. People ought to watch the gov’t to make sure it does not become corrupt. A gov’t by their very definition must serve the people (even in Imperial China, the notion of mandate of heaven requires officials to provide for a just society – to provide for the people…). An NGO – however well run – doesn’t. It might very well serve the people, but it by itself very nature doesn’t have to.

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  7. Tron: your argument that China’s diplomacy needs to become more assertive, and that it would “shame Chinese people” in its current shape, can be found in at least six more places – it’s copy and paste. Write something of your own next time.

    Allen: in a totalitarian country, everything is political. That makes demands for NGOs political, too – but I’m not blaming their advocates for that. As for external funding, I believe that every country needs to decide freely if it wants to allow that kind of money in – just as every country should decide freely – after public debate – how it wants to handle foreign investment.

    “Corruption” is both a blanket term, and insufficient as the only criterion. Tron (see comment before yours) might argue that China’s foreign policy had become “corrupted”, by its involvement in global affairs, and the “compromises” it made there. In that sense, the term “corruption” would be far too vague. And on the other hand, even a government that prepares or commits genocide may at the same time be very intolerant against corruption in the classical sense, of officials pocketing money, and non-officials bribing them. Corruption as the main or only criterion won’t cut it.

    I see no great difference between the way one should watch NGOs, and the way one should watch governments – except that greater concentration of power requires greater scrutiny. In that way, government usually requires more suspicion than an NGO. No government, not even if democratically legitimized, will act responsibly unless it is accountable. The “mandate of heaven” was a rather theoretical concept, and much less binding than concepts of whatever kind of loyalty.

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  8. Justrecently … I like the points you make, but I think we are talking past each other. My being weary of NGOs above applies not just for totalitarian societies, but democratic ones as well. In the U.S., for example, anyone can start an NGO (how do you define an NGO, I define it simply as a non-profit that people think does some social good, that stands for objectivity apart from gov’t). You just file some paper work with the IRS and you are done. You can be the most corrupt, evil doer and still be deemed an NGO if you hire the right marketing team.

    That’s my main problem – there is no requirement of NGO to do – to be – anything. Government is not like that. However corrupt, it cannot escape its responsibility that it is there to serve the people.

    An NGO can do lots of good (for example http://www.us.tzuchi.org/us/en/ is an organization I strongly support) but can also be just a loophole for subversion. It can be anything – and has no ties to the people. It is essentially just a special interest.

    Take Salvation Army (your choice) (or Tzu chi – my choice) – besides their own promise to do good, what mandate do they have from the people? They have no relation – no obligation – to the people. That’s my main problem with them. It is not limited to China… It’s a general problem.

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  9. Allen, as a Hanoverian, I absolutely agree with you! King George III and his government unswervingly served the North American settlers, and took care of financing the British troops with their tax money. Only he protected them from the frogs. Separation of powers and civil society are dispensable, when the mandate of heaven is executed in such a commendable way. No matter if it’s the politburo, or the Guelphs.

    And whenever a revolt rose, succeeded, or failed, I suppose heaven was here, there, or somewhere else – it had nothing to do with the power that comes from the barrel of a gun.

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  10. Tai De, I think you may be mocking my position a little (can’t be too sure as we are on the web)…

    Just to be clear, I am not saying separation of power is dispensable – nor am I saying civil society is unimportant for a democracy. I didn’t say any of those things. But since you brought those up, my take is that separation of power (checks and balance) of a gov’t is important – but should not be outsourced to private special interests. And I take a position generally that a morally corrupt people will eventually beget a morally corrupt gov’t (a gov’t must serve the people, whatever form it takes, or else they fall). So having an educated, prosperous civil society is important not just for governance, but to set social norms, etc.

    The lasting power of a gov’t also doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun. The barrel of a gun may temporarily keep things in check, but in the long run, a gov’t must serve the mandate of the people – or else the gov’t must go. That’s true in any society – whatever form of gov’t.

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  11. .. I take a position generally that a morally corrupt people will eventually beget a morally corrupt gov’t (a gov’t must serve the people, whatever form it takes, or else they fall). So having an educated, prosperous civil society is important not just for governance, but to set social norms, etc.

    This makes me wonder why NGOs should be potentially more dangerous than government, Allen – for usurping government power etc. Isn’t it much easier for a nation with high moral standards to rid itself of immoral and manipulative NGOs (or simply neutralizing them, by not donating and not listening to them anyway), than of immoral government? Why would an immoral NGO be likely to stay around, if even an immoral government will have to go? And why should a nation which is prepared to oust a government (depending on the form of government in place, people may need to sacrifice lives to that end) not be prepared to stop an NGO with special interests from usurping government powers? The more special such an NGO’s interests are, the more vulnerable it would seem to be in public, if it tries to overplay its hand.

    Another matter: if a morally corrupt people begets a morally corrupt government, why would that government still have to fall? Would it then be replaced by another morally corrupt government (because nobody in the country can tell what makes a government “moral”)? Or would a nation become morally aware under the influence of its morally corrupt government? Or will a corrupt people and its corrupt government perpetuate each others’ moral corruption?

