Berlin, 3 Mar (ZXS) -- How can the West better understand China?

——Interview with Beate Schneider, Professor Emeritus of the Bern Academy of Arts, Switzerland

China News Agency reporter Ma Xiuxiu

Beat Schneider, professor emeritus at the Bern Academy of Arts in Switzerland, recently published his new book, China's Long March to Modernity from a Non-Eurocentric Perspective. The book decodes China's development beyond Western-centrism and reveals the causes of Western misperceptions of China.

Is "Eurocentrism" universal? Why is China's peaceful development historically inevitable? Beate Schneider recently accepted an exclusive interview with China News Agency's "East-West Question" to discuss the above topics.

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: Your recently published book "China's Long March to Modernity from a Non-Eurocentric Viewpoint" has attracted attention. Why did you come up with the idea to write this book?

Schneider: For about forty years, I have been studying ancient and modern China as a cultural historian. The mismatch between China's prominence in today's world politics and the West's perception of China is worrying. Including intellectuals and political elites, the West's level of understanding of China is too low; And Chinese know more about the West - this is the so-called "cognitive asymmetry". This led me to write this book about China as a way to contribute to the [Western] understanding of China.

China News Agency: What are the main issues discussed in this book?

Schneider: In this book, the main questions I explore are: Why is China, with its 5,000-year history, one of the greatest phenomena in history? What is its culture? How did China, as a developing country, achieve anti-colonial liberation and emerge as an economic power? What is "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and what is the "Chinese dream"? Are Western accusations about human rights, digital regulation and Covid prevention policies justified? China and the West, who is threatening whom? Is it possible that American aggression could lead to a hot war?

All of these questions are answered from a non-Eurocentric perspective. These answers are based on historical facts, observations, critical scientific theories, and are based on more than 1000,<> sources.

Children fly kites in a spring field in Changxing County, Zhejiang Province. Photo by Wu Zheng

For example, the book points out that after the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, based on the previous experience of infectious diseases, the Chinese government adopted a "dynamic zero" policy. Some voices in the West have accused China of harming human rights by successfully managing the coronavirus crisis. Western witnesses living in China reported that China has not taken measures to a greater extent than those taken during lockdowns in countries such as France and Italy. But China's approach is more consistent, technologically mature and disciplined than in other countries. For example, during the "no outing" period, entire urban areas with millions of residents are strictly isolated from the outside world, while a large organizational system takes care of and supplies them.

In November 2022, staff were delivering vegetable packs to residents in a community in Yubei District, Chongqing, which was closed due to new coronary pneumonia. Photo by He Penglei

China News Agency: Why does the West's perception of China always deviate from the truth?

Schneider: On the one hand, because of the traditional Western hegemony and imperialist arrogance, Eurocentrism, that is, the colonial perspective of the West; Moreover, there are huge differences between Chinese and Western cultures; Coupled with the current Western attack on China, the channels of communication have been blocked.

The greater China's global importance, the sharper the U.S. attack on China becomes. The hegemonic and aggressive policies of the United States cannot tolerate any other powerful power other than its own. For the West, there is only "either/or", there is no "not only but", mutually beneficial cooperation is a foreign word for the American elite.

China has a culture of "not only and": not only to modernize, but also to preserve traditions; It is necessary not only to liberate the productive forces, but also to control by the state; There must be not only competition, but also long-term national plans; Not only innovation, but also supervision. This "not only but" has become a huge advantage in the development of New China, and at the same time has become China's institutional advantage over Western capitalist countries. This has allowed China to unleash incredible economic and social dynamism that has amazed the West.

To be clear: China's misimage in the West is deliberately created. This is mainly the result of propaganda. It is clear that the West seeks its own economic interests and hegemonic political power, and sees China as a competitor. Therefore, the Western media also do not want to provide objective information about China. The West knows little about China and is the basis for manipulating Western people, so intimidation tactics are easier.

On the other hand, Western citizens are increasingly interested in China. This is because China has not only achieved great economic, technological, scientific and cultural achievements, but also achieved great success in the field of diplomacy. The Global Security Initiative (GSI) launched by China is a powerful and realistic peace initiative that is deeply rooted in China's thousands of years of history and culture.

In addition, the positive response to my book and other books about China is indicative of the growing interest in China. These books are based on facts and are objective. For example, some people think that the judgments given in my book are clear and balanced; Others believe that this is a politically realistic work in response to a large amount of anti-China propaganda in the West.

China News Agency: How to understand "Eurocentrism"? Is this a common phenomenon?

Schneider: "Eurocentrism" refers to the consideration and evaluation of social and political systems outside Europe from a European perspective in accordance with European values and norms. This Western view of democracy, human rights, etc. is considered universal.

