Cultural Diplomacy News (CDN)
Dr. Armand Clesse (Director, Luxembourg Institute for European and International Studies)

Interview conducted by Katarina Loksova

Q) In your lecture you the USA a number of times; is there anything that China has to offer the USA in terms of cultural diplomacy?

I don’t think so really. China has rich culture and civilisation that goes back thousands of years - but this is not something that they particularly want to share with the rest of the world. If we compare China to France or Britain or, to a certain extent, the USA, they don’t want to impose their norms, culture, civilisation on other peoples, because they are convinced that this is something unique to the Chinese, something cultivated over thousands of years, and therefore cannot be reproduced by anyone else. It will never go much beyond Chinese cuisine - perhaps the language, perhaps some elements of philosophy like Confucianism, Daoism; but only elements.

Q) What do you think, then, about the Confucius Institutes all over the world? Why do they build them?

They want to show, I think, their presence because they see, for example, the French Alliance Françoise, the German Goethe Institute, the British Council and others. They view it simply as a competition and want to demonstrate their presence; they want people to take an interest in China, but, as I said, they don’t think that foreigners can really understand their culture - that is the difference.

Q) Finally, how do you see China in 20 years?

It depends whether everything goes well.  China’s major challenge is to keep everything together, they cannot allow there to be a major disruption (and there could be so many disruptions, not just economically but also politically, socially), or allow the world economy to break down, or the world financial system to break down (which would deal China a fatal blow, and explains why they are financially supporting countries like Italy). We don’t know what will happen even just in the next three or four months - let alone the next twenty years! There is an unbelievable anxiety and nervousness, not just in the markets, but also in the structures and a feeling that everything is reversible and a strong sense of vulnerability. The Chinese will try to keep a double-digit growth for the next twenty years, and if not double digit, at least 7/8% - but this will be very difficult to achieve. Then the question to what extent would a growth rate of 5% or less affect China socially, because Chinese society is so concerned with growth, and society has become so greedy, one has to ask how society could accept even just a slowing down - not to mention a standstill or recession.