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  12. Good questions justrecently.

    Government is subject to interest capture just like any other entity. But at least the government – by any norm you want to cite – is still the entity subject to provide for the people. Please note that I am not saying that government by default must be good. But besides norm, there are all sorts of checks and balances and feedbacks on government – administrative, executive, judicial, etc. If people have a problem, they look to gov’t (that’s true in any society).

    NGO’s on the other hand are just shadowy hands doing shadowy things. NGOs can aspire to serve the people – but without more – that’s all they are.

    Now my criticism is on NGO which I believe I have articulated to the best of my ability. If you want to articulate my thoughts on how to keep governments honest and work for the people – that’s a billion dollar question.

    All governance structure is an experiment – democracy (perhaps especially democracy) included. Democracy – more than any other – needs an active citizenry and is subject to special interest capture.

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  13. If you believe that freedom is an experiment, as you wrote in the comment you linked to, how would government not be an experiment? Government would be nothing either if treated as a religion or faith. In my view, government is about management, and serves certain ends. Freedom makes experiments possible, but it’s not itself an experiment.

    If people have a problem, they look to gov’t (that’s true in any society).

    Probably – although I’m not sure if too many people look to it that way in Syria. Sometimes, people may look to government because they think of it as an efficient problem solver. Sometimes, they may look to government because it created a mess, and should therefore be responsible for cleaning it up. And even if the executive, judicial and legislative branches are all in the hand of the same dictators, most people will look to government – obviously. That may be no good idea, but then, where else should they look?

    It’s very convenient to think of government as the ultimate problem solver – but that belief may not correspond with reality. Hegel assumed that the concept of a state was reason itself, and never asked if the concept and reality were actually identical – but not even the Scandinavias I know – they don’t distrust government to the degree other Europeans do – would see it this way these days. Talking about Scandinavia, who was “the government”, in Kristin Enmark‘s situation?

    Olof Palme and the other ministers? The key to Enmark’s and the other hostages’ release was in the cabinet’s hands, in Enmark’s view (and in the view of Jan Erik Olsson, the man who had taken them hostage. But wasn’t the solution really in Olsson’s hands? And hadn’t he created the problem in the first place? And wasn’t the option Sweden’s government finally chose in “violation” of what both the hostage takers and the hostages had demanded or asked for?

    To be clear: the Palme government’s predicament arose pretty much from the role government needs to play – maybe we agree here. But then, there are governments that are actually run by people of Olsson’s kind. There, too, people may still look to government, and even as its hostages, they may “feel safe” with it, as Enmark did with Olsson. Government may be shady, and it may violate one rule after another, and it will not necessarily have to go – not when it’s up to the people.

    I agree that democracy depends on active citizenry. But active citizenry needs to organize, and that’s where the circle closes – an active citizenry needs to form non-governmental organizations. Those may be good or bad, but I see nothing in our discussion so far that would suggest that they matter less than government. That they may not be more “objective” than government is something we agreed to very early in this thread, I believe. If that still matters in our discussion, just give me a reminder.

    Democracy – more than any other – needs an active citizenry and is subject to special interest capture.

    More than any other? Why? All forms of government are under the influence of special interest groups – only that such interests may differ from one form of government to another, and that their influence is harder to track in authoritarian or totalitarian countries, than in a democracy.

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  14. Justrecently – enjoyed our discussion. But it looks like we are getting to a point where we have to disagree on issues brought out. I do appreciate the discussion on what is governance – what is public consent – what is the social contract. In all my readings, but I don’t think there is a univesrally agreed upon answer (even just within the West). So while we agree on a lot, we also disagree on key premises. Gov’t is not the ultimate problem solver (I never said that), but it is the only entity answerable to the people as a whole (yes – I say that despite my acknowledgement above). The fact that gov’ts are under influence of special interests for me only serves to highlight our difference. For me that does not delegitimize gov’t. It only serves to highlight the issue of capture – where if we outsource to special interests – that only make the problems more difficult.

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  15. Oh – forgot to answer your last question.

    Democracy – more than any other – needs an active citizenry and is subject to special interest capture.

    More than any other? Why? All forms of government are under the influence of special interest groups – only that such interests may differ from one form of government to another, and that their influence is harder to track in authoritarian or totalitarian countries, than in a democracy.

    I say that for a Western audience. Many think that totalitarian gov’ts rule by power and don’t respond to the people – that democracy is the only gov’t that respond to the needs of the people – that allows for average citizens to influence the people. If that model is true, then my statement should make sense. If you don’t subscribe to that model, good! I take it back.

    I personally believe an informed citizenry is important in all forms of gov’t – even totaltarian gov’ts – because even if those gov’ts don’t hold elections in the Western sense, it does continually seek feedback from the people; hence, the more informed the people, the more enlightened the gov’t.

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  16. Yes, an informed and active citizenry would be important in all forms of government, Allen – but your idea that totalitarian government encourages it doesn’t look believable to me. Mao Zedong‘s one-hundred flowers campaign was no great example for collecting feedback. His heirs are certainly much more subtle than the old helmsman, but if I were a Chinese citizen and asked for my views, I’d either provide faked feedback, or I’d knowingly risk entry into a world of pain – the one that usually starts with a cup of tea.

