HARMONY RENAISSANCE HERALDS CHINESE CULTURAL RENAISSANCE
I) Current financial crisis and China economic miracle: Does modern China have soft power?
By all accounts, China is leading the world out of the current global financial crisis. According to China Daily, Oct 18, 2009, a professor of Economics and Head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham in the UK wrote in part: “As celebrations of its achievements over the past 60 years subside, China can look forward to its next milestone: surpassing Japan as the world's second largest economy before the year is out. Another target reached ahead of schedule – and further evidence that China is emerging from the financial crisis as the big winner.
“Based on past records, and taking into account China's expected growth rate over the next two decades, China will overtake the United States to become the largest economy in the world within five years measured in purchasing power parity-terms, and within 20 years measured in nominal terms. It could be even sooner. These predictions are based on the assumption that the US economy will grow 3 percent per year and the Chinese economy 9 percent per year, assuming constant nominal exchange and inflation rates for both countries.
“But if the yuan continues to appreciate against the dollar as it has done in the past decade, and/or if China's domestic inflation rate is higher than that of the US, China will gain ground even quicker.”
China’s rise in economics apparently is not accompanied by the same measure of soft power rise in world influence. There is no lack of Western media and think tank reports on the subject. The overwhelming Western verdict is that China’s political and cultural influence as a world power on the world stage will be a long time coming. Although the lack of deserving recognition for China’s soft power is due to complex historical reasons, the simple verdict given has been that China does not have the “politically correct” ideology by Western standards. Will this prognosis persist? Most likely not, should one look back to the history of ancient China’s cultural influence.
II) How does China’s current soft power stacks up against world religion, Western democracy, and other soft power?
China is currently in no position to challenge Eastern religion or Western democracy and other world dominant soft power in cultural influences. However, all things will come in due course. In terms of soft power development, 60 years is a relative short time historically for new China. Instead of accepting the simple rationale of “politically incorrect” in a Western dominated media, let us examine the relevant developments revealing why China’s world influence is not in keeping with its size, population, long historical continuity, and its current economic rise. 2
The major reasons for China’s recent lack of progress in soft power are: Western influence is at its high, particularly coming after America’s post World War II and cold war economic and ideology triumph; although China has disentangled herself from the cold war ideological struggle, she nevertheless suffered setbacks in relation to American successes; due to years of humiliation by Western powers as a semi-colonial state, China has yet to regain confidence; and through her own growing pains of experimentation, she has lost confidence in not coming to grips with her long continuous history. Finally, in her eagerness to learn from the West, she has not given enough emphasis to the importance of her own cultural heritage and innovativeness. All these and other historical factors have hindered China in rightfully regaining her world influence, despite her rise in economic power.
III) Harmony, China’s ancient cultural essence and soft power
From the perspective of harmony, human civilization is the progress in resolving relationship conflicts between:
1) Human and nature (birth of religions, etc.)
2) Human and human (philosophic, religious, and moral teachings)
3) Members of a group (family, tribes’ and nomads’ morals, and codes and standards)
4) Citizens and society at large (philosophy, values teaching, and imposition of laws)
5) Rulers and the ruled (hierarchical social structure, elite values and government propaganda, democracy development, freedom and responsibility)
6) Clashes between religions (such as the current clash between Muslim and western religious beliefs)
7) Ideology contests (socialism vs. capitalism, democracy vs. broader harmony)
8) Dependence and Independence development between national blocks (developed, underdeveloped, developing, poor and rich)
Above is a list indicating, by way of illustration, only some of the major outstanding issues in conflict resolution and achieving harmony. In the interest of leading toward a current universal harmony exposition in the following, only major world harmony development movements will be summarized. These are also past global harmony movements that have by far the major repercussions on human civilization.
The three major harmony movements of human civilization as listed in above conflict resolutions are religion, democracy, and harmony. Today’s world is in great disharmony, with religion conflicts, international inequity, and the disparity between North and South. To lead us out of this convulsion, we must look beyond religion and democracy to harmony as the basis of equality, mutual respect, tolerance, and acceptance. Harmony as the universal value envelops democracy; but, as a basic human longing, it is not institutionalized. The spread of harmony has been uniquely peaceful compared to religion and democracy. Will harmony bring a more moderate future world? American democracy faces the challenge of Chinese harmony as the leading global philosophy in the 21st century. Teaching harmony in the U.S. is paramount. For more details, please see China’s Harmony Renaissance: What the world must know by Francis C W Fung, published by World Harmony Organization. 3
IV) China’s harmony renaissance, can the world ignore it?
