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斯坦福学生上海感言:世界属于西方的时代永不再来

《观察者》 《文学城》 November 4, 2017

我喜欢在上海街头骑车,我喜欢被共享单车的车流簇拥着,被车水马龙的各种声音包围着,同时还与身边骑车的上海市民争抢着路面的空间。就在我试图努力跟上上海街道的节奏时,伟大的非洲裔美国作家詹姆斯·鲍德温(James Baldwin)那先知般的话语再一次回响在耳边:“这个世界将不再是白人的了,那个时代将永不再来”。当然,这里把“白人”换成“西方人”会更准确些。

1

2017年3月26日,上海人民广场共享单车俨然成为一道“风景”,外国游客在人民广场的共享单车前合影留念

中国的快速崛起令人目眩、让人着迷而且引人思考,这一世界级的现象具有多重意义——它意味着剥削全人类、主导全球秩序长达500多年的西方的衰落,意味着后殖民时代南方国家的整体崛起,意味着一个自鸦片战争以来蛰伏已久的伟大文明的苏醒。未来,是属于中国的。

我最近刚刚开始在美国斯坦福大学的学习生活,不过在这之前,我绝大部分的人生都是在伦敦度过的。与大多数西方人不同,我一直以来都对中国抱有好感。小时候,我曾多次在北京度过夏天,记得那时我经常去紫禁城附近的北海公园跟北京的老大爷们打乒乓球。北京这座文化厚重的古城在我心底里留下了非常温暖的回忆。

从那时开始,西方对中国的敌视和轻蔑态度就经常在我心中引起不快。尤其在人权和民主问题上,欧洲人和美国人的固执甚至让我觉得他们对这个世界的认识实在是过于肤浅。无论在伦敦还是在斯坦福的校园里,我都曾多次为中国辩护。虽然北京给我留下了很多美好的回忆,我也曾多次为中国讲话,可中国的经济崛起对我来说依然是个较为抽象的概念,我对中国经济崛起的认识也仅限于书中的文字和图表中的各种曲线。

今年夏天,我来到位于上海的观察者网实习。在上海度过的日子改变了这一切,古老北京在儿时给我留下的中国印象完全被颠覆了。上海是迄今为止我到过的最令人感到震撼的城市,这座城市的繁华、活力和对感官的刺激简直无以复加。这座城市的节奏是如此之快,上班途中,我无数次遇到骑着电动车的送餐员,他们急匆匆地闯过红灯、跑进电梯、焦急地拨打着电话。当然,上海人的忙碌远还不止于此。在上海民生现代美术馆、在上海当代艺术博物馆,我感受到了今日中国的艺术和创新活力,即使与欧美一流的美术馆相比,上海的这些展馆也丝毫不落下风。当然,上海的魅力还远不止于此。在这里我还要提一下在上海体验到的共享单车和移动支付,对于我的家乡伦敦来说,这一切颇具未来感,即使对处于硅谷核心的斯坦福大学来说,上海人早已习以为常的这些事物也看起来似乎是来自下一个时代。

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上海当代艺术博物馆

我被上海这座城市的优雅气质和经济活力征服了,我发现自己已经对这个国家产生了爱情,一种慢慢深陷其中的依恋之情。谈起上海令人兴奋之处,我的脑海中一下子可以涌出好多回忆,这座城市的活力是中国经济崛起的最好证据。

我曾在上海搭乘高铁,坐在子弹型列车里望向窗外,高速公路上的双向车流被快速甩到身后,那种令人惊讶的平稳的速度感让我切身体验到中国经济引擎的澎湃动力。我从上海搭高铁到南京,途中路过了苏州、无锡、常州和镇江等几座城市,一路上连绵不断精心规划的街道和整齐的建筑证明,中国经济的确已经发生了实实在在的飞越。在中国南方的深圳,去年仅这一座城市建成的摩天大楼就比美国全国同期建成的还要多。当然,作为一个“绝望”的西方人,我不应忘记提一下上海的外滩。当我站在那里,目光穿过黄浦江望向对面陆家嘴的梦幻世界时,内心不受到一点触动是不可能的。中国这个古老的国家在苏醒,其光芒已经无法遮掩了。

