Interconnected, interdependent
Editorial  ·  2024-04-15  ·   Source: NO.16 APRIL 18, 2024

Since President Xi Jinping introduced the Global Civilizations Initiative (GCI) a year ago, underlining respect for different civilizations and strengthened mutual learning, the term "civilization" has garnered increasing attention. But what exactly does it mean?

Unlike culture, which is a shared pattern of behavior or a way of life passed down from generation to generation, civilization implies progress in social development. It is characterized by advancements in multiple fields, from technology to governance. From an archaeological perspective, there are several scientific criteria to define a civilization. Findings indicate that Chinese culture dates back 10,000 years, while Chinese civilization has a history of more than 5,000 years.

Civilization, which references China's time-honored history and ancient wisdom, entered the country's political lexicon long before the GCI was proposed. In the late 1970s and 1980s, China embraced the idea of giving equal importance to both the economic and the cultural-ethical aspects of civilization, underscoring their progress abreast of each other. Xi, then, highlights five aspects—economic, political, cultural-ethical, social and ecological. He envisions a new model for human advancement that calls for coordinated progress on these five fronts.

Interactions between different civilizations have existed since the dawn of humanity. From the ancient Silk Road connecting East and West to modern interconnectivity facilitated by globalization and digital technology, they have engaged in ongoing dialogue, a deep interaction of ideas, knowledge and values that can shape societies. Through this inter-civilizational dialogue, China has contributed its ideas to other civilizations and at the same time benefited from their merits.

The GCI is based on four pillars: respect for the diversity of civilizations, the common values of humanity, the inheritance and innovation of civilizations, and international people-to-people exchange and cooperation. It calls for moving beyond estrangement, conflicts and feelings of superiority through a commitment to equality, mutual learning and inclusiveness. This approach underscores the importance of using the plural form "civilizations," reflecting the multifaceted nature of cultural interactions and contributions.

The initiative is, of course, not about building a global civilization in China's own image. Instead, it paves the way for a journey of discovery, learning and growth. 

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