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  17. justrecently – the gov’t today collects feedback at all levels – from bloggers, from protestors. It actively seeks approval (all polls show it). Sure it can become corrupt like all gov’t – but so can democracies – as I alluded to above already.

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  18. Saying that the CCP seeks approval would seem to suggest that there were alternatives for people to choose from. What makes you believe that the CCP seeks approval, rather than designing it – through its propaganda department, its guidelines for the press, by definition of sensitive topics, and by coercion, if propaganda isn’t enough?

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  19. Sure – the use of propangada to manufacture approval is not a problem of only “totalitarian government” – but also of free democracies – see, e.g. http://www.amazon.com/Manufacturing-Consent-Political-Economy-Media/dp/0375714499 and the Unconscious Civilization book already lined above.

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  20. This context is a good opportunity for me to clarify: I’m no supporter of the Salvation Army. I don’t like their message. I do, however, respect and admire their work. They understand that the people they support are in trouble, and they offer practical help.

    Lawrence Lessig‘s sermon drums up memories about a golden age in history which most probably never existed. Many previous American governments and organizations were financial disasters, too, even before 1912. Bankrupt companies line the American railway network (and I’m talking about history, not the present tense). When I’m trying to see George Washington and Benjamin Franklin as “farmers”, my imagination fails me. Before one can look back on history as a home to some kind of golden age, one will have to falsify history.

    Lessig also contradicts himself. When he refers to a tax code that would embarrass Dickens, he is no longer tackling the root of the problems – he takes sides between the two political camps – both of whom, he states, insist we are on a collision course with history, and he’s then himself caught within the branches of evil.

    There’s nothing wrong with tracing the money that goes to Congress, and to seek legislation that keeps Congress members accountable to their constituencies, rather than to big business. But every campaign likes to suggest that it is aiming “at the root”. The roots lie still deeper.

    What may be correct is a line like this one: Yet today such agitation is not a sign of healthy life. It is a symptom of ignorance. Stuff like “our enemy is the good Germans (us) who would enable a harm infinitely less profound, yet economically and politically catastrophic nonetheless”) will only make peoples’ blood boil for a moment – just like any professional field-tent evangelization will. And then it will be Monday again, and business as usual.

    The first thing to push ignorance back is to train the kids – not into a certain political direction, to be clear, but to make them competent in private and public life. Some good math, to judge the tax code, for example, rather than to believe either side (or their teachers’ political views), and some other bits of human heritage (ethics, to judge things beyond numbers and quantities, and to make good decisions). In short: improvement is about patient work and exercise, rather than about arousal or anger. If Lessig merely keeps campaigning, he will only bore people. He either only addresses those who care, or he has to expect that those others he addresses can judge his recommendations, rather than simply be followers. That’s a slippery ground to stand on.

    Many of those who follow him will do so out of anger. Anger is no good friend of judgment, or good decisions. It would be misleading, for example, to think that business (big or small) is necessarily evil. Lessig doesn’t suggest that, but when you campaign and ignore motivations among your supporters that mainly want to settle rather personal accounts or peeves, your campaign is likely to take an unexpected direction.

    The problems aren’t too many – and even Lessig knows that. After all, he didn’t write a book to suggest that his readers should go and hang themselves. But his intro suggests that his medicine is partisan, too – if you don’t agree with him, you’ll be on a collision course with history. Here we go again.

    Yes – politicians try to manufacture consent, and if people are too lazy to watch them and to call their bluff, the manufacturing process may succeed (unless they trip themselves in the process, which is no unlikely outcome either). I have no illusions about politics. But “politicians (or entrepreneurs, or moguls, or…) in free democracies do it too” leaves an important aspect out of the account. Edward S. Herman, after all, can call their bluff. So can Lessig, and so – to a smaller extent – can I or anyone else. I’m not going to hold my breath until I can see a Chinese article in the press or online where the National People’s Congress will be depicted in a way similar to U.S. Congress, in Lessig’s article. If you want to call the CCP’s bluff in China, you will have to overcome another barrier – a barrier of fear. And if you want to call their bluff there continuously, you will have to stay out of prison or house arrest (and the ones you challenge will be the ones who decide where you will be).That’s a pretty big barrier, and it’s not only in the way of the individual, but of society at large.

    The Salvation Army’s central message seems to be that you need to be contrite, and to change course at 180 degrees, if you want to improve. You’ll either be on a collision course with God’s plan, or in line with it. There’d be either heaven or hell. Instead, I believe that everyone has room to improve, and to be proud of every success in the process.

    To explain myself, so as to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings: that I referred to the Salvation Army in a certain context earlier on, and in my own way – after all, I can’t tell if and how they discuss their role as an NGO, vs. the government’s role doesn’t spell endorsement. They aren’t my choice. And that I criticize Mr. Lessig’s approach on the other hand doesn’t mean that I disagree with everything he says, either. What I disagree with is his assertion that he’s tackling “the roots”. His Rolling Stone intro, anyway, doesn’t suggest that.

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