Chinese President Xi Jinping highly values cultures and has profound understanding of culture which strengthens over time.
To him, culture plays a unique and irreplaceable role in the rejuvenation of China and the building of a global community of shared future. He speaks for Chinese wisdom, which has been passed down for millennia, advocates for mutual prosperity of global civilizations, welcomes the flourishing of popular cultural products, and encourages the youth to join the path to inheriting and reinventing their proud traditions.
The first issue of the Global Times’ Xivilization series emphasizes Xi’s ideas on the diversity and beauty of different civilizations, as seen from the all-important Global Civilization Initiative he has presented to the world.
After putting forward the Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative to address the common challenges faced by the whole world throughout human history, Chinese President Xi Jinping put forward a third, equally overarching proposal – the Global Civilization Initiative.
Reading through the specifics of this initiative and the abundant connotations it holds, experts agree that it not only embodies the common value of all mankind on civilization, but also reflects the essence of traditional Chinese culture as derived from ancient Chinese wisdom.
Xi proposed the Global Civilization Initiative while delivering a keynote speech at the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting on March 15. It advocates for the respect of the diversity of civilizations and the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusivity, stresses humanity’s common values like peace, development, equality, democracy, and freedom, calls for the inheritance and innovation of traditional cultures, and promotes the strengthening of international people-to-people exchanges that foster mutual understanding.
A single flower does not make spring, while one hundred flowers in full blossom bring spring to the garden, as the Global Civilization Initiative goes. Scholars from China and overseas reached by the Global Times hailed the initiative, as “the respect for the diversity of civilizations,” “the common values of humanity,” “the importance of inheritance and innovation of civilizations,” and “robust international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation” as being key to “the opening up of a new prospect of enhanced exchanges and understanding among different peoples and better interactions and integration of diversified cultures.”
Dialogue among civilizations
For Stelios Virvidakis in Athens, welcoming new scholars to the newly established Center of Greek and Chinese Ancient Civilizations is to become the new normal in the coming months.
The center’s founding was facilitated by President Xi. Widely seen as an embodiment of the Global Civilization Initiative, the center is of great historical and contemporary significance as the two countries are committed to promoting exchanges and mutual learning as well as the promotion of the development of various civilizations.
Xi recently replied to a letter from Virvidakis, president of the steering committee of the center, and four other Greek scholars, extending his congratulations to them. Encouraged by the letter, the project’s run is expected to be a smooth one as they “are expecting a French scholar to talk about the history of ancient Chinese mathematics, an Israeli professor to make a presentation on traditional Chinese medicine, and two Chinese professors to visit Athens soon,” Virvidakis told the Global Times.
Such robust exchanges exemplify the essence of the two sculptures, Confucius and Socrates, erected at the Ancient Agora of Athens as they seem to be engaged in a dialogue. It is the installation work Socrates and Confucius: An Encounter created by Chinese artist Wu Weishan.
Dialogue should take place between great peoples and thinkers, and among various civilizations. The stable development of human society “relies on diversity, just like the natural world,” Wang Xuebin, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance), told the Global Times. “We must protect the diversity of civilizations, and only in diversity can we have real forms of dialogue.”
Under the monopoly of the so-called discourse hegemony of the West for a long time, many countries in our world often regard the conflict of civilizations, the gap between civilizations, and the hegemony of civilizations as a normal state, which is “not right.”
“Civilization should not be divided into high or low, and civilization should not have a so-called universal model. Otherwise, if it is monopolized by the so-called unified way, then it is impossible for human beings to develop for a long time and many tragedies and disasters will soon follow,” Wang said.
Global youth resonance
For young people around the world, the initiative that originates from China’s traditional culture contains universal wisdom and foresight shared by different civilizations.
“We Arabs like to use the proverbial expression ‘From each orchard, pick up a rose’ to refer to the diversity and richness of an object,” Yara Ismail, a lecturer at Cairo University, told the Global Times. “President Xi’s eloquent and solemn language resembles our aforementioned proverb.”
Thousands of miles from Yara, Indonesian sinologist Novi Basuki recalled an interesting fact when learning about the initiative.
“The lessons learned from playing angklung, a traditional Indonesian musical instrument with nine pitches, has taught us that it is impossible for one single performer to finish [a performance] as each performer in an angklung ensemble is typically responsible for just one pitch,” Basuki told the Global Times. “Only cooperation and coordination from the players can produce beautiful music.”
Like China, Indonesia has been a civilization meeting place and melting pot since ancient times. Indonesian culture has absorbed elements from the Indian civilization, Islamic civilization, Western civilization, and Chinese civilization. On the basis of maintaining individuality, the Indonesian nation actively borrows from the advantages of strong foreign cultures, and then ingeniously reconciles the diversity and differences present among different cultures before forming the multiculturalism that exists in Indonesian society, said Basuki.
Path of integrity
The initiative is another major public good provided to the world by China after the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, both put forward by President Xi, in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
“The three are solid pillars of a global community with a shared future,” said professor Wang, adding that security is the premise of development, development is the driving force of security, and civilization is the soil needed to feed the two and a basic path upon which to move forward. “The three are inseparable, embodying our systemic thinking and transmitting our wisdom and philosophy to the world,” he said.
China’s 5,000-year civilization is the backbone of these great thoughts and initiatives as it helps build upon our existing values and concepts of civilization and pushes forward continuous theoretical innovation.
Chinese civilization represented by Confucianism has not only nurtured us for thousands of years, but has also influenced the world. Be it East Asia, Southeast Asia, or Europe, the influence of Chinese culture has been visible at some stage, which helps the world understand our initiatives and build bridges between people from different backgrounds.
Confucianism has been passed down over thousands of years and has continued to be open to exchanges and mutual learning. It is always self-enriching and able to effect creative transcendence and transformation, whether through the integration of the ancient and the modern, or through the combination of what is authentically Chinese and what is markedly Western in the history, explained Wang.
The Global Civilization Initiative is seen as another chance for China to make greater contributions to the world and is a chance for the world to better understand China.
Yang Chaoming, dean of the Confucius Research Institute of China, believes that it is no coincidence that the Chinese leader could put forward Initiatives aimed at solving world problems.
The Global Civilization Initiative tackles real problems and is appealing because it is rooted in thousands of years of Chinese wisdom and reflects the civilizational pursuit of the path of integrity, Yang said.
“Mencius used to say the world stabilizes in unity, which means the sense of entirety and that one should not just think for oneself but must also think for others,” he said.
Many of the problems in the world are due to the lack of communication and understanding among civilizations and the West’s lack of understanding of China, Yang believes, and that’s why the “civilizational conflict” narrative is almost equal to the “China threat” theory at present.
“The Global Civilization Initiative will awaken those in disarray, and provide a chance for the world to refocus on harmony and stability and how to achieve them,” Yang told the Global Times.
Yang believes that the Global Civilization Initiative reflects its care for all of humanity. “When one’s attention focuses on family, he makes good choices for the family; while when one civilization attends to all humanity, this civilization ideally fits humanity’s interests.”
“The path China pursues is the path of integrity, which is determined by its cultural spirit,” according to Yang. China is diverse yet unified, and therefore has strong inclusiveness and cohesion, Yang said. This is exactly in line with the civilization initiative on the global scale, put forward by the Chinese leader.