Democracy grew out of the 17th century Enlightenment movement as a resolution of the conflicts between the ruler and the ruled. But, the movement as a tradition had inspired many national revolutions. The notable ones for this discussion were the French revolution, American independence war, and the Chinese 1911 revolution extending to the 1949 revolution led by Mao Zedong. However, three hundred years is very short for human history. Throughout Chinese history, every 300 years or so peasants would rise up to overthrow the emperor. However, the ancient philosophies of harmony and moderation were always able to restore stability, prosperity, and a loosely united empire. Even after foreign Mongolian and Manchu invasions, stability was restored with the invaders being converted by Chinese culture. The resilience of the Chinese nation lies in its deep-rooted harmony philosophies coupled with prosperity at the beginning of each successful dynasty. This typically goes on in every 300 years or so for two millennium. Then China, after two hundred years of Western and Japanese humiliation and invasion, had lost its direction for a while. Today, with relative prosperity returning, demands for harmony as a way to resolve conflicts in a complex modern society are returning in force. This is how China has rediscovered itself from the roots of its ancient culture. This may prove to be like the European renaissance after the Dark Ages in rediscovering the ancient Greek culture.
Democracy as a movement for the most part is universally accepted in the world today. One needs only to look at how many new countries or changing countries are calling themselves democracies. However, the US has its own definition. This mostly means that countries agreeing with the US are democracies. Democracy as a system of government needs to take hold and grow in the fertile soil of developing countries and countries evolving from their old cultures. This ideal of anti-corruption and anti-dictatorship is changing traditional order by reform. Harmony advises renunciation of force. In time, democracy will grow and produce its fruits in the global modern environment. In the 1980’s, the Soviet planned economy dissolved due mostly to its own non-competitiveness with the Western market economy. In cold war rhetoric, it was called “US capitalism triumphs over communism”. Communism thus had a bad name. But, the bad connotation mainly comes from the cold war mentality that “communism means enslavement”. It is not the intent of the present paper on harmony to take sides. It is important to point out for those who did not grew up during the cold war era that the US media divided the world into the free world and the communist world. Today so-called Communist countries can be very capitalistic and materially very successful. The dividing line is very blurred today.
Due to the rapid expansion of economic and industrial activities in China during the last twenty some years, China has developed from an egalitarian society to a society of unbalanced wealth distribution and from a self-sufficient society to one that depends heavily on energy and outside material resources like all developed nations. The Scientific Development Concept was thus conceived by the Chinese leaders to provide a blueprint for a long-term sustainable development. In time, this blueprint has expanded to include old and new conflict resolution in China’s grand modernization. Harmony being China’s dominant philosophy for 2500 years, it is no surprise, despite the onslaught of Western culture for the last two hundred years, that China rediscovered its ancient heritage. This is not unlike the return of harmony philosophy to the golden Han dynasty after the Spring and Autumn Warring States period. There were thousands of battles 4
fought between feudal states at the time, but finally peace and stability was restored through the institution of Confucius’ teaching.
In the fertile soil of the Chinese harmony garden after Chinese leaders called for Harmony Society development, ideas of harmony spread like spring bamboo shoots after the rain. Creative ideas of Harmony Society from government officials, intellectuals, think tanks, academicians, and the general public are currently sweeping through the country. We may once again witness a major new harmony movement excelling the ancient teachings of ancient harmony that has guided China for the last 2500 years. A true period of “let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools contend” may be in the making, surpassing the Spring and Autumn period debates in scope and magnitude. If this social harmony movement takes hold, the Chinese culture may take a leap into the future World of Harmony.
Today’s China is in disharmony. The current modernizing and opening and reform have created a degree of regional prosperity. But, with the impact of materialism and lower moral values there are conflicts due to disparity of wealth and privilege and to difference of the new and the old. In the traumatic changes that are required for modernizing, there is extreme thinking in China that forgets the old teachings. Today there are Chinese who feel lost and passively admit cultural inadequacy, under the incessant criticism by U.S. media. Fortunately, the current government, to deal with the multitude of contradictions, came up with the Concept of Scientific Development for modernization.
This Concept of Scientific development is widely discussed and covered by the media. However, the major stroke of luck is that this scientific development concept brought China back in touch with the forefathers’ teaching of harmony. Harmony as a way of life is deeply founded in Chinese family unity and is the essence of Chinese ancient teaching. On the current path, China will transition through the current adjustment and reach a modern society with Chinese characteristics. This may very well be a socialistic society with harmony. Its development remains to be seen. In the process, China’s harmony development can only bring harmony to the rest of the world. The ultimate patience of harmony will work its way by resonance. The often-used phrase “Socialist Society with Chinese Characteristics” is ultimately the Socialist Society with Chinese Harmony.
