揭示文明兴衰规律 擘画文明发展路径——全球文明倡议的理论意涵与实践价值
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Unveiling the Laws of the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, and Mapping the Path of Civilizational Development—The Theoretical Implications and Practical Value of the Global Civilization Initiative

揭示文明兴衰规律 擘画文明发展路径——全球文明倡议的理论意涵与实践价值

Gao Xiang, President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, details the motivations and intent behind China’s Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) proposed by Xi Jinping in March 2023. The Chinese development experience, Gao suggests, shows that viable paths to modernization extend beyond what he describes as the Western capitalist model. For Gao, the GCI will democratize international relations in the face of perceived “power politics and hegemonism” of other major powers by institutionalizing people-to-people and cultural exchanges, thereby engendering greater respect for the diversity of national histories, cultures, and conditions.

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At the high-level dialogue between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and international political parties, General Secretary Xi Jinping first proposed the Global Civilization Initiative, profoundly answering the question of “modernization of human society” and injecting confidence and strength into promoting the inclusive coexistence, exchange, and mutual learning of different civilizations, advancing the modernization process of human society, and adding flourish to the garden that is global civilization. The Global Civilization Initiative stems from the exploration and practice of Chinese-style modernization and draws on the experiences and lessons of various civilizations, embodying the historical laws and practical logic of human civilization’s progress. The Global Civilization Initiative has rich theoretical implications and significant practical value, reflecting the wisdom and responsibility of an ancient civilization with over 5,000 years of history, and is another important scientific solution provided by China in the new era to address common challenges facing humanity.


Profoundly revealing the historical laws of the rise and fall of human civilizations


Various civilizations created by humanity possess their own distinct characteristics, making significant contributions to the development and progress of human society, and accumulating a profound foundation. Based on a deep understanding of the historical process of human civilization development and the new form of human civilization created by Chinese-style modernization, the Global Civilization Initiative emphasizes respect for the diversity of world civilizations and advocates the concept of equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusion of civilizations. In every historical period, as long as a civilization has focused on exchange, mutual learning, and inclusion, they have been able to achieve the “beauty of each and shared beauty” of civilizations; on the contrary, advocating civilizational barriers, conflicts, and superiority, engaging in a win-lose and winner-takes-all approach, even if they rely on force to gain the upper hand for a time, such civilizations will ultimately disappear in the long river of history. Each civilization is a crystallization of labor and wisdom, embodying and continuing the spiritual bloodline of a nation and its people. Its historical inheritance and development innovations must follow the laws of historical development and conform to the trends of historical development. Chinese civilization, the only great uninterrupted civilization in the world that continues developing to this day, is rooted in the fertile soil of diverse ethnic cultures and achieves inclusive development in the exchange and mutual learning with other civilizations.


Transcending civilizational barriers through cultural exchange. “To study alone without friends leads to a narrow and uninformed perspective.” The interaction and exchange between civilizations form the foundation of human harmony and coexistence. Throughout history, due to differences in geography, language, and cognition, the exchange between various civilizations has faced numerous challenges, leading to long-standing barriers. Despite this, humanity has never ceased its efforts to promote cultural exchange. For example, the establishment of the ancient Silk Road provided an essential channel for the interaction between Eastern and Western civilizations. Through the Silk Road, economic, cultural, and technological exchanges between ancient China, India, Persia, Arabia, and Rome were continuously expanded, promoting the development and progress of human civilization. The formation and development of ancient Eastern and Western philosophical thought were also informed by folk exchanges, possessing a profound foundation in cultural exchange. The similarities between Confucius’s and Plato’s thoughts are not coincidental; their historical and cultural roots can be traced back to the early exchange and integration of human civilizations. In modern times, exchanges and cooperation between countries have become more frequent and extensive, creating a more inclusive modern civilization. In the early 20th century, Marxism spread from the West to China, and China and European countries entered an important turning point in civilizational exchange as representatives of Eastern and Western civilizations. After the birth of the CCP, Marxism was used as the guiding ideology to create a new era of Chinese revolution and construction, demonstrating the charm of Chinese civilization and promoting the enrichment and development of world civilization to a greater extent.


