While I was riding on a bus across the campus of Stanford University one afternoon, I noticed that almost everybody I saw was staring into his or her iPhone or talking on it.
To better understand China in the twenty-first century, globalized culture must first better understand itself.
A healthy government or nation or culture should be of the people, by the people and for the people. But does the concept of the people as a democratic, social entity still count?
It is the time of the year when students from Asia are applying to universities in the US. More and more ambitious young people from the East are looking to American education and culture, nurturing dreams for a bright future.
In modern China aesthetic experience—emotional life, the appreciation and creation of art, and symbolic activity—has intermeshed with politics. But less well known is the way politics has been turned into aesthetic experience and on such a massive scale as to become a hallmark of political culture.
In Marx’s understanding of human rights, alienation violates the workers' rights. In “On the Jewish Question,” Marx notes that the great documents of right, like “The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” consistently stress the importance of personal liberty, linking it to the free disposal of private property.
Invoked as antidote to oriental authoritarianism, human rights talk often draws a line between us and them, between other cultures bereft of rights and the West blessed with rights and liberty.
Contrary to the menacing spectacle of national chauvinism associated with China today, Confucian universal values embodied by the idea of tianxia (all under heaven) stem from an ethical scheme of ritualistic empire. This global view based on cultural improvement is a far cry from the image of modern empires bent on acquiring territories, markets and resources.
Wang Ban is the William Haas Professor in Chinese Studies at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in comparative literature at UCLA. In addition to his research on Chinese and comparative literature, he has written on English and French literatures, psychoanalysis, international politics, and cinema. He has been a recipient of research fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. He taught at Beijing Foreign Studies University, SUNY-Stony Brook, Harvard University, and Rutgers University before he came to Stanford. His current project is tentatively entitled China and the World: Geopolitics, Aesthetics, and Cosmopolitanism. His interests include modern Chinese literature and film, comparative literature (East and West), aesthetics, intellectual history, psychoanalysis, transnational politics and culture.