Crossing mountains and oceans: Gen Zers on cultural exchange

BEIJING, June 30, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Civilizations flourish with exchanges and mutual learning. Such exchanges and mutual learning form an important drive for human progress and global peace and development.

The first episode of season three of the China Daily series Youth Power, “The Bonds of Culture”, was broadcast online on June 30.

First episode of season three of Youth Power, “The Bonds of Culture”
First episode of season three of Youth Power, “The Bonds of Culture”

In this episode, Gen Zers from China, Romania, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and other countries gathered in London to talk about how civilizations are enriched by communication.

With cultural responsibilities in promoting cultural exchange and advancement, Gen Zers play an important role in enhancing cultural communication between countries, one result by that Chinese culture can be better understood around the world.

Victor Kovalets from the UK said he has found that Chinese culture is attracting growing attention with its rich history and unique features. “Nowadays, everywhere you go there are new Chinese restaurants opening up,” Kovalets said, adding that through eating hotpot we can better understand the culture behind traditional Chinese cuisines.

His love of Chinese culture began with the Chinese TV series The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, he said. He retold the story of the “the empty city strategy” with great enthusiasm, saying that stories such as these are not only interesting but also profound, showing the depth of Chinese culture.

After hearing Kovalets’ story, Gen Zers said they hoped countries can combine the culture of other countries into their education systems, providing students with a more comprehensive understanding of the world, of philosophies and of different ways of thinking.

Lisa Maslova, a Russian Gen Zer, said her favorite app is Little Red Book, a popular Chinese social platform. It is like a map of life for her because she can find all kinds of useful suggestions there, she said.

Yan Qiuhao of China said TikTok has become one of the most popular social media apps in many places.

“It’s a window for us to find out about your own culture, and a way to broadcast your own culture to a broader population.”

Many are attracted by TikTok videos about China, and some even want to visit the country, Yan said. From this perspective, TikTok opens up a window for people outside to know more about China.

In addition to talking of popular apps developed in China, many young people who talked to Youth Power told of their love for Chinese dumplings, red envelopes, escape rooms and detective games. Chinese culture is becoming more and more influential, with Chinese TV series and internet literature drawing fans, especially Gen Zers, worldwide.

However, the process of exchange and mutual learning among civilization is not always smooth and easy. Kevin Zhu, a Gen Zer with parents of different nationalities, said that what makes a civilization resilient is its ability to integrate and include, like a melting pot.

Kevan Kennedy, a student from Gibraltar studying for a PhD at Oxford University, said culture should not be considered a “neutral playing ground”. Culture is a historical phenomenon that comes with certain imbalances and inequalities, so even though we may start from the right spot we can still end in the wrong place, thus offending other cultures, he said.

Lisa Maslova of Russia cited the case of the French fashion house Dior being accused last year of culturally appropriating a traditional Chinese costume called “horse face skirts” in some of its designs, and Chinese students protesting against this. “We should acknowledge where we got our inspiration from,” Maslova said. “It’s like using references when doing academic writing.”

Young people interviewed on the streets of London also talked about their opinions in this episode of Youth Power. Many said the best way to stop cultural conflicts and break cultural barriers is to engage in intercultural communication. Mario Gonzalez Iniesta from Spain said he attached great importance to open-mindedness relating to different cultures and the drive to ask questions.

Adrian Murgoci from Romania encouraged young people to communicate more with foreigners. He suggested that interest in a certain culture can lead to further explorations about that culture, and one possible way to do this is by learning a country’s language.

Youth Power, organized by China Daily and first broadcast in June 2021, aims to build a global platform of communication and exchange, focusing on the interests and ideas of Generation Z. The program comes in the form of interviews, forums and speeches, with topics related to anything of current interest in the world.