Re-modernity: To Construct the Modern Civilization Order with Chinese Cultural Characters
Source:Artintern Author:Ji Shaofeng Date: 2014-09-03 Size:
China is currently experiencing unprecedented changes in a hundred years. Chinese society is encountered with the "pain of growth" originated from both the conflict between the new and the old and the conflict between traditional culture and contemporary culture...

China is currently experiencing unprecedented changes in a hundred years. Chinese society is encountered with the "pain of growth" originated from both the conflict between the new and the old and the conflict between traditional culture and contemporary culture. Such a structural turbulence is embodied in the transition from a traditional country to a modernized one faced by our country and our attempts to take over the modern civilization through modernization and complete the transformation from an agricultural country into an industrial country, from a rural society to a more urbanized one. Nevertheless, the social transition will inevitably cause pain in cultural transition.

The traditional and modern cultures have remained in a contrary state all the time and this confrontation has not been fundamentally eliminated since the May 4th Movement in 1919, thus it is referred to by some scholars as the “Post-May 4th” cultural crisis. A second crisis is the "Post-Cultural Revolution Era" ideology crisis, a crisis of barren culture with nothing but revolutionary, Utopian and ideal contents. The third crisis is a kind of postmodern psychological crisis, ie., the pervading anxiety in the present society, which occurred after the "Post-Cultural Revolution Era" that ended in1978. crisis, namely contemporary society generally filled with anxiety consciousness.

It is not difficult to find out that the present China is different from the one in conventional sense, the one after 1949, the one at thirty years before and after the reform and open up. Currently, China is faced with the practical problems of how to link up the traditional and the modern and how to communicate with the world in the context of globalization. These are in fact the common modernity dilemma faced by different civilizations in the process of globalization. For more than one hundred years, modernity and modernization have constituted two different homophonies in Chinese social transition, while the target for modernity is to construct the modern civilization order that calls for recognition and reposition for the modern core values and the future development mode and path.

To be specific, this is is actually a re-Chinization problem, which includes the re-understanding of Chinese value, Chinese mode, the rise of China, and the subjectivity of China, and the discussion on how traditional culture should adapt to generate modern value. Thus, the barriers brought to modernization by traditional culture can be relieved and the transition from traditional society to modern society can be completed gradually. The ultimate objective of “re-Chinization” is the construction of modern civilization, namely the transformation of the value system and the regime according to the status of modern economy, society, politics, international environment and civilization. Re-modernization is an uncompleted plan and an endless experiment searching for a multi-variant path apart from the Western modernity...

I. Two Landmark Events

Michael Allen Gillespie wrote in the preface of The Theological Origins of Modernity, “We are in a visual age. In the past twenty years, two images have greatly affected our understandings of this age. One is the collapse of Berlin Wall and the other is the collapse of the World Trade Center. Both Berlin Wall and the Wrold Trade Center are not only artifacts but also the symbols which have been deeply rooted in the mind of people. Along with the collapse of the World Trade Center, people began to look upon the globalization from a new perspective and they no longer considered it a one-way street leading to modernity but the criss-cross of avenues, alleys and hillside roads. As a result, we do not expect a new golden age any more but have got a glimpse of the dark corners”. This description gives us a clear insight into what are behind both events and they are not merely events but landmark events which mark the profound changes of international political pattern, deep social structure, economic order, cultural identity, survival concepts and lifestyles. The former directly declared an end of the Cold War and the world turned from the bipolar pattern of Soviet and the United States to the unipolar pattern of the United States from then on, while the latter forced people to introspect, in particular the modernity. “A great many of advocates for modernity feel incredible. One might be morally filled with indignation because the benefits of modernity are not fairly or widely distributed, or astonished at the effects of the modern industrial society on the environment, or even frustrated at the destroy and ravage of traditional culture by the modernity. These are easy to understand. But, how could it be possible that someone oppose the obvious benefits brought about by modernity, like equality, freedom, prosperity, tolerance, diversity and representative government? Such a question from people’s inner heart and a challenge to modernity force us to go back to the discussions about modernity problems. A general view about modernity is that “modernity is a profane world in which people, in place of the gods, become the center of the universe and try to control and possess the nature using a new science and the accompanying technologies. The modern world is deemed as a kingdom of individualism, a kingdom of presentation and subjectivity, a kingdom of explorations and discoveries, a kingdom of freedom, right, equality, tolerance, liberalism and national states.” The modernity had better be interpreted as a kind of efforts to find a new metaphysical/theological answer to the essences and relations of gods, mankind and the nature. Wang Hui, a scholar from the mainland of China, said in the analysis of the society of dramatic changes, “As far as the ideological transition is concerned, it was about in the middle of 1990s that Chinese intelligentsia revived from the pervious turbulence and turned their attention from the meditation on the past to the thinking on the present strange age. This is a premature infant born in the great turbulence in 1989 but he must face the unprecedentedly violent social restructuring.” Wang Hui’s description strikingly resembles Gillespie’s opinions: “In the 1990s, the fundamental changes occurred to the meanings contained in new dramas, economy, politics, culture and military that were organized on the precondition of an end of the revolution century and should be redefined, otherwise the familiar categories like political party, state and the masses are inapplicable to the analysis of that age.” Hence, Wang Hui draw a conclusion that “the coincidence of the ends of the Cold War and revolution implies that that age is not the frog-leap extension of the 19th century and the political mode in the 20th century cannot be indiscriminately copied to solve the problems faced by us.”

