Americanization of the World: Undeniable Reality?

By Dr Kiyul Chung The 4th Media

Today Americanization of the world seemingly has become an undeniable reality in many parts of the globe.

It is indeed quite surprising to realize again how deep and broad, cross national borders, regions, cultures, religions, and languages, a large part of the world seems to have been tainted with America’s “soft, attractive, and smart” language, ideas and popular culture.

As we fully discussed before, Nye’s case is indeed a distinctive example that another America’s simplistic but very much sophisticated thereby deceptive language seems to have become globalized.[56]

The case of Nye’s “Soft Power” fanfare reminds us of Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” concept,[57] America’s another tactical language that’s once also fascinated the whole globe which later became globalized, regardless whether the latter’s theory is logically persuasive, morally justified or not.

However, both America’s tactically deceptive languages, as many arguably charge, seem to have anyway galvanized the globe for a couple of decades now. That could be another “undeniable reality,” too!

For example, according to the Wikipedia, even Chinese President Hu Jintao also used Nye’s language of “soft power” in his 2007 address to the 17th Communist Party Congress.

Hu said, “China needs to increase its soft power.”[58] Even if he might have meant probably something quite different from Nye’s original thought and tried to encourage his 1.5 billion renmin (人民: people) to utilize Chinese “cultures as attractive national resources”[59] in its international relations.

As this International Conference on “Soft Power and Nation Branding” suggests as one of its four major topics to discuss, President Hu might have also meant for a Chinese government project in terms of its “nation branding” by using that America’s tactical language.

However, it is still symbolically a significant incident which first deserves an attention. And it then seems also show how deep, far and thorough America’s “soft power” resources in the forms of language, culture, and ideas might have penetrated into hearts and minds of the people around the globe including important Chinese figures!

I am quite sure it could be most probable Chinese’ top policymakers, strategists, scholars and experts, too, might have already figured out, in suspicion or skepticism, the tactical deceptiveness of America’s strategic language. I am sure they are also well aware of the Wikipedia introductions of President Hu’s statement together with that of America’s top Pentagon official.

The Wikipedia introduces Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in regard to the use of Nye’s language: “[Gates] spoke of the need to enhance American soft power by ‘a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development.’”[60]

It’s quite OK an American Secretary of Defense used the language of one of his nation’s best military strategists. But I am not sure how the world would react to the fact that even the sitting Chinese President also used that same American language.

If some identifiably interpret this coincidence as America’s acculturation of China in process, would that interpretation be too much of logical leap, exaggeration or political paranoia?

At any rate, I wonder how world’s general public and readers of Wikipedia would interpret this symbolic coincidence or what kinds of questions they might raise in regards to China’s future in term of, seemingly, its rapid Americanization process.

It would be very much helpful if Chinese scholars and experts could seriously engage in for open dialogue to assess how much Chinese culture and society, particularly their “way of thinking,” if it’s the case, might have been influenced by American culture, language and ideas.

But, for sure today, it seems it’s by and large an undeniable reality that even the Chinese national leadership is using the same language American Secretary of Defense does.

It seems definite now America’s sophistication of tactical language, popular culture and attractive ideas must have lured not only hearts and minds of the West but also now that of the East, even Chinese.

Too apparently, China sits completely at the other end of Western hemisphere, cross over the Pacific Ocean and vast Eurasian Continents. Their histories, cultures, religions, languages and traditions are far from each other.

Most distinctively, their ideological and political systems yet have vast differences. However, American language the English and its popular culture seem to have successfully acculturated a large part of the world including America’s former stern enemy states like China and Russia.

