By John Ross Source: China.org.cn Published: 2017-12-6
Communist Party of China (CPC) in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting [Photo/Xinhua]
On Dec. 1 President Xi Jinping delivered a speech to the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting. With over 200 political parties from 120 countries represented, this was certainly the largest such international meeting for political parties in decades. Also striking was the very wide range of political viewpoints represented—from the Treasurer of the Republican National Committee of the US to the Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist Leninist), while also taking in numerous social democratic, conservative, religious, nationalist, labour and other types of parties. As the name suggests, representation at the conference was on a very high level and included numerous former or serving prime ministers, speakers of national parliaments and other figures in similar positions.
As I was at the speech it was of course extremely interesting to hear China`s President speak in person, but even more striking was the speech`s content. The speech presented a clear framework for foreign policy and was intellectually profound while it also explained why such a wide range of opinion was represented at the conference.
The fundamental concepts in the speech, self-explanatory entitled Work Together to Build a Better World, took up ideas already outlined in Xi Jinping`s book "Xi Jinping: The Governance of China" while further developing them. Although President Xi Jinping was presenting a positive framework, and therefore did not polemicize with other views, alternative frameworks to that of the speech are also mentioned at the end of this article.
The central point of the speech, as of China`s foreign policy, was the concept of a community with a shared future for humanity resulting from the fact the world is increasingly interconnected. The speech emphasised that China has always striven for the view that "the world is a big family," that people in the world are living under the same sky, share one home, and should be one family despite the fact they have differences.
Therefore, a community with a shared future for humanity, as its name implies, is that the future and destiny of every nation and every country is closely interlinked, Xi stressed.
More precisely, regarding human civilization President Xi Jinping stressed the prosperity of civilization and the progress of humankind cannot be separated from seeking common ground despite inevitable differences. It is a search for openness and inclusivity. This cannot be separated from cultural exchanges and from learning from each other. History calls for human civilization to shine in all its splendour, and different civilizations should live in harmony while complementing each other. We should uphold the view that the world is rich and colourful, and that civilizations are diverse, so that all civilizations created by humankind enhance each other`s beauties and weave beautiful and gorgeous pictures.
These points were a further development of another of President Xi Jinping`s speeches, also with a self-explanatory title, "Exchanges and Mutual Learning Make Civilizations Richer and More Colourful," given at the UNESCO headquarters in March 2014 and in which he stated: "Civilizations are equal, and such equality has made exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations possible. All human civilizations have their respective strengths and weaknesses. No civilization is perfect on the planet. Nor is any devoid of merit. No single civilization can be judged superior to another."
The roots of the understanding in China that civilizations are equal but different, was noted earlier at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015 by President Xi Jinping who quoted the classical Chinese philosopher Mencius: "Things are born to be different."
Although naturally the President of China cites classical Chinese sources, these ideas were equally formulated by and could also be expressed in the language of Western philosophers. The fact that everything which exists differs was first formulated in Western thought by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus 2,000 years ago in his famous statement `no man ever steps in the same river twice, `which was then proven by Western philosophers Spinoza and Leibniz, while the concept of the combination of difference and equality was also formulated by Hegel—and was also known to the CPC via Marx.
The fact that that different civilizations, which had no substantial intellectual connection when such ideas were formulated, may still arrive at the same conclusion, is a fundamental expression of the other fact that although there are many starting points there is only one truth on such issues—which is therefore arrived at no matter how much these starting points differ.
From the interconnectedness of nations, the practical foreign policy conclusion Xi Jinping states in his speeches is popularly expressed as "win-win" and more formally as the "community with a shared future for humanity." This means that while there are natural differences and conflicts between countries, these are less important in the long run than their common interests. This is the key guideline for China`s foreign policy.
As expressed in Xi Jinping`s speech, countries are different but equal, and need to cooperate for common interests. Alternatively, others have argued that countries are unequal, with one being the "leader" and the others therefore necessarily "followers," all engaged in a primarily competitive struggle for advantage.
As not merely China but other countries will never accept that they are inferior to other countries, Xi Jinping`s concept of equality and difference, which expresses the most advanced ideas of both classical Chinese and Western thought, is therefore of far greater interest to countries throughout the world than the idea that they should be "followers" of a single other country.
It was because of China`s fundamental concepts on the relations between countries that there was such a large attendance at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting, and that President Xi Jinping`s speech was so well received.
John Ross is senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.