Socio-cultural aspects of the relationship between the EU and East Asia, with particular reference to China

Seán Golden

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper presents a comparative study about words and about sovereignty; about the ancestry of the words that construct the discourse of sovereignty in the context of China; about the analysis and interpretation of the civic discourse and the rhetoric that construct Chinese sovereignty in the field of international relations and foreign policy, and about the consequences of this analysis and interpretation for the formulation of EU foreign policy with regard to East Asia, especially China, and the United States, as well as the feedback that notions of sovereignty have on the construction of Chinese civic discourse. For many contemporary Chinese thinkers, China should modernise without repeating the process of modernism, should leap over the system of values established by the Enlightenment that seemed to justify imperialism, and develop an economy and institutions that would serve to create wealth and to raise the standard of living of the population, without imposing values that are advantageous to a "West" that is already wealthy. They have identified a cultural dissidence within developed societies that advocates the values of postmodernism as a way of rejecting the values of modernism. In this context, they advocate the possibility of modernising their society without having to accept the imposition of values that originated in societies that have already begun to question them. In this way, China could reach postmodernism in a relatively short period of history without having to pass through the traumas that characterised the development of modernism in the "West" over a period of centuries (it would be difficult not to discern echoes of Mao Zedong's "Great Leap Forward" in these Chinese versions of the postmodernist paradigm). The communicative strategy to be adopted by the EU in the rhetorical construction of its dialogue with China should be fully cognizant of and sensitive to the criteria of China's moral order as outlined in this study and specified in the Five Principles (mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity; non-aggression; non-interference in each other's internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; and peaceful coexistence), the Spirit of Shanghai and the ASEAN Way, with special emphasis on mutual recognition, parity of esteem, and mutual benefit. Any other discourse will be perceived semiotically as unilateralist and exploitative. Respect for diversity is paramount, and the ability to harmonise diversity is a major function of Chinese political and cultural thought. "Harmony" and "peace" are the same word in classical Chinese: hépíng is the modern word for quot;peace" and héshēng is the modern word for "harmony"). As a result, any practice that produced harmony, such as music or cooking, was a form of training for maintaining peace, social cohesion and solidarity in society (or among nations). © Springer-Verlag 2006.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)265-294
    JournalAsia Europe Journal
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2006


    • China
    • Comparative sociocultural studies
    • Critique
    • Cross-cultural transfer
    • Culture studies
    • EU-China relations
    • Modernisation
    • Modernity
    • Paradigms
    • Postcolonialism
    • Postmodernity


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