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《The Third Annual Conference》


Yan Zhaozhu: Strengthening Cultural Soft Power Interaction for World Peace and Development

 

—Keynote Speech at the General Assembly of the Third Annual Conference of Taihu World Cultural Forum

 

Yan Zhaozhu, Chairman of the Taihu World Cultural Forum

 

Distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen:

Hello everyone! On behalf of World Cultural Forum Taihu, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all our guests! And I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the experts and scholars, foreign friends, people from all communities, government agencies, cultural and academic groups, and enterprises and public institutions that have enthusiastically supported and participated in the preparation of this Annual Conference.

 

As we all know, over the past 30 years of Reform and Opening-up, China's economy has grown at an average annual rate of nearly 10%, making China the world's second largest economy in 2010 that shook the world with its Chinese speed and Chinese opportunities. China's development has enabled the living standards of its 1.3 billion people to rise, with per capita GDP increasing 80-fold from $76 in 1978 to $6,076 in 2012. 620 million people have been lifted out of poverty in China in more than 30 years, the most significant achievement in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of poverty eradication. The world has shared the dividends of peaceful development with China. In 2013, the Chinese economy contributed nearly 30 percent to global economic growth, significantly more than China's share of the global economy.

 

What is the mystery of the Chinese miracle? Is China's development a blessing or a curse for the world? How will China harness its growing power, and what kind of world does China want? Culture is the key to solving the mystery of China.

 

First, we should understand the path of China's peaceful development and its future direction through culture.

 

Culture is the soul of a nation. The behavioral pattern of a nation is rooted in its culture. Since time immemorial, China has advocated acceptance of good advice as the ocean denies no rivers. It respects and learns from the strengths of other countries and accommodates and learns from the excellent knowledge of other countries. China has always ridiculed blind imitation and insisted on seeking truth from facts for on self-improvement and constant exploration. Buddhism, originated in India, has been developed in China since its introduction. Moreover, Chinese Buddhism has been localized through the integration of Confucianism and Taoism, giving birth to new schools such as Zen Buddhism, which has profoundly influenced the thought, culture, and religion of East Asian countries. The cultural tradition featuring inclusiveness, mirroring and innovation has been dynamic and fruitful. Marxism and socialism emerged in Europe, but the pioneers of the Chinese revolution studied them and, after painstaking exploration and bloodshed, devised a revolutionary path of encircling the cities with the countryside different from the Russian one, and achieved success in establishing New China. After the Reform and Opening-up, China has combined the socialist system with the market economy, marching on a new path of modernization, which is an unprecedented initiative.

 

More than 600 years ago, Zheng He in the Ming Dynasty led the world's most powerful fleet to the West, not to plunder treasures and land, but to promote good neighborliness, cultural exchange, and reciprocal trade. In modern times, China, after the aggression and bullying of foreign powers, is deeply aware of the value of national sovereignty, national dignity, and world peace. China's glorious achievements since its Reform and Opening-up have been possible because it has followed the world trend and adhered to the path of peaceful development. In the 1980s, when the Cold War had not yet ended, China was the first country in the world to propose that peaceful development was the theme of the times, and to promote the trend of peaceful development with its own actions. Entering this century, China, in the face of various internal and external difficulties, obstacles, and challenges, articulate the need to follow the road of peaceful development without wavering. China insists on peaceful development and develops to safeguard world peace and promote common development more strongly. Facts speak louder than words. Despite the world's turmoil, the 30-plus years of China's economic takeoff is a golden period of peace, tranquility, and common prosperity for Asian countries. China, a sleeping lion, has awakened. However, China is not the king of beasts to be feared, but an auspicious symbol for our good friends around the world. The Chinese people are struggling to realize the "Chinese Dream" of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The "Chinese dream" is intertwined with the "world dream" of all peoples for peace and development. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation will make a greater contribution to the peace and development of the world.

 

Second, China's peaceful development requires strengthening its cultural soft power interaction with other countries in the world.

 

First, strengthening the interaction of cultural soft power is the urgent need and long-term guarantee of good neighborliness and win-win cooperation between China and other countries in the world.

 

Now all countries in the world are strengthening their comprehensive national power, and several developing countries have significantly improved their composite national power. However, traditional thinking regards composite national power competition as a zero-sum game and soft power interaction as an irreconcilable new contest. In fact, composite national power involves both competition and cooperation. The core of soft power is culture featuring amity, attractiveness, and influence, which are spread through cultural exchanges and realized by understanding, recognition, and appreciation, therefore, the interaction of cultural soft power is conducive to promoting mutual understanding and mutual trust among different countries, laying the ideological, cultural, and psychological foundation for friendly cooperation among countries.

