Deepening Exchanges and Mutual Learning Among Civilizations for an Asian Community with a Shared Future
– Keynote Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations
H.E. Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China
Beijing, 15 May 2019
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellencies Heads of International Organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this lovely season of thriving green, I am delighted to join you, distinguished guests from 47 Asian countries and five continents, in a dialogue on deepening exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. On behalf of the Chinese government and people and in my own name, I extend sincere congratulations on the opening of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations and a very warm welcome to all of you!
The world today is moving toward greater multi-polarity, economic globalization and cultural diversity, and is becoming increasingly information-oriented. All this points to promising prospects for the future. Meanwhile, instability and uncertainties are mounting and the global challenges faced by humanity are becoming ever more daunting, calling for joint responses from countries around the world.
To meet our common challenges and create a better future for all, we look to culture and civilization to play their role, which is as important as the role played by economy, science and technology. The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations is convened just for this purpose, as it creates a new platform for civilizations in Asia and beyond to engage in dialogue and exchanges on an equal footing to facilitate mutual learning.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Asia is home to one of the earliest human settlements and an important cradle of human civilizations. This vast and beautiful continent covers a third of the earth’s land mass and has two-thirds of the world’s population. It has more than 1,000 ethnic groups living in 47 countries. For several thousand years before the Common Era, our forefathers living along the Tigris and the Euphrates, the Indus and the Ganges, the Yellow River and the Yangtze, tilled and irrigated the land, made tools and utensils, and built homes to live in. Generation after generation, our ancestors in Asia, with their tireless endeavors, created a time-honored history and profound and rich civilizations. Our vast and fertile plains, beautiful river basins, large steppes, immense deserts, mighty rivers and oceans, and lofty mountains have nourished and enriched diverse and colorful civilizations across Asia.
In building our civilizations over the course of several millennia, we the people of Asia have made splendid achievements. I think of literary classics such as The Book of Songs, The Analects of Confucius, The Talmud, One Thousand and One Nights, The Rigveda and Genji Monogatari; of inventions such as the cuneiform script, maps, glass, Arabic numerals, paper making and printing techniques; and of majestic structures like the Great Wall, the Great Mosque of Mecca, Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat. They are all invaluable assets of human civilization. Through interactions on this continent, Asian civilizations have enriched each other and written an epic of development.
Our forefathers in Asia have long engaged in inter-civilizational exchanges and mutual learning. The ancient trade routes, notably the Silk Road, the Tea Road and the Spice Road, brought silk, tea, porcelain, spices, paintings and sculpture to all corners of Asia, and witnessed inter-civilizational dialogue in the form of trade and cultural interflow. Today, the Belt and Road Initiative, together with the Two Corridors and One Belt, the Eurasian Economic Union and other initiatives, have greatly expanded inter-civilizational exchanges and mutual learning. Cooperation among nations in science, technology, education, culture, health and people-to-people exchanges are thriving like never before. Thanks to exchanges and mutual learning among themselves and with other civilizations in the world, Asian civilizations have grown from strength to strength.
The great Asian civilizations have a special place in the annals of world civilizations, and they have added to the diversity of human civilizations. Think of what Asia stands to offer in terms of religion, philosophy, ethic code, law, literature, painting, drama, music, and even the building of towns and villages. They speak volumes for Asia’s proud achievements: extensive systems of social customs, immortal classics that have endured for millennia, the fine pool of exquisite art, and diverse institutions, among others. All these offer rich choices for civilizations the world over to draw on.
As we review our past and look beyond Asia, we should have greater confidence in our civilizations. We may build on the rich heritage of our forefathers, stay engaged with other civilizations and increase mutual learning. By doing so, we will add new glory to Asian civilizations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We Asian countries are closely connected and share a natural bond of affinity. We went through similar historical trials and hold the same dream for the future. Going forward, we need to see where the world is going, ride on the trend of the times and turn our people’s longing for a better life into reality.
– We Asian people hope to see peace and stability across Asia. Upholding peace is the responsibility of every country. When peace is interrupted by conflict or war, economic growth, decent lives, social stability and people-to-people exchanges will all be out of the question. We the people of Asian countries wish to live and work in content and security free from fear. We hope that all countries will respect and trust each other, live in harmony, and interact with each other in a manner that transcends national boundaries, time and space, as well as the difference between civilizations. We should work together and jointly safeguard peace, something that is even more precious than gold.
– We Asian people hope to see common prosperity in Asia. Economic growth sustains a civilization, and prosperity underpins the progress of a nation. In some parts of Asia, people, women and children in particular, are still suffering from poverty, hunger and disease. This must change. We Asian people long for decent lives free of poverty. We hope that countries will work together to promote economic globalization and make it more open, inclusive, balanced and beneficial to all. Doing so will enable us to eradicate poverty and backwardness that still plague people in some countries. It will make life carefree for our children and bring happiness to all families.
– We Asian people hope to see an open and better-connected Asia. Asia’s rapid development over the past decades shows that it is important to open one’s door to the outside world and ride on the trend of global economic development. If countries choose to close their doors and hide behind them, human civilizations would be cut off from each other and lose all vitality. We Asian people hope that all countries will reject self-exclusion, embrace integration, uphold openness and promote policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity. This way, we can jointly foster a community with a shared future for both us Asians and all humanity.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Diversity spurs interaction among civilizations, which in turn promotes mutual learning and their further development. We need to promote exchanges and mutual learning among countries, nations and cultures around the world, and strengthen popular support for jointly building a community with a shared future for both Asia and humanity as a whole. To that end, I believe it is imperative that we act in the following ways:
First, we need to respect each other and treat each other as equals. All civilizations are rooted in their unique cultural environment. Each embodies the wisdom and vision of a country or nation, and each is valuable for being uniquely its own. Civilizations only vary from each other, just as human beings are different only in terms of skin color and the language used. No civilization is superior over others. The thought that one’s own race and civilization are superior and the inclination to remold or replace other civilizations are just stupid. To act them out will only bring catastrophic consequences. 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. What we need is to respect each other as equals and say no to hubris and prejudice. We need to deepen understanding of the difference between one’s own civilization and others’, and work to promote interaction, dialogue and harmony among civilizations.
