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《The Third Annual Conference》


Zhang Meiying: Chinese Culture and World Peace


— Speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Third Annual Conference of Taihu World Cultural Forum


Zhang Meiying, Vice Chairwoman of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference


President Xi Jinping recently emphasized, "The Chinese nation does not carry aggressive or hegemonic traits in its genes. China does not believe a nation will seek hegemony when it grows in strength." During human development, ancient China had long been in a strong position, but it never claimed hegemony. Instead, it had close friendship with countries near or far, advocating all under the heaven belong to one family and aspiring the commonwealth of the world.


Throughout the ages, the word peace has been a cultural concept that the Chinese people are generally happy to recognize, accept and abide by. The large number of family rules, traditions, customs written in ancient family letters in Chinese society shows that the Chinese people have been nurtured with the concept of "peace" as the dominant life attitude and social concept from the day they were born. Over the centuries, it has formed a cultural gene that has been passed down and manifested constantly. This gene can be witnessed by the thousands of years of Chinese civilization, especially by the world-famous 15th century peace demonstration of Zheng He's voyage to the West. This is an example of the Chinese's attempt to establish a peaceful and harmonious international social order by conveying ideas of peace to the world during its period of strength. The cultural gene that marits peace is the way for the world to know the genuine China.


Focusing on the theme of this forum, I would like to first introduce the two most central features of the Chinese cultural gene.


First, harmony without conformity and general acceptance are the natural attributes of Chinese culture.


Chinese culture, diverse, open, colorful, full of vitality, and stretching for thousands of years without interruption, is the result of the fusion of many ethnic groups over a long period of time. The Analects of Confucius, written more than two thousand years ago, advocates harmony without conformity. It is believed that harmony is the basis for the development of things, while conformity leads to failure. "Harmony without conformity" is a core of traditional Chinese culture, which embodies respect and tolerance for differences with a very high moral level. The main spirit of harmony is to coordinate differences and explore how many different factors can coexist. Therefore, the spirits of harmony without conformity, tolerance of divergencies, and general acceptance are the fundamental spirit of Chinese culture, conveying China's cultural soft power. Professor Fei Xiaotong, a famous Chinese anthropologist, proposed "cultural self-awareness" in response to the common challenges faced by humanity in the process of globalization, especially the conflicts caused by civilizational differences. Professor Fei described "cultural self-awareness" as building "a world in which countries treasure their own distinct heritages, appreciate other cultures and promote shared prosperity." This is a demonstration of "harmony without conformity" in Chinese culture. Such a cultural position is fundamentally different from the cultural hegemony that uses soft power to promote cultural unilateralism and form a new spiritual colonization.


Second, it is an important principle of Chinese culture to do unto others no undesirable things.


One key concept in Chinese culture is benevolence, and its important connotation is "love". Therefore, a benevolent person loves others, including but not limited to their relatives. In other words, such love starts from the family and extends to the society, for example, the elder. The concept of doing unto others no undesirable things is a social ideal that has been universally shared and advocated by all eras and schools of thought in China. This social ideal is both an ancient and long-standing cultural tradition and has profound modern values. It contains the idea of putting oneself in the shoes of others and not imposing one's own will on others as the bottom line of ethics and morality. I think that it should be the universal consensus of mankind as it is equally applicable to the handling of relations between nations today. In today's international order, there is indeed such hegemony out of arrogance, prejudice, and double standards dedicated only to self-interest.


The benevolence of Confucianism, the universal love of Mohism, the compassionate love of Buddhism, and the fraternal love of Christianity are the consensus of mankind and common values as ideological resources for peace.


All countries and peoples in the international community who desire peace have taken note of the "Chinese Dream" repeatedly spoken of by President Xi Jinping. The gene of Chinese culture determines that the Chinese dream is a dream of China's prosperity, a dream of civilizational coexistence, a dream of human cooperation, and a dream of world peace.


Fifty years ago, an African American told the Americans: I have a dream.

Fifty years later, more than one billion Chinese people told the world: We also have a dream.

Martin Luther King dreams for racial equality.

Chinese people dream for a democratic, prosperous, and strong China and permanent peace for humanity.


Previously, Taihu Cultural Forum was officially renamed Taihu World Cultural Forum. The addition of one word is intentional. it comes from the concept of harmony in Chinese culture and comes from the Chinese people's advocate of "commonwealth of the world" since time immemorial.


As we all know, since ancient times, Taihu Lake, with its vastness and richness, has nourished Jiangsu and Zhejiang, two abundant places in China. At a time when "Taihu Lake" goes to the "world", I would like to briefly highlight the image of "water" in Chinese culture. Regarding water, the most familiar adage among Chinese people comes from Laozi: "the utmost goodness is like water". He believed that the water, being most soft and firm, follows the shape of the situation; it is neither humble nor pushy, good for irrigation and transportation. Yet when irritated, the sea, which is accumulated by millions of drops of water, is invincible just as the Chinese saying goes, "While water can carry a boat, it can also overturn it." It can be said that the character of Chinese culture is the character of water; it is quiet, yet the quietness outwits mobility; it is soft, yet the softness overcomes rigidity; it is reserved, yet the reservedness is for progress; it is indifferent to fame and wealth, yet the indifference is in itself progressive.


Professor Fei Xiaotong also talked about the "Taihu Lake spirit", saying, "I was thinking about the spirit of Taihu Lake, and I thought of an expression: convergence of a hundred rivers for the irrigation of all the people". Then he explained: "That the river absorbs a hundred rivers and nourish people is not for gratitude. And Taihu Lake is a lake of such, nurturing the people without trying to make people grateful. Sometimes, people even pollute it. But Taihu Lake does not stop its work because it is polluted. What a good character of water!"


Laozi to Fei Xiaotong, two Chinese wise men separated by two thousand years, have similar conclusions on the spirit of water, which encompasses peace, cooperation, and inclusiveness of Chinese culture. To this day, the gene of peace, friendship, and harmony in Chinese culture will never be changed by the "threat theory" and stigmatization of particular countries. I think the spirit of Taihu Lake that Professor Fei Xiaotong mentioned is also the spirit of Taihu Lake World Cultural Forum to be carried forward. Nourished by the spirit of Chinese culture, we believe that it is important to propose and discuss soft power to promote peace and development. It is also important to identify the elements, sources, structures, and functions of soft power. What we can do with soft power is even more important: to promote and guarantee human peace.


I sincerely hope that the renamed Taihu World Cultural Forum will open a new window of world culture with confidence, promoting world cultural exchanges and consolidating the achievements of peace. I wish it will promote the international community to understand a genuine China through various effective ways and promote China to learn from all achievements from other excellent civilizations. With the Forum, benefits can be shared and strengths can be drawn to complement the weaknesses; moreover, cultural self-awareness will be established for us to better adapt to the changing world, and make greater contribution to the permanent peace of mankind.


I believe that peace is not only the consistent manifestation of Chinese cultural genes for thousands of years, but will also become the common will and action of different peoples in the 21st century

 

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