William A. Callahan: China’s Glee

On China Beat, William A. Callahan, Professor of International Politics at the University of Manchester, compares ’s rise to the popular U.S. TV series Glee:

Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World, tells us that we shouldn’t be surprised at China’s new assertiveness: it is merely returning to a Chinese-style of global governance. We need to understand this new situation in terms of China’s own concepts about foreign relations, rather than Eurocentric theories of diplomacy. Thus along with economic power shifting from West to East, he and others argue that intellectual power is shifting from Europe and America to China.

I agree that a change is taking place, but am not convinced that it is a grand continental shift from a Western to a Chinese world order. Rather, what we are witnessing is a dramatic transition from the PRC’s elite political culture (Marxism and/or Confucianism) to the global popular culture that China shares with the rest of the world.

Simply put, Beijing is not presenting a distinct ‘China model’ of development and justice; the PRC is joining the world society of consumers who not only purchase computers and televisions, but also consume the images and roles that are presented on-screen in film, TV and video. China’s new worldview thus is shaped more by media products than by grand ideologies.

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