Zhao Lingmin: Confucius Institutes, and the Three Layers of a Country’s Image

Kungfu, Bremen-Hemelingen (archive)

A Kungfu Institute, for starters (Bremen-Hemelingen – archive)

Nanfang People Weekly (南方人物周刊) is one of the papers published by the Nanfang News Media Group, or Southern Media Group. Other well-known papers would be Nanfang Weekend (Southern Weekend (南方周末), or – daily rather than weekly – Nanfang Ribao. The Nanfang / Southern Daily is an organ of the CCP, on Guangdong’s provincial level, according to Baidu Baike. It was founded on October 23, 1949, and was given the role as the provincial party organ in 1955. Also according to Baike, it has been, for seventeen years in a row, the paper with the highest cirulation among all provincial party papers, with 850,000 copies.

When compared with other papers of its kind – and arguably many commercial papers nationwide, too -, the Nanfang papers reflect the “Guangdong way” – a political approach which the Economist, in November last year, referred to as beguilingly open.

But obviously, even this relative editorial independence doesn’t go without saying. Caixin Media, as quoted by David Bandurski of China Media Project, broke news in early May this year that Yang Jian (杨健), an established propaganda cadre, had been appointed party secretary at the Nanfang Media Group. Papers as attractive as Nanfang Daily and its sisters apparently need to be harnessed for the higher good of cultural production, to defend [the public] against the West’s assault on the country’s culture and ideology. If the lively Nanfang family should die in the process (i. e. become more correct in its public opinion guidance), they will have become martyrs.

In China, soft power is not only about nation branding, but nation building as well. Through using soft power narratives, China is encouraging a domestic cultural revitalization attempting to win the hearts and minds of Chinese diaspora communities and promote national cohesion between dominant and minority groups in the country,

Imran Arshad suggested earlier this year. And as the Nanfang Group, from the CCP perspective, may need to do some long-neglected homework in this field anyway, its specially-appointed contributor Zhao Lingmin (赵灵敏) – specially appointed probably because he reportedly lost his official function at Nanfang Chuang, another Nanfang paper, in 2011 -, studied soft-power’s relationship with the Confucius Institutes, in an article published by Nanfang People Weekly on June 1.

Links within the following blockquotes were added during translation – JR
Main Link: Nanfang Renwu Zhoukan, June 1, 2012

Confucius Institutes and Soft Power

June 1, 2012

Soft Power’s “Softness” and Bounteousness, with Hard Sell Blossoming Everywhere, is Inopportune
软实力的“软”和不惜金钱、遍地开花式的硬销是格格不入的

The article first notes that while a U.S. State-Department notice concerning Confucius-Institute teaching staff’s visa had since been corrected, the controversy centering around the Confucius Institutes was far from over.

On November 21, 2004, China’s first overseas “Confucius Institute” put its store sign up in South Korea. By the end of August, 2011, 353 Confucius Institutes and 473 Confucius Classrooms had been established in various countries – a total of 826. In America alone, there are 81 of them. To carry the work of the Confucius Institutes out even better, the Confucius Institutes headquarters were established in Beijing, in 2006. The “Confucius Institutes” are seen as embodiments of China’s government to promote soft power globally.
2004年11月21日,中国第一所海外“孔子学院”在韩国挂牌。截至2011年8月底,各国已建立353所孔子学院和473个孔子课堂,共计826所。 仅美国就有81所孔子学院。为了更好地运作孔子学院,2006年,孔子学院总部在北京成立。“孔子学院”被视为中国政府向世界推广“软实力”的体现。

Currently, every sixth day will see the birth of a Confucius Institute somewhere on the globe. A German organization which is similar to the Confucius Institute, the Goethe Institute, founded in 1951, currently has 144 institutes, and adds only three more annually, on average. Spain’s Cervantes Institute was founded in 1991, and has only thirty institutes so far, adding only two annually, on average. According to official reports, the foundation of each Confucius Institute costs 500,000 US dollars, and each Confucius Classroom comes at 60,000 US dollars. Mr Xue Yong (薛涌) estimates that a Confucius Institute established in America costs at least several million US dollars. After the Confucius Institutes’ and Classrooms’ establishment, these also need to be operated. The [expected ? – 光] budget for Confucius Institutes reached 1.6 billion in 2008; a number which is likely to have risen since, year by year. According to domestic logic, it would seem as if the tasks of building this or that number of schools had been completed already, and that China’s values had already been transported. But that isn’t necessarily so.
目前,几乎每6天世界上就会诞生一所孔子学院。而与孔子学院相类似的机构中,德国歌德学院始建立于1951年,目前共有144所,平均每年只办3所,西班牙塞万提斯学院创办于1991年,至今仅有三十多所,平均每年仅两所。根据官方报道,每所孔子学院建设费用50万美元,每个孔子课堂6万美元。根据薛涌先生估算,在美国建一所“孔子学院”起码要几百万美元。学院和课堂建成后还需要运营。2008年孔子学院光预算就高达16亿,近些年应该是一年更比一年多。依据国内的逻辑,花了多少多少钱,建成了多少多少学校,好像就完成任务了,中国价值观已经输出了,实际效果却不尽然。

