Photo’s Source: https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202303/1287448.shtmlCPC President in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting via video link and delivers a keynote address

 

Abstract

The Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), proposed by General Secretary Xi Jinping, emphasizes the importance of respecting civilization diversity, advocating shared human values, valuing the inheritance and innovation of civilizations, and strengthening international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. The four “initiatives” contained therein are closely related to each other and interlocked. GCI serves as China’s latest contribution to building a “community with a shared future for humanity.” The paper acknowledges China’s efforts in implementing GCI and in encouraging global cooperation, especially with Middle Eastern countries, to seek common ground and harmonious coexistence amid civilizational differences.

Keywords: Global Civilization Initiative; human civilization development; China; Middle Eastern countries

Introduction

On March 15, 2023, General Secretary Xi Jinping, in his keynote address at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting, first proposed the Global Civilization Initiative, calling for respecting the diversity of civilizations, advocating the shared values of humanity, valuing the inheritance and innovation of civilizations, and strengthening international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. As another critical public product offering by contemporary China, following the Global Development Initiative (GDI) proposed in 2021 and the Global Security Initiative (GSI) in 2022, the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) is the third global initiative put forward in the context of building a “community with a shared future for humanity.” It serves as China’s most recent response to the pressing question of the century – “what is wrong with this world and what should we do about it.” The initiative proactively addresses the global apprehension regarding the coexistence of diverse civilizations, resolves shared challenges confronting human civilization, and offers Chinese wisdom and solutions to foster harmonious relations among world civilizations.

The Meaning of the four “initiatives” contained therein

  1. Respecting the diversity of civilizations ensures a future of multiple civilizations coexistence 

Civilization emerges from the advancement of human social practices and serves as the collective memory of a nation and its people. Rooted in the unique context of their existence, civilizations embody the wisdom and spiritual pursuits of a nation or ethnic group, manifesting their inherent value. As the future of all countries is closely connected, how can different civilizations get along with each other? The Global Civilization Initiative promotes mutual respect between civilizations, advocates equality, tolerance, coexistence, exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations, and provides a new paradigm for fostering the harmonious coexistence of diverse civilizations.

With a population of over 8 billion today, there are more than 200 countries and regions, over 2500 ethnic groups, and more than 5000 languages. This diversity has given rise to different civilizations, each deeply rooted in its own cultural context. China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, “Civilizations only vary from each other, just as human beings are different only in terms of skin color and language. No civilization is superior to others. The thought that one’s own race and civilization are superior and the inclination to remould or replace other civilizations are just stupid.” Admittedly, if human civilizations are reduced to only one single color or one single model, the world would become a stereotype and too dull a place to live in. We must cultivate mutual respect and reject both arrogance and prejudice. We need to enhance comprehension of the difference between one’s own civilization and those of others, endeavoring to facilitate interactions, foster dialogue, and promote harmony among diverse civilizations.

Respecting the diversity of humans inherently requires exchanges and mutual understanding among civilizations. Also, insisting on the equality of civilizations is a way to go beyond the “civilization-centrism” and “civilization-supremacy” theories. The arguments of “Western civilization centrism” and “Western civilization superiority” have long prevailed in the international discourse. Historically, the international community has been dominated by “Western civilization centrism” and “Western civilization superiority,” believing the West to be the creator of an advanced modern civilization and the central force in global civilization. This perspective implies that non-Western nations are relegated to dependency on the West, following a Western developmental model for modernization. Nevertheless, as highlighted by Marxist theory, modern Western civilization is fundamentally capitalist, grounded in private ownership, and characterized by inherent inequality and alienation. Unquestioningly adopting the Western modernization model has presented numerous challenges for some nations instead of leading to successful modernization.

The first “advocate” in the Global Civilization Initiative convincingly demonstrates that global civilizations flourish on principles of equality and tolerance, developing through exchanges and mutual understanding. This initiative introduces a novel paradigm for fostering harmonious coexistence among diverse civilizations.

