By Wang Fengjuan, Wang Fang
“Civilizations only vary from each other—no civilization is superior to others,” declared Chinese President Xi Jinping in a keynote speech titled “Deepening Exchanges and Mutual Learning Among Civilizations for an Asian Community with a Shared Future” at the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) in Beijing on May 15, 2019 in response to the hypothesis of “a clash of civilizations.” Chinese and foreign guests attending the event agreed that CDAC was held at the right time, according to interviews conducted by China Report ASEAN. They also applauded President Xi’s speech for charting a course for cultural exchanges and mutual understanding among different civilizations and kindling discussion on multiple topics which may boost confidence and build consensus on the future development of Asia.
Beauty of Civilizations
An important cradle of human civilization, Asia is home to major ancient civilizations such as Chinese civilization, Indian civilization and Islamic civilization. With more than 1,000 ethnic groups spread across 47 countries, the continent hosts two thirds of the world’s population. Over the course of several millennia, the people of Asia have made splendid achievements in building civilizations. Ancient trade routes, notably the Silk Road, the Tea Road and the Spice Road, all evidence inter-civilizational exchanges conducted consistently for eons.
Rashid Alimov, former secretary general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, stressed that against the backdrop of profound changes in the international arena, enhancing exchange and cooperation would contribute to cultural progress in Asia and reconciliation between different Asian civilizations. “Since ancient times, dialogue among Asian civilizations has promoted cultural blending, exchange of knowledge, people-to-people ties and the overall prosperity of the continent,” he noted.
“Openness” was a highlight of President Xi’s speech at the CDAC. The philosophy was echoed by Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, who opined that without open mind for exchanges and mutual learning, Asian civilizations would not be as colorful as they are today. Now China is endeavoring to build an Asian community with a shared future through comprehensive opening-up of the country, Wang added.
“A review of human history shows that interaction among diverse civilizations contributed greatly to social advancement,” said Chang Xiang, deputy director of Thailand based Belt and Road Initiative Cooperation Research Center. “Tolerance and mutual respect play a vital role in building a community of shared future for mankind.” With “China and Thailand as members of one family” as an example, Chang illustrated that the long standing friendship between the two nations is the fruit of generations of communication and cultivation, which has facilitated political trust and people-to-people ties and now serves as a cornerstone of the community with a shared future that the two sides are jointly building.
In his speech at the CDAC, President Xi called for “greater confidence in our civilizations,” which resonated strongly with the audience. Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, suggested that Asian people pursue a better life based on confidence in their civilizations and in exchange and mutual learning among civilizations.
“The CDAC provides a platform for appreciating ‘the beauty of each civilization and the diversity of all civilizations in the world’ as mentioned by President Xi in his speech, which sets the stage for enhancing mutual understanding among brilliant civilizations,” noted Firdaus Rahman, president of Brunei-China Friendship Association, adding that the future of Asia depends on economic and technological development as well as progress of civilizations. The success of the CDAC has brought cultures and peoples closer together.
Future of Asia
The world is now facing growing uncertainty and destabilizing factors, and mankind is encountering many common global challenges. “Currently the most urgent issue is strengthening a sense of responsibility in Asia and the world as well for the future of humanity,” remarked Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni at the CDAC. “I highly appreciate President Xi’s concept of building a community of shared future for mankind. His proposal enables countries throughout the world, regardless of size and degree of development, to enjoy harmonious relations and a shared future.”
General Surasit Thanadtang, director of Thai-Chinese Strategic Research Center at the National Research Council of Thailand, believes that the CDAC delivered a message to the world: World peace for all mankind cannot be achieved through competition for power. The event not only showcased Chinese civilization to the world but also promoted Eastern wisdom which emphasizes sound thinking, speaking and deeds and favors the notion of treating people the way you want to be treated.
The CDAC provided Asian countries a solid platform for sharing experience on development, commented Lye Liang Fook, senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “We sat down together at the conference table and participated in discussions on the future of Asia, which is praiseworthy indeed,” Lye said.
During the discussion session, Chairman of Singapore-based Hua Yuan Association Wang Quancheng shared his opinion on Singapore’s successful experience in building a harmonious multiracial society. “Building an Asian community of shared future based on dialogue between civilizations is precisely what the Asian people commonly demand,” he said. “People from different strata should enjoy equal rights to development and their well-being should be improved.”
Hu Zhengyue, vice president of China Public Diplomacy Association, pointed out that the future of Asia depends on cooperation between Asian countries as well as joint efforts between Asian people. To build a peaceful, stable and prosperous Asia, Asian countries need efforts to maintain peace, help each other out and promote cultural exchange, which will contribute to both economic growth and social progress.
The CDAC was the first grand gathering to promote exchange and mutual learning among civilizations in the history of Asia. The logo of the event, a flourishing peony with six petals in different colors, symbolizes the brilliant civilizations brought together by the conference and their embracing of each other.