In the many places I have visited around the world, what fascinates me the most is civilizations in their rich diversity. I cannot but think of the Central Asian city of Samarkand, the Luxor Temple in Egypt, Sentosa in Singapore, Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, and the Acropolis in Athens, to mention just a few. China is ready to work with other countries to protect Asian cultural heritage and better preserve and sustain our civilizations.
Second, we need to uphold the beauty of each civilization and the diversity of civilizations in the world. Each civilization is the crystallization of human creation, and each is beautiful in its own way. The aspiration for all that is beautiful is a common pursuit of humanity that nothing can hold back. Civilizations don’t have to clash with each other; what is needed are eyes to see the beauty in all civilizations. We should keep our own civilizations dynamic and create conditions for other civilizations to flourish. Together we can make the garden of world civilizations colorful and vibrant.
The beauty of a civilization finds concrete expression in the classic works of philosophy and social sciences and works of literature, music, film and TV drama. Now, a large number of outstanding cultural works from other countries are brought into China, and a lot of fine Chinese cultural products are introduced to other countries. China is happy to launch initiatives with relevant countries to translate Asian classics both from and into Chinese and promote film and TV exchanges and cooperation in Asia. This will help people in Asia better understand and appreciate each other’s cultures and build a platform of exchange and mutual learning for the best of Asian civilizations to spread and be known to more in the world.
Third, we need to stay open and inclusive and draw on each other’s strengths. All living organisms in the human body must renew themselves through metabolism; otherwise, life would come to an end. The same is true for civilizations. Long-term self-isolation will cause a civilization to decline, while exchanges and mutual learning will sustain its development. A civilization can flourish only through exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations. Such exchanges and mutual learning should be reciprocal, equal-footed, diversified and multi-dimensional; they should not be coercive, imposed, one-dimensional or one-way. We need to be broad-minded and strive to remove all barriers to cultural exchanges. We need to be inclusive and always seek nourishment from other civilizations to promote the common development of Asian civilizations through exchanges and mutual learning.
People are the best bridge for exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. Closer people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning, for that matter, is a sure way to eliminate estrangement and misunderstanding and promote mutual understanding among nations. Over the years, China has, in collaboration with other countries, established many platforms and channels for cooperation in education, culture, sports, health and other fields. China will work with other countries to step up exchanges among the youth, non-governmental organizations, subnational entities and media organizations, create a network of exchanges and cooperation between think tanks, explore new models of cooperation, and deliver more solid outcomes in diverse forms. Such efforts will boost exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations.
Fourth, we need to advance with the times and explore new ground in development. For a civilization to endure, efforts must be made to keep it alive and build on its heritage from one generation to the next. More importantly, a civilization needs to adapt itself to the changing times and break new ground. The history of world civilizations tells us that every civilization needs to advance with the times and take in the best of its age in order to develop itself. We need to come up with new ideas to add impetus and inspiration to the development of our civilizations. With these efforts, we will deliver achievements for our civilizations to transcend time and space and have a lasting appeal.
To spur people’s innovation and creativity, the best way is to come into contact with different civilizations, see the strengths of others and draw upon them. Last year, Chinese tourists made over 160 million overseas trips and more than 140 million foreign tourists visited China. These visits played an important role in promoting exchanges and mutual learning between China and the rest of the world. In this connection, China will work with other countries to implement a plan to promote tourism in Asia. This will further boost economic development in Asia and deepen friendship among the Asian people.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Being an inseparable part of Asian civilizations, Chinese civilization has, since its early days, evolved and grown by drawing on its past achievement, exploring new ground and adapting to changes. It represents the profound pursuit of the Chinese nation and provides a rich source of strength for its lasting development. Chinese inventions such as paper making, gunpowder, printing and the compass as well as China’s astronomical knowledge, calendar system, philosophy and the people-centered doctrine have all had a global impact and propelled the development of human civilizations.
Chinese civilization, as an inclusive and integrated whole, has become what it is today through constant interactions with other civilizations. It has been enriched by the introduction of Buddhism and the confluence of Islam and Confucianism in the old days, and by the introduction of Western learning, the launch of the New Culture Movement and the introduction of Marxism and socialism in modern times. All-round opening-up of the country, starting with the reform and opening-up program, has added to its vitality today. For Chinese civilization, amity and good neighborliness is the principle guiding our interactions with other countries; and to deliver prosperity and security to the people is the overarching goal, to keep pace with the times through reform and innovation the abiding commitment, and to achieve harmony between man and nature the underlying philosophy.
China today is more than the country itself; it is very much a part of Asia and the world. In the time to come, China will open its arms wider to embrace the world and contribute the dynamic achievements of Chinese civilization to a better world in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations has a wide-ranging agenda, and I look forward to your keen perspectives and insights. By putting our heads together, we will create an even better tomorrow for civilizations in Asia and beyond!
To conclude, I wish this conference every success!