Create an Asian Community of Shared Future Through Mutual Learning*
May 15, 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 pleased that our friends from 47 Asian countries and five continents are meeting here for a discussion on deeper exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. On behalf of the Chinese government and people, and in my own name, let me express my warmest congratulations on the opening of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations and extend a very warm welcome to you all.
The world today is moving towards multi-polarity and becoming more economically globalized, culturally diverse, and IT-driven. All this offers hope to humanity. In contrast, however, instability and uncertainties are mounting, and the global challenges faced by humanity are ever more daunting, calling for joint responses from all countries.
To meet our common challenges and create a better future for all, we look to culture and civilization to play their roles, which are as important as the roles played by the economy, and by science and technology. The Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations is for this very purpose, as it provides a new platform for civilizations in Asia and beyond to engage in dialogue and exchanges on an equal footing and facilitate mutual learning.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Asia is home to one of the earliest human settlements and a major cradle of human civilization. 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 River, 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, broad 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 achieved great splendor. I think of literary classics such as the Book of Songs1, The Analects of Confucius, the Talmud2, One Thousand and One Nights3, The Rigveda4 and The Tale of Genji5; of inventions such as the cuneiform script, maps, glass, Arabic numerals, and papermaking and printing techniques; and of majestic structures like the Great Wall, the Great Mosque of Mecca, the Taj Mahal, and Angkor Wat. They all form part of the invaluable heritage 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-civilization 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-civilization 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, has greatly expanded inter-civilization exchanges and mutual learning. Cooperation among nations in science and technology, education, culture, health and people-to-people exchanges is thriving as never before. Thanks to exchanges and mutual learning between each other 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 civilization, and they have added to the diversity of human civilization. Think of what Asia stands to offer in terms of religion, philosophy, code of ethics, 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 have passed through similar historical trials, and we cherish the same dreams for the future. Going forward, we need to see where the world is heading, ride the trends 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 fall by the wayside. We the people of Asian countries wish to live and work in contentment 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 differences between civilizations. We should work together to safeguard peace, something that is far 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 a decent life 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. This will enable us to eradicate the poverty and backwardness that still plague people in some countries. It will enable our children to live a carefree life 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 our doors to the outside world and ride the trend of global economic development. If countries choose to close their doors and hide behind them, world civilizations will be cut off from each other and lose all vitality. We Asian people hope that all countries will reject self-imposed isolation, embrace integration, uphold opening up, and promote policy, infrastructure, trade, financial and people-to-people connectivity. This way, we can jointly foster a community of shared future for both Asians and all humanity.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Diversity spurs interaction among civilizations, which in turn promotes mutual learning and further development. We need to promote exchanges and mutual learning among countries, nations and cultures around the world, and strengthen popular support for a community of shared future for both Asia and humanity as a whole. To that end, I believe it is imperative that we take the following actions:
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 unique itself. Civilizations vary from each other only as human beings differ in terms of skin color and the language used. No civilization is superior to others. It is foolhardy to think that one's own race and civilization are superior and to insist on remolding or replacing other civilizations. To act these out will only have catastrophic consequences. If world civilizations are reduced to one single color or one single model, the world will become monolithic and a dull place to live. What we need is to respect each other as equals and say no to hubris and prejudice. We need a deeper understanding of the differences between our own civilizations and others, and we must work to promote interaction, dialogue and harmony among civilizations.
In the many places I have visited around the world, what fascinates me 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 around the world. Each civilization is the crystallization of human creation, and each is beautiful in its own way. An aspiration for all that is beautiful is common to all humanity, and nothing can hold it back. Civilizations do not have to clash with each other; what is needed is to see the beauty in all civilizations with eyes. We should keep our own civilizations dynamic and create conditions for other civilizations to flourish. Together we can make the garden of world civilizations more 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 being brought into China, and a lot of fine Chinese cultural products are being introduced to other countries. China is happy to launch initiatives with other countries to translate Asian classics both from and into Chinese and to 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 exchanges and mutual learning for the best of Asian civilizations to spread and be better known to the world.
Third, we need to stay open and inclusive and draw on each other's strengths. All living organisms must renew themselves through metabolism; otherwise, life would come to an end. The same is true for civilizations. Long-term self-imposed isolation will cause a civilization to decline, while exchanges and mutual learning will sustain it. A civilization can flourish only through exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations. Such exchanges and mutual learning should be reciprocal, equal-footed, diverse, and multidimensional; 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. Increased people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning, for that matter, are a sure way to eliminate estrangement and misunderstanding and to promote mutual understanding among nations. Over the years, in collaboration with other countries, China has 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 youths, NGOs, subnational entities, and media organizations, to create a network of exchanges and cooperation between think tanks, to explore new models of cooperation, and to 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. To sustain a civilization, it must be kept vibrant and built 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 progress. We need to come up with new ideas to add impetus and inspiration to our civilizations. Through these efforts we will deliver achievements for our civilizations to transcend time and space and endure.
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,
As an inseparable part of Asian civilization, Chinese civilization, since its early days, has evolved and grown by drawing on its past achievements, exploring new ground, and adapting to changes. This represents a profound aspiration of the Chinese nation and provides a rich source of strength for its lasting development. Chinese inventions such as papermaking, gunpowder, printing and the compass, as well as China's astronomical knowledge, calendar system, philosophy and people-centered doctrine have all had a global impact and propelled the development of human civilization.
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, pursuing amity, good neighborliness and harmony is the principle guiding our interactions with other countries. To bring 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 times to come, China will open its arms wider to embrace the world and contribute the dynamic achievements of Chinese civilization to a better world.
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 bringing our minds together, we will create an even better tomorrow for civilizations in Asia and beyond.
To conclude, I wish this conference every success.
* Keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations.
1 The Book of Songs (ShiJing) is the earliest collection of poems in China. It contains 305 poems composed over some 500 years from the early Western Zhou Dynasty (1046-771 BC) to the middle of the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC).
2 The Talmud is a compilation of Jewish oral law.
3 One Thousand and One Nights is a collection of folk tales in Arabic.
4 The Rigveda is an ancient Indian collection of hymns.
5 The Tale of Genji is a novel written by Japanese female writer Murasaki Shikibu in the early years of the 11th century.
(Not to be republished for any commercial or other purposes.)