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Humanistic exchanges elevate China-Russia relations

Author  :  YANG LEI     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-12-23

The vision of community of shared future for mankind proposed by China has stirred strong responses around the world. From the perspective of geographical relations, the Eurasian community of shared future is one of the core components of the community of shared future for mankind. In June 2016, the leaders of China and Russia proposed to jointly build the Eurasian comprehensive partnership, marking the beginning of building the Eurasian community of shared future. In recent years, China and Russia have made remarkable progress in both political and economic relations, while the cultural relations have lagged behind, which is the weak point of the bilateral relations. It must be admitted that cultural relations are a long-term, macro concept, which is unlike political relations or economic relations that can change dramatically within a short period of time under the influence of policies. Formed through subtle influence over a long process, it often takes decades or even hundreds of years to see significant changes. Due to its long-term nature and stability, cultural relations have a fundamental and overarching impact on the two countries’ bilateral relations. 

Under the leadership and efforts of the two governments, China-Russia cultural exchanges have displayed good development momentum in recent years. The two sides have expanded the scope and depth of educational and cultural exchanges through a series of activities organized by the China-Russia Cultural Cooperation Committee. This has not only improved the image of the two countries in the eyes of each other’s citizens, but also to some extent helped coordinate the cooperation between the two countries in politics, economy and other fields. Polls show a marked improvement in the image of the two governments in the minds of each other’s peoples, as well as in the sense of goodwill between the two sides. This is also the fundamental goal of humanistic exchanges, the goal of which is to build a positive national image of a country in the other country and its people. Once such a good national image is established, it will promote the development of relations between countries. What humanistic exchanges pursue is a kind of conceptual identity, which requires no coercion from external forces or drive from interests.

Common thinking leads to common action. Based on the progress made in humanistic exchanges, China-Russia cooperation in other areas has gained greater momentum, which will help elevate the bilateral relations. After signing the agreement on aligning the Silk Road Economic Belt with the Eurasian Economic Union, China and Russia decided to link the Belt and Road initiative with the Greater Eurasian Partnership initiative. 

Each coin has two sides, and humanistic exchanges between China and Russia also need to be viewed from the other side. Cultural differences easily create a feeling of strangeness and estrangement in the minds of the people from the two countries. Different interests and a lack of mutual understanding, coupled with media hype, tend to magnify such cultural divergences. This is something we try to avoid, and the Chinese and Russian governments need to play a guiding role in the humanistic exchanges between their peoples.

The China-Russia strategic coordination mechanism should play its due role. Relevant departments of the two governments need to communicate closely and coordinate deliberately to work out unified goals, visions and action plans. In the action planning, it is necessary to seek ways of cultural integration and minimize the possibility of cultural conflict. 

The development of China-Russia cultural relations has a sound foundation. Having long been repulsed and suppressed by Western countries, China has a sympathetic and supportive feeling towards Russia, which faces Western hostility and sanctions. In participating in global governance, China is deeply aware of the need to unite countries like Russia in order to alter the existing unfair international rules. Only in this way can China effectively safeguard the international environment for peaceful development. Russia, which sees Europe as its home of civilization, has never been accepted by Europe, being politically and culturally excluded. The Eastern culture was once the source of Russia’s history, and the West’s hostility and blockade have pushed it to seek a home in the East. The shift from the greater Europe to the greater Eurasia is Russia’s choice made after a painful lesson. In the past, every time Russia has suffered a setback in the West, it turned to the East to seek redress. Russia pins its hopes on the East, and the East will create historical opportunities for Russia.


Yang Lei is director of the Russian and Central Asian Studies Center at the Zhou Enlai School of Government at Nankai University.


(Edited by BAI LE)

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