Global Civilization Initiative continues contributing Chinese wisdom to all humanity
Sharing success, prosperity
Published: Mar 15, 2024 12:06 AM
Guests from Greece pose for a photo at Liangzhu ancient city in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, on July 5, 2023. Photo: VCG

Guests from Greece pose for a photo at Liangzhu ancient city in Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang Province, on July 5, 2023. Photo: VCG

Editor's Note:

March 15 marks the first anniversary of the Global Civilization Initiative (GCI), which was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting in 2023. 

The initiative is another major public product provided to the world by China after the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative, both put forward by Xi in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

From the Liangzhu Forum held in East China's Hangzhou to the Understanding China Conference held in South China's Guangzhou, various means have been used to implement the GCI to respect the diversity of civilizations and tap into the profound significance of their histories and cultures in the contemporary world. This initiative stands as a robust response to concepts supporting the estrangement, clash, or superiority of civilizations.

Global Times reporters Chen Xi, Xu Liuliu and Bi Mengying talked with British expert in international communication David William Ferguson and other scholars and experts who share their understanding of and experiences with the GCI over the past year.

A Flying Tigers veteran waves to students at a school in Liuzhou, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on November 4, 2023. Photo: VCG

A Flying Tigers veteran waves to students at a school in Liuzhou, South China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, on November 4, 2023. Photo: VCG

In the office of David William Ferguson, honorary chief English editor of the Beijing-based Foreign Languages Press, the golden trophy he won at the Orchid Awards is prominently displayed on his desk.

The Orchid Awards, initiated by the China International Communications Group in 2022, are dedicated to celebrating individuals and organizations committed to enhancing cultural exchanges between China and the global community, while also promoting mutual learning among diverse civilizations.

In September 2023, Ferguson and other nine international figures were honored at the inaugural Orchid Awards ceremony. Ferguson was awarded for his "15 years of nonstop working in China and writing about China," according to the event organizer.

"The award means a lot to me," Ferguson said, noting that it serves as a platform to implement the Global Civilization Initiative and foster humanity's shared values.

'Modern context' of traditional culture

As an expatriate living in China for almost two decades, Ferguson has witnessed the great changes of China by participating in some significant events as a journalist, including covering the 8-magnitude earthquake in Southwest China's Sichuan Province in 2008, the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the Shanghai World Expo 2010, engaging in the revision and proofreading of many important Chinese ­government white papers, as well as the English versions of some of Chinese President Xi Jinping's works.

He told the Global Times that the proposal of the GCI is a modern expression of traditional Chinese culture and showcases the "continuity" in traditional Chinese culture as well as in China's governance.

The GCI proposed by Xi says that countries need to uphold the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness among civilizations, and let cultural exchanges to transcend estrangement, mutual learning to transcend clashes, and inclusiveness to transcend any sense of superiority. 

Ferguson emphasized that the GCI is an important part of an ongoing process from the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), through the global community of shared future, to the more recent Xi Jinping Thought on Culture. 

In November 2023, Ferguson was invited to attend the Global Forum on Hehe Culture. At the time, he told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that the GCI inherited the wisdom of ancient Chinese while translating them, including the ideas of setting aside differences and embracing harmony from the Hehe culture, into a modern context.

The "continuity" represented by the GCI showcases one of the great strengths in China's system - order and long-term stability. China is trying to realize its Second Centenary Goal, set by the CPC at its 18th National Congress, to model what China should look like in the future. This means Chinese leadership can look ahead and plan for the long term, which is different from Western developed states like the US and the UK where there is a constant change of leadership between two parties. 

"A constant change of leadership between parties will lead to constant changes and priorities. It makes it very difficult to engage in long-term planning. And that is one of the great weaknesses of the Western democratic system which Western democrats fail to understand," he said.

Wang Xuebin, a professor at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee (National Academy of Governance), echoed, saying the Global Civilization Initiative is a Chinese solution that Xi provided for the progress of human civilization through profoundly summarizing the wisdom and outstanding characteristics of Chinese civilization, while also answering the urgent demand for cultural exchanges in today's world.

Wang explained that after sorting out the logic and connotative values proposed by the Global Development Initiative, the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilization Initiative, it is not difficult to discover that security is the prerequisite for development, development is the driving force of security, and civilization is the soil for development and security. Meanwhile, development and security are the way to guide and promote civilization.