Transcending civilizational conflicts through mutual learning. “The beauty of harmony lies in the integration of differences.” The diversity of civilizations endows each with unique charm, and civilizations can improve their quality and promote creative development by complementing and learning from each other. There is no perfect or worthless civilization in the world; civilizations become richer and more sublime through mutual learning and integration. Today, the strong vitality of Chinese civilization lies in its extensive absorption of the advanced achievements of human civilization. The CCP has combined the basic principles of Marxism with China’s specific conditions and excellent traditional Chinese culture, forming a series of significant theoretical achievements that guide Chinese people of all ethnic groups to create a harmonious development of material, political, spiritual, social, and ecological civilizations, providing valuable experience and helpful reference for the revitalization of other countries’ civilizations. China has established an independent and peaceful diplomatic policy, vigorously advocating the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, and continuously expanding friendly exchanges and mutually beneficial cooperation with countries of different cultures and ideologies. Unlike some Western scholars and politicians who vigorously promote the theory of civilizational conflict in international society, the Chinese people deeply recognize the differences between their own civilization and other civilizations and are committed to promoting a broader and higher level of civilizational dialogue, striving to transcend civilizational conflicts through mutual learning.


Transcending cultural superiority by embracing diversity. “Harmony gives life; uniformity leads to stagnation.” There is no hierarchy among civilizations, only unique characteristics. All achievements of civilization deserve respect, which is the broad-minded attitude that must be held when dealing with different civilizations. History shows that human civilization thrives on inclusiveness, and only by transcending the notion of superiority can civilizations develop and progress through mutual learning and exchange. Some Western countries, taking advantage of their economic, technological, and military superiority since modern times, have promoted the superiority of Western race, culture, and civilization, depicting Western civilization as the end point of human history. This view, marked by capitalist ideology, not only makes Western culture increasingly narrow and closed, but also exacerbates conflicts between civilizations and incites ethnic hatred and turmoil. The Chinese nation has followed the principle of “harmony without uniformity” throughout its 5,000-year history of civilization development, maintaining cultural confidence while understanding and respecting the civilizations of other countries. As a result, it has made an indelible contribution to the progress of human civilization. Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Chinese government and people have firmly advocated mutual respect and learning among different civilizations, and for all countries to follow their own paths of civilization development in accordance with their national conditions and the needs of their people. They absolutely do not engage in cultural colonization or ideological export, do not seek to change the political systems and development models of other countries, and do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. They clearly oppose any form of civilization superiority and attempts to transform or even replace other civilizations, striving to achieve harmonious coexistence and shared beauty among different civilizations.


Grasping the practical logic of the development and progress of human civilization is crucial


The Global Civilization Initiative not only provides intellectual guidance for the development and progress of human civilization, but also sets clear value pursuits, directions, and practical paths for human civilization development from a rational and pragmatic perspective, thus becoming an action guide for promoting the modernization of human society and the prosperity of the world’s civilizations.


Uphold the valuable pursuit of human civilization development and progress. Over thousands of years of development, human civilization has gradually crystallized the common values of all humanity, including peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom, which have become the distinctive characteristics of advanced civilizations. Peace and development are the common cause of humanity, fairness and justice are the common ideals, and democracy and freedom are the common pursuits. Faced with a complex world, the common values of all humanity draw a concentric circle that brings together a broad consensus, derives the greatest common denominator for the aspirations of people in all countries for a better future, and guides the value orientation for jointly building a better world. To promote the common values of all humanity, we must advocate for these values with a high sense of responsibility for the fate of humanity, understand different civilizations’ interpretations of value connotations with an open mind, and respect the explorations of different countries and peoples in realizing the values. We should not impose our own values and models on others or engage in ideological confrontation, but rather embody the common values of all humanity in practical actions that serve the interests of our own people.


Indicate the direction for the development and progress of human civilization. Looking back at history, human society has generally progressed towards the development of productive forces, political fairness, and justice, and the liberation of individuality, as well as towards peace, cooperation, development, and mutual benefit. However, this progress is not a chasm that severs history but continuous innovation within the inheritance of civilization. In practice, it means fully exploring the value of historical culture in different countries and promoting the creative transformation and innovative development of their excellent traditional culture in the process of modernization. Excellent traditional culture is the foundation for the inheritance and development of a country and a nation, which requires both passing down knowledge from generation to generation and keeping pace with the times and the modernization process. Traditional culture, in its formation and development, inevitably faces limitations and restrictions imposed by the level of people’s understanding, historical conditions, and social systems at the time, and it inevitably bears the imprint of the old era and contains obsolete elements. This requires proper selection and discernment when learning, researching, and applying traditional culture, combined with the demands of modernization. We must adhere to the principle of using the past to serve the present, learning from the past, treating it with discrimination, and inheriting it with discernment, and promoting the integration and mutual penetration of traditional culture and modern culture through creative transformation and innovative development. Countries around the world must adapt to the new requirements of the era’s progress, strengthen the exploration of their own historical culture, and promote the spirit of excellent traditional culture that transcends time and space, nationality, possesses eternal charm, and has contemporary value. This will allow the most basic cultural genes of a country to adapt to the trends of the times, harmonize with modern society, and coexist with the colorful civilizations created by people from different countries around the world, providing the correct spiritual guidance and powerful spiritual motivation for promoting the development and progress of human civilization.


