《The Fifth Annual Conference》

Harmony Without Conformity, Shared Destiny


-- Speech at The Fifth Annual Conference of Taihu World Cultural Forum


(October 18, 2018)


Zhang Meiying



Distinguished guests and dear friends.


Let me start with an international rescue operation.


More than three months ago, a Thai teenage soccer team was trapped in a cavern in a national park. When the news broke out, many rescue teams from different countries and regions rushed to the rescue, launching a thrilling and moving cave rescue. News from all over the world kept rolling, and the lives of thirteen teenagers touched the whole world.


The Chinese civilian rescue team that rushed to the scene played a special role in building a rope system inside the cave, becoming a strong force in the rescue. I was fortunate to read their account after returning home: compared with other international rescue teams, we have both a technical gap and a conceptual gap. The British divers found the children in the cave first and should have taken credit for it, but as they put it, "we are just rescuers". The rescue camp also did not have any national flag. It made us realize that in front of life, there is no nationality, no distinction between you and me, and no one is superior. (Flags people took with them were all put away.) People coming from all over the world simply cooperated in tacit rapport. Rescue teams from Britain, the United States, Japan, Australia, China and Thailand instantly exchanged information, helped each other, complemented each other's strengths, integrating into a temporary international rescue system that showed various skills of each country to achieve a complete victory.


In my opinion, this is a close-up of the community of shared future for mankind. The common values of respecting and saving lives have brought together the diverse strengths of different systems and civilizations to accomplish what has been described as an "impossible task".


I cite this example to illustrate that building a community of shared future for mankind is the common ideal and exploration of all humankind and the foundation of human fraternity. This ideal can become a reality, and this foundation can support a wide range of endeavors. The lives saved this time may belong only to the thirteen children, as well as their families, relatives, and friends, but the humanitarian and humanistic spirit that was brimming during the rescue process belongs to the humanity.


(A) Cultural Foundation of Community of Shared Future for Mankind


President Xi Jinping's proposal of "community of shared future for mankind" is proposed against the backdrop of an era when mankind has entered the trend of globalization and an era when mankind has developed peacefully after the two world wars in the last century with an expectation that future generations can be free from the scourge of war. The ideological resources that constitute this concept come from Chinese civilization as well as from others. The concept itself is the result of the exchange and convergence of humanistic thoughts between East and West.


The Analects of Confucius, one of the achievements of Chinese civilization more than 2,000 years ago, advocates "the emphasis on benevolence", which is a quintessence of Chinese culture. Confucius' student, Zi Gong, requested his teacher to use one word as a lifelong philosophy of life. Confucius said: "Forgiveness", which requires us to "refrain from imposing undesirable demands on others". This guideline expresses the wisdom and mind of great thinkers in ancient China.


Three hundred years ago, the French thinker during the Enlightenment Movement Voltaire stood up to the cruel persecution of Protestants by the Catholics and published famous On Tolerance, using the historical lesson of the Roman persecution of Christians to warn the world: "The Romans should be condemned for having killed many Christians under the pretext of their religion and faith. Should we repeat the same injustice? Shall we also descend to persecutors? Without forgiveness, fanaticism will ravage the earth and plunge the world into misery". Later, Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen published by France abolished the laws that persecuted Protestants and ushering in a new chapter of human history.


More than two decades ago, when the apartheid government of South Africa transformed, three Nobel Peace Prize winners who shook the world guided black and white South Africans on the path of reconciliation. Black leader Nelson Mandela walked out of prison with one conviction: "South Africa must not be torn apart and replay the war between two groups of people. The victims must be saved along with the perpetrators, for in a system of evil, the perpetrators are prisoners in another sense. White President De Klerk also advocated the end of apartheid and supported the democratic transition. Black Archbishop Tutu even pointed out that there is no future without forgiveness. He guided the persecuted in South Africa to renounce revenge and open up new human relationships that create a win-win situation for both sides, setting a precedent for humanity to abandon the vengeful and violent practices of "an eye for an eye" and "retaliation for an injustice".

From Voltaire to the South African leaders, they all practiced the philosophy of "forgiveness" and the great idea of "refraining from imposing undesirable demands on others" as advocated by Confucius. It can be said that "love", "forgiveness" and "tolerance" are the important cultural foundation of building a community of shared future for mankind.