Tourists enjoy themselves on the ancient city wall in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on July 15, 2023. Photo: VCG

Tourists enjoy themselves on the ancient city wall in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, on July 15, 2023. Photo: VCG

Flourishing year of cultural exchanges

Ferguson recalled that he attended a lot of events related to cultural exchanges in 2023. Indeed, since the proposal of the GCI, the importance of cultural exchanges has been echoed on various important occasions. 

When delivering a keynote address at the China-Central Asia Summit held in Northwest China's Xi'an in May 2023, Xi expounded on how to build a China-Central Asia community with a shared future. 

Wang told the Global Times that the establishment of the Alliance for Cultural Heritage in Asia (ACHA) and the Xi'an Declaration of the China-Central Asia Summit at the event helped draw up a blueprint for mutual cooperation and inheritance in the future. 

This blueprint also implements some key contents of the GCI, which calls for jointly advocating for robust international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation, the building of a global network for inter-civilization dialogue and cooperation, enriching the content of exchanges and expanding avenues of cooperation to promote mutual understanding and friendship among people of all countries, and jointly advancing the progress of human civilizations.

"At present, the destiny and future of all countries are closely linked. Different civilizations coexist with tolerance and exchanges, and mutually learn from each other. They play an irreplaceable role in promoting the modernization process of human society and allowing the garden of world civilizations to prosper," Wang said.

In December 2023, the Understanding China Conference was held in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. Ferguson, along with other international guests, attended the event.

Neil Bush, the founder and chair of the George H.W. Bush Foundation for US-China Relations, shared his opinion on the GCI at a thematic forum on the GCI and Global Inter-Civilizational Exchanges and Mutual Learning. He told the Global Times that broader, deeper people-to-people exchanges are the key, especially for China and the US when it comes to global inter-civilizational exchanges and mutual learning.

"When you're present with other people, when you learn about them by the firsthand experience of being with them, then you inevitably develop respect and inevitably develop avenues for cooperation. We need more exchanges," Bush said.

The year 2023 was also a flourishing year for China-US exchanges. In November, Chinese President Xi met with US President Joe Biden in San Francisco, where the two established a "San Francisco vision" oriented toward the future, providing direction and outlining a blueprint for the healthy, stable, and sustainable development of China-US relations.

In addition, from the late October to early November 2023, the Flying Tigers visited Chinese cities after 80 years, creating many touching moments. The Philadelphia Orchestra visited China in November to renew the 50-year musical friendship between the orchestra and the Chinese people. Additionally, hundreds of athletes from the US and China gathered in Los Angeles in December to commemorate the 52nd anniversary of China-US Ping-Pong Diplomacy.

Ferguson has just attended the London Book Fair to promote two books themed on Chinese and global development. He also plans to write a book offering a comparative analysis of Western democratic systems and Chinese governance.

"I will include a detailed analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of Western democratic systems and China's system," he said, adding that China's and the West's way of approaching international engagement is very different.

Western international rules are based on a "win-lose" mind-set, which is "self-centered" and "short-sighted." Ferguson gave as an example the recent comment on the international arena by Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State - "If you don't sit at the table, you are on the menu."

However, China's international engagement is based on win-win approach, and the GCI represents a different form of international engagement, which is designed to get more people involved. It means that all countries will have a voice and will be heard and respected.

"China doesn't see developing countries as something on the 'menu.' Instead, China looks at developing countries and says, 'If we can help share our success and prosperity with these countries, then they will become successful and prosperous. Their success and prosperity will feed back to us,'" Ferguson noted.

Soft power is key

While Ferguson is busy promoting Chinese books at the London book fair, his wife is preparing to bring groups of young people from Scotland to China for cultural exchanges.

"My family is doing what we can to encourage people-to-people exchanges, to bring a small group of people to China who will see a real China, which is very different from the China that is reflected in their media," Ferguson said.

During the just-concluded two sessions, the 2024 Government Work Report underlined the need to "boost people-to-people exchanges with other countries and strengthen our capacity for international communication."

In Ferguson's opinion, one effective way to achieve this is to enhance China's soft power, which includes telling China stories well through movies and taking advantage of social media, especially among young people. 

"Chinese films are always a good method to tell China stories well. When you tell a story through a movie, your message doesn't get filtered by the Western media or politicians. You get to talk directly to the people," he said, adding that he plans to collect some true stories during his work in China and turn them into ideas for films.