According to the Hanban’s terminology, all Confucius Institutes were founded on foreign universities’ own requests. The procedure is that applications are written to Hanban, that China’s hanban would provide assistance and operation. Therefore, “Confucius Institute” deans are, without exception, foreigners. Most of them are foreign university Sinology faculty directors, or people of similar backgrounds. Isn’t it easy to see why, given their titles as “Confucius Institute deans”, they’d take up the mission of promoting the Chinese language, and spreading Chinese culture? What the director of Düsseldorf’s Confucius Institute, [Hahebao – this should be a German name – JR], says may be indicative: “At the current stage, China amounts to spreading money to the entire globe, and that’s why local universities cooperate with the Confucius Institutes – mainly to get these fundings. After taking the money, they themselves will operate language classes and lectures, etc. Most of them have no long-term educational plan, and nobody seems to be sure what the hanban’s actual goals are.”
按照汉办的说法,所有的孔子学院是国外的大学自己要求办的,程序是向中国汉办提出申请,由中国汉办给予协助而开办的。因此“孔子学院”的院长无一例外地都是由外国人担任的,他们大都是国外大学中文系或东亚系主任之类的人物。难道给他们一个“孔子学院院长”的头衔,他们就会担当起“向自己国家推广汉语、传播中国文化的使命”吗?德国杜塞道夫孔子学院院长哈赫堡的话可能有代表性:“现阶段中国等于把钱撒到全世界,当地大学之所以合作办孔子学院,主要是为了得到这一笔经费,拿到钱后自己办语言班和演讲等活动,大多数人并没有长远的教育计划,而且大家都不清楚‘汉办’到底想要达到什么目标。”

A fundamental error lies in just the [Confucius-Institute] and other foreign propaganda activities which spare no expense, believing that China’s current image isn’t satisfactory because the degree of propaganda weren’t sufficient – that therefore, propaganda needed to be intensified, so that when power and influence are great, when the reports are many, and translated into several foreign languages, the image will be good. This is a typically Chinese way of thinking, [but] in Western societies, where information is amply revealed, this won’t work. A country’s image includes three layers: what you say, how you say it, and the gap between what you say and what you do. An insufficient degree of propaganda is the second layer, and would be comparatively easy to correct. The bigger problem is the gap between words and deeds.
这样不惜代价地搞孔子学院和其他对外宣传活动,一个根本的误区在于,认为中国目前的国家形象不令人满意是因为宣传力度不够,所以要加大宣传,认为声势大、报道多、翻译成多种外文就能有好形象。这是典型的中国人自己的思维方式,在信息充分披露的西方社会是行不通的。国家的形象包括3个层次:说什么、怎么说以及言行之间的差距。宣传力度不够是第二个层次,也相对比较容易改正。更大的问题在于说什么和言行之间的距离。

According to Joseph Nye, soft power is about inspiration and attractiveness, which means that you “subdue the enemy without fighting”. The “softness” and unsparing expenses of soft power, with Hard Sell Blossoming Everywhere, is Inopportune. America is the strongest country worldwide, in terms of soft power, its global cultural influence reaches everywhere. Many people want to go to America, no matter the cost, no matter the risks. But America has no propaganda department, no Culture Ministry, and certainly no organizations like the Confucius Institutes, to promote its culture and values, but relies on the attractiveness that comes from within American culture, which are automatically chosen by people.
按照约瑟夫•奈的说法,软实力主要是一种感召力和吸引力,有点“不战而屈人之兵”的意思。软实力的“软”和不惜金钱、遍地开花式的硬销是格格不入的。美国是当今世界软实力最强的国家,美国文化的影响在世界上无远弗届,很多人不惜代价、不惧风险、翻山越岭要去美国。但美国既没有宣传部,也没有文化部,更没有设立类似孔子学院这样的机构来推销自己的文化和价值,而更多的是靠美国文化内在的吸引力和人们的自动选择。

Therefore, things aren’t as simple as to “increase propaganda” in order to increase soft power. What matters more is what is actually propagandized. Without original thought, and mere recitals of some doctrines, the effects will rather probably be counter-productive. Years ago, Margaret Thatcher frankly stated that “China won’t become a superpower, because it doesn’t have that doctrine that could promote China’s power, and weaken the spread of our Western doctrines. China only exports television sets, and no ideas“. This is probably China’s biggest obstacle in raising its soft power and its image.
所以,提升软实力,不仅仅是“加大对外宣传力度”这么简单,更重要的是宣传什么,没有原创性的思想,只是背诵某些教条,效果很可能适得其反。撒切尔夫人前几年曾放言的——“中国不会成为超级大国,因为中国没有那种可以用来推进自己的权力、从而削弱我们西方国家的具有国际传播影响的学说。今天中国出口的是电视机而不是思想观念。”——恐怕是中国提升软实力和国家形象的最大障碍。

To a certain degree, China’s citizens will shape its image. Governmental PR and remarks can’t replace citizens’ individual behavior, and won’t be able to shape the image of the individual. A person’s understanding of the outside world is inevitably overgeneralized, and general judgment will come from specific people and issues. Therefore, every individual’s interaction with the outside world participates in shaping our national image. When you come to a country and find fresh air, an intact environment, and amicable people, these perceptions will create a good impression of that country [in your mind]. It may take nine travel groups who leave a good impression, to correct the bad impression left by one travel group. In that sense, the fundamentals for improving an image abroad are within the country.
中国的形象某种程度上是由中国公民直接塑造的,政府的公关和言辞无法代替公民个人的行为,也无法塑造个人的形象。一个人对外部世界的认识难免以偏概全,总是通过具体的人和事来下总体判断。所以,每个人的对外交往都是在塑造国家的形象。一个人到了一个国家,发现这里空气清新、环境整洁、人民友善,直观上就会对这个国家产生好印象。而一个旅行团的不良印象可能需要9个旅行团的好印象来纠正。从这个意义上讲,提升对外形象的根本还在国内。

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Related

» Soft Power starts at Home, Jan 21, 2012

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