BEIJING, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- As Christmas approaches, Westerners are busy shopping for gifts to give to family and friends on the most important holiday of the year.
A "Chinese" Christmas, for most Western families, is not something new: many manufacture products they buy during the holiday, such as toys, sporting goods, laptop computers, DVD players and winter wear including scarves, shawls and down coats, are actually made in China.
Sara Bongiorni, a columnist from Louisana in the United States, found out seven years ago that 25 out of the 39 Christmas gifts she purchased were made in China. Our life is now closely connected with China, she admitted in her article.
French writer Erik Izraelewicz also wrote that on Christmas Eve, not only are the gifts heaped up under Christmas trees made in China, but so are the colored balls, small Santa Claus figures and other ornaments that decorate the trees.
China's economic progress has deeply affected the lives of people around the world.
However, a country cannot join the club of the advanced countries if it's prosperous only in its economy and not in its culture.
In October 2011, the sixth plenary session of the 17th central committee of the Communist Party of China charted the future for China's cultural power rise.
CHINA'S ECONOMIC MIRACLE CALLS FOR CULTURAL AWAKENING, REJUVENATION
The "becoming Chinese" example of the Christmas tree is symbolic for western culture as it is one of many signs of China's economic rise.
In just a few decades since the 1978 reform and opening up, China became the world's second largest economy in 2010.
A country once dependent on foreign goods, China has now become a global factory producing more than 210 key industrial products. IT items such as cell phones, computers, and digital cameras account for about half of the global market share.
The domestic car industry enjoys the world's largest output and sales, exceeding 13 million units. Steel output is larger than the sum of that in the second-, third- fourth-place countries.
Refrigerators, air conditioners and color TVs also have the most output in the world. At the same time, the output of cement tops the world with half of the global market share.
In the 1980s, China's annual foreign investment was only a small 0.45 billion yuan. In the 1990s, foreign investment stagnated at an annual 2.3 billion U.S. dollars, while in the 21st century, it soared to 55.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2008.
From "Made in China" to Chinese capital, the country has made a big step forward. Now, China is launching a new endeavor.
The enormous progress of the economy has provided a solid foundation for the prosperity of the culture, and whether the culture would prosper also affects the depth and quality of economic development.
Harvard Professor Joseph Nye in 1990 invented the concept of "soft power" and the core of the power is culture.
From past to present, culture has always been a source of power for national growth and revitalization. The current world witnesses culture increasingly interconnected with the economy, and more complex and fierce competitions of comprehensive national power. A powerful country must possess an advanced and influential culture.
Many countries are trying every method available to expand their cultural capacity. The United States, European Union member countries, Japan, Korea, and Singapore are all active players in the new-round competition of cultural soft power.
At the same time, their cultures have not only grown in the form of an industry and reached global audience, they also have become a pillar in the national economy.
Culture also is an important force to safeguard national security. Facts have shown that if a people or a country loses its culture, it loses its cultural defense and its foundation of existence.
After the Cold War, the hard political and military conflicts between the world's big countries were replaced by soft conflicts between their cultures. Culture has become an important instrument for Western countries to topple and control the regimes in other countries.
The Revolution of 1989 in Central and Eastern European countries, the Color Revolutions in Central Asia, and the Jasmine Revolution in North Africa are good examples.
China, a country that has made economic miracles and has 5,000 years of civilization, cannot fall behind in competition involving culture. The strategic decision of the central committee of the Chinese Communist Party to build a strong socialist cultural nation calls for a cultural awakening and rejuvenation and charts out the future of a new endeavor.
LET CULTURE PLAY ROLE OF PROMOTING UNDERSTANDING AND COMMUNICATION
Zhou Lingyan, principal of the Confucius Institute in Mexico City, said China and Mexico are far apart in geography, and "although distance makes beauty, it also produces misunderstanding." Culture is a medium that best shortens the distance between different peoples and countries and promotes understanding and friendship between them.
In the 21st century, China is bringing its culture to the world in a more steady pace.
The Chinese opera "Mulan" was staged in Austria's famed Vienna State Opera House in 2008, and won applause from the audience because of its poetic and picturesque performance, deeply affecting music, and the classical Chinese culture it conveys.