  1. Advocating the shared values of humanity in line with the goals sought by people worldwide

From the perspective of human civilization’s evolution, the shared values of all humanity represent the collective goals and aspirations pursued by societies during their developmental processes.

Historically, Global Development Initiatives have prioritized the exchange and mutual understanding of civilizations, aspiring to construct an open and inclusive world. The Global Civilization Initiative has further deepened this commitment by advocating for promoting the shared values of all humanity, focusing on understanding the varied connotations of values within different civilizations.

There are different perceptions of value across civilizations, but a shared global vision for a better life persists, summarized by the pursuit of “peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom.” In the contemporary era, peace and development remain thematic priorities despite the ongoing challenges of local conflicts, hegemony, power politics, widening global disparities, and persistent issues of poverty and disease in developing nations. Fairness, justice, and democratic freedom, on the other hand, are deemed essential guarantees for individual self-development.

Contrary to self-serving interests or the specific pursuits of certain nations, regions, or ethnic groups, the Global Civilization Initiative centers on the shared value pursuits of diverse civilizations in the twenty-first century.

The shared values of all humanity surpass Western universal values. The essence of Western universal values lies in pursuing global civilization homogenization to achieve Western dominance worldwide. The United States, believing that “its own path will shape the destiny of humanity” and “its domestic principles are universally applicable,” employs various means to vigorously promote its own values globally. However, the outcome, as sighed by American diplomat Henry Kissinger, is that “universality has proved elusive for any conqueror.”

The second aspect of the Global Civilization Initiative highlights the pursuit of shared values in civilizational interactions, which aim to address global risks and challenges, discourage ideological confrontation, and strive to build a multi-coexisting global civilization.

  1. Valuing the inheritance and innovation of civilizations is the impetus for modernization

Civilization development serves as a crucial indicator of human society’s advancement. Achieving sustainable civilization development requires a delicate balance between inheritance and innovation. “The sustainable development of civilization requires not only passing on the flame and guarding it from one generation to the next, but also responding to the times and introducing new ideas.”

Neglecting development while solely focusing on inheritance results in a civilization unable to adapt to changing times and ultimately hindering its own progress. On the contrary, an exclusive emphasis on development without the necessary attention to inheritance leaves a civilization rootless and without historical and cultural heritage, risking historical nihilism and fostering instability.

Historically, the enduring legacy of Chinese civilization, lasting thousands of years, stands as a model for the successful integration of inheritance and innovation. Overall, the desire for the development of civilization is consistent, while each country’s pace and approach vary. Countries should leverage their rich cultural heritage as a driving force for modernization and, in turn, promote the innovative development of traditional culture. Besides balancing tradition and modernity, collaboration and non-interference are also crucial.

The Global Civilization Initiative’s third aspect encourages humankind’s modernization with inheritance and innovation. Developing inheritance includes safeguarding historical heritage, fostering identity, and learning from history. On the other hand, promoting innovation involves pushing scientific and technological development and encouraging cultural exchanges for societal progress.

  1. Strengthening international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation contributes to constructing a global network

The essence of civilization bonding lies in fostering mutual understanding and closeness among people from different nations. The Global Civilization Initiative advocates strengthening international humanistic exchanges and cooperation, emphasizing their effectiveness in broadening ties between civilizations and facilitating the development of human civilization.

Humanistic exchanges are crucial to bridge barriers, resolve differences, and enhance understanding. They also contribute to disseminating and protecting cultural heritage, promoting diversity, and avoiding homogenization. In an era of unprecedented change, pursuing a better life and environment is a shared goal for people worldwide. The initiative proposes constructing a global network for dialogue and cooperation among civilizations, aiming to deepen understanding, bridge communication gaps, and build a solid foundation for cooperation.

Thus, the fourth “advocacy” of the Global Civilization Initiative highlights the value of humanistic exchanges and cooperation, providing a practical path for dialogue and collaboration among civilizations. This approach is seen as significant for promoting mutual understanding and affinity among peoples and the joint advancement of human civilization.

