Dancers perform at the Asian Culture Carnival gala on Wednesday night at the Beijing National Stadium, or the Bird’s Nest. The show accompanied the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations that opened Wednesday with more than 2,000 representatives from 47 Asian countries. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Chinese President Xi Jinping refuted the clash of civilizations theory and warned that it was “foolish to believe that one’s race and civilization are superior to others, and it is disastrous to willfully reshape or even replace other civilizations.”
Xi delivered a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing on Wednesday. His remarks were rewarded with rounds of applause.
Chinese experts said that the attendees from different civilizations to the conference, especially from non-Western civilizations, shared the opinion of Xi and China, as there were too many examples of Western countries creating conflicts in the non-Western world due to their arrogant thoughts and disastrous approaches to Westernize others.
“Xi didn’t specifically name any country that holds a foolish thought or uses a disastrous approach to reshape or even replace other civilizations, but the answer is very clear,” said Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University’s Institute of International Relations in Beijing.
The US and its allies used “democratization for other civilizations” as an excuse to expand their influence in many regions worldwide, including the Middle East, Northern Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and so on, Li said. “This kind of action has made too many people suffer from conflicts and instability.”
The thoughts of the West have a historical reason, said Zhang Weiwei, director of the China Institute at Fudan University in Shanghai.
After the industrialization that empowered Western countries to surpass others in the 19th century, they launched colonial wars on non-Western civilizations. Asian civilizations including China and India were both victims, Zhang said.
“The West also creates a kind of narrative: The West is civilized and the non-Western world is uncivilized and barbaric,” noted Zhang.
On the contrary, Chinese civilization holds a very different idea on the relationship between civilizations, which is more about respect for differences and emphasizes equality, Chinese experts noted.
Xi underscored in his speech the importance of mutual respect and equal treatment among civilizations.
He also summarized the essence of Chinese civilization: “Seeking goodwill with neighbors and harmony with all nations is the Chinese way of engaging with the world. Benefiting the people and providing them with stability and prosperity are the distinctive values of Chinese civilization,” and “Keeping reforming and innovating, and advancing with the times are the unchanged spirit of Chinese civilization. Following the rules of nature and uniting human and universe are the philosophy of existence for Chinese civilization.”
Rem Bahadur BK, secretary of the Federation of Nepali Journalists who came to Beijing for the conference, told the Global Times on Wednesday that “Western countries’ culture dominated the world for a while,” and now “we [non-Western countries] want to achieve development.”
Under the development of others, Asian people have begun to realize the importance of reviving their cultures, he said.
The ongoing conference has drawn more than 2,000 government officials and representatives from 47 Asian countries and other countries outside the region, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Visitors to the media center will see 48 pictures on the walls showcasing the heritage, cultural relics and major cities of the 48 Asian countries participating in the conference.
There will be discussions on topics, including tourism, culture, people-to-people exchanges and sharing of governance experience.
Other activities such as an Asian cultural carnival, Asian civilization week and an Asian food festival will also be held.
No clash of civilizations
Xi’s keynote speech was also a strong response to the clash of civilizations theory held by some US politicians who believe in a zero-sum relationship between different civilizations, Chinese observers noted.
Xi said “There is no conflict among different civilizations at the beginning…We should not only make our own civilization full of vigor and vitality but also create conditions for the development of other civilizations so that all the world’s civilizations will flourish.”
On April 29, Kiron Skinner, director of policy planning at the US Department of State, argued that China-US competition was a “clash of civilizations,” CNN reported.
Skinner described competition with China as “a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology, and the United States hasn’t had that before.”
Compared to the zero-sum idea held by some Western countries, China’s mentality or culture is much more suitable for the modern world when dealing with others, Li said.
“That’s why the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative has won confidence and support from both non-Western and Western countries, and its determination to uphold multilateralism and reform globalization have improved its image greatly,” Li said.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the US is being engaged in trade friction with its trade partners and irresponsibly withdrawing from international deals and organizations, which has caused great damage to its image and interests, Li noted.
Egyptian journalist Mohamed Hemaida Mohamed Mazen told the Global Times that “all civilizations in the world can help build a shared future with each other, and no country can solve its problems alone in the modern world. Countries need to cooperate with each other to solve global problems like global warming and terrorism.”
“The old cooperation on the ancient Silk Road is a good example – mutual cooperation with each other and sharing experiences with each other,” Mazen said.