"Mulan" was described by the Austrian media as a Chinese work of art that has for the first time knocked on the doors of the world's most famous opera house.
Vijay Upadhyaya, conductor of the Vienna Imperial Philharmonic Choir, said the European culture has in the past influenced Asia and now "Mulan" brings Chinese culture to Europe.
In Mexico, the "Year of Chinese Culture" has been held during the Chinese National Day Holiday every year since 2009. About 3,000 Mexicans flock to Central Square in Mexico City for three consecutive days to participate in the events that include table tennis, Tibetan, lion and dragon dance performances, and a Chinese traditional costume show. Many Mexicans say the China they see during the festivals are real and friendly.
In the African country of Tanzania, the Chinese television drama "The Good Days of the Daughter-in-law" was broadcast in Swahili last month by China Radio International.
For the Tanzanians who had never watched Chinese TV dramas before, the Chinese people around them would no longer be difficult to understand as they learned about Mao Doudou's family in the drama.
In China's close neighbor, South Korea, the Center for Chinese Culture in Seoul is dedicated to bringing authentic Chinese culture to the local people.
The center offers regular courses of study on the Chinese zither and er'hu, and also provides lectures on classical and modern Chinese culture. Those events have been welcomed by the Koreans. Government officials, judges, and CEOs also were among those in the audience. Many courses quickly run out of seats just a few minutes after being announced online.
In the United States, a Chinese ethnic culture troupe toured a number of cities including Washington D.C. and New York. The actors and actresses stayed with host families and taught them Chinese folk songs and dances, and how to play some musical instruments such as the zither and lute.
In the meantime, the "Year of China," the "Year of Chinese Culture" and the "Year of Chinese Language" were launched in France, Russia, Spain, Australia and Italy.
Thousands of Chinese cultural events were held in those countries and brought an ancient, modern and colorful China to the local people.
TO BUILD A STRONG CULTURAL NATION A TIMELY DECISION
When a country is on the rise, it is usually expanding its global influence. As China becomes stronger, more and more foreigners want to learn about China through books, TV programs, travel and language study.
Against such a background, it is a timely decision to build a strong cultural nation and and promote the creation of all types of literary and art works.
For Chinese culture to go global, it must first find a foothold inside China. Any cultural product that is not competitive inside the borders will not survive in other countries.
Just as President Hu Jintao said in a November speech addressing the country's literary and art circles, writers and artists should adapt to the changing times and the demands of people's spiritual and cultural lives, and make the past serve the present.
They also must weed through the old to bring forth the new, base themselves on the rich soil of Chinese culture, and derive nourishment and new cultural chapters from the distant source of traditional culture, Hu said.
For China's culture to go abroad, it must also cater to foreign needs. Designers of cultural products must study and investigate target countries thoroughly, learning the likes and dislikes of the people there.
Han Mengtang, cultural counselor of the Chinese Embassy to Argentina, said it is difficult but not impossible for a local cultural product to become a long-term consumer product for audiences from other cultural backgrounds.
For example, acrobatics and martial arts have become a hobby for many foreigners because those two cultural forms moved their hearts.
China is expecting its traditional new year, the Spring Festival, soon after the Western Christmas holiday. The Spring Festival Gala, produced by China Central Television, is a must-see for many Chinese people. The gala has gone through 28 years so far since its launch in 1983. For foreign media, the gala is very young compared with China's long history, but it is attracting the eyes of more and more foreigners.
Almost 400 news stories about the 2011 Chinese Spring Festival Gala were published in English alone on foreign websites.
The 2012 Spring Festival Gala is sure to become even more international. Reporters from the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, and elsewhere who work in Beijing say they always watch the gala when they spend the Spring Festival in China. The program is a professional benchmark of sorts for foreign journalists reporting in China because the Gala tells much about China's culture and people.
From the "becoming Chinese" through Christmas trees to the "becoming international" by way of the Chinese Spring Festival Gala, China is witnessing a changing strategic path from economic growth to cultural influence. It is a bumpy but bright road ahead.