China's 19th Party Congress

How China is charming the world

Mr Sun Zhijun, deputy chief of the CCP's publicity department, noted China's success on the world stage not only in helping to boost economic growth but also in tackling challenges like cyber security and climate change.
Mr Sun Zhijun, deputy chief of the CCP's publicity department, noted China's success on the world stage not only in helping to boost economic growth but also in tackling challenges like cyber security and climate change.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Efforts to boost cultural influence have helped close 'likeability' gap with US, says party official

China's global image has improved in recent years because of the "Chinese miracle" it has worked to better its people's lives and the fulfilling of its responsibility as a major power, said an official.

"China is not only the largest contributor to world economic growth but also a big contributor to its response to global challenges, such as climate change, cyber security, public health and poverty alleviation," said Mr Sun Zhijun, deputy chief of the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) publicity department.

He added that China has also been promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges with other countries, through media cooperation and by developing cultural services and trade.

"China has displayed its image as a friend to other countries," he said at a press conference yesterday on the sidelines of the CCP congress.

China had won "greater understanding and appreciation from a growing number of people around the world", he said, adding: "We do believe that China has bright prospects in this development."

Mr Sun was responding to a question on the soft power competition between China and the United States, given that the gap has closed in terms of their global image. A survey published earlier this year by the Pew Research Centre in the US showed that they now compete to be the more favoured world power.

"The US and China engender roughly the same level of goodwill," the report said, adding that China was particularly liked in Latin America and the Middle East while the US did better in Europe and the Asia Pacific. In the global median of favourability, the US' 12-point lead from 2014 to 2016 has shrunk to just two this year.

In his remarks earlier yesterday, Mr Sun noted that Chinese culture has gained global influence through efforts to "better tell Chinese stories, make China's voices heard, and improve China's cultural influence and say in the world".

He said China has signed cultural cooperation pacts with 157 countries and set up 30 Chinese cultural centres, including one in Singapore, and 14 pavilions overseas.

The English-language China Global Television Network was launched early this year and is available in 168 countries and regions.

It was in 2014 that President Xi Jinping spoke about promoting China's cultural soft power by disseminating modern Chinese values and showing the charm of Chinese culture to the world.

"The stories of China should be well told, voices of China well spread, and characteristics of China well explained," he said then.

Domestically, Mr Xi has stressed the need for cultural confidence since coming to power in 2012.

He told the CCP congress on Wednesday that culture is "a country and a nation's soul".

"Without full confidence in our culture, without a rich and prosperous culture, the Chinese nation will not be able to rejuvenate itself," he said.

He added that writers and artists should "draw inspiration from everyday life and the experiences of the people to produce works that do justice to our times".

To this end, training programmes and field trips have been carried out for artists, Vice-Culture Minister Xiang Zhaolun said yesterday.

He described how efforts have been made to ensure that public cultural services reached China's remotest villages and poorest areas.

"Two-thirds of villages own cultural centres and every community has its own space for cultural activities," he noted.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2017, with the headline 'How China is charming the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe