Globalization is the process of interaction and integration among people, cultures, and nations. Having accelerated in the 20th century, it became one of the main aspects of the transition to modernity for countries worldwide. The cultural dimension of globalization involves both the sharing of ideas and values across cultures and the standardization of cultural expressions all over the world. Globalization is used to refer to forces that expand beyond borders, whereas cultural nationalism tends to denote forces aimed to establish a coherent identity within national borders (Inoguchi 336). They are both antagonistic and interconnected tendencies that have a profound impact on the formation of national cultures. The purpose of this paper is to analyze and compare the influence of globalization and cultural nationalism on the development of Chinese and Japanese cultures in their transition to modernity.
Chinese Culture and Globalization
China is the most populous country in the world and is considered the most dominant culture in East Asia. Its history of ancient civilization goes back more than 3,000 years. From the Qin dynasty to the late Qing dynasty (221 BC-AD 1912), China was an empire with rich religious, artistic, writing, scientific, and technical traditions. In the 20th century, after the revolution, the control over the country was taken by the Communist Party, which initiated the Cultural Revolution aimed to destroy the traditional elements of Chinese society (Zhang 24). Since the 1980s, vigorous efforts have been made to revive China’s rich heritage, and the modern culture of the country can be described as a complex mix of ancient and modern elements.
Chinese culture is characterized by a diversity of customs and traditions that vary greatly between different cities and provinces. The majority ethnic group is the Han Chinese that constitutes approximately 92% of the population and comprises many ethnic minorities that have assimilated with it throughout history (Jacques). It has maintained its distinct linguistic and cultural traditions through the ages and has always considered itself superior to other existing ethnicities in China. Overall, the Han is what people think of when they hear the word “Chinese,” and Chinese culture is Han culture.
The Chinese attitude towards other nations can be observed through the example of the Jewish community in Shanghai that has existed since the 19th century and witnessed several waves of immigrants in the 20th century. When World War II broke out, more European Jews had taken refuge in Shanghai than in any other city in the world (Griffiths). The tale of the city that not only accepted Jews but did not require visas circulated in European Jewish communities before and after the war (Beila 72). In the novel The Cursed Piano, Beila describes China as perceived by Europeans: “China is a very big place, ruled by an emperor who puts every family and every man into a neighborhood administrative system. They block sea and land routes to the outside world, treating white people as barbarians” (Beila 72). Upon arrival to Shanghai, however, the Jews found a comparatively hospitable habitat and established a large, vibrant community in the restricted area of the city. After the war, most Jews left, and the rest have assimilated into society, becoming virtually indistinguishable from the local population.
Chinese Cultural Nationalism
The concept of Chinese nationalism emerged during the Qing dynasty, was later employed by the Chinese Communist Party as a political tool, and is now a major factor in the country’s domestic and foreign policy. The country’s transition to modernity coincided with the period of rapid economic, political, and technological growth (Finamore 118). It was accompanied by the rise of the nationalist discourse cultivated by the media and the state’s propaganda system (Walton). It includes redefining the concept of the Chinese identity in response to globalization and increasing the role of the traditional culture in China’s foreign and domestic affairs.
Chinese nationalism is not a homogenous ideological doctrine but rather a general tendency that comprises two main aspects: political and cultural. Political nationalism that predominated for most of the 20th century seeks to re-establish China’s political authority and international sovereignty and modernize Chinese society (Walton). Cultural nationalism that began to emerge only in 1989 regards traditional values as the heart of the national identity and believes the country’s revival to be primarily cultural.
With the Han Chinese being the majority group of the population, Chinese nationalism is closely connected with Han nationalism. The majority of people in China think of themselves as belonging to just one race, the Han, as opposed to other multicultural nations that recognize themselves to be, in various degrees, multiracial and multicultural (Jacques). Han nationalism is based on the belief that the Han is superior to other ethnic groups and the non-Han should be absorbed into the Han. It can be said that the Han identity keeps a demographically and geographically vast country together while, at the same time, lacking respect for difference.
Japanese Culture and Globalization
Japan is one of the world’s most densely populated and urbanized countries in the world. Formed between the 4th and 9th centuries as an empire, it later transformed into a shogunate, a feudal military state, and for several centuries, was almost completely isolated from the outside world. In the 19th century, the imperial power was restored, and the country opened trade with the West, adopted a Western-style constitution, and started to embrace cultural practices from all over the world (Goto-Jones 123). After suffering a defeat in World War II, Japan has witnessed a wave of Americanization and has seen strived to develop a culture incorporating both traditional and modern elements. Overall, Japan is considered a nation shaped by cycles of globalization and isolationism, with the culture influenced by the country’s imperial past, the period of seclusion, and rapid globalization.
Japanese Cultural Nationalism
Japanese nationalism began to form in the 19th century as a blend of native and imported political philosophies developed by the Meiji government to promote national unity in defense against colonization by Western powers. In the 20th century, it evolved into a more totalitarian approach to justify the county’s overseas expansionism, resulting in the actions of the Japanese military before and during World War II (Huffman 38). After the war, the country experienced a wave of westernization and turned to internationalism. However, the recent decline in the country’s economy and the increasing number of migrant workers transforming homogenous Japan into a multiethnic environment led the reverse to nationalism (Huffman 165). Now, the government, upper classes, and journalists attempt to reestablish the national identity under the pressure of globalization.
The 1990s witnessed the emergence of “soft” nationalism manifested in the global spread of Japanese popular culture. Its’ products, such as animation, video games, and comic books, became widely popular in the West, resulting in the rise of Japan as the cultural superpower (Koichi 25). The critics of the expansion argue that the products can hardly be identified as Japanese and their universal appeal is accompanied by the disappearance of any perceptible national identity (Koichi 26). However, the popularization of the Japanese culture is also considered to cause an active development and implementation of the national cultural policy.
Overall, modern Japan is characterized by a battle between cultural nationalism, known as the theory of “Japaneseness,” and globalization. Civil society is thought to be generally inclined towards the latter, while the government tends to maintain the myth of homogeneity (Huffman 12). However, studies show that the tendencies for nationalism are evident in Japanese society in general, with many people possessing the nationalistic view of their country psychologically and socioculturally, although often not being aware of it (Iwicka 25). The Commission on Japan’s Goals in the 21st Century, organized in 2000, claimed that the Japanese society displayed prejudice and discrimination against various ethnic minorities, immigrants, and indigenous people and set goals to address them (Goto-Jones 142–143). Multiculturalism and nationalism coexist in Japanese society and culture.
Similarities and Differences
Both China and Japan witnessed the rise of nationalism in the 1980s and 1990s, characterized by similar trends. In both countries, two types of nationalism can be distinguished: political and cultural. The governments and elites are active in promoting patriotism aimed to establish the countries’ political authority, with their efforts having only limited impact, while the ideas of cultural nationalism manage to captive the popular mood (Rose 161). Both types of nationalism are mainly inward-oriented responses to globalization, domestic changes, and external influences.
Globalization has a profound effect on both China’s and Japan’s cultures and economies. In China, the changes are linked to the country’s rapid economic, political, and technological growth, which were followed by the efforts to develop the country’s new cultural image and the rise of nationalism. Japan, on the contrary, experienced a decline in the economy accompanied by the global spread of its popular culture, which resulted in the active development of the national cultural policy and also the rise of nationalism. Having abandoned its revolutionary legacy, China is recovering its traditional values and developing a new cultural formation, while Japan is trying to reconstruct its national identity that has long been under Western influence.
Both China and Japan are countries with unique cultures formed by their imperial past, the 20th-century influences, and the recent globalization trends. Both have witnessed the rise of nationalism in recent decades, caused by the growth and decline of the Chinese and Japanese economies, respectively. Contrary to political nationalism that is enforced by the governments and intends to strengthen the countries’ positions in response to global challenges, cultural nationalism is much more popular in society. It emphasizes the importance of traditional values, promotes local cultural products, and facilitates the development of a modern national identity. Both in China and Japan, the rise of nationalist tendencies in the period of globalization has generally positively affected the countries’ national cultures.
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