The BRI and the Dialogue of Cultures: The Highest Expression of Each Culture


by Harley Schlanger, Rogue Money:

For all the centuries up to now, from the earliest manifestations of human civilization, tribes, ethnic groups, nations or alliances of nations have pursued their self-perceived interests by various means—by negotiations, by diplomacy, and if this did not work out, by armed conflict and war. Geopolitics—the idea that a nation or group of nations has the right to pursue their interest against another group of nations—has led to two World Wars in the Twentieth Century.

It should be obvious to anyone, that in the age of thermonuclear weapons, war can no longer be a method of settling conflicts, if we as a human species are not to bring about our own annihilation. Humanity is distinct from all other species known in the universe so far, in that we are capable of creative reason. This means that we, unlike the animal species, can consciously change our mode of our existence, continuously discover new universal principles in science and culture, and develop a deeper and more profound knowledge about the physical universe, of which we are the most important part. So in a certain sense it is lawful that mankind would come up with the idea of how to overcome geopolitics, and establish a system of self-governance, which would guarantee the long-term survivability of humanity.

The concept of a “community of a shared future of mankind” presented by President Xi Jinping, is exactly that idea. By placing the notion of the one single mankind, defined from the standpoint of our common future, as the reference point for how to think about political, economic, social and cultural issues, President Xi has established a higher level of reason, a conceptual basis for a peace order throughout the planet. It is no coincidence that the concept for an entirely new paradigm in human history would come from China, as it is coherent with the 2,500 year-old Confucian tradition.

The economic dimension of this idea is expressed in the Belt and Road Initiative, the New Silk Road proposal which Xi presented in September 2013 in Kazakhstan. In the very short period of four years, this initiative for “win-win” cooperation has become the largest infrastructure program in history, developing six large economic corridors, numerous rail lines in Eurasia and Africa, ports, airports, industrial parks, power projects, water management, etc., with more than 70 countries participating. It is now twelve times bigger than the Marshall Plan in Europe in the reconstruction period after World War II, and it is open-ended. In Africa the “New Silk Road Spirit” has completely changed the outlook of the participating countries. For the first time after centuries of suffering from colonial oppression and a lack of financing, now, because of Chinese investments there is the perspective of overcoming poverty and underdevelopment in the near future. This has created an unprecedented sense of optimism.

At the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Xi defined the goal for China to become by the year 2050 “a strong, democratic, civilized, harmonious and beautiful country;” he defined the goal of politics to be creating a better and happier life for the people; he called on the people of all countries to work together to build a community of shared future for mankind—to build an open, inclusive, clean, and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security, and common prosperity. Shortly after this remarkable event, the extremely successful state visit of U.S. President Trump to China signified a historic step in the effort to reach this goal.

With this global perspective for the next 33 years, President Xi Jinping put a vision on the agenda, which has inspired many people in many countries, especially in the developing sector, with an unprecedented spark of optimism. The response by some politicians in some Western countries, and by the mainstream media, has ranged from complete censorship of what President Xi actually said, to the wildest falsehoods concerning the real motives behind China’s BRI policy. Some went so far as to say that China’s policy represents a threat to the liberal order of the West. Does that mean that the idea of building a harmonious world, in which all nations can work together for the common aims of humanity, is a utopia, a dream, that can never become a reality?

I believe that the universal history of mankind can provide the answer to that question, because it shows that there are some profound characteristics, involving the ideal of the highest humanity, which are shared by the most noble expressions of different cultures. There is an amazing similarity among some of the most outstanding thinkers, who, coming from completely different cultural backgrounds, nevertheless come to the same insights into the nature of man and the purpose of mankind’s existence. These philosophers, poets, and scientists have in common a fundamental optimism about the role of human beings in the universe, realizing that human creativity is itself a power in the further development of the physical universe, and that there is a cohesion between the harmonic development of all human mental and spiritual capacities, with the harmonious development of the state, as well as of states with each other, and also with the laws of the Cosmos.

In China, this image of man and harmony in the state and among states is associated foremost with Confucius and his 2,500 year-old tradition in Chinese culture, which accounts, in my view, for the gist of what is generally called “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Confucius has an image of man that perceives man as fundamentally good, with the obligation to tirelessly improve himself intellectually and morally, which he can do by exerting his inner will-power, and in aesthetical education through poetry, classical music and certain other arts. If the individuals develop themselves to become ”junzi,” there can be harmonious development in the family. If the government is run by junzi, the common good prospers.

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