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A Cultural Bridge In Construction?

24 November 2007

It is said that the late Chinese leader Chairman Mao had a globe in his studio and kept the side displaying the shape of Australia facing to his seat. Once he reportedly commented to his foreign visitors while casting a dismal glance at the globe: Such a remote corner on the planet and a lonely place on earth, I wouldn’t like to imagine myself living there.

It seems he had not been able to envisage that this unique island with the Western foundation sitting on the Eastern border is also in a distinctive position to be transformed into a gigantic pier of a cultural bridge connecting the East and the West.

Kevin Rudd's capability to master both English and Chinese languages perfectly illustrates the potential ability of him and the country he leads to span the massive gulf between the two poles. In this regard, his elevation to national leadership position in Canberra heralds a new era, may not just for Australia, but to some extend, the world.

The incoming Australian Prime Minister's Chinese language skill is believed to be quite commanding, so much so that some of his Chinese friends were reportedly “surprised” when they found he can also speak fluent English. That may sound more like a joke than anything else, but it does tell his special talent to comprehensively understand and effectively communicate with the two major cultures.

In an interview with China's national TV station, he spoke of how he studied the ancient Chinese language, the modern Chinese language, Chinese history, Chinese literature and Chinese philosophy at university. His comprehension of China is not confined superficially to the language level, but deep to its cultural essence, which even a large number of Chinese, despite of the Chinese language being their mother tongue, are unable to accomplish.

Kevin Rudd told his Chinese host that while he is very proud of Australia’s multiculturalism, he is also tremendously proud of Australia’s Western cultural heritage. Clearly while he is going to resume a society of late 80s and early 90s when a tolerant multicultural outlook is very much the mainstream, he has no intention to fake Australia as an Asian country, since the majority of its people have an Anglo-Saxon background (And why should he? The matter of truth is as the West has no God-given authority to dominate the East, the East has no Heaven-bestowed mandate to convert the West).

In today’s geographically and economically interconnected world, a cultural gulf that separates the people in the East and the West is more apparent than ever, and a danger of the civilisation clash looms large on the horizon - mainly due to the unwillingness and/or inability of the Western politicians and media to respect and understand the Eastern and other cultures - such a bridge constructed on the Western foundation is indeed urgently needed. Singapore has long volunteered itself for the role from the viewpoint of the East, and now we may eventually see a matchmaker emerging with a Western perspective.

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Bridge the Gulf

Chinese are known as the very first group of people trying to span the gulfs, here are some traditional China Bridges painted by Chinese architects:

New Peace Bridge (新宁木桥), in Hunan Province. The building on the bridge is built with logs on stone piers.

Jake Belt Bridge, in the Imperial Summer Palace in Beijing.


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