(B) Harmony Without Conformity, Shared Destiny


Chinese ancient taught us, "the greatest ideal is to create a world truly shared by all", "we should pursue harmony without conformity" and "all living things should grow in harmony without hurting one another". These ideas shine with the light of wisdom and illuminate the bright path of building a community of shared future for mankind. All peoples of the world aspire to create a friendly and harmonious relationship among different civilizations to the largest extent. We should pursue our own interests and rights, seek our own development, and at the same time consider the interests of other countries and promote their common development. We strive to seek the common interests and common values of mankind and take the common interests of mankind as the highest principle.


In 1938, Malinowski, a leading international British anthropologist, said in his foreword to Chinese sociologist Professor Fei Xiaotong's book Peasant Life in China, "All the observations of the author in this book are characterized by an attitude of dignity, transcendence and absence of prejudice. If a Chinese person has an aversion to Western civilization and the politics of Western countries, this is understandable. But no such phenomenon is found in this book. I have to envy them for not holding national prejudices and national hatreds — we Europeans can learn a great deal from such a moral attitude."


I believe that Mr. Fei Xiaotong's moral attitude represents the general attitude of the Chinese academy. I wish to understand the British scholar's attitude as the general position of the Western academy, and it is even more advisable for me to make the mutual appreciation of these two scholars eighty years ago a symbol of the way the whole world gets along today. It is no coincidence that in his later years, Mr. Fei proposed that we should pursue "a world in which countries treasure their own distinct heritages, appreciate other cultures and promote shared prosperity". This is in line with his moral attitude and humanistic ideals expressed in his early years. It can be said that he created a Chinese culture of our time by "continuing lost teachings for past sages and establishing peace for all future generations". The sixteen words of the motto envision a beautiful world of lasting peace, universal security, common prosperity, openness, and tolerance. I believe that more insights as such will emerge from the Annual Conference of Taihu World Cultural Forum.


(C) Three points of reflection


Building community of shared future for mankind is not only a mission of the times, but also a long-term, arduous, and tortuous process.


(1) In recent years, we are facing a sudden change in the international landscape after World War II, especially after the end of the Cold War. On the one hand, globalization is transcending national borders, diluting the concept of national state, confronting the ecological crisis, fighting terrorism, promoting multilateralism and global governance, and actively promoting world peace. On the other hand, extreme populism and selfish national interests that are over the interests of mankind are growing, with anti-globalization thinking and unilateralism curbing the general trend. The authority of international conventions such as the WTO is challenged. Extremists are bent on subverting and starting afresh the international order, leading to a fierce battle of multifaceted conflicts...... This perverse practice makes it particularly urgent to reaffirm the concept of "Harmony Without Conformity and Shared Destiny".


(2) At present, some countries have fully mastered the technology of large-scale conventional weapons, biochemical weapons, and even nuclear weapons, which can destroy human beings in an instant. This point reveals to us that the concept of "shared prosperity" needs to be put in a new context, and its inner logic should be established from both sides — people living in different civilizations can either prosper together or be destroyed together. The good intentions of the sages have not been able to stop the barbarism and evil that have emerged in the modern world, and we must do our best to avoid any possibility of the destruction of humanity from becoming a reality.


(3) For more than a hundred years, whenever we talk about the introduction of Western ideas into China, we would mostly mention "cultural shock," but rarely do we think of promoting "cultural exchange and integration". This is food for thought. Chinese culture needs to be inherited and developed in the cultural exchange with the world. Originally, there is only one way of doing regardless of nationalities. The different expressions of Eastern and Western thinkers are just "same ideas under different disguises", however, they are often seen as opposing and contradicting ideologies. For example, Kant's ideas of "Citizen of the World" and "Perpetual Peace" are fundamentally the same as our ideas of "the emphasis on benevolence" and that "all under heaven are of one family". They are common expressions of the philosophy of community of shared future for mankind in different civilizations.


(4) Looking to the future and wishing for the best. Observing the reality, we are in a perilous state. At present, it is important to put forward the idea of community of shared future for mankind, and more importantly, we should prompt it to change step by step from an idea and a concept into the exploration and practice in each civilization. The humanity shares the same future, and likewise, humanity and all things in nature also share the same future.


Distinguished guests and dear friends, as a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary platform for dialogue among visionaries in the fields of dignitaries, scholars and entrepreneurs, Taihu World Cultural Forum should become a cradle for generating new ideas, a brain for planning new systems, and a starting point for new practices. We expect in earnest that the wide range of opinions and collective wisdom here will write a new chapter for building a community of shared future for mankind.


Thank you!


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