Offer practical paths for the development and progress of human civilization. Countries around the world have nurtured their own splendid civilizations, which complement and enhance each other, laying a solid foundation for international cultural exchanges and cooperation. International cultural exchanges and cooperation are important ways to promote mutual understanding and affection among people from different countries and jointly promote the development and progress of human civilization. It is also an essential pillar for constructing a new type of international relations in the new era. To this end, the Global Civilization Initiative proposes practical paths for strengthening international cultural exchanges and cooperation, focusing on building a global network of dialogue and cooperation among civilizations, enriching the content of exchanges, and expanding cooperation channels, so that colorful cultural exchanges and cooperation can promote the development of diverse human civilizations. First, improve cultural exchange mechanisms, innovate cultural exchange methods, give full play to the roles of various regions, departments, and fields, actively carry out cooperation in various forms such as parliaments, political parties, think tanks, and localities, regularize and institutionalize cultural exchange and cooperation activities, and continuously build an all-round, multi-level, and wide-ranging international cultural exchange and cooperation network. Second, constantly enrich the content of international cultural exchanges and cooperation, and widely carry out large-scale cultural exchanges in various fields such as academia, education, health, sports, and tourism, thus continuously consolidating the popular foundation for cultural exchange and cooperation. Third, comprehensively use various cultural forms such as literature, drama, film, television, music, dance, fine arts, photography, acrobatics, literary and art criticism, and art education, rationally use mass communication, group communication, and interpersonal communication, and jointly create diverse and effective channels for cultural exchange and cooperation. In May 2019, China established the Asian Civilization Dialogue Conference and other platforms for civilizational exchanges, providing a new platform for promoting mutual learning and transcending civilizational conflicts among Asian and world civilizations. As long as the international community continues to strengthen cultural exchange and cooperation and carries out in-depth and diversified exchanges of ideas and emotions, it will undoubtedly create a new situation of cultural exchange, cultural integration, and mutual understanding among people from different countries, making the world’s civilization garden more vibrant and colorful.


Actively respond to the real challenges of modernization in human society


At present, the world, the times, and history are changing in ways never seen before. One of the significant manifestations is that the grave harm caused by hegemonic, domineering, and bullying behaviors such as relying on strength, seizing by force, and zero-sum games, has led to increasing deficits in peace, development, security, and governance, presenting human society with unprecedented challenges. The fundamental solution to these challenges lies in advancing the modernization of human society and building a community with a shared future for humanity. The Global Civilization Initiative is committed to overcoming the common challenges that hinder the modernization of human society, reflecting the practical concerns of protecting human civilization’s achievements.


To address the peace deficit, fully demonstrate the peaceful attributes of modern human society. Over the past 100 years, human society has experienced two world wars, causing immense suffering to the people of all countries. Although there has been no large-scale war on a global scale since the end of World War II, conflicts and turmoil have frequently occurred in some countries and regions, and the instability factors in the international situation have increased, posing a serious threat to international peace. In today’s era, a few major powers still cling to the old mindset of the Cold War and zero-sum games, resorting to the use of force or threatening with force, wielding the big stick of hegemony, power politics, and neo-interventionism, stirring up trouble and intensifying contradictions for their own selfish interests, making the global situation more complicated, turbulent, and unstable. In June 2022, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ “Global Trends Report” showed that the number of people displaced worldwide due to war, violence, persecution, and human rights violations in 2021 was approximately 89.3 million, an 8% increase from the previous year and more than double the number 10 years ago. The growing peace deficit indicates that the peaceful attributes of the modernization of human society are facing severe challenges, and the “modernization” of some countries and regions is deviating from the fundamental direction of the development and progress of human civilization. The Chinese nation is a peace-loving nation, and the CCP is a political party that pursues the noble ideal of true and lasting peace for all humanity. In particular, since the new era, China has put forward a series of peace concepts, demonstrating China’s image as a peacebuilder.


