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Sinosphere, also known as East Asian Cultural Sphere, Chinese world, Chinese cultural sphere or Chinese-character cultural sphere ( ), a term coined by linguist James Matisoff, is a grouping of countries and regions that are currently inhabited with a majority Chinese population or were historically under heavy Chinese cultural influence. It is commonly used in areal linguistics to contrast with Indosphere, which refers to the cultures and languages influenced by proximity to Indiamarker. James C. Bennett, founder of The Anglosphere Institute, sees it as a network commonwealth between Chinese people around the world. [215277] Bennett envisages the Sinosphere as consisting of Greater China, and to some extent, its overseas Chinese population in Southeast Asia, notable countries like Malaysiamarker and Singaporemarker. One of the main unifying links is based on the Chinese language.

In East Asian commentator circles, the term Chinese cultural sphere or Chinese character cultural sphere is used interchangeably for Sinosphere but covering a broader definition. Chinese cultural sphere denotes a grouping of countries, regions, and people with Chinese cultural legacies. This includes the Sinosphere under the Bennett definition plus countries that have extensive Chinese cultural heritage including Japanmarker, Koreamarker (North and South), Malaysiamarker, Singaporemarker, and Vietnammarker. In French, the term le monde chinois (the Chinese world) is used for this concept.

Modern Origins: 1990s

The concept of Sinosphere, as a network commonwealth, predated the popularization of the modern idea of Anglosphere ( , “English language cultural sphere”) in the English-speaking world, and developed largely independent of the Anglosphere. In the early post-Cold War period of the 1990s, economic reforms in the People's Republic of Chinamarker, coupled with its recognition as a potent rival government of the Republic of China (Taiwan), increased economic and cultural exchanges between China and overseas Chinese itself, led to emergence of the concept of a network of Chinese people that transcend traditional national borders, political differences, and geographical distances.

Later on, this definition was broadened to include East Asian countries that had historical heritage influenced by China, countries such as Japanmarker, North Koreamarker, South Koreamarker, Singapore and Vietnammarker have increased their economic and cultural contacts with the Chinese-speaking communities in both breadth and scope. This cultural region closely corresponds to the ancient Sinic civilization and its descendants,the Far Eastern civilizations (the Mainland and the Japanese ones), which Arnold J. Toynbee presented in the 1930s in "A Study of History", along with the Western, Islamic, Eastern Orthodox, Indic, etc. civilizations, among the major "units of study" of the world's history.

Sometimes in East Asia the term Sinosphere is used to imply the concept of East Asian integration.

Defining characteristics

Bennett considers the Sinosphere is unified by first language ability in Chinese. Asian commentators define the unifying factor as influence of traditional Chinese cultural beliefs, marked by Confucianist social and moral ethics, Taoist or Mahayana Buddhist religious beliefs, and the use of Chinese characters as a major part of writing system (Hanzi in Chinese, kanji in Japanese, hanja in Korean, and Hán tự in Vietnamese).

Another indicator is the everyday use of chopsticks, which also originate in China.

Current Developments

The concept of Sinosphere seemed to undergo a setback with the Asian financial crisis and the advent of the dotcom economies in 1997 and 1998. However, with China's membership in the WTO and continuing economic development there are some repopularizations of the use of the term Sinosphere.

The development of the Anglosphere provides an interesting contrast. The idea of a network commonwealth is common to both Sinosphere and Anglosphere, but the two visions were developed independently from each other. As of the first decade of the 21st century, the concept of the Anglosphere remains at large invisible among Asian commentators supportive of the Sinosphere. Among the few who have heard the concept, the common response is either derision or fear. Those who regard the Anglosphere with scorn take the route that regionalist consolidations will triumph over cultural affinities that are separated by geographical distances, and the Sinosphere is more consolidated on a geographical sense than the more dispersed Anglosphere, and also because they regard China's economic might will overtake the Anglosphere in the not too distant future. Detractors who see the Anglosphere as a threat to the Sinosphere regard the Anglosphere as a concept of Anglo-Saxon imperialism and hegemony, and translate the term into Chinese as (literally “Anglo-Saxon Co-Prosperity Sphere”) in an attempt to evoke the memory over the historical Japanese concept of a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (Kyuujitai: ) during the World War II. Some other commentators point out India is an Anglosphere member and it has the potential to overtake China in economic developments. Some also see the Anglosphere's flexible nature and civil society base as points of strengths that the Sinosphere lacks (James C. Bennett's Anglosphere Challenge) and which will guarantee it will pose a serious competition against the Sinosphere.

Currently Singaporemarker, Hong Kongmarker, Japanmarker and South Koreamarker are contested by both Anglosphere and Sinosphere proponents as under each respective sphere of influence . Singapore has a 76% Chinese majority, but its governmental, legal and business practice are more akin to English-speaking countries courtesy of its British colonial past. Hong Kong's position is similar to Singapore but its population is 98% Chinese and in Hong Kong, Chinese rather than English is commonly used as the daily communication medium. Japan has had ancient Chinese influence ever since the Taika Reform period; however, the Anglosphere has displaced China in influence from the time of Commodore Matthew Perry's visit in 1853. Post-World War II, Japanese political and military interests are generally aligned with the United Statesmarker, and China is seen as Japan's strategic rival. The Korean Peninsulamarker, which had also adopted ancient Chinese influences saw drastic changes through the post-Korean War era as two divided entities were formed. Although North Koreamarker implemented a socialist regime and was an ally of the former Soviet bloc, South Korea'smarker political, cultural, and legal policies grew more analogous with the United States and the Western World.

See also


Further reading

  • Language variation: Papers on variation and change in the Sinosphere and in the Indosphere in honor of James A. Matisoff, David Bradley, Randy J. LaPolla and Boyd Michailovsky eds., pp. 113–144. Canberra: Pacific Linguistics. [215278]

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