Implementing the Global Civilizations Initiative and Promoting the Progress of Human Civilizations

Liu Jianchao

Countries around the world face common challenges in pursuing peace and development and exploring a path to modernization. Despite louder calls than ever for unity, cooperation, and dialogue, mistrust, division, and rivalry still hinder international cooperation. Thus, it is crucial that we boost exchanges among civilizations and people-to-people connectivity.
At the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-level Meeting held on March 15, 2023, President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote speech titled “Join Hands on the Path Toward Modernization.” In it he proposed the Global Civilizations Initiative (GCI), which calls for in-depth inter-civilization exchanges and dialogue through political parties as well as the advancement of human civilizations based on inclusiveness and mutual learning. This represents another effort by China to contribute its wisdom and solutions to promoting greater international cooperation.
I. The GCI demonstrates President Xi’s strategic vision, profound insight, sense of responsibility, and compassion for humanity
The GCI is a timely response to the urgent call of people around the world for greater solidarity and cooperation as well as concerted efforts to cope with global challenges
In today’s world, we face overlapping and intertwined challenges and crises. The global economy is struggling to recover, the development gap is widening, and the ecological environment is deteriorating. The Cold War mentality persists, and deficits in peace, development, trust, and governance are growing. Thus, humanity once again stands at a historic crossroads. To tackle these common challenges, we require both the material means to overcome them and cultural and ethical resources to gather together a powerful ethos to impart sincerity and integrity.
President Xi pointed out that, as the future of all countries is closely connected, inclusiveness, coexistence, exchanges, and mutual learning among civilizations play an irreplaceable role in advancing humanity’s modernization process and making the garden of world civilizations flourish. Unveiling the GCI at the High-level Meeting conveyed China’s sincere desire to work with other countries to pursue modernization with their own distinctive features, thereby promoting global inter-civilization exchanges and mutual learning and advancing human civilizations.  
The GCI is a response to the common wishes of countries around the world to uphold equality and inclusiveness and safeguard cultural diversity
No country or civilization is superior to another. Since ancient times, people in various regions of the world have created a myriad of brilliant civilizations based on their production activities, utilization and improvement of nature, and continuous pursuit of the human values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom, which have promoted the progress of humanity. No set of values surpasses the rest, and more than one model of national governance can lead to modernization and cultural advancement. The illusion of “universal civilization” is easily shattered, and drawing lines based on ideology and values or creating artificial divisions and conflicts will bring catastrophic consequences to the world and plunge human civilization into darkness. For this reason, President Xi has repeatedly stressed the importance of diversity in human civilizations. The GCI promotes respect for the diversity of civilizations and the need for countries to be open-minded to the values of other civilizations while refraining from ideological aggression by imposing values or models on others. This reflects China’s inclusive vision of inter-civilization cooperation and appreciation for other cultures.
The GCI is a response to calls from the international community to enhance inter-civilization dialogue and exchanges and promote cultural prosperity and development
Over several millennia, Chinese civilization has preserved its roots and innovated by drawing inspiration and wisdom from exchanges and mutual learning with other civilizations. China’s development has, in turn, advanced human civilization. As economic globalization unfolds, there is a growing need to modernize traditional cultures through mutual learning among civilizations. To achieve this, President Xi favors cultural exchanges over estrangement, mutual learning over clashes, and coexistence over feelings of superiority. He also supports the innovative transformation and development of the traditional cultures of all countries through exchanges and mutual learning in the course of modernization. China has always been a firm advocate and an active practitioner of inter-civilization exchanges and cooperation, and the GCI is a further step in this direction.
The GCI is a sincere response to the trends of the times of developing global civilizations and building a global community of shared future
President Xi noted that to promote the development of humanity and jointly build a global community of shared future, we must gain a deep understanding of the origins and developments of various civilizations, so that humanity can benefit from their accomplishments. The Global Development Initiative and Global Security Initiative proposed by China in recent years have opened up new prospects for international development and security cooperation, and the GCI injects new impetus and provides guarantees in terms of inter-civilization cooperation. These three initiatives underpin the building of a global community of shared future and reflect China’s desire to build a world of enduring peace and common prosperity.
