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Realize Win-Win Cooperation in Asia By Promoting Exchange and Mutual Learning among Civilizations

2016/10/10

Remarks by Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou

At the Opening Ceremony of

The International Seminar on East Asian Civilizations Exchange

Beijing, 10 November 2016

Mr. Xu Jialu, President of the Organizing Committee of Nishan Forum on World Civilization,
Mr. Dong Qi, President of Beijing Normal University,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Friends,

Good morning.

It gives me great pleasure to attend the International Seminar on East Asian Civilizations Exchange. I wish to express, on behalf of the Chinese foreign ministry, warm congratulations on the opening of the seminar and sincere appreciation for the thoughtful arrangements made by the Nishan Forum on World Civilization and Institute for Advanced Study of the Humanities and Religion of Beijing Normal University for hosting the seminar.

Civilization embodies human wisdom and social progress, and plays an essential part in the development of every nation, every country and every individual. At the CICA Summit in 2014 and the Boao Forum for Asia in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the major initiative of convening a conference for dialogue among Asian civilizations. This reflects the great importance Chinese leaders attach to exchange among Asian civilizations and their relentless pursuit of a better future of humanity. It is indeed highly relevant and timely that scholars from across Asia are gathered here today to hold the International Seminar on East Asian Civilizations Exchange.

In the world today, economic and technological advances have significantly narrowed geographical distance and made inter-civilization exchange more convenient than ever. That said, the world is not yet a tranquil place, as evidenced by incessant conflicts and disputes, the presence of arrogance and prejudice and the various narratives of clash of civilizations, of Western-centrism and of "threats" posed by particular countries or civilizations. Populism is gaining ground in some places. Voices against globalization, immigration and free trade are on the rise. Extremism is rampant. The Middle East remains mired in conflicts. Refugee crisis in Europe continues to unfold. And acts of terrorism happen from time to time. In such a context, Asia, with its overall stability and continued growth, is considered a high ground for development. How should Asia respond to the world troubled by turbulence? Can we take the right steps and put forth an "Asian solution" to ease confrontation and defuse conflicts? How can Asian wisdom contribute to world peace and human progress? This is a major topic that we all need to think hard about.

Friends,

Asia is an important cradle of human civilization. It is the birthplace of three ancient civilizations -- the Chinese civilization in East Asia, Indus Valley civilization in South Asia and Tigris-Euphrates civilization in West Asia. These splendid civilizations on the Asian continent have left us many touching stories in the long course of history cherished by generation after generation. They have also been a tremendous source of inspiration for the Asian people in their arduous journey to pursue development and happiness. We have every reason to take pride in the Asian civilizations.

Asian civilizations feature diverse forms and live in harmony. Diversity is the essential feature of Asian civilizations. People in different Asian countries have traversed different development paths, and their differences in cultural background, social system and values have shaped different forms of civilization, each suited to their respective environment. President Xi Jinping has pointed out that achievements of all civilizations should be respected and treasured. Civilizations cannot be judged by a uniform set of criteria and no civilization is superior to another as each civilization is distinctive in its own way. Just as the splendor of Nature comes from biodiversity, the vigor of mankind comes from cultural diversity. Only with mutual respect and equality among different civilizations can we create a vibrant and plural Asia.

Asian civilizations believe in openness, inclusiveness and mutual learning. Civilizations become richer and more colorful by being inclusive and drawing upon each other's strengths. As early as thousands of years ago, Asian countries had started their exchanges in philosophy, art, religion, science and technology. Buddhism, sugar-making, Arabic numerals and many farm crops were introduced into China from India, Central Asia and Southeast Asia. China's four inventions as well as silk and porcelain also spread to other parts of Asia and even Europe. Such openness and inclusiveness of Asian civilizations and their mutual learning and deep integration have been an inexhaustible driving force for the common progress and development of Asian countries.

Asian civilizations are rich and profound and value harmony as the most important. Asian civilizations encapsulate the historical and cultural heritage of Asian countries and epitomize the highest spiritual aspirations and rules of behavior of Asian nations. Chinese Confucianism advocates harmony between man and nature, and believes that moderation helps put everything in universe in their right place and all living things thrive. It regards harmony as the source of growth and progress for all in the world and supreme norm governing man's interaction with Nature and society. The pursuit of peace and harmony in different forms can all be found in such religions as Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and the indigenous cultures of Asian countries. Just like the aging of vintage wine, these profound thoughts of wisdom have developed and matured in the long course of history, and eventually fostered the essence of civilization of valuing peace and harmony above everything else.

