miracle modern china Built on global connections, the belief that sending youth, businesses, and future leaders to absorb the outside world was the path from poverty to power. Now, encouraged by its transformation, the country is shunning the influences and ideas that fueled its rise.
Education officials impose restrictions on teaching English and require scholars to seek permission to attend virtual international conferences. Regulators have punished Chinese companies for raising funds abroad. Mr. Xi urged artists to embrace “cultural trust” by promoting traditional Chinese literature and art, and cautioned against imitating Hollywood.
And the government, citing the coronavirus pandemic, no longer freely issues most passports, the physical symbol of an interconnected world. The borders are almost completely closed.
“There is no longer any integration and exchange between different cultures,” said Zhang Jincan, owner of Dusk Dawn Club, a live music venue in Beijing.
Before the pandemic, the club was an essential part of the city’s curious, connected music scene. Locals crowded to hear the visit Polish jazz quintet or Argentine percussionists. Expats can spot the rising Chinese punk bands. Performances are often organized with foreign cultural organizations.
Now, Mister Zhang worried that his club’s core would disappear. “You have a kind of aesthetic fatigue,” he said.
There is little chance of a return to the isolationism of the Mao era, when the nation was financially and culturally cut off from the world. The epidemic has made clear how much The global economy depends On China, how much China has benefited. Mr. Shi says he has no intention of decoupling from other economies.
“Countries around the world must uphold true multilateralism,” he said Tell World Economic Forum last month. “Barriers should be removed, not walls built.”
But if the government values the economic benefits of globalization, the same does not seem to hold true for the intangible benefits: artistic, intellectual, and personal. These relationships – which have made China not only an essential component of the global economy, but also a member of the global community – are subject to scrutiny, restriction, or rejection.
Anything seen as foreign – or increasingly defamed – is vulnerable to attack by vitriolic online nationalists. Celebrities were promoting vegetarianism Accused From the publication of Western lifestyles.
Even this month’s Winter Olympics in Beijing, one of the world’s most intriguing events, were held on China’s terms: without foreign spectators, and in defiance of diplomatic boycotts by countries including the United States.
It was sport that once paved the way for diplomatic appeals.
After the Communists took power in 1949, the first Americans to officially enter China were, decades later, nine table tennis players. The teams of the two countries met in 1971 at the World Table Tennis Championships in Japan, and the Chinese government invited Americans for a week-long visit, where they toured the Great Wall of China, saw a dance troupe and played matches. a year after “ping pong diplomacyPresident Richard Nixon made his landmark book visit to chinaAnd opened the door for the two countries to restore diplomatic relations.
In the decades that followed, the deepening of China’s global ties signaled its growing ambitions.
More than 6.5 million Chinese studied abroad between 1978 and 2019, with the number rising every year. Chinese technology companies listed on Wall Street, their innovations copied by Silicon Valley. School teachers have used western boy band songs to teach English, as it is seen as vitality to Economic opportunities.
The outside world was hungry to know more about China, too. between 2002 And 2018, the number of international students in China has grown nearly six times. The 2008 Beijing Olympics helped the country establish itself as a global tourist destination.
Caution remained. Deng Xiaoping, the leader who led the economic opening, memorably warned that an open window brings fresh air and flies. But in those tumultuous early days, many believed that China was rushing irrevocably toward opening.
Mister Shi proved them wrong. Since taking power in 2012, the Chinese Communist Party has imposed restrictions on foreigners non-governmental organizationsAccusing some of plotting against the country. I’ve been banned outside school books, asserting that only he can guide China to greatness. The growing hostility from the United States has also pushed Chinese leaders to take a more defensive stance.
The coronavirus has crystallized those trends. Bend on Elimination of infectionsChina has canceled almost all international flights. State media focused on the death toll in the West.
To reduce imported cases, officials He said They will not issue or renew passports except in cases of emergency, work or study abroad. The number of passports issued in the first half of 2021 was 2% compared to the same period in 2019.
Sarah Doan, 16, applied for a passport in December, after being accepted into a private high school in Seattle. She said immigration officials at her home in Shanxi Province told her that minors are not allowed to leave the country.
Ms Doan contacted the National Immigration Department, which said there was no such policy.