V) China’s cultural renaissance must include harmony renaissance
Throughout China’s long history as an ancient culture, unlike the Middle East, it did not produce a religion of world importance, and unlike the West, it did not produce a comprehensive homegrown democracy system to resolve conflicts between the ruler and the ruled. China obviously, however, had notions of religion and democracy when Confucius admonished his followers to respect God but keep a distance, and Mencius advocated good government and put citizens above the rulers. Instead, through considerable debate and evolution, China settled on the Confucius philosophies of ZHONG YONG, HE XIE (moderation, harmony) and hierarchy social structures. Family and social order were promoted by emphasizing SAN GANG WU CHANG, REN, YI , LI , ZHI, XIN (the three important relations in the order of: ruler and the ruled, father and children, husband and wife and five basic societal moral values) and LUN LI DAO DE (family and moral values) 5
This system of profuse teaching was drilled into students from Day One and all through a scholar’s life. Youngsters’ first standard reading text was SAN ZI JING (a simple rhyme of Confucius teaching). This simple moral text is to be recited by students word for word (my children still cut their teeth on Chinese characters, and Chinese words with this text during the 1990’s in Taiwan). The moderation and harmony philosophy reinforced by morals and values as a social system was very different from the Western democracy concepts of citizen rights and duties enforced by law and order.
Ancient China did practice laws, but only sparsely when compared to the comprehensive European laws and the complex and voluminous US case study system. The strength of US modern culture lies in the implementation of government and law practices (the so-called “rule of law”), and not merely in its democratic ideology.
The ideal of democracy, as harmony between government, society, and citizens, is universally accepted by today’s world. It will take time for the developing countries to grow their own appropriate democratic systems in their own soil. Harmony, as seen from ancient Chinese philosophy, included the practices of acceptance, tolerance, mutual respect, equality, and patience, but not the use of heavy penal correction. Harmony thus is the essence of Chinese ancient culture. Thus, the Chinese Cultural Renaissance must include Harmony Renaissance.
VI) The world will benefit from China’s harmony renaissance. Harmony is a universal common value
Let us examine the World Media Summit held in Beijing Oct 8 to 10, 2009. This is a significant step towards a more harmonious world by bringing all the world media together for the first time of modern history. Some called it the Olympics of Media. 170 world media and over 300 delegates attended. These included the eight biggest world media house presidents, CEO’s from Xinhua, AP, Reuters, Time Warner, BBC, Newsgroup, Tass News, Japanese United Press, and Google. The concluding joint statement emphasized increased win–win cooperation in expanding world multicultural reporting and also specifically called for more diverse, accurate, fair, and impartial reporting.
The World Media Summit was hosted by Xinhua News and sponsored by the big eight media. This is Harmony Renaissance as advocated by China. The Summit and the joint statement historically herald the beginning of a more harmonious world.
We at World Harmony Organization (WHO) work for Harmony Renaissance to bring back harmony, a universal value. Harmony is being neglected because world is driven by racial, religious, and ideological strife. Harmony Renaissance is needed as the ultimate resolution to unshackle us and to reverse the tide of human self-destruction and environmental degradation. Harmony with mankind and with nature is necessary for our sustainable development and survival. 6
VII) World Harmony: is it achievable? What promises lie ahead?
World Harmony is achievable because the cycle of self-destruction and deception is reversing. We can see it coming. The world is heading towards mutual win–win development. We are beginning to be aware that world development is not a zero-sum game. World Harmony can be simply defined as a multilateral world set on the course of win–win development. This will release the energy for mankind to work for common prosperity.
Harmony as a guiding faith is very broad. It includes peace within oneself, in relations between people, within family, between citizens and nations, harmony among nations, and between man and nature. Democracy is nothing but harmony between citizen and their government. Environmental ecology is simply harmony of man with nature.
The practice of harmony can be simply defined as the following twelve virtues: Tolerance, Acceptance, Respect, Equality, Gentleness, Forgiveness, Patience, Humility, Conservation, Ecology, Unity with Nature, and Unity of Mankind. With these practices firmly in mind, World Harmony is on the way to be achievable.
What promises lie in the future? In the future, we will see further growth of developing countries and multilateralism. This will lead to a more harmonious balance of East and West, North and South dialogues and cultural exchange. The world is poised for win–win mutual development. World development is not a zero sum game as some might think. The best way to develop is openness and learning from the best of each culture so as to move towards common prosperity.
The big media houses and others have come together because of new challenges from the marching of the developing world and changes of technology and market orientation. Powerful world media, working for more harmonious reporting, is a major breakthrough for the cause of World Harmony. The Western powers have dominated the world stage and news reporting for the last two centuries. By conceding to cooperation and win–win development in world news reporting, the stage is set for inevitable improvement of East West and North South relations. This is the important single step the world must take to avoid self-destruction and deception. We are seeing the coming of a brave new world. We are very hopeful that world harmony undertakings will flourish.
Harmony is universal. It embraces all human relations and our relation with the universe. Harmony is the underlying operating principle of the universe. Without harmony mankind will self-destruct and the universe will not be eternal. "Harmony Renaissance will release us from the bondage of human strife. It is the next wave of creative energy that mankind is waiting for. Harmony Renaissance will bring East and West convergence so mankind will reach higher accomplishments beyond European Renaissance."
In Service of Harmony Renaissance
Francis C W Fung, Ph.D.
World Harmony Organization.