“Chinese Bridge”: Soft Communication outreach to help the world to understand China more

[Source]    GMW.cn [Time]    2016-11-07 08:58:53 

“Soaring bridges connect north to south, their paths changing through turns in the road.” A “Chinese Bridge” that connects young people of all nations, and through the twists and turns in the transmission of Chinese culture abroad also must change its path at times. Not long ago, Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban), the Hunan Provincial Government and Hunan Satellite Television, produced and broadcasted the 15th “Chinese Bridge”, Chinese Proficiency Competition for College Students (hereafter called “Chinese Bridge”). A total of 146 contestants from 108 countries, after 3 months of fierce competition, all came together for a carnival of Chinese culture. This was a feast of cultural exchange watched by over 100 million people around the world, and the use of soft cultural communication to show people is the best way by which to better understand Chinese culture.

In essence, in an era where “cultural diplomacy” is already a global phenomenon, 15-year tradition of “Chinese Bridge” for cultural exchange makes it the most vivid and most socially resonant form of cultural diplomacy. It gels well with other forms of public diplomacy, and makes the transmission and spread of Chinese culture and civilization wider, deeper, and more influential.

Using soft cultural communication to open new paths for Chinese Culture

“The strength of culture is more than its inherent value, it’s also in whether that culture is spread, and how widely and deeply it is spread.” The long history and profound depth of Chinese culture is a universally known fact, but to find deeper energy within it and release its most fundamental truths, ways to transmit it even more deeply and substantially need to be found, such that its profundity takes root immovably in the hearts of foreigners, and such that their awareness of Chinese civilization becomes clearer and more real. Shortly after China passed through the period of reintegrating with the global economy, it proposed the strategy of Chinese culture “going out”. And in recent years, as cultural cooperation between China and foreign countries has expanded, China’s cultural industries have grown toward competing in the international cultural products market at the deep levels, which demonstrates the increasing support China devotes to the “going out” of its culture. But at present, the strength of China’s cultural exports seems hard to square with its status as the engine of global economic growth. From the penetration of its language to the promotion of its culture, all signs seem to be “regressed”, and most foreigner’s knowledge of Chinese culture is both partial and fragmented.

In this context, except the official channels of cultural promotion, more soft communication for cultural transmission are needed to tell China’s story. “Soft communication”, when compared to “hard promotion”, differs in that it takes a more everyday perspective, begins from the periphery, speaks in a more intimate tone, and disperses cultural viewpoints and ideals almost as though it were a soft rain.

The focus of “Chinese Bridge” is a kind of soft cultural communication. This primetime television program, with its long history, respect from industry experts, and its reputation as a station in Chinese language and culture between China and the rest of the world, is today’s leading cultural program in its area in China. With its influence in the worldwide Chinese community, its popularity in global cultural exchange circles, and its worldwide brand recognition, “Chinese Bridge” becomes an irreplaceable component of China’s cultural diplomatic outreach.

In terms of channels of transmission, “Chinese Bridge” opened up a new way. Its television program format allows it to impart knowledge from a position of pedanticism without appearing to do so, because of its entertainment value, while certainly systematic, from its production to its innovations – the original variety show format to the outdoor reality show format it later took to its return to the studio, or its creative new testing and competition models, like the first ever domestic Chinese vs. foreign variety show competition, “Chinese character mah jong”, or 5D Q&A – are all impossible to separate from the word “fun”.

In terms of its content, the show focuses on finding new forms in the periphery, and its questions cover a variety of aspects including characters, words, sentences, poems, history, and geography, all things which resonate with audiences, whatever is interesting…or in the words of Chinese Bridge’s senior director Liu Jianli, “connecting points of interest in cultural blind spots”. That’s why the show’s “Li Lei Han Mei Mei” English textbook skits, songs like Jiangnan Tannery Closing, popular TV series like Nirvana in Fire and all the allusions, metaphors, and idioms you’d expect find a place here, and each teaches foreign audiences new knowledge about Chinese and its modes of thought.

Interesting, informative content that produces breakthroughs helps Chinese “come to life” and makes it more attractive. By bridging tradition and modernity, as well as culture and entertainment, Chinese Bridge makes Chinese culture more varied and unpredictable in its presentation to foreign audiences, and gives the unknown the attraction of novelty. Such innovative, creative models of cultural transmission, in China, aren’t simply lacking, there is a serious deficiency, and as such it has become a pillar of cross-cultural exchange in China’s diplomacy.

Using youth as a periphery mechanism to foster “People Who Know China” and “Friends of China”

That Chinese bridge, as a variety program, continuing to be a channel to reach young people after 15 years is truly a rarity, especially given its status as an ambassador for the promotion of Chinese culture and language, with a core message of cultural concepts. The reason for its longevity is Chinese culture’s recognition of global culture. And this recognition, given time, has become the force that drives the outward transmission of Chinese culture, and the signature of Chinese Bridge’s transmission of the same.

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