However, local officers rejected it, arguing that the epidemic abroad was too dangerous, or pointed to China’s fraught relationship with the United States.
“I wanted to say, what is the relationship of tensions between the United States and China?” said Ms. Doan, who finally got a passport last month. Immigration officials in Shanxi did not respond to a faxed request for comment.
Despite his rhetorical commitments, Mr. Xi is working to narrow the scope of economic participation, calling for Reduce dependence on exports And keep Chinese companies closer to home. after Didi Chuxing The Chinese government announced its IPO in New York last year without the blessing of regulators, as it announced an investigation into the taxi-booking company. Within months, Didi cross off.
And although China wants foreign money, it is expelling the people who accompany it. The number of foreigners living in Beijing and Shanghai has fallen by nearly a third in the past decade, according to European business groups.
Even after China opens its borders, some fear the worsening climate will prevent foreigners from coming.
Before the epidemic, Sarah Kinleyside, who had lived in Beijing for 16 years, Organized tours For Western executives visiting for business. Newbies were at times nervous, with fears and misconceptions about government surveillance. But they left admirers of high-speed trains and safe cities. Some are back for family vacations.
The latest in China: essential things to know
“It’s kind of a vicious cycle,” said Ms. Kenliside. “If people don’t come, they won’t be able to see it for themselves.”
Stereotypes are likely to harden in the other direction, as China imposes new limits on outside influences.
Last summer, education officials banned online tutoring companies from entering Recruitment of teachers residing abroad, Cut the popular source for English lessons and cultural exchange. In December, the organizers Command Television credits to determine if any cast or crew has a foreign nationality.
These decisions were drafted as part of broader moves for Reducing students’ workloador the taming of China Unbridled celebrity culture. But officials have at times been more explicit about the pernicious effects of foreign ideas. Mr. Shi has a denounce Blind worship of Western cultural products, the Student Trust in traditional culture, which he calls “a major issue related to the rise and fall of national wealth.”
The art world has raced to comply in ways that matter to Jiang Bing, curator of the contemporary art gallery.
Ms. Jiang helped organize this year’s Chengdu Biennale, which features hundreds of works from China and abroad. She said that many artists still want to connect with their international counterparts. But she saw others looking for clear symbols of Chinese heritage, such as Ming dynasty clothesrather than looking for more subtle or new ways to express cultural pride.
“If there is no similar process of thinking, questioning, and criticizing, this cannot be a true cultural trust,” she said.
Some say the focus on domesticity is a natural consequence of China’s rising stature. While American films often topped the Chinese box office, domestic films now dominate. Domestic fashion designers, who have always rejected as second-class, drive higher prices.
Sun Lee, 24, moved to Britain last fall to earn a master’s degree, having long aspired to study and work abroad. But the country’s lax management of the virus has given him a deeper appreciation of China’s ability to implement policies without the friction that Western democracies have experienced.
“The reality is that China’s development and the entire economic situation is trending upwards,” said Mr. Sun, who plans to return home after graduation. “This is beneficial for my personal development.”
However, he plans to use a VPN to access blocked external websites after returning. China’s growing middle class, increasingly well-traveled and fluent in global popular culture, is unlikely to accept a total withdrawal from the outside world.
Even some unexpected voices championed cultural engagement.
“Technology has ensured that cultural distance is impossible,” said Wang Xiaodong, a self-described national blogger with more than 6 million followers on social media. Mr. Wang eagerly follows American TV shows, including Game of Thrones and Westworld.
But the government Tighter controls on VPNs. Those who criticize China’s growing isolationism are often censored or drowned out by nationalist voices. Mr. Wang himself has been attacked online for saying that China needs global engagement.
Virtual vitriol has real-world consequences. Last fall, officials in the northeastern city of Dalian closed A Japanese-style shopping complex within two weeks of opening, after online commentators denounced it as a form of cultural invasion.
In the long run, the hostility may jeopardize the rise that nationalists are eager to promote.
Last year, government advisor Officially warned China’s legislature that restrictions could harm foreign policy. “Over-management will affect the experts’ analysis of international issues and the quality of their advice,” Wrote The advisor, Jia Qingguo, who is also a professor at Peking University.
After reaching him via email, Professor Jia agreed to give an interview. But he said the regulations required university approval first, which never came.
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