Forum sheds light on Chinese path, shared future for mankind

Wang Yong
Jacques' message was one of communication, of listening to and learning from each other between the East and the West.
Wang Yong

If one judges a country by its material power or lack of it, one often misses the bigger picture.

In China’s case, a perennial question perplexing many outsiders — even some Chinese — is how the country has pulled itself from abject poverty 70 years ago when the People’s Republic was founded to become one of the world’s major economic engines today.

Without understanding the Chinese path behind this phenomenal rise, one might regard the achievement as a mere economic miracle without a “soul,” or the result of sheer luck or copycatting that’s hard to sustain, or a “threat” to the West-dominated economic order.

In the eye of Martin Jacques, a senior visiting researcher at London School of Economics and Fudan University, China had remained literally “invisible” for a long time after 1949, when it was “left behind” and “forgotten” (by a considerable part of the world). The West suffered a deficit of knowledge about China. But now, the world is on a voyage of discovery as it knows about China better, he said at the forum “China’s 70-Year Development and the Building of a Community of Shared Future for Mankind” opened in Shanghai on Tuesday, on the sidelines of the ongoing second China International Import Expo.

He called China a “civilizational state” which is so different from Western countries and, as such, China certainly cannot be copied, but he said the world will benefit by learning from China, just as China has been a wonderful learner.

The forum, hosted by the Information Office of China’s State Council (China’s Cabinet), gathered hundreds of representatives from think tanks and media outlets who shared their insights into the Chinese path and what it means for mankind’s development.

Jacques’ message was one of communication, of listening to and learning from each other between the East and the West.

Without such a spirit of self-doubt and mutual respect, a voyage of discovery could turn out to be a voyage of disinformation about what China has done, is doing or will do. Indeed, China has become stronger, but does this new-found material strength originate from copying foreign growth models, or does it constitute a threat to others?

The answer might well be “yes” if one believes in dualism that tends to pitch one against another and the strong against the weak. But in a country that values harmony since time immemorial, the stronger is not supposed to bully the weaker, and the latecomer is not supposed to “steal” from those who come before him or her. Instead, it’s learning to grow together — and as a whole.

Chen Xueming, a professor of philosophy at Fudan University, said in his book “The Chinese Path: Considering Its Global Relevance” that the socialist path with Chinese characteristics is based on the best of China’s traditional wisdom and the need to absorb the best of capitalist civilization, but transcends both.

Fan Jinshi, a veteran scholar on Dunhuang art and history, said at the above-mentioned forum that a glorious ancient history of cultural exchanges between China and the rest of the world, especially India, should shed light on today’s global communication and cooperation.

To be sure, China was once closed, but in much of its history it was an open and confident civilizational state. And today’s China, in the words of Chen, has a core value that takes stock of the long-term interest of society and mankind. “It is superficial to believe that the only contribution of the socialist path with Chinese characteristics to human civilization is that it made China the second-largest economy in the world,” he said in his book.

New development model

In his view, Chinese people are actually creating a new way of existence along with the new development model that has given rise to the country’s economic prosperity. Combine the new way of existence and the new development model, and you get a new form of civilization in this ancient nation, he explained.

Although this new form of civilization has yet to take its final shape, it tries to offer a solution to three main challenges humanity faces today, he said. “First, people are becoming less and less equal. Capital civilization is supported by exploitation and looting. Secondly, conflicts between man and nature are worsening. Thirdly, people are more and more like one-dimension consumption machines.”

“To acquire a profound understanding of what is happening in China and what the socialist path with Chinese characteristics really means, one has to take a closer look at what China is doing now,” he said, referring to China’s effort to promote ecological and cultural development, among other things, in addition to boosting its economy.

To be sure, China did not always get everything right in its 70 years of development. For some time, China thought a market economy was antithetical to socialism. But eventually, the Chinese path became the first to integrate the market with socialism in the history of Marxist political economy, he said. “When it comes to the allocation of resources, China is a market economy, but the government has much more room for regulation … than (those in) Western countries.”

This provides sort of a footnote to Jacques’ observation that “China is a wonderful learner.” China is confident of its own culture, so it never “steals.” It’s humble and not sure that it is always right in everything, so it learns. An open and confident China is not to be feared or ridiculed.

“China does not agree that a country will necessarily turn hegemonic once it becomes stronger,” said Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and head of its Publicity Department. “China will neither import foreign (growth) models nor export its own,” he told the forum on Tuesday.

President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday that all countries should stick to the principle of “mankind first” and refrain from placing one’s own interest above that of mankind. In his speech at the opening ceremony of the second China International Import Expo, he concluded that Chinese civilization has always advocated peace under heaven and harmony among nations. This ancient Chinese wisdom naturally lends itself to China’s call today for all nations to help build an open world economy and a community of shared future for mankind.

Hosting the annual import expo is one important step in China’s determination to enhance its opening-up so that the world will benefit from China’s sustained growth.

As Huang pointed out, China has for many years contributed at least 30 percent of global growth and China welcomes all countries to jump on the bandwagon of its fast development.

But the import expo is a platform not just for business transactions. Behind the transactions is a dynamic exchange of ideas and ideals, of cultures and customs, of national and personal stories.

Like in Dunhuang’s case, it was not just a fort along the ancient Silk Road that traded goods between China and its Western neighbors.

It’s a hub of exchanges between different people and cultures as well.

Special Reports