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中国高铁,代表了中国速度

中国人拒绝了西方向其推销的民主制度和人权概念,无论西方如何愤怒,中国人这样做并不会对其历史性的崛起造成任何消极影响,甚至很可能还提供了助力。这是显而易见的,你并不必一定是一位政治学者,在西方,任何一个普通的路人都清楚地知道几十年来在中国到底发生了什么。当我与上海当地人交流时,我真切感受到了他们对中国政府的尊敬和信任,这在英国或美国是难以想象的。

在西方,我们已经见证了英国脱欧、特朗普当选……所谓“程序正义”、“政治合法性”这些概念到底还有何价值?当然,若你认为我在为中国共产党的执政合法性作辩护,那么我很乐意提供下面的事实:美国皮尤中心2014年进行的一项调查显示,87%的中国受访者对社会的发展方向感到满意;在美国,这个数字是21%。这就是执政合法性的真正来源——人民的声音!当我与中国人聊起中国的政治时,聊天的内容在很多时候都会涉及到中国悠久的历史和文化。你不必一定是一位历史学家就能做出这样的判断:中国厚重的历史和独特的文化是这个国家几千年来保持统一和稳定的重要原因。

上海的活力是中国崛起的象征,然而从这一表面现象还可以看得更深一些——我们正在经历的是人类历史的深度调整,西方对世界长达500年的主导行将结束,而当下的上海正是展示这一历史转折的时空焦点。

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浦东陆家嘴 

在过去500年里,西方的崛起以及西方全球霸权的确立是人类历史的重要章节。16世纪,欧洲人的地理大发现开启了殖民时代的序幕。谈起西方,其定义总是与欧洲势力早期对美洲的渗透脱不开关系。而在英格兰发生的工业革命确保了英法德等欧洲强国对全球的主导权,这一主导权在19世纪末、20世纪初达到了顶点。1945年,仅大英帝国就统治了全球近20%的人口。大不列颠,可以说真正做到了“对海洋的主宰”。与此同时,当时的中国却正在经历痛苦的“百年屈辱”,这个老大帝国在鸦片战争中落败之后便一蹶不振,逐渐沦为遭到欧美日诸列强分食的半殖民地。作为这部长篇历史大剧的最新一幕,二战结束后,欧洲诸强被其移民所建立的国家美国所取代。

不过,如今西方唱主角的时代即将结束了。自16世纪以来,人类将首次见证全球地缘政治和经济中心由大西洋两岸向中国所在的东方转移。已由西方主导500年的世界秩序将被另一种文明引入新的轨道。当我站在上海外滩向东眺望陆家嘴时,当东方明珠电视塔和直插云霄的上海中心映入我的眼帘时,一种用语言难以表达的喜悦涌动在我心里。我意识到,数十亿发展中国家的人民将迎来更美好的时代,无数人将获得解放。我从小在伦敦长大,但我身上流淌着马来西亚人和印度人的血液,我为中国感到自豪!西方曾享有一切,而遭到殖民和欺侮的广大发展中国家终将迎来自己的时代!

我意识到,在上海看到的中国力量不过是一些现象,在这些现象背后更深层的东西已经超出了我对历史的理解,无论作为马来西亚人还是作为英国人,在中国历史面前,我必须保持谦卑。当我与上海当地的老人谈论起今日中国时,他们看到的远不只是中国的崛起和西方的衰落。在中国人面前,西方两百年的风光在中国历史长河中不过是短短的一段。我曾听到一位上海老人这样的解释:中华文明经历了低谷,如今正从最低处走出来。他没有提到西方,更没有提到西方的衰落。这已经超出了我对历史最宏观的理解。如果我在伦敦或斯坦福的朋友们了解到中国人这样的想法,他们会做何感想呢?这个国家、这个民族曾历经苦难,而如今他们崛起之后,内心的自信又是深沉的。