II. The GCI has clear logic and rich content, with the “Four Advocacies” providing a rigorous system for inter-civilization exchanges and development
The core concepts of the GCI are summarized in the “Four Advocacies.” The first is advocacy of respect for the diversity of civilizations. Countries need to uphold the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusiveness among civilizations, and let cultural exchanges transcend estrangement, mutual learning transcend clashes, and coexistence transcend feelings of superiority. The second is advocacy of the common values of humanity. Peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom are the common aspirations of all peoples. Countries need to keep an open mind in appreciating the perceptions of values by different civilizations, and refrain from imposing their own values or models on others and from stoking ideological confrontation. The third is advocacy of the importance of inheritance and innovation of civilizations. Countries need to fully harness the relevance of their histories and cultures to the present times, and push for creative transformation and innovative development of their fine traditional cultures. The fourth is advocacy of robust international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. Countries need to explore the building of a global network for inter-civilization dialogue and cooperation, enrich the contents of exchanges and expand avenues of cooperation to promote mutual understanding and friendship among people of all countries and jointly advance the progress of human civilizations. The “Four Advocacies” each focus on a particular aspect and are mutually reinforcing, and they logically comprise a coherent whole. They elucidate the principles of intercultural exchanges and development and indicate prospects for cooperation in human society.
Respect for the diversity of civilizations is a prerequisite for inter-civilization exchanges and development
Having developed in a unique environment, each civilization is valuable and carries the wisdom and ethos of a country or a nation. This diversity is an objective reality as well as an invaluable asset that ought to be cherished by all of humanity. Cultural differences should not be seen as a threat to one’s own culture. Rather, it is exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations instead of isolation that drive the progress of civilizations. Thanks to economic globalization, interactions between different civilizations and cultures have become more frequent and in-depth. President Xi explained his vision of “diverse, equal, and inclusive” civilizations in a keynote speech made during his visit to the headquarters of UNESCO in 2014. As inter-civilization exchanges developed, Xi expanded this vision to encompass “equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusiveness” between civilizations in 2018. He advocates promoting dialogue among civilizations on the premise that cultural diversity is respected and protected, removing estrangement, bias, fear and conflicts through mutual learning and understanding, and building a new model of human progress characterized by inclusiveness, mutual learning, harmony, and coexistence.
Shared human values are the basis of inter-civilization exchanges and development
Human civilizations have different development trajectories, but they have the same core values, which are the spiritual bonds that connect civilizations, countries, and nations, as well as the underlying force behind the progress of humankind. President Xi called for the promotion of shared human values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy, and freedom in 2015. They are the consensus of various civilizations and reflect universally recognized values, and they provide the impetus for building a global community of shared future.
While championing these common values, we also need to appreciate their connotations for other civilizations and respect the approaches that other countries and peoples adopt to realize them. With this in mind, we should seek common ground while putting aside differences, oppose uniting only with like-minded people while alienating those with different views, and refrain from imposing our own values and models on others and from ideological aggression. These points embody the meaning and the fundamental requirements of our shared human values. Only by upholding openness, inclusiveness, and mutual respect can these values be truly upheld and an even closer global community of shared future be built.
The transmission and innovation of civilizations are powerful driving forces of inter-civilization exchanges and development
The civilizations that exist today have stood the test of time. They transmit the cultural genes of countries or nations, and have become the cohesive force that binds them together. For a civilization to retain its vigor and vitality, it must advance with the times, progress while preserving its heritage, and be adept at creative transformation and innovative development; otherwise, its progress is sure to be impeded by attempts to hold fast to the established ways or follow the beaten track. Countries and nations shoulder the responsibility of sustaining and developing human civilizations. They can draw on the merits and wisdom of other civilizations through exchanges, dialogue, and mutual learning and enrich the content and diversify the form of civilizations in light of the features and requirements of modernization. In doing so, they will be able to allow traditional cultures to demonstrate their timeless and boundless charm and vitality and truly benefit the whole of humanity.
The transmission and innovation of any civilization require people’s creativity to be unleashed, achievements to be shared by all, and people’s aspirations for coordinated material and cultural-ethical advancement, harmony between humanity and nature, and well-rounded development to be satisfied.