Among those American cultures, Hollywood films probably could be one of the most influential (of course, not in positive ways!) and powerful means to acculturate, assimilate, thereby indoctrinate a large number of global populations into “American way of thinking,” in addition to America’s already globalized fast food culture such as McDonalds, Coca Cola, KFC, and so on which, however, are not necessarily healthy at all.[61]

In these ongoing processes of Americanization of the whole globe more than a half century now, China and Russia seem no exception from America’s strategic acculturation project (in other words, cultural indoctrination or cultural imperialism[62]) by its profit-oriented culture, consumption-oriented society, commercialism, individualism, materialism, language, publication, food, fashion, more significantly by “often biased, destructive and violent Hollywood movies,” but most seriously that “American way of thinking.

Lately, Americanization seems also becoming prevalent even in the realms of mass media both in China and Russia.

This is how Nye characterizes what his real intentions through his strategic language of “soft power” are: “The success of soft power heavily depends on the actor’s reputation within the international community, as well as the flow of information between actors.

Thus, soft power is often associated with the rise of globalization and neoliberal international relations theory. Popular culture and media is regularly identified as a source of soft power, as is the spread of a national language, or a particular set of normative structures; a nation with a large amount of soft power and the good will that engenders it inspire others to acculturate, avoiding the need for expensive hard power expenditures.”[63]

Here in this very statement, Nye plainly explains how soft power can successfully produce “what America preferably wants.

Thus, if that American acculturation, for example, in China and Russia, might have gone through so much already for two three decades now, it seems then no matter how big in population, vast in territorial lands, rich in cash (China for the moment), oil and gas (Russia), strong in military, and most advanced in military scientific technologies are, lots of important things in these nations may not be easily worked out. In many cases, it’s been very difficult to deal with and extremely challenging to reverse those cultural assimilation or acculturation processes, meaning, ongoing processes of Americanization in their own nations.

It seems Americanization, even during America’s one of the most serious economic crises, is still in rapid processes among not small populations around the globe! It is not, as many emphatically claim, anymore a question of if!

Therefore, unless those nations should try to do something very serious now (before too late!) in order to properly deal with any of its negative, decaying and often destructive impacts to their own nations, that could make them, too, some day, if not at any moment soon, fall into the realms of America’s global hegemonic domination like those distinctively negative cases of Japan, South Korea and the likes around the globe.

Now it seems apparent Chinese media, academia and top think-tanks also use the same American strategic languages in their public discourses including official government statements.

I wonder if this particular cultural phenomenon in areas of academia and media is the one that makes many Chinese scholars and experts genuinely concerned of America’s rapid acculturation of Chinese society and what that would mean to their nation’s future!

As well-known, the Roman Empire didn’t fall by outside’s military powers but moral and cultural chaos and decay from inside.

As many around the globe including a number of American consciences warn, that profit-oriented, commercialized, and consumption-oriented American culture may not be necessarily a healthy antidote, prescription or roadmap for any nation’s healthy futures.

Is Religion as Culture the Most Powerful “Soft Power” Resources?

Religion, considered as the most powerful and distinctive cultural resource, is the one America and the West have employed throughout its centuries-old history of colonization of the non-West. Needless to say, that Western religion is Christianity.

According to the History of Western Colonialism of the Americas, the Christianity (both Catholic and Protestant) has become the most powerful “cultural method” as “soft power” to Westernize or Colonize of that vast continent.[64]

One distinctive such example is the almost complete Christianization of the majority populations, over 95%, of North, South, and Central American continents. They are called Christians, both Catholics and Protestants.

In addition to the religion, a conqueror’s language the Spanish became the official language of both colonized South and Central America, except Brazil, where Portuguese instead became the official language.

Of course, needless to say, both religion and language are cultures, therefore, in Nye’s term, “soft power.” Since religion and language are cultures, this cultural legacy is often called “cultural assimilation, acculturation or cultural imperialism.”[65]

Nye exhorts these “soft power” methods of “cultural assimilation,” “religious indoctrination” and/or “cultural imperialism” as “soft power” should be further employed than “hard power” means in order to effectively and even economically more cheaply achieve what America strategically wants.