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越来越多的外国人对中国文化感兴趣

当然,我也注意到,中国人的自信也有不同的层面,也有其局限。很多中国人仍然仰视西方人,而那些西方人面对来自这些中国人的仰视应该为自己的本来面目感到难堪。最近,美国《福布斯》杂志刊载了一篇报道《参加西式礼仪课程成为中国富有女性最新的身份象征》。在中国,陷入对西方事物盲目崇拜最严重的城市非上海莫属。广告牌上头发花白的西方男人所使用的商品是地位的象征,Kenzo等遍布街头的西方品牌让我意识到,中国人的自信在物质层面尚未完全确立。中国人必须明确一点:西方并非文明和品味的象征,事实远不是那样。

无论中国人如何努力,他们永远不可能成为“令人尊敬”的英国绅士。事实上,我发现一些中国人对“绅士”的理解让我感到有些可笑。某些中国暴发户(nouveau riche)虽然有钱,他们对行为举止、衣食住行都十分在意,生怕自己不符合上流阶层的举止和仪表规范。可这种对“绅士”的理解太过肤浅了,简·奥斯汀(Jane Austen)若是得知,一定会被气得从坟墓里跳出来。所谓“绅士”,应该是那些对社会大众关切同情的人,他们从不炫耀,他们从不把物质生活视为优越感的来源。

作为一个英国人,我只是觉得不吐不快。中国是一个有着悠久历史和深厚文化传统的国家,考虑到这一点,某些中国人对“文明有礼的西方人”形象的执着和迷信就显得格外怪异。大英帝国建立在生产力和武力基础上的200年的辉煌怎么能与中国数千年厚重的文明相比呢?怎么能与中国古人对宇宙人生和社会历史深刻的思考相比呢?怎么能与中国历朝历代留给后人的珍贵典籍相比呢?如果中国人不能对自己的古代文化进行深入的理解并建立起真正的自信,那么中国就永远不可能成为塑造人类未来的力量。

我期待着,有一天当我走在上海淮海路上,周围的上海人都穿着中国品牌的服装,而不以Kenzo或路易威登为荣;我期待着,上海衡山路的酒吧里演奏着体现中国人灵魂的乐曲,而不是那些西方干瘪的噪音;我期待着,未来上海陆家嘴的高楼体现的是中国设计师的巧思,而不是纽约早期建筑设计师笔下冰冷、毫无灵魂的设计。当然,在中国宏大的崛起图景里,这些细节不过是这个大时代里不那么完美的小注脚而已。

我意识到,在我回到斯坦福之后,我与中国之间的爱情不可避免地会淡化。不过,这一别,可能是我与这个国家之间建立更加深厚感情的开始。能在观察者网工作一段时间,我非常荣幸。对于崛起中的中国而言,观察者网可能是唯一能够提供与这个时代相适应的话语体系的网络媒体。观察者网就像这个国家,蒸蒸日上且日益自信。

我预感到,在我结束在上海的生活回到斯坦福之后,西方的一切在我眼中会显得更加怪异。整个西方世界正变得越来越像一潭死水,媒体向大众兜售着虚幻的自信——“我们将继续领导全人类走向未来”,他们对这个世界的认识充满了误解,甚至自欺欺人地故意无视这个星球的中心正不可逆转地向东方转移。

与之形成对比的是,上海的繁荣、活力以及对未来的乐观和自信将深深镌刻在我的脑海中。21世纪将是中国时代的开始,“这个世界将不再是白人的了,那个时代将永不再来”。

本文为夏仁巍赐稿,原文为英文,观察者网马力翻译。原稿英文如下:

I love biking in Shanghai, jostling with the multitudes of Shanghainese cyclists, surrounded by a cacophony of horns and carried along by the limitless, vibrant energy of mobike riders. And as I try to keep up with the frenzied Shanghainese pace - meanwhile yet another ye ye somehow steams past me on his ancient bike - the prophetic words of the great African American writer James Baldwin come to me. 'This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.' Or, to alter it slightly: 'this world is Western no longer, and it will never be Western again.' China's meteoric rise is thrilling, enthralling, inspiring, and has so many diverse meanings; the decline of the Western world order that has governed so dominantly and exploitatively for the past few centuries; the rise of the post-colonial Global South; the resurgence of a civilization that has lain dormant since the Opium Wars. The future is China's. The joy and gusto of a resurgent Shanghai will never leave me. I am slowly, but unmistakably, falling in love with China.

