Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that one civilisation forcing itself on another would be “stupid” and “disastrous” as he called on nations to respect each other on Wednesday, with Beijing embroiled in rising confrontation with the United States on trade as well as military and cultural matters.
In a speech at the start of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations – designed for Beijing to show its soft power – Xi did not mention any nation by name, but said nobody should regard their race as superior.
The speech came two weeks after US State Department director of policy planning Kiron Skinner described strategic competition with China as “a fight with a really different civilisation and a different ideology”. Skinner said it was the first time the US had faced a “great power competitor that is not Caucasian”.
Chinese officials have rejected Skinner’s remarks, and in his speech Xi appeared to expand on the theme, saying cultures were distinctive but no better or worse than each other.
“If someone thinks their own race and civilisation is superior and insists on remoulding or replacing other civilisations, it would be a stupid idea and disastrous act,” Xi said.
“We should hold up equality and respect, abandon pride and prejudice, deepen our knowledge about the differences between our own and other civilisations, and promote harmonious dialogue and coexistence between civilisations.”
He went on to say: “If countries retreat back to secluded islands, human civilisation will die out because of a lack of exchanges.”
Xi stressed that people should step beyond the limits of their own culture to discover the advantages of others, and argued it was the best way to inspire innovation.
“All civilisations must progress with time and keep up with the latest achievement,” he said.
The president suggested that the Belt and Road Initiative, his transcontinental infrastructure strategy, was also a means to promote cooperation between nations.
“The Belt and Road … and other initiatives have expanded the channels for civilisation exchanges,” he said.
Beijing last month held the Belt and Road Forum to showcase its trade and infrastructure projects in countries in Asia to Africa.
The speech reiterated the idea, which Xi has aired previously, of a community of shared destiny, arguing that Asian countries should open and connect their polices, infrastructures, trade, investment and people.
Asia must maintain peace as the precondition of economic growth, which is the pillar of civilisation, he argued.
“All countries should conduct exchanges beyond borders of state, time and civilisations, and work together to protect the peaceful time we have, which is more precious than gold,” Xi said.
“Children and women are suffering from poverty, hunger and diseases in Asia. This has to be changed,” he said, calling on Asian nations to “work together to promote an open, inclusive, balanced and mutually beneficial globalised economy, eradicating poverty”.
Xi proposed deeper cultural exchanges, saying that China would cooperate with more Asian nations to translate their literature and would promote inward and outward tourism.
“This can facilitate the appreciation and understanding of different cultures,” he said.
Stating that China received 140 million overseas tourists last year while 160 million Chinese made visits abroad, Xi said tourism could promote economic growth and friendship in Asia.
China would increase exchanges involving young people and think tanks, he added.
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