China’s actions for implementing the Global Civilization Initiative

In March 2014, President Xi Jinping systematically introduced the idea of exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations during his speech at the UNESCO headquarters. Nowadays, the Global Civilization Initiative marks a significant leap from concept to action plans. Engels pointed out, “Civilization is a matter of practice and a social quality.” Therefore, this reveals that civilization results from humans adapting to their living environment and is considered a sign of the level of human society development.

As such, China is not only the initiator but also the practitioner of the Global Civilization Initiative. China’s General Secretary Xi Jinping stated, “Chinese modernization is rooted in China’s national conditions and also draws on the experience of other countries. It carries the imprint of history and traditional culture and contains modern elements. It benefits the Chinese people and advances the common development of the world. It is a sure path for China to build a stronger nation and realize the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. It is also a path China must take to seek progress for humanity and harmony for the entire world.” Therefore, Chinese modernization is deeply rooted in the excellent traditional Chinese culture while also assimilating and integrating achievements from all human civilizations, representing the developmental direction of human civilization’s progress. Chinese-style modernization breaks away from the notion that “modernization equals Westernization” and presents a Chinese approach distinct from the Western modernization model.

Overall, China has been committed to building a global network for dialogue and cooperation among civilizations, actively creating an international platform for humanistic exchanges. The carrier of cultural exchange and mutual learning is people, and deepening cultural exchanges is an important way to eliminate barriers and misunderstandings and promote mutual understanding among people. In order to enhance exchanges and mutual learning among different countries, ethnicities, and cultures worldwide, China has initiated and established platforms such as the Boao Forum for Asia and the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations.

The Boao Forum for Asia places great importance on dialogue and exchange among different civilizations. Since 2015, it has specifically set up a religious forum to provide a platform for dialogue among world religions. For instance, the theme of the religious sub-forum at the 2023 Boao Forum for Asia was “Religious Harmony and Mutual Learning Among Civilizations.” While promoting economic integration in Asia, the Boao Forum for Asia has also played an active role in deepening exchanges and mutual learning across Asian cultures.

In May 2019, the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations opened in Beijing, China. The conference, focusing on Asia and reaching out to the world, aimed to build a platform for mutual exchange, learning, and progress among different civilizations by strengthening communication among youth, civil society organizations, local communities, and media. Various institutions participating in the conference signed a series of multilateral and bilateral initiatives and agreements, releasing significant project outcomes and research reports. These efforts resulted in a set of practical measures and cooperative achievements that promote cultural exchange and mutual learning.

The BRICS countries have obtained significant achievements in humanistic cooperation, with China playing an active role in promoting cooperation within the BRICS framework. As early as the first BRICS leaders’ meeting in 2009, China suggested that BRICS nations, with their rich historical and cultural heritage, should actively expand cooperation in cultural, educational, health, tourism, sports, and other fields. The goal was to enhance mutual understanding, foster friendship and partnership, and lay a solid foundation for comprehensive cooperation. In 2017, during the BRICS Xiamen Summit, China successfully pushed people-to-people exchanges to become the “third pillar” of BRICS cooperation. China has continued to promote and deepen the humanistic exchanges and mutual learning within BRICS, facilitating the development of high-quality partnerships among BRICS nations.

Additionally, China has put forward Global Development Initiatives, Global Security Initiatives, and the Global Civilization Initiative, advocating countries to work together to build a world of lasting peace, universal security, shared prosperity, openness, inclusiveness, and environmental beauty. Thus, the three global initiatives complement each other, with security as a prerequisite for development, development as a guarantee of security, and both security and development embodying civilization.

Also, 2023 marked the tenth anniversary of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This initiative serves as a practical action to implement the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative, and the Global Civilization Initiative. These actions have not only enriched the content and pathways of building a “community with a shared future” for humanity, but also continuously strengthened the foundation of such a community.