Address the development deficit and strive to create a driving force for the modernization of human society. Currently, the world economic recovery is weak, and global development momentum is insufficient. In recent years, the adverse factors facing world economic growth have increased significantly, and especially under the impact of sudden factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall economic growth rate shows a downward trend. In January 2023, the International Monetary Fund report showed that the global economic growth rate in 2022 was 3.4%, down 2.8 percentage points from 2021; the global economic growth rate is expected to further decline to 2.9% in 2023. At the same time, the problem of unbalanced and insufficient global development remains prominent. The World Inequality Lab’s 2022 World Inequality Report shows that in 2021, the wealthiest 10% of the global population accounted for 52% of total global income, while the poorest 50% accounted for only 8.5%. Currently, more than 700 million people worldwide still live in extreme poverty, and their most basic needs in healthcare, education, water, and sanitation facilities remain unmet; the poverty rate in rural areas worldwide is 17.2%, more than three times that of urban areas. This shows that the global development deficit is still expanding, and it continues to erode the foundation of the modernization of human society. Faced with an increasing global development deficit, China is committed to the path of peaceful, open, cooperative, and common development, striving to achieve higher quality, more efficient, fairer, and more sustainable development, actively promoting economic globalization towards a more open, inclusive, universally beneficial, balanced, and win-win direction, and constantly consolidating the foundation of human civilization’s progress through China’s modernization achievements while continuously creating new momentum for the modernization of human society.


Address the security deficit and comprehensively build security guarantees for the modernization of human society. At present, traditional and non-traditional security threats are intertwined globally, and the global security situation is complex and severe. In traditional security, the geopolitical competition among major powers is intensifying, the trend of “grouping” in the world and confrontations between groups are becoming more apparent, and the threat of nuclear war is also on the rise. There are approximately 22,000 nuclear weapons in existence today, and more than 2,000 nuclear tests have been conducted so far, posing a significant threat to the safety of all humanity. In non-traditional security, issues in areas such as climate change, the environment, food and energy, information networks, and public health are becoming more prominent. According to the 2022 World Food Security and Nutrition Situation report released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and other agencies, between 702 million and 828 million people faced hunger in 2021, an increase of about 46 million compared to 2020 and a cumulative increase of about 150 million compared to 2019. At the same time, the global energy production and supply situation continues to deteriorate, and energy prices remain highly volatile. Eliminating the global security deficit requires the solidarity and cooperation of all humanity. However, due to a lack of trust, it is difficult for the international community to build cooperative consensus and take cooperative actions. In response, China insists on mutual consultation and understanding, winning respect through respect, dispelling doubts with sincerity, and promoting progress through cooperation. The Global Civilization Initiative proposed by China draws on the experiences and wisdom of human civilization development and is committed to providing a more comprehensive, long-term, and thorough security guarantee for the modernization of human society.


Address the governance deficit and continuously improve the governance system for the modernization of human society. At present, the peace deficit, development deficit, and security deficit are not effectively controlled, which is related to the severe governance deficit that exists in the international community. On the one hand, the increasing prominence of global issues has raised greater demands and requirements for global governance, and greater expectations for the role of major powers in international affairs; on the other hand, the ability and willingness of some major powers to provide global governance public goods have declined. As the world’s largest economy, the United States pursues its own interests first, arbitrarily implementing unilateralist policies that harm others for its own gain, making the dysfunction, failure, and disability of the current global governance system more prominent. In recent years, the United States has repeatedly withdrawn from or threatened to withdraw from international mechanisms, keen to establish exclusive “small circles” and “small groups,” politicizing, instrumentalizing, and weaponizing global governance, hindering the reform and construction process of the global governance system, and undermining the institutional foundation of global governance. As important participants and contributors to global governance, the representation and discourse power of emerging market countries and developing countries are seriously restricted. Facing the turmoil and changes in the world, the global governance system needs to advance with the times and change as needed. To this end, China proposes and practices a global governance concept of consultation, co-construction, and sharing, advocating for countries around the world to pool their wisdom, contribute their strengths, do their best, and share the results. As a new international public good, the Global Civilization Initiative has become an important part of the global governance system, promoting the development of the global governance system in a more just and reasonable direction and guiding the modernization of human society to enter a new stage from chaos to governance and from governance to prosperity.


Fully embody the global significance of China’s modernization with Chinese characteristics


For more than 100 years, the CCP  has steadfastly upheld the common values of humanity, such as peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom, and vigorously promoted the great cause of human civilization progress. Through continuous exploration and practice, China has created a new form of human civilization with Chinese characteristics. This new form of human civilization created by the CCP  has come from the over 5,000 years of Chinese civilization, from exchanges and mutual learning among different civilizations, and from the combination of Marxist principles with China’s specific conditions and excellent traditional culture. Therefore, it is a new form of human civilization with rich contemporary connotations and strong vitality. The Global Initiative on Civilization is a major theoretical innovation of China’s modernization process, fully embodying the global significance of China’s modernization with Chinese characteristics.


