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Wang Yiwei:America has succeeded in engaging China


In the minds of the Chinese people, there is a lingering complex about America, historically shown by “Western Learning Spreading to the East” after the Opium Wars, “Total Westernization” after the First Sino-Japanese War, “Open Up to America,” and “Reform and Open Up Policy.”
America has made an incalculable and far-reaching impact on China. Since the collapse of the "world" system in China, America has even greatly affected China’s identity formation. American factors have been internalized into China's ideological and national identity.
The real challenge to Sino-U.S. relations is the Sino-U.S. identity conflict. For America, the biggest challenge from Chinais America’s self-image – to Americans, America must not be Number Two. For China, the biggest challenge from America is its national identity – China’s Americanization.
All in line with America
America has become the symbol of modernization and globalization. China defines progress and development in American terms. Since some Americanized Chinese see China as the second brother in the world, Sino-U.S. relationshave become the relationship of “Big Brother” to“Second Brother.” Europe worries about China following America’s footsteps or becoming “another America.” Neighboring countries worry about “choosing sides between China and America.” Other regions worry about a probable world turmoil caused by Sino-U.S. conflict.
China’s Americanization is reflected in its Anglo-Saxon production mode,which bases productivity on efficiency and competitiveness. Because the European continental mode, especially Rhineland Capitalism, advocates sustainable development with the least resource consumption, Europeans worrythat the world’s resources cannot bear “another America.”
China’s Americanization is also reflected in its lifestyle, based on principles of personal enjoyment and interest motivation. Chinese measure their living standard against that of the U.S. and see commodity economy as the basis of value (bigger cars, bigger houses). Personal happiness is built by harming nature and suppressing the rights of others. This new ethic violates the Chinese tradition of a lifestyle in harmony with nature.
China’s Americanization is reflected in thinking. China has put its hope of “connecting tracks” and “reviving” on America. Both pro-America and anti-America thinkers focus on America. Some people even maintain that the American way represents advanced “universal values,” but they forgetthat the concept of “universal” came from Christianity. On the other hand, the concept of “tianxia” (the world) derives from China’s unique geocultural environment. The two concepts are different. The world’s development is not linear but diverse and tortuous.
“Open up” is gradually becoming “assimilation”
The most successful “engagement policy” of America is the one applied to China. (Actually, “engagement” should be translated into “鉚合” rather than “接觸”.)
There are three reasons for America’s success in engaging China.
First, the soft power of religion hits a vital nerve in a secular society. America is a religious country. The Chinese people’s yearning for religion becomesa yearning for America. American universities train batches of pro-American Chinese, so America’s will and interest have become China’s will and interest through them.
Second, the success of “Western Learning Spreading to the East” was attributed to America. Chinese yearned for progress and wanted to learn from the West. The most convenient way was to follow a model. Even when “Surpassing Britain and Catching up with America” was suggested in the Mao Zedong era, the target was still America. Many scholars introduced Western culture to China following “Chinese learning for fundamental principles and Western learning for practical application,” but they did not realize that “fundamental principles” and “practical application” cannot be separated. As a result, “Western learning for practical application” Americanized China.
Third, China’s "Reform and Opening Up" led to dependence on America. In the beginning of the reform, Deng Xiaoping declared that "Reform and Opening Up" meant opening up to the West, especially America. "Reform and Opening Up," which was just a meanshas now become an end. This caused the rise of concepts like “connecting tracks” and “transformation.” “Wade across the stream by feeling the way” has not yet been upgraded to “top-level design.” China has lacked “self-confidence of civilization” and “self-consciousness of civilization” since the Opium War, but the "Reform and Opening Up" did not deal with the problem. Thus, “opening up" has become insidiously equal to “assimilation.” “Opening up" to promote “reform” resulted in China’s Americanization.
Already Americanized thinking
By Americanizing China, America need not resolve the threat brought by China’s rise. America can maintain its traditional “must not be Number Two” identity. Moreover, America can put up China as another global enemy, which is what happened in the negotiations on climate change, in order to disperse the global attacks and lighten the pressure on America. China’s Americanization made the China-threat theory spread.
Compared to the West in the last 170 years, China’s knowledge system totally serves the need for national salvation.Whether the Chinese people like it or not, China is going from a revival phase to a post-revival phase and from a developing big country to the world’s leading country. The real threat to this development is China’s Americanization.
China now uses America to measure its great revival. How about after revival? How about after surpassing America? How can China build its identity, concepts, and worldview?
The author Wang Yiwei is a specially invited commentator of China Energy Fund Committee,Distinguished Professor of Tongji University
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