Is China a Model Member State of UNESCO in Implementing the 2003 Convention? Reasons, Benefits, and Criticisms

Marta Tomczak

This article argues that despite criticism within and outside China of the country’s practices in safeguarding its intangible cultural heritage, China has been truly attempting to execute and enhance the UNESCO instruments and to adopt UNESCO rules and practices. In return, it has enhanced the condition of its traditional culture, legal system, and soft power, thus heading in the direction of becoming a model Member State of UNESCO. In order to support this hypothesis, the article analyses how the 2003 Convention has influenced the manner in which China has sought to restore its traditional culture. To do so, I examine an authoritative list of the “Top 10” events in the field of intangible cultural heritage that took place in China during 2016. Moreover, this article suggests that the reason China has become involved in such a high-priced ICH revolution to a model degree is that quite early on the State realized the capacities hidden in traditional culture and the political potential of
applying UNESCO’s policies, and has been using the latter ever since as a vehicle to enhance the projection of soft power abroad, as well as a platform to establish a new sense of national pride and multi-ethnic “Chineseness” domestically. In bringing Chinese traditional culture and values back to the public discourse and making it a big part of its national project of reviving its glorious past, it can serve as a foundation for a unifying nationalism, hence serving legitimization purposes as well.
Słowa kluczowe: China, UNESCO, intangible cultural heritage, cultural policy, ICH social movement, ICH revolution, soft power
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