Faced with unprecedented global changes and guided by the wisdom of “harmony without uniformity,” the Global Civilization Initiative signifies China’s willingness to work with the international community to create a situation where people worldwide engage in humanistic exchanges, cultural integration, and mutual understanding.

What can Middle Eastern countries do in response to the Global Civilization Initiative?

To maximize the benefits of the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), Middle Eastern countries can take a strategic approach aligned with the political and economic realities of the region.

In the political context, Middle Eastern countries can actively engage in diplomatic initiatives facilitated by the GCI and utilize the platform for peaceful dialogue and conflict resolution among Middle Eastern nations and on a global scale. Moreover, they can leverage cultural exchanges and showcase their rich cultural heritage to enhance soft power and improve international perceptions. For example, following the official listing of the Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) as a UN holiday starting from 2024, Middle Eastern countries can strive to promote traditional culture and customs, expanding the international influence of their own country’s festivals and culture. To resolve conflicts through a cooperative approach, Middle Eastern countries should promote dialogue on shared challenges and collaboration on regional security issues. Additionally, by using the initiative as a platform to promote tolerance, understanding, and religious diversity, Middle Eastern countries can facilitate engagement in interfaith dialogue to address religious tensions.

From an economic perspective, Middle Eastern countries should explore opportunities for increased trade and economic integration with other nations, organize and participate in forums focused on economic development and investment, foster collaboration on innovation and technology transfer, and embrace knowledge exchange programs to enhance technological capabilities. Following the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), bilateral connections between China and Middle Eastern countries have undergone further development. This includes signing comprehensive strategic partnerships, China’s highest level in diplomatic relations, with Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Additionally, strategic partnerships have been formed with another eight states in the region (Sidło et al., 2020). With the expansion of its geographical scope, the objectives of the BRI have also evolved. Currently, these goals encompass advancing trade, connectivity, financial integration, political coordination, and people-to-people relations (Xu, 2015). Still, infrastructure projects remain at the heart of the BRI; hence, Middle Eastern countries can seek support from China for infrastructure development projects to boost economic growth. In addition, environmental sustainability should be taken into consideration. Middle Eastern countries should implement policies and climate action that contribute to sustainable development, addressing environmental challenges in the region through collaborative efforts.

Conclusion

Civilization has played a critical role in shaping human societies, each contributing to the rich tapestry of global culture. The proposal of the Global Civilization Initiative showcases China’s readiness to work together with the international community to open up a new prospect of enhanced exchanges and understanding among different peoples and better interactions and integration of diversified cultures.

In the past, in a unipolar world, one only needed to know about one’s country, neighbors, and dominant powers. Today, in a multi-polar world where the global supply chain touches everyone, there is a need for every country and people to study, understand, and respect every aspect of every other country’s politics, economics, laws, languages, literature, philosophy, history, beliefs, and resources. Only through mutual understanding and respect can people and countries identify and understand each other’s differences.

The Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) is a crucial component of the concept of a human community with a shared future. The ‘four proposals’ it presents are interconnected and have a close logic. China has implemented a series of measures to carry out the Global Civilization Initiative and has advocated that other countries worldwide, Middle Eastern countries in particular, seek common ground while reserving differences, living in harmony with differences, and getting along harmoniously based on a deeper understanding of the differences between one’s own civilization and those of other civilizations.

Reference

[1]Xinhua(2023),Full text of Xi Jinping’s keynote address at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting, The State Council Information Office, the People’s Republic of China

[2]Henry Kissinger (2014).WORLD ORDER Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History, P67

[3]President of the State on Governance, Volume III [M]. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2020 ,P470

[4]Sidło, K., Andersen, L.E., Lons, C., Peragovics, T., &Rózsa, E. (2020).The Role of China in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region. Beyond Economic Interests? EuroMeSCo Joint Policy Study

[5]Xu, S. (2015).Visions and Actions on Jointly Building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China

 

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About the author:

Mrs. Chen Cao

Mrs. Chen Cao is a student at the Shanghai University, China. She is intern at MEPEI.

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