In a high-profile meeting last week regarding China's cultural development, the Communist Party of China (CPC) issued a communique emphasizing the rising significance of culture in boosting national strength and maintaining natural cultural security.
"Cultural development must be prioritized in China's overall work, as the country has come to a critical period for deepening economic reform and transforming economic development patterns," says the communique.
The past few days have seen domestic media serving up stories on a blueprint for China's cultural development. Provincial governments and ministries are vying to map out policies to support the cultural industry.
However, Peng Lin, a professor at Tsinghua University, worries that the governing party's ambition of rejuvenating Chinese culture and fostering China's "cultural soul" might be reduced to a simple boost for the cultural industry.
"To rejuvenate Chinese culture, we'd better start by improving people's morality and addressing social ills triggered by the national frenzy for getting rich quickly, especially the problems of money-worshipping, business fraud and a lack of credibility," Peng said.
Professor Zhou Ximing from the Party School of the CPC Central Committee said that China has remained spiritually immature, although it has become wealthier and shaken off the mocking title of "Asia's weakling" after pursuing modernity for more than 100 years.
A debate regarding China's supposed moral decline was recently ignited after a two-year-old girl was hit by two different vans on a market street. Eighteen pedestrians and cyclists ignored her until a migrant woman collecting trash pulled her to the side of the road. The girl died in a hospital last Friday.
"The morals and values of an individual are based on social soil. If individuals believe that society values the pursuit of wealth and power through wrongdoings such as corruption, profiteering and deceit, individuals will fail to maintain high morals, while the hearts of others will be hardened," Zhou said.
Tu Keguo, director of the Cultural Research Institute of the Shandong Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said that he views China's supposed moral decline as a "desperate disease" that needs an equally desperate remedy.
THERAPY FOR HEARTS AND MINDS
As morals concern the spiritual state of an individual, Tu said that China's governing party must "prescribe a therapy that is able to touch people's hearts and minds."
Tu said the "core values of socialist China" mentioned in the communique must "go beyond ideological definitions to embody the essence of ancient Chinese civilization."
"Benevolence, righteousness, modesty and credibility are virtues advocated by Confucius more than 2,000 years ago. Their significance to modern China should not be denied simply because they were proposed in feudal times," Tu said.