But before the love affair naturally came the long looks and flirting, so it makes sense to start the story in June prior to my time at Guancha. I have lived in London for the whole of my life and have also recently started studying at Stanford University. Unlike most Westerners, I have always been pro-Chinese. I spent many successive summers in Beijing when I was younger, and had a great time playing ping pong with the Chinese ye yes in Bei Hai Gong Yuan. I have very fond memories of my times in Beijing and was deeply impressed by China. The West's attitude towards China therefore frequently frustrated me. In particular, the Euro-American fixation on human rights and democracy always struck me as simpleminded, so I have naturally found myself often defending China both in London and at Stanford. Regardless of the happy memories and pro-Chinese arguments, China's rise remained abstract for me, limited to the realm of graphs and books.

As soon as I touched down in Shanghai this month, however, the early stages of the courtship were instantly over. Shanghai is the single most thrilling, vivacious and exciting place I have ever been. The excitement is ineffable, impossible to capture. It is the excitement I feel biking to work, constantly being cut up by over-eager motor cyclists, dashing across every possible red light to keep up with the astonishing pace of the city. But it is so much more than that. It is the energy of the modern art scene, the inventiveness and the Minsheng Art Gallery and Power Station of Art which surely rival any gallery in the West. But again, it is so much more than that. It is not even Shanghai's endless technological innovation, though it is important to note that bike-sharing schemes like Mobike and a cashless society remain distant dreams for my native London or even Stanford University at the heart of Silicon Valley.

The root of this excitement is ultimately easy to locate: Shanghai's permanent vivacity is the very embodiment of China's relentless, dazzling rise. Take the high speed rail from Shanghai station and this fact becomes indisputable. The legions of people gathered at Shanghai railway station frantically running to reach their trains and the mind-bending pace of the high speed rail reveal a country gathering breathless momentum. And if that is not enough already, the sheer and constant density of tower blocks along the route to Nanjing serve as a reminder of China's newfound economic power. Indeed, more skyscrapers were built in Shenzhen last year than in the entirety of America. And of course, as a hopeless Westerner, I have to mention the Bund. It is impossible to look out across the river at the astonishing array of skyscrapers and not feel moved, inspired by China's resurgence.

And whatever Western naysayers cry, China's non-democratic governance or human rights deficiencies are not going to stop its monumental rise. You don't have to be a political scientist to see this. Just listen to local Shanghainese and you will see a respect for and faith in the Chinese government that would be unimaginable in Britain or America. Indeed, what are Brexit and Trump but crises of legitimacy? And if you think I am gazing at the legitimacy of the Chinese government through rose-tinted glasses, just look at the facts. In a recent 2014 poll of Chinese attitudes published by the Pew Research Center, 87% of respondents noted satisfaction with the direction of the country. The current American Congressional approval rate is 21%. This legitimacy runs so much deeper than anyone in the West could ever contemplate. Talking to locals, conversations about Chinese government always somehow end with references to China's ancient civilizational history. Once again, you don't need to be a world class historian to see that China's vast history is the root of its unity and stability.

Shanghai's energy is therefore largely down to China's unstoppable rise. But, for me, there is more to it than that. More fundamentally, Shanghai is imbued with the excitement of shifting historical paradigms, for China's ascent signals the end of a 500 year long epoch: Western dominance.

The rise and hegemony of the West has been the defining historical drama of the past half-millennium, and can be dated to the 16th century with the European Age of Discovery and the colonization of the New World. These early forays into the Americas were the beginnings of the vast empires that would define the West's epoch. The industrial revolution in England ensured the Europe's insuperable hegemony which reached its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the British Empire ruling over 20% of the world's people in 1945. Britannia truly 'ruled the waves.' Meanwhile, China was suffering its ignominious 'century of humiliation', defeated in the Opium Wars and partially colonized. In the final act of this prolonged drama, Europeans powers were supplanted by America as the world's superpower following the Second World War.

