China's Global Civilization Initiative

I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn and here's what I'm watching: China's Global Civilization Initiative, GCI — its call for respecting the diversity of civilizations, the common values of humanity, the continuity and evolution of civilizations, and closer international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. China says its GCI exemplifies the building of a Global Community of Shared Future — President Xi Jinping's overarching theme of China's foreign policy.

GCI examples include the conferences on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations and between Chinese and African Civilizations, and the Center of Chinese and Greek Ancient Civilizations, China regularly hosts cultural activities, such as the Arabic Arts Festival and the International Arts Festival. In 2017 alone, China held about 2,000 events in over 130 countries. It has established roughly 3,000 pairs of sister cities or provinces with various countries.

When President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Civilization Initiative, he advocated four themes. First, respect the diversity of civilizations; countries need to uphold equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness among civilizations. Second, the common values of humanity: peace, development, equity, justice, democracy and freedom; countries need to refrain from imposing their own values or models on others. Third, the importance of inheritance and innovation of civilizations; countries need to harness their histories and fine traditional cultures. Fourth, international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation; countries need to explore inter-civilization dialogue and cooperation.

In the same speech, Xi reiterated that China would avoid the "crooked path taken by some countries to seek hegemony once they grow strong" but rather "seek to settle differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through cooperation." (I cannot claim that every neighboring country was entirely relieved.)

Some foreign analysts view the GCI from a different perspective. Researchers at the U.S.-based Atlantic Council see the GCI as a state-focused value system that is designed to eliminate universal values in human rights and democracy from global governance. As a result, the international system would be friendlier to single-party governments, which could give authoritarian regimes cover to repress their own people.

China points with pride to the large number of countries that praise its three global initiatives — development, security, civilization. Moreover, the three global initiatives now form the core of China's foreign policy, which in part challenges American values and thus American primacy.

My take-away message is to take seriously China's Global Development Initiative, Global Security Initiative, and Global Civilization Initiative. Given President Xi's commitment, actions will follow words — I'm sure of it.

The ultimate success of China's three global initiatives will be decided, not in the media court of rhetoric and argument, but in the global marketplace of programs and results. Developing countries will be the evidence, open for all to see.

I'm keeping Watch. I'm Robert Lawrence Kuhn.


Script: Robert Lawrence Kuhn

Editors: Xiao Qiong, Hao Xinxin, Duan Jiaxin

Designer: Qi Haiming

Producer: Wang Ying

Chief Editor: Ren Yan

Supervisors: Xiao Jian, Adam Zhu

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