"Eurocentrism" is an expansionist system of world conquest based on two pillars: Christian monotheism and capitalist economic expansion. The idea of "Eurocentrism" prevails not only in Europe but throughout the Western capitalist world, and this also applies to the industrialized countries of North America as well as Australia and New Zealand. This phenomenon can also be called "Western-centrism".

China News Agency: Does the West think that China's modernization will pose a challenge to it? What do you think of Chinese-style modernization?

Schneider: For the West, China's modernization is a huge challenge. As the title of my book suggests, China has taken a big step toward modernization. Historically, China was an economic, innovative and cultural powerhouse, and now China is back to that state. With its strength, China's influence is significant to all the "countries of the South" in the world. This is also evident at the UN level, where the influence of China and its partners has risen.

How do I view China's modernization? So far, China – more precisely the Chinese Communist Party – has successfully absorbed many elements of Western modernity, but has not been Westernized itself. The West has long wanted China to adapt to the West by opening up to Western capital, that is, through trade. As it turns out, that hope will not come true. China seems to have overcome some pressure to open up.

Jiulongkou Wetland Scenic Area and Huaiju Town in Jianhu County, Jiangsu Province at night. Photo by He Jinghua

The state plays a very important role in China's modernization. China's modernization is a kind of integrated modernization. In contrast to liberal dogma, in China, the state can play a strong role in technological innovation, and national industrial policy can be very creative. The combination of China's own cultural self-confidence and the knowledge, ability and capital absorbed from the West has given Chinese society a special vitality. This is a huge advantage over the West, especially the United States.

In fact, until the 20th century, modernization was a phenomenon that originated from and was dominated by the West. In Western modernization, the economy, politics, and culture flow mainly in one direction, that is, from the West to others. China has also benefited over the past few decades. During this period, however, many believed that China's future did not lie in imitating the West, but in following its own path of modernization. China and the "Asian Tigers" (South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan) are making the West realize that modernization is not only the Western model, and that the dominance of Western modernization has ended, replaced by the era of "pluralistic modernization".

Aerial photograph of spring scene in Liu Ze Village, Hainan Town, Xinghua City, Jiangsu Province. Photo by He Jinghua

China News Agency: Why is China's peaceful development historically inevitable?

Schneider: With a history of 5,000 years of civilization and no interruption in its development, China can be called one of the greatest phenomena in history.

In its 19,20-year history of civilization, China was generally not an expansionist and imperialist power, in stark contrast to the European colonial powers of the <>th century and the United States and Japan in the <>th century.

For thousands of years, Chinese's thinking has been influenced by cosmopolitanism, the "world" of Chinese. This concept means that everything under the sky belongs to all, emphasizing the civilizational harmony and cohesion between different peoples and ethnic groups. "Tianxia" not only unites different ethnic groups in China, but also affects neighboring countries - they are not oppressed or dependent, but "coexist in the same world" with China. ”

China has a culture of "not only but". Long influenced by Confucianism, Chinese better at dealing with contradictions than Westerners. They are taught to control emotions, endure extremes and contradictions, reconcile with each other, and seek win-win situations when possible. In general—perhaps biased—Chinese are generally calmer and more patient than Westerners, but also more alert and adaptable.

Ancient Confucian philosophy and the tradition of cooperation are also central to contemporary Chinese foreign policy. For China, there is not only China, but also the United States. Although the systems of China and the United States are different, the two can coexist, cooperate and jointly assume responsibilities for the international community. Through the Global Security Initiative, China has proposed to the international community a path of peaceful, inclusive and stable development, which benefits the people of all countries in the world.

Alpine terraced rape flowers bloom in Xiao County, Anhui Province. Photo by Senior Zuo

China News Agency: In your opinion, how can the West better understand China? What constructive role should the media play in enhancing mutual understanding between the two sides?

Schneider: The situation that China is not properly understood will change only if the Western media finally stop selective reporting, that is, when the United States begins to accept China, which has become a world power. It may take time. Until then, the aggressiveness of the United States may increase. But in the long run, I am confident. Because China today is so strong economically, especially in terms of technology, people will be more and more interested in China, as evidenced by the interest of many people in my book. As far as China is concerned, it should continue to patiently develop soft power. Based on Chinese history and philosophy, I think China has the necessary patience because China is used to thinking and planning on a large time frame.

To speak of greater understanding, reference should be made again to the Global Security Initiative, which could be translated into all languages, summarized and distributed to all media in plain language, with good commentary, and lectures and conferences organized at interested institutions. This pro-peace initiative will also promote understanding of Chinese policy. (End)

Respondent Profile:

Beat Schneider (born 1946) is an honorary professor at the Bern Academy of Arts (HKB) in Switzerland, dedicated to socio-historical-oriented research on culture and art history. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the history of culture, art and design, including "Balancing Culture - A Brief History of Ancient Chinese Art" and the online essay "China is Different".