Dialogue of Civilizations for a better Asia and World
On May 15th-16th, the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) was held in Beijing, another important domestic diplomatic event in 2019, following the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) and the 2019 Beijing International Horticultural Exhibition.
Artists perform at the Asian culture carnival held at the National Stadium, or the Bird's Nest, in Beijing, capital of China, May 15, 2019. [Photo: IC]
The CDAC was initiated by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 4th summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia in 2014 and was formally proposed at the annual meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia in 2015.
Under the theme of "exchanges and mutual learning among Asian civilizations and a community with a shared future," this year's CDAC attracted more than 2,000 delegates from 47 Asian countries and other countries outside Asia.
On the morning of May 15th, President Xi delivered his keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the CDAC. Xi's speech vividly showed the whole world our Asian confidence, aspiration and wisdom.
President Xi called for Asia to enhance cultural self-confidence and strive to write a new chapter of Asian civilization. That should be treated as a wake-up call for ancient Asia, one of the earliest human-inhabited places and one of the most important birthplaces of human civilizations. Asia made incredible cultural achievements over the past thousands of years. Therefore, it should have the confidence to do better in the future.
Confidence is more precious than gold. The unbelievable success of China's reform and opening-up actually has been guided and underpinned by the "Four Matters of Confidence." Namely, that includes confidence in its path, theory, system and culture of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Among the four, "confidence in its culture" is the most fundamental, profound, broad, basic, deep-rooted, and longest-lasting.
It is foolish to believe that other races and civilizations are superior to ours. Asian countries, especially developing ones, should learn from China on how to boost cultural self-confidence. Because we need cultural strength, besides economic and technological strength, for humanity to cope with common challenges and head toward a bright future, just as President Xi argued.
President Xi also stressed that Asian people expect an Asia with peace and stability, common prosperity, and openness and integration. Those are indeed the most urgent matters for Asia, which is probably the most diverse region on earth, covering one third of the total world land, hosting two thirds of the global population, and consisting of 47 countries and more than 1,000 ethnic groups.
First, Asia is not thoroughly peaceful and stable. In the Middle East, wars and conflicts are persisting, while the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea have not been permanently stabilized. Second, not all Asian countries are prosperous. Although Asia has achieved remarkable economic progress in recent decades, currently it still hosts nine Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and hundreds of millions of extremely poor people. Third, Asia is not fully open and integrated. Asia is still facing a serious infrastructure shortage and connectivity gap, which the Belt and Road Initiative aims to address.
Fortunately, Asian countries are not only geographically but also culturally connected, so they have experienced similar historical situations and are willing to pursue the same dream together. Facing the future, Asian countries should grasp the overall situation and strive to turn people's aspiration for a better life into reality, as President Xi suggested.
To build up the Asian and global community with a shared future, President Xi proposed four basic principles: mutual respect and equal treatment among civilizations; harmonious co-existence of various civilizations; openness, inclusiveness, and mutual learning among civilizations; and civilizations should keep pace with the times. The core idea can be simplified as Confucian philosophy "accommodating divergent views" (he er bu tong), a common wisdom shared among Asian civilizations.
History tells us that it is disastrous to willfully reshape or even replace other civilizations; history also tells us that civilizations can only be vibrant and sustainable if they are open and willing to learn from others. Chinese civilization has existed as a "continuous civilization" for over 5000 years, simply because it has been an open system formed during constant exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations.
China is not only a beneficiary of civilization exchanges, but also a strong advocate of such exchanges. Meanwhile, China does not only provide wisdom and solutions, but also takes concreate actions. In history, the ancient Silk Road connected China and the Far East with the Middle East and Europe. Nowadays, the Belt and Road Initiative is rejuvenating Asia and beyond, while the CDAC has become a wonderful platform of exchanges and mutual learning among different cultures for common progress.
Asia was ever the home to three of the "Four great ancient civilizations," and Asian civilization won global fame for thousands of years of history. We, Asian people, should jointly and confidently work together to revive our Asian civilization and restore our past glory, not only for a better Asia but also for a better world in the future.
(SUN Xi, a China-born alumnus of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, is an independent commentary writer based in Singapore.)