China’s elites call for cultural campaign

The Associated Press

BEIJING — The ruling Communist Party approved a program Tuesday to enhance its popularity at home and China’s image abroad at a time when the leadership is struggling with domestic unrest and a delicate succession.

Ending a four-day annual policy meeting — the Central Committee, nearly 400 of the power elite — wrapped up their gathering with the adoption of a communique on boosting China’s cultural influence overseas while reinforcing socialist principles among the increasingly independent population at home.

“More and more, culture is becoming an important element of comprehensive national strength and competitiveness,” the communique said.

While the gathering’s stated aim was to hammer out the new cultural initiative, the closed-door event was an occasion for networking and jockeying over the transition when President Hu Jintao and many other top leaders begin to step down a year from now.

The focus on cultural issues — a shorthand for ideology — comes at a precarious time for the leadership. Beijing feels that China’s stunning rise should translate into more respect from other powers and a greater say in world affairs. Meanwhile, at home, Chinese leaders are under pressure from a public that is upset over income inequality, corruption and other ills of rapid growth and feeling entitled by rising prosperity to demand change.

China’s cultural weakness was bemoaned in an editorial in the overseas edition of the party’s official People’s Daily Tuesday penned by Ye Xiaowen, a Central Committee alternate and former top official for overseeing religious groups.

Cultural development has lagged behind rising diplomatic and economic clout, reducing China’s overall influence and exposing it to foreign dominance, Ye wrote.