During heyday of colonial expansionism by the West, the following analogy <<“On the one hand [Christian] Bible (religion as culture: “soft power”) and the other hand Guns (military “hard power”), they brought to our lands colonialism!”>> has become one of the most symbolic phrases to describe how Western “hard” powers have applied their religion as “soft power” to further colonize or indoctrinate those colonized or indoctrinated!

 

ENDNOTES

[56] Wikipedia’s introduction shows how far the use of Nye’s term on “Soft Power” has become globalized as in the following: Steven Lukes, Power and the Battle for Hearts and Minds: On the Bluntness of Soft Power, in Felix Berenskoetter and M.J. Willians, eds. Power in World Politics, Routledge, 2007; Janice Bially Mattern, Why Soft Power Is Not So Soft, in Berenskoetter and Williams J.S. Nye, “Notes for a Soft Power Research Agenda, in Berenskoetter and Williams; Young Nam Cho and Jong Ho Jeong, China’s Soft Power, Asia Survey, 48, 3; Yashushi Watanabe & David McConnell, eds, Soft Power Superpowers: Cultural and National Assets of Japan and the United States, London, M E Sharpe, 2008; Ingrid d’Hooghe, Into High Gear: China’s Public Diplomacy, The Hague Journal of  Diplomacy, No. 3, 2008; _________________, The Rise of China’s Public Diplomacy, Clingendael Diplomacy Paper; No. 12, The Hague, Clingendael Institute, July 2007, ISBN 978-90-5031-1175; The Economist, Playing Soft or Hard Cop, January 19, 2006; Y. Fan, Soft Power: The Power of Attraction or Confusion, Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 4:2, http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/ handle/2438/1594, 2008; Bruce Jentleson, “Principles: The Coming of a Democratic Century?” From American Foreign Policy: The Dynamics of Choice in the 21st Century; Jan Melissen, Wielding Soft Power, Clingendael Diplomacy Papers, No. 2, Clingdael, Netherlands, 2005; Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Soft Power in East Asia, June 2008; Josepy Nye, The Powers to Lead, NY Oxford University Press, 2008; ____________, Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics; Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China’s Soft Power is Transforming the World (Yale University Press, 2007) Analysis of China’s use of soft power to gain influence in the world’s political arena; John McCormick, The European Superpower (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006). [It] argues that the European Union has used soft power effectively to emerge as an alternative and as a competitor to the heavy reliance of the US on hard power; Matthew Fraser, Weapons of Mass Distraction: Soft Power and American Empire (St. Martin’s Press, 2005). Analysis is focused on the pop culture aspect of soft power, such as movies, television, pop music, Disneyland, and American fast food brands including Coca Coal and McDonalds.”

[57] Kiyul Chung, Religion and Social Transformation: The Donghak Concept of God/Heaven, Peter Lang Publishing Company: New York, 2007 (Appendix A: A Critique on Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”) pp. 105-110.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Joseph S. Nye, Jr., The Decline of America’s Soft Power, May/June 2004, Foreign Affairs. One of Nye’s characterizations of Soft Power is “attractiveness.” According to Nye, culture is one of the “attractive” Soft Power resources.

[60] A quote from Wikipedia’s discussions on Nye’s “Soft Power” concept

[61] Those best-known fast food items mentioned above are often called “junk food” which means a “trash.”

[62] Cultural imperialism means, according to Wikipedia, “the practice of promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture of one society into another. It is usually the case that the former belongs to a large, economically or militarily powerful nation and the latter belongs to a smaller, less important one. Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude. The term is usually used in a pejorative sense, usually in conjunction with a call to reject foreign influence.”

[63] From Wikipedia’s discussions on Nye’s “soft power” concept

[64] Many cultural-anthropologists, ethicists and historians like John C. Raines (Dept. of Religion at Temple University), Howard Zinn and others argue, through religion, i.e., Christianity in the case of Western colonialism, the West and later America have been able to thoroughly indoctrinate (or brainwash) the colonized for centuries.

[65] See again Wikipedia’s discussions on “cultural imperialism, cultural acculturation, and cultural assimilation.”

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