Not Back-to-Back, But Face-to-Face. How Cultural Traditions Influence the Policies of Russia and China

26.04.2018

During the final session of the Russian-Chinese conference of the Valdai Club, dedicated to the role of traditional culture in the modern world and relations between Russia and China, the participants stressed that both countries are great cultural powers, but the cultural ties between them need to be improved. Among the top twenty books sold in China, there is no single Russian one. The same can be said about the weak presence of Chinese culture and literature in Russia.

In modern China, culture is not something residual, it plays a significant role in politics and in international relations. Chinese values enter the world, supplementing the Chinese economic presence. Therefore, they are important and interesting not only for cultural studies specialists, but also for understanding modern politics and China’s role in world affairs. At the same time, traditional culture and philosophy are closely intertwined with the ideas of Marxism, and for understanding Chinese politics one must understand not only Confucius, but also Marx and Mao Zedong. And the wealth of Chinese culture often makes it difficult to understand.

The cultural foundations of Russia’s foreign policy were also discussed in detail. Russia and China have common elements of history and culture. The participants emphasized the need for a common methodology and language of communication in order to overcome cultural and cognitive barriers. The experts noted that China knows and understands Russia better than Russia knows and understands China. An important conclusion was that Eurasia is divided culturally by several walls and it is crucial not to turn a blind eye to it. However, the existing cultural differences do not mean hostility and this is an important advantage. We need mediators who will help the societies of China and Russia understand each other. China and Russia need common victories, which we could be proud of together. Experts and scientists need not stand back-to-back, as states do at the highest political level, but face-to-face.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Andrei Bystritskiy, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, stressed that the speeches and discussions at the conference showed the high quality of the Chinese-Russian expert dialogue, sincerity and ability to openly discuss the most important issues not only of bilateral relations, but also of the world development. Russia and China are entering a new world, which they must shape themselves, and perhaps they are already doing it. According to Andrey Bystritskiy, the dominance of Western media in Russia and China is no longer in question. Moreover, we ourselves have already launched an information offensive. Bystritskiy also stressed the need to develop a common political and information language.

For his part, Li Shimo, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Fudan University, said that the colossal level of mutual trust in politics between Russia and China is complemented by growing ties at the level of business and society. Despite the fact that relations between the political elites leave room for further perfection, the future is determined precisely by the broad masses and the political leaders. Feng Shaolei, director of the Center for Russian Studies at the East China Normal University, noted that an important feature of the discussions was the high level of self-criticism of the participants, as well as the multidisciplinarity of the audience and the content of the discussions.

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