Actively practicing new concepts to promote human civilization progress. The core concept of the new form of human civilization created by China’s modernization with Chinese characteristics is to adhere to the people-centered philosophy and continuously realize the people’s pursuit of a better life. During the period of the New Democratic Revolution, the CCP, guided by Marxism-Leninism, formed and developed a set of values that led the revolutionary struggle, thoroughly ended the history of semi-colonial and semi-feudal society in old China, and achieved a great leap forward from thousands of years of feudal politics to people’s democracy. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the CCP united and led the people of all ethnic groups to rely on their own efforts and hard work, creating extraordinary achievements that made the Chinese people incredibly proud. In the long-term practice of reform, opening up, and socialist modernization construction, the CCP has led people of all ethnic groups in unremitting exploration, and China has achieved a great leap from standing up and getting rich to becoming strong. Entering the new era, General Secretary Xi Jinping proposed the development concept of innovative, coordinated, green, open, and shared development, and made sharing the starting point and foothold of development, leading the Chinese people to take a historic step towards comprehensive human development and common prosperity.


Successfully exploring a new path to promote human civilization progress. The core content of the new form of human civilization created by China’s modernization with Chinese characteristics is that China has successfully explored a path to modernization with Chinese characteristics. Since its inception, the CCP has deeply recognized the various drawbacks of capitalist modernization and has thoroughly summarized the historical lessons of many developing countries falling into a development trap by blindly following the Western model. Therefore, the CCP has insisted on independently exploring a modernization path that suits China’s national conditions. In just a few decades of China’s modernization process after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the CCP has united and led people of all ethnic groups to achieve historic achievements that have amazed the world. Unlike the modernization path of Western developed countries, the new path of China’s modernization with Chinese characteristics not only breaks the myth that following the capitalist modernization model is the only path to modernization, but also expands the ways for developing countries to achieve modernization. It provides new options for many countries and nations that aspire to independent development, and contributes new solutions to solving the problems arising from human social modernization and coping with the challenges to human civilization.


Create a new system that promotes stable development and advances human civilization. The great practice of creating a new form of human civilization through China’s modernization is a historical process of exploring, establishing, consolidating, and developing the socialist system, and it is also a great cause that leads the world socialist movement. For more than 100 years, the CCP has united and led all ethnic groups in China to carry out arduous struggles, complete the socialist revolution, establish and develop the socialist system, and promote the revival and development of the world socialist movement. The new form of human civilization created by the CCP has strong vitality and lasting influence, demonstrating the incomparable superiority of the socialist system. The new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics is profoundly influencing the world pattern and the development of human society with additional brilliant development achievements, continuously pushing the world socialist movement into a new historical stage and making scientific socialism in 21st-century China flourish with new vitality.


Promote the establishment of a new order that advances human civilization. The new form of human civilization created by China’s modernization advocates openness, inclusiveness, cooperation, and win-win results. From an international perspective, it requires promoting the establishment of a more just and reasonable international new order and creating a new world of lasting peace and universal prosperity. As a Marxist party that strives for social justice, the CCP has consistently supported the efforts of developing countries to establish a new international order and advocated that the new international order should reflect the universal aspirations and common interests of people around the world and meet the requirements of historical development and the progress of the times. This new order aims to end hegemonism and power politics, promote the democratization of international relations, and enable every member of the international community to have a say in international affairs. China will continue to practice true multilateralism, advocate and uphold the international rule of law, and be a steadfast guardian of international fairness and justice, as well as a contributor and builder of the global governance system.


The Global Civilization Initiative conforms to the historical trend of development and provides a Chinese answer to the question of human social modernization, offering a guiding ideology and action plan for the development and progress of human civilization. As more and more countries actively respond to and promote the implementation of the Global Civilization Initiative, human society will inevitably embark on a new journey of modernization and build a more prosperous garden of global civilization.


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高翔 (Gao Xiang). "Unveiling the Laws of the Rise and Fall of Civilizations, and Mapping the Path of Civilizational Development—The Theoretical Implications and Practical Value of the Global Civilization Initiative [揭示文明兴衰规律 擘画文明发展路径——全球文明倡议的理论意涵与实践价值]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in Contemporary World [当代世界], April 18, 2023

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