II. The Return of Modernization to China

For more than one hundred years, Chinese social transitions have constantly taken place and the politics, economy, culture, education and so on are experiencing the transformation from “pre-modernity” to “modernity”, but the efforts and intention to establish “Chinese modern civilization order” have remained unchanged regardless of the social transitions. The various social reforms have ever been carried out, including the Westernization Movement that advocated the Western learning, the Hundred Days’ Reform which proposed constitutional reform and modernization and the Revolution of 1911 which overthrew the imperial ruling for over two thousand years in China, “democracy” and “science” put forward in the New Culture Movement around May 4th Movement in 1919 and the foundation of PRC in 1949, from which it is not difficult to find that Chinese society has been gradually transferring from a traditional agriculture one to a modern industrial one. The rapid development of Chinese society is bound to cause a series of crises for culture. In modern times, the introspection on the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 has reflected our cultural and psychological crisis in one aspect. It was the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 that shattered the dream of China to march towards a new modern country. There are three crises from culture. The first one is the sharp confrontation between the traditional and modern cultures remained since the May 4th Movement in 1919 and the fervor on the studies of Chinese ancient civilization recently has undoubtedly found the appropriate position for Confucianism which has been lost for nearly a century. The second one is the “Post Cultural Revolution” ideological crisis. If it is said that “the Cultural Revolution” has lasted the “anti-tradition” standpoint in the cultural and ideological spheres, it has been completely feudalized, religionized and traditionalized in real life. After “the Culture Revolution” came to an end, the social order was reconstructed. In particular, the social crisis was solved without effort after the ideological emancipation and the reform and open up in 1978. However, a lack of belief and faith began to spread all over the society. The poet Bei Dao said, “The burned fish is still dreaming about the sea.” In review of our survival reality and situation, though people were not burned with “the flaming passion”, their dream of “going back to the sea” could be rarely seen. The third crisis is the re-modern psychological and mental crisis. The age of accelerated development and the society of great changes make China inevitably face the challenges in one kind or another on the road towards a power. A lack of belief, the vulgarization and commercialized culture lead to more and more worship for the capitalism temple and a kind of anxious living conditions widely spread all over the society. Moreover, we can clearly see that the inevitable phenomena of “the progress of nation but the regression of living being”, the enlarged gap between the rich and the poor, the solidification of social classes, the increased urban and rural differences, the destroy of biology and the environmental pollution in the process of social development and we are forced to reflect on the urgency of constructing the modern civilization order. It is true and indisputable that “the real power of a nation does not merely lie in the military force or is limited to the economic strength, knowledge and culture in the current diversified global pattern. In particular, the nation must embrace a set of modern core values (including freedom, democracy, human right, righteousness, diversity, benevolence, environment protection). After all, the nation must have a modern civilization model.”

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[Editor] 孙雯