Jointly building a community of a shared future for humanity

Date:2021-10-14

Source: Wechat Official Platform of C.E.A. Global Initiative

(click on the link to view the video of the speech)

 

The sixth annual conference of the Taihu World Cultural Forum convened in The Ancient Residence Expo Park in Bengbu, China, the permanent site for the forum from Oct 11 to 13, 2021, East China's Anhui Province.


Themed "Mutual learning among civilizations: Jointly building a community of a shared future for humanity," the China-initiated forum offers a platform to promote dialogue and exchanges between different cultures and present a true, multi-dimensional and panoramic view of China to the world.


Some 500 delegates from more than 30 countries and regions including dignitaries from many countries, representatives of international organizations, foreign diplomats in China, specialists and scholars, business leaders and media people discussed cultural diversity, the Belt and Road Initiative, pandemic prevention and control, ecological conservation, poverty alleviation and technology development.


David Gosset, founder of China-Europe-America Global Initiative was invited to attend the Taihu World Cultural Forum and delivered a speech themed "The transformation of China and Western relationship from the perspective of a community of a shared future for humanity".


Following is the video and full text of David Gosset's speech:


Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

Some argue that the Chinese and Western identities are structurally in opposition. Such an assertion constitutes a false, and dangerously misleading, narrative.

 

I see this forum as an effort to renew intercultural dialogue. A seriously renewed intercultural dialogue between the West and China can only reveal that there are some profound elements of convergence between the two traditions which, contrary to what the considerations of Samuel Huntington (1927-2008) could suggest, are not destined to clash.

 

Beyond the ubiquitous discourses on Sino-Western strategic rivalries or the theoretical debates on the “Thucydides trap”, the real pattern that a long-term view of history shows is a surprising compatibility between the Sinic and Western civilizations.

 

Sino-Western compatibility is explained, to a large extent, by the fact that both civilizations are, above all, variations on humanism; they have evolved and persisted under different forms, but they both essentially put the dignity of Man at the center of their preoccupations, a dignity nurtured by objective social mechanisms and self-cultivation.  

 

Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), who is interestingly better remembered in China than in Europe, was able to articulate Confucianism and some of the key principles of Christianity by using their connection in the context of Man’s dignity.

 

Obviously, Greek philosophy and Chinese traditional thinking operate differently, but there are also some major correspondences between the Greco-Roman intellectual environment and classical China; the meaningful similarities between Confucianism and Stoicism, between the historians Thucydides (460-400BC) and Sima Qian (145-86BC), or between the Cynics and Zhuangzi (369-286BC), have all been studied and commented. 

 

With the construction of Western modernity, the affinity between China and the West became even more evident. More concerned by temporal realities than by the supernatural, separating religion from public affairs, the European Enlightenment took the West even closer to China. 

 

In L’Europe chinoise (1988), the French literatus René Etiemble (1909-2002) showcased the deep impact that the Chinese tradition had upon France in the 18th century. There is, indeed, a relative conceptual alignment between the secularism of Western modernity and Confucian ethics’exclusive concern with immanence.

 

The rich phenomenon of cross-fertilization can also be interpreted as the mark of a certain closeness between Sinic and Western traditions. The echo of the notion of the “Silk Road” sounds almost infinite, not because it describes material transactions along routes crisscrossing Eurasia, but because it is a powerful metaphor for the cross-fertilization between the West and the East beyond the passage of time. 

 

On the one hand, Leibniz (1646-1716) and Voltaire (1694-1778) were deeply inspired by Chinese culture, while, on the other hand, in the 20th century, it has been possible by post imperial China to adopt republicanism and socialism, conceptualized first by Western minds, because they were not in total contradiction with Chinese culture. For socialism to be Sinicized, it was necessary for Chinese intellectual circles to first articulate it with some of the organic patterns of Chinese tradition.

 

To use Etiemble’s terminology, if one can certainly reflect upon what has been a Chinese Europe, L’Europe chinoise, we could also discuss the multiple dimensions of a European China.

 

The magnum opus of Qian Zhongshu (1910-1998) is built around the notion of  打通 (Da Tong), the very possibility of “striking connections” between the Chinese and Western traditions. Qian’s Limited Views (管锥编,Guan Zhui Bian), a rare expression of intelligent erudition, illustrates through literary criticism that, despite the differences between the West and China, they remain at a distance which allows mutual elucidation and illumination. Limited Views is, in that sense, one of the most remarkable expressions of the Silk Road effect as a metaphor for cross-fertilization between different intellectual traditions.

 

Qian Zhongshu’s masterpiece is a demonstration that a pure sameness and an absolute otherness are simply myths. In this perspective, in which thoughtful nuances are what matters, China and the West are in a relation reminiscent of the Yin and the Yang; they are two poles simultaneously within and outside each other in a mutually transformative articulation.

 

It is a “creative minority”, to reinterpret Arnold Toynbee’s terminology, much more than a “global elite”, which can better extract from the Sino-Western relationship some of the solutions to the issues of our time. 

 

While the “global elite” rejoices in a globalization which flattens cultural differences, and by doing so acts as a generator of conservative populisms, the “creative minority”, concerned above all by culture, finds in differences the resources to reach new equilibria. 

 

The nature of the answers to current global issues that the West and China will formulate depends on their capacity to reinterpret their humanisms and on their ability, in a world of growing interdependence, to make full use of the fundamental compatibility between the two traditions. In that sense, China’s opening up to the West and the West’s opening up to China are vital for both sides. 

 

The narrative in which there would be an inevitable clash between China and the West is a construct which has to be countered since they happen to be the most potent co-architects for the building of “a community of shared future for mankind”.

 

With the proposal of “a community of shared future for mankind”, contemporary China reinterprets the Chinese classical cosmopolitanism, the Confucian notion of Da Tong (大同), and it echoes Western universalism. 

 

In the vision of a new humanism ushered by Sino-Western synergies, it is mankind, and not a part of it, which stands as the highest goal. 

 

The “creative minority” sees in each threat an opportunity: the rich notion of crisis, “weiji” in Chinese, or in the words of Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843), the understanding that “where the danger is, also grows the saving power”.

 

There is currently danger in the relations between China and the West, but, at the same time, a way to save mankind can also be found. One certainly does not have to choose one against the other. We, subjectively and to varying degrees, live with both, as, objectively, our world is a laboratory for their transformative coexistence.

 

One of the expressions used by the Chinese anthropologist Fei Xiaotong (1910-2005) indicates a higher level of wisdom: “Appreciate one’s own beauty and those of others, so they can coexist and harmony can prevail” – “各美其美, 美人之美, 美美与共, 天下大同”.

 

Through the confident acceptation of their respective traditions, with the promise of their mutual illumination, China and the West are the demonstration that progress towards a greater unity in the world started long time ago. Such progress has to be clearly recognized and unrelentingly continued. 

 

Let us march together towards the realization of a community of shared future for mankind!

 

Thank you.

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