Dear Friends,

Asia has a glorious history, but our civilization is not for mere exhibition in museums. More importantly, Asia has development opportunities and a promising future, and Asian civilizations are a beacon that illuminates the path of human development. Our confidence in Asian civilizations originates from our confidence in Asian cooperation in development.

First, Asia is at the forefront of world economic growth. Estimated by economic historian Angus Maddison, Asia's GDP accounted for two thirds of the world's total before modern times. Its lagging behind in modern times was only a short episode in history. Today's Asia is, with its revitalized development, fast catching up and restoring her rightful place in world civilization. Since the 2008 global financial crisis, Asia has been the engine driving the world economic recovery and growth, contributing to over 50% of global growth. In 2015, developing countries in Asia grew at 6.5%, accounting for 44% of the world economic growth. Today, the Asian people, who take up two thirds of the world total, produce four fifths of global products. Asia's development has benefited greatly from the capital and technology from beyond the region. But internal factors, rather than external ones, play the crucial role. The Asian people, with their diligence, intelligence and immense creativity nurtured by the Asian civilizations, will bring about a new "Asian century" as they release Asia's internal potential. Asian countries with a firm belief in their civilizations and focus on development, should work to promote world economic recovery, lead the way in globalization and strive to catch up and forge ahead.

Second, Asia is a fine example of regional win-win cooperation. Regional cooperation in Asia dates far back. Before the West entered its Age of Exploration, a sophisticated "maritime circle of civilizational exchanges" had taken shape in East Asia. Businessmen from China, Japan, the Korean Peninsula, Southeast Asia, India and the Arab world developed dense trade networks. Now exchanges and cooperation among Asian countries have once again entered a golden era. In 2015, over 23 million visits were exchanged between China and the ten ASEAN countries and about 24 million visits were made among China, Japan and the ROK. Intra-regional trade surged from US$800 billion to US$3 trillion, accounting for over 50% of the region's total. Among the 150 free trade agreements between regional countries, 40% are intra-regional ones. The ASEAN Community has been established and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism officially launched. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of ASEAN and the 20th anniversary of the ASEAN Plus China, Japan and the ROK cooperation mechanism next year, East Asian regional cooperation is presented with new opportunities. We should join hands to turn the vision of East Asian Economic Community into reality in 2020.

Third, Asia is the linchpin in undertaking the Belt and Road Initiative. In thousands of years, notwithstanding the barriers of mountains and oceans, China and other Asian countries connected with each other through the silk roads on land and at sea spanning the Eurasian continent. Camel trains and merchant fleets on the silk roads contributed to the advance of Asian civilization. In 2013, in light of the global trend of development and the needs of Asian countries, President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road Initiative on the basis of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit, which has received extensive support from countries and peoples along the routes. Fruitful outcomes have been achieved since the building of the Belt and Road started over three years ago. A number of infrastructure projects including roads, ports and power plants have been launched. China and ASEAN issued the joint statement on production capacity cooperation and accelerated the development of port cities, port industrial zones and cross-border cooperation zones. This has boosted the industrialization and modernization of countries in the region, enhanced the well-being of regional countries and peoples, and added new impetus to their exchanges and mutual learning. The Belt and Road Initiative is renewing Asia's historical glory. We the Asian countries should promote the affinity between our people through dialogue, increase strategic mutual trust, enhance the complementarity of our developmental efforts and together write a new chapter in the history of Asian civilizations.

Friends,

The renewal of Asian civilizations is unveiling, presenting a splendid platform full of promise. Being an ancient Asian civilization, China has, in its 5000 years of uninterrupted history, shaped the values of benevolence, justice, peace and harmony, and believes in striving for the common good for all. While working toward the Chinese dream of the great renewal of the Chinese nation, China is ready to join the rest of Asia and the world to realize the Asian dream and the world dream of win-win cooperation. As a Chinese saying goes, "A single flower does not make spring, while one hundred flowers in full blossom bring spring to the garden." We are ready to deepen inter-civilization dialogues with other Asian countries for greater mutual understanding, friendship and common development, injecting positive energy into the progress and harmony of Asian civilizations. I hope that you will use this seminar as an opportunity to draw upon the strengths of each other's civilizations and have lively discussions on how to promote harmony among Asian civilizations and win-win cooperation between Asian countries. I look forward to an inspiring exchange of ideas in your dialogue that links the past with the future and civilization with development. I wish the seminar a full success.

Thank you!

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