Observer: Civilizations should coexist, not clash
By Ni Tao
People's Daily app


When the US State Department’s director of policy planning Kiron Skinner recently described China as “a great power competitor that is not Caucasian,” she was creating new trouble for China-US relations. Those remarks were hegemonic and practicing power politics in the name of “civilization,” while also exposing the ignorance of some Americans about their own history.

Thus it's no surprise this view has drawn criticism, even in the United States. 

Steven Ward, assistant professor of Cornell University, pointed out in an opinion piece posted in the Washington Post that Skinner’s claim is false after researching the history of competitions among major powers over the past decades and will be dangerous if the US, as an established power, actively promotes that view.

Bloomberg said such a talk has no place in American foreign policy. Foreign Policy thinks “this was not a gaffe but a profound disclosure about how the Trump administration sees the world.”

The talk of a “clash of civilizations” is not good for China-US relations. Bilateral relations between the world’s two largest economies have a decisive influence on the whole world. China has been managing the differences, tackling tensions and building up cooperation with the US in a candid and constructive manner. Yet the recent stance and practices of the US are quite worrisome. Whether bilateral relations can return to their normal track of healthy competition and constructive cooperation is linked to the peace and stability of the whole globe.

As everyone familiar with history knows, the pluralistic coexistence of people from different civilizations in American society did not fall from the sky, but came at a great price, and is still fragile and sensitive today. Americans clearly understand the serious consequences that the exclusion of and hostility to people from other civilizations has had domestically and internationally during the history of the United States.

Skinner’s remarks also shows a lack of understanding of Chinese civilization, which has lasted five thousand years and has been enriched and developed in the process of blending and learning from each other. The Chinese have always advocated equality over arrogance, respect over prejudice, communication over confrontation, tolerance over exclusion and peace over clashes with other civilizations. 

Let us all be clear that civilizations only vary from each other in the way that human beings are different — only in terms of skin color and the language used. Each civilization is colorful, and should strive to treat others with equality and in an inclusive way. It is precisely because of these characteristics that civilizations should have the motivation to exchange ideas and learn from each other.

With the continuous development of economic globalization, it is imperative to make civilizations interact more frequently than ever before and to establish a correct concept toward civilizations. Only by transcending the barriers between civilizations through exchanges, transcending the conflicts of civilizations through mutual learning, and transcending attitudes of superiority within civilizations through coexistence, can we consolidate the foundation of peaceful development of the world.

"We should leave various civilizations in the world in full blossom," said Chinese President Xi Jinping, adding that there will be no clash of civilizations as long as people are able to appreciate the beauty of them all. The ongoing Conference on Asian Civilizations Dialogue spells this out and supporting activities in Beijing show exactly how China is making efforts to inject positive energy into the harmonious coexistence and progress of human civilizations.

“It is foolish to believe that one's race and civilization are superior to others, and it is disastrous to willfully reshape or even replace other civilizations,” said President Xi. He noted that those who stick to the old theory of a clash of civilizations and superiority of civilizations are artificially building fences, which will not only damage themselves, but also affect the peace and development of the world.