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« Sunday "Modern Love" Blogging: Just Another Divorce Story | Main | Globalization, War and Mencius »

November 08, 2005


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This is simply an attempt to earn some cultural capital in Japan (or what Joseph Nye calls 'soft power') by means of re-examining ancient cultural commonalities.

I don't see why India cannot do the same, incidentally.

You don't think Europe and America do this all the time? Ever heard of Voice of America? McDonalds? Travelling Shakespeare companies? Universities abroad? There are many satellite campuses in both China and Japan. If they are not spreading American "ideas", then I don't know what is! Ideas-like Buddhism-tend to spread with trade.

Fascinating, I wrote a piece about how the Korean TV show Dae Jang Geum is viewed in China as a Korean attempt to gain soft power and become the authoritative voice in Asia... by becoming the "official representative" of Confucius.

Apparently like in Highlander, there can be only one (Confucian representing civilization)!

Yes, it's a soft power thing. But soft power has a propagandistic element to it, especially when it is directly sponsored by the state. Just look at how badly Bush's "public diplomacy" is going. Many states do this and we should simply recognize it for what it is: an attempt to use the past to rationalize certain political positions in the present. It is less about what Confucianism might be in the modern world, than a commentary on what the PRC is trying to accomplish in its foreign policy.

Along those lines, Sam, I made this post a while ago.

Oh it's definitely propaganda more often than not. But the Dae Jang Geum issue isn't just about PRC foreign policy goals - it's about how the Chinese public perceives their history and values, and that there's a widespread belief that the Koreans do a better value of honoring a shared heritage than the Chinese do. I disagree that these have less to do with how Confucianism or other cultural products are viewed, as opposed to foreign policy. Non-Chinese don't know Confucius from a fortune cookie, and Chinese people have responded to DJG by asking why they don't know Confucius so well either. These questions being raised in the growing public sphere of China, and its growing connection to the global public sphere, may cause significant societal changes.

The Confucian concept of ‘first enrich the people then educate them’ still holds true today. Although a simple ancient concept, it proves difficult to put into practice without earnestness and sincerity.

A simple thought on humanity: When people are poor and hungry, they can only think of the present. With stomachs full and educated, they can plan for the future. When wealthy (in terms of money and/or knowledge) they can reflect on the past (on their lives and Culture).

The Korean serial, Da Jang Geum, was set in the 15th Century during the Ming Dynasty a time where Confucian ethics were practised both in China and Korea (?). The series depict the differences between virtuous and corrupt practices in the Korean palace and how they affected people’s lives. Da Jang Geum, the name of the first female physician to the Korean king, is a good serial as any to start learning things Confucian where one provided a running commentary for my wife and teenage kids as the series unfolded on network TV.

Hopefully when most Chinese (about 1.5 billion of them) have full stomachs and the requisite education they would revert to the study of ancient thoughts, just like what have been suggested by commentators here.

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