Forum: Softly Does It

Soft Power, Hard Times

by Linda Jaivin

IN AUGUST 2018, China’s outward-looking press, including the Global Times and the China Daily, wanted the world to know all about one Chinese artist, Shu Yong 舒勇, whose Belt and Road Initiative-themed travelling exhibition Global Tour of Golden Bridge on Silk Road opened that month in Florence. It may be true, as the website of the Galerie Urs Meile (Beijing-Lucerne) proclaims, that Shu, who has long cultivated the image of the maverick, ‘stirs up trouble’ by ‘playing games with the government, enterprises and the media’. These days, however, Shu appears to be painting a straight Party line. The China Daily quoted him saying of his installation Golden Bridge on Silk Road that it ‘symbolizes our hope for joint cooperation within the framework of the Initiative, the creation of a global community with a common destiny and shared interests’.1

Sinology as Spectacle

by Paul J. Farrelly

IN MAY 2018, I participated in the Young Sinologist Program 青年汉学家研修计划 in Chongqing. On the last morning of the university exchange portion of the program, my lecturer sat me down in front of his computer to watch the recently released ninety-minute documentary Amazing China 厉害了我的国 (see Chapter 2 ‘Talking (Up) Power’). Sitting through the film’s relentless praise of the technological advances, scientific and industrial development, military modernisation, and success at alleviating poverty that has happened under Xi Jinping 习近平, what really struck me was its enthusiasm for the country’s cultural industry. I had attended a lecture on China’s cultural industry at the Young Sinologist Program in Xi’an the year before, and this deepened my curiosity about the cultural industry’s role in China’s growing soft power initiatives. Amazing China introduces the topic with an excerpt from Xi’s speech at the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China in October 2017: ‘Cultural confidence is the most basic, the most profound, and the most enduring force of a nation and a people’s development’.

Passing Marx

by William Sima

ON 5 MAY 2018, the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, a bronze statue of the philosopher was unveiled at his birthplace, Trier, in south-west Germany. The Chinese government had funded the statue; Wu Weishan 吴为山, head of the National Art Museum of China 中国美术馆, designed it. Wu is the sculptor behind the bronze statues of ghoulish refugees lining the entrance to Nanjing’s Massacre Memorial Hall 南京大屠杀遇难同胞纪念馆, as well as the giant Confucius that was installed at Tiananmen Square in January 2011 to torrents of public ridicule, and subsequently removed overnight in April 2011 without explanation. Wu is flexible: Confucian one minute, Marxist the next. Wu’s Marx at Trier symbolises a renewal of state Marxism under Xi Jinping 习近平, and its promotion overseas — in this case, with the collaboration of the Trier city council.