The Age of the West, however, is at an end. For the first time since the 16th century, the world's geopolitical and economic center of gravity is shifting eastwards. The rise of China challenges the very foundations of a world order built over the course of five centuries. This is the ineffable, inexpressible resurgence that I feel looking out over the river at the Bund, a resurgence that is imbued with centuries of history, with the decline of empires and the emancipation of millions. I can almost sense the gears of history shifting as I look out to the Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai Tower. And as someone with Malaysian-Indian heritage, I feel so deeply proud of China and cannot help but cry enough is enough! The West has had its turn and it is high time that the formerly colonized Global South finally had its chance!

And yet there are still greater depths in the energy I see in Shanghai that I cannot even begin to contemplate, my historical horizons too narrow as an Englishman or as a Malaysian. When I speak to locals about China's rise, they look so far beyond the decline of the West. 200 years of Western dominance means so little within the broad span of Chinese history. Instead, I hear a grand narrative of Chinese civilization, that the current ascent is merely a recovery from a couple of centuries of decay and a return to the heights of China's greatness. This is beyond my wildest historical imagination. If only my friends in London and at Stanford were there to hear this!

This country, this civilization is palpably growing in confidence after its disastrous past two centuries. Indeed, you don't even have to look to China's foreign policy in the South China Sea and across the Indian border to see its growing self-belief. The breathless streets, endless skyscrapers, formidable nightlife, vibrant art galleries that I have described attest to a country remembering its former confidence and glory.

This self-confidence, however, is still limited. Indeed, the Chinese propensity to still look up to white people and the West deeply saddens me. Forbes, for instance, recently reported 'Etiquette Classes For China's Wealthy Women Are The Newest Status Symbol.' Nowhere is this nauseating love for all things Western more evident than Shanghai. The billboards featuring old white men to denote class, and the ubiquity of posh Western brands such as Kenzo are indicative of China's incomplete rise. China must stop looking to the West as a beacon of civilization and class. And further, however hard they try, Chinese people will never emulate the ideal English 'gentleman' that so many seemingly aspire to. In fact, I find the Chinese understanding of the 'gentleman' a bit offensive. The nouveau riche seem to think that the English 'gentleman' is all about superficial classy manners, and expensive tastes in clothes and food. This would make Jane Austen turn in her grave. The Austenian English gentleman is someone wealthy but dedicated to society, who is never showy, and treats women with the greatest respect.

But enough with this British nonsense. More than anything, I find the Chinese love for the 'civilized West' tasteless given the richness of China's own socio-cultural inheritance. How can a couple of hundred years of English grandeur possibly compare to China's two thousand years of history, its emperors and dynasties! And China will never truly be the world's dominant power until it has deep confidence its own ancient culture; until I walk down Jiangsu road and see people of all stripes wearing Chinese clothes rather than Kenzo or Luis Vuitton; until its clubs and bars play the melodies of its own, Chinese music rather than the monotonous drone of Drake; until its tallest skyscrapers pay homage to China's own beautiful designs rather than the metallic, soulless future imagined by New York's earliest architects. Nonetheless, this is but a footnote on China's dramatic rise.

I doubt that leaving Shanghai in a few days' time will be the end of my love affair with China. In fact, I think this is but the start of a long, long relationship. It has been an utter pleasure to work at Guancha, perhaps the only news website with a rhetoric fit for a rising China. Indeed, Guancha is very much like China: rising and increasingly self-confident. And I think it will be strange to return to the West after my time in Shanghai. The West increasingly looks and feels like a backwater, selling itself false assurances of its continued dominances, suffering delusions of grandeur and ignoring the inevitability of the oncoming gravitational shift Eastwards. By contrast, the power, energy and dynamism of Shanghai will never leave me.

The twenty-first century will be China's. The world is Western no longer, and it will never be Western again. 

1

CHINESE 一字是由如下字的字首组成的:
Confident (有信心)、
Honest (诚实)、
Intelligent (有智慧)、
Noble (高尚)、
Excellent (卓越)、
Sympathetic (有同情心)、
Elegant (优雅)
把以上这些英文字的第一个字母放一起就是:CHINESE ━ 中国人

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