 

All countries support greater use of cultural soft power and cooperation, because cultural exchange spreads and shares the achievements of humanity, satisfying spiritual needs, enhancing moral standards, increasing mutual understanding, and helping different countries and peoples to communicate and develop friendship. This is conducive to stabilizing and promoting international political and economic cooperation. For adjustment of political and economic interests and divergence of opinions, it can also prompt the countries concerned to look far ahead, consult on an equal footing, properly handle divergences, and seek mutually beneficial cooperation. Therefore, the more complex and volatile the international situation is, the more China should strengthen the exchanges with foreign people and put the values advocating harmony and "harmony without conformity" throughout political and economic cooperation both at home and abroad, to achieve win-win results.

 

Second, strengthening the interaction of cultural soft power is an important way and powerful support for building a new type of major power relationship between China and the United States and promoting world peace and development.

 

In recent years, some people have been discussing the "Thucydides' Trap", believing that conflicts will inevitably occur between rapidly rising powers and the original powers, and worrying that a rapidly developing China and the world's most powerful country, the United States, will also fall into this historical destiny.

 

As history shows, China has always refrained from aggression and expansion and has never sought hegemony. China firmly believes that if it adheres to mutual respect and win-win cooperation, countries with different social systems and different levels of economic development can fully share peace and common development. In fact, China and the United States are now each other's most important trading partners. As the second largest trading partner, the third largest export market, and the largest source of imports for the United States, China has been the fastest growing export market for the United States for more than a decade. China and the United States share great potential for cooperation, and their common interests far outweigh their differences. Last year, President Xi Jinping and President Obama met in California and reach a consensus on building a new type of major power relations, which is on a new road of development of major powers with mutual respect and win-win cooperation instead of conflict and confrontation.

 

The friendship of nations lies in the people's affinity. Cultural exchanges, like the gentle breeze and rain in spring, are most conducive to the communication of the minds of the people. We should strengthen the interaction between the cultural soft power of China and the United States through cultural exchange, so that the construction of a new type of great power relationship between China and the United States will become the common aspiration of the two peoples. China and the United States have different historical and cultural backgrounds, yet both have profound cultural inclusiveness. A great mind embraces all. China and the United States should enhance understanding in mutual tolerance, complement each other's strengths in two-way attraction, and carry out win-win cooperation in mutual trust, which are in the fundamental interests of the two peoples and the people of the world. Through, they will have the strength and wisdom to remove any obstacles and build and develop a new type of major power relationship.

 

Third, we should strengthen the interaction between the cultural soft powers of China and foreign countries and promote the development of the community of shared future for mankind.

 

The world is undergoing profound changes. Global challenges such as climate change are becoming increasingly serious, and no country can stay away from them. Economic globalization is getting deeper and deeper, information transformation, and network application are advancing by leaps and bounds, and the interests of all countries in the world are more interconnected than ever before. Never has mankind shared the weal and woe in a community of shared future for mankind. We can no longer go down the old road on which a few countries caring only about their own security and prosperity at the expense of the interests of most countries. The international community should broaden the historical perspective and spiritual space starting from the reality and concept of the community of shared future for mankind, refreshing ideology and culture follow the times, abandoning all kinds of old traditional thinking, and strengthening cultural exchanges. In this waw, we can promote mutual learning, support, and common development among countries to achieve lasting peace and common development.

 

It should be noted that there is a large gap between developing countries and developed countries in terms of mastering the international discourse, and capacity and experience of cultural communication, etc. Mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual trust among countries and civilizations are still far from adequate, especially because there are still discrimination and double standards against the cultures of developing countries. For example, the Chinese nation has created a splendid culture in its 5,000-year long history, which is the deepest root of China's cultural soft power. However, there are many divisions, misunderstandings, and prejudices against Chinese culture, be it ancient, modern, and contemporary, in the international community, especially in the West. Our knowledge about the cultural strengths of other countries in the world remains superficial when it comes to the contemporary experiences that are worth learning from in the development of cultural undertakings and cultural industries. This situation should be changed.

 

The development of a community of shared future for mankind is both a challenge and an opportunity. For example, respect for cultural diversity has long been a consensus in the international community, but though often talked about, it is rarely put into practice. And without respect for cultural diversity, there can be no real cultural exchange and interaction of cultural soft power. Now, the development of the community of shared future for mankind provides a rare historical opportunity, and we should seize it to transform the international consensus of respecting cultural diversity into the conscious practice of the international community.

 

We expect this Annual Conference to effectively strengthen cultural exchanges between China and foreign countries, so that the world will know more about China and China will know more about the world. We expect that through the interaction of Chinese and foreign cultural soft power, we will promote countries to strengthen the construction and interaction of cultural soft power, promote inclusiveness and respect, mutual learning, and attraction, and gradually form an era of equality, harmony without conformity, and common progress in a community of shared future for mankind in which learn from others' strong points to offset one's weakness. This is not only beneficial to the development of national cultures, but also to the peace and development of the world to the benefit of all peoples and all generations.

 

I wish this Annual Conference a great success! And I wish all guests a happy stay in Shanghai, the Pearl of the Orient, both physically and mentally!

 

Thank you!

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