Robust international people-to-people interactions and cooperation is important for advancing inter-civilization exchanges and development
People are the greatest proponents of cultural exchanges and mutual learning. The key to sound relations between states is amity between peoples, and this amity comes from empathy and understanding. People-to-people and cultural exchanges have always served as bridges connecting countries and nations for better mutual understanding and stronger bonds of friendship. However, some groups, acting purely from self-interest, attempt to provoke conflicts between civilizations and stoke bloc confrontations, seriously eroding the foundation of understanding and trust among civilizations and undermining international people-to-people interactions and cooperation. In light of this, we need to rekindle the vast power of people-to-people interactions and cooperation by facilitating movements of people and strengthening bilateral and multilateral people-to-people cooperation, in order to enrich the content of exchanges, expand avenues of cooperation, and explore the building of a global network for inter-civilization dialogue and cooperation. We need to enhance mutual trust among countries and nations and promote mutual understanding and friendship among various peoples, thereby building a more culturally advanced, prosperous, and secure world.

III. The GCI has been well received by the international community and a concerted effort is required to implement it
The GCI has been widely acclaimed by many world leaders and people from various sectors of society for reflecting President Xi’s global vision and sense of mission as the leader of a large political party in one of the world’s largest countries. It offers China’s solutions to the most acute and urgent global issues and makes it possible to mitigate conflict and confrontation and promote prosperity throughout the world. As a result, they have expressed their willingness to work with China to implement the GCI and develop cultural exchanges and cooperation.
Looking back, there have been ups and downs in inter-civilization communication. Periods of vibrant exchanges between civilizations generally witnessed common prosperity and rapid social development, while periods of isolation often resulted in cultural and social decline. The GCI was introduced to highlight the value of inter-civilization communication and restore confidence in international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. China stands ready to work with the international community to ensure it takes root and bears fruit for the benefit of humanity.
Fostering a favorable environment for equal and inclusive inter-civilization exchanges through collaboration
Guided by the global governance principles of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, we shall enrich the contents and forms of cultural interactions on the basis of extensive consultations and concerted efforts. We will treat the development and rejuvenation of other civilizations as an opportunity and strengthen political communication, economic cooperation, and mutual trust in security, so as to facilitate exchanges between, and the progress of, various civilizations amid sustainable development and sustainable security. Furthermore, it is vital to advocate equality, inclusiveness, and mutual respect, reject arrogance and prejudice, and work together to oppose hostility to other civilizations and the theory that civilizations are destined to clash. It is also vital to pay more attention to how history, culture, and values have influenced conflicts between countries and groups, and encourage inter-civilization dialogue to strike a common chord among peoples and eliminate misunderstanding and estrangement as a foundation for peace talks.
Leveraging platforms and mechanisms to enhance the effectiveness of the global governance system for people-to-people exchanges
To practice true multilateralism, it is necessary to utilize fully existing platforms and mechanisms, both bilateral and multilateral, at all levels for dialogues among civilizations. Specifically, we need to respect and uphold the authority and status of the UN, increase synergy with the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization and the UN Alliance of Civilizations, and work with all relevant parties to implement the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations. Focusing on regional, sub-regional, and bilateral mechanisms for cultural exchanges, efforts should be made to inject new life into existing mechanisms in line with the realities and needs of relevant countries. In addition, based on the current agenda, we shall unleash the potential of other important multilateral mechanisms to boost dialogue and exchanges among civilizations, share more ideas and experiences underpinning national policies, and jointly explore solutions to global challenges.
Tapping the potential of all players in all fields for greater interactions among peoples
To enhance the sense of responsibility of public sectors, private institutions, and civil society organizations, it is important to encourage political parties, legislative bodies, research institutions, schools, enterprises, and NGOs to play a greater role in promoting inter-civilization communication and encourage the participation of young people, women, and other groups. In this way, we can make everyone a potential envoy for cultural dialogue and exchanges. We support the elimination of discriminatory and unreasonable restrictions hindering international movements of people, so that people of all countries enjoy more equal, extensive, and frequent access to global cultural exchanges. We should put in place a multi-tiered and multi-field framework for inter-civilization exchanges that facilitates personnel exchanges in such fields as culture, education, science and technology, health, sports, tourism, media, and think tanks, and jointly create flagship projects for people-to-people exchanges in or across various fields. People’s aspirations nowadays require us to coordinate the advancement of material, political, cultural and ethical, social, and ecological civilization rather than focusing on only one of these aspects. These efforts will help us to continuously enrich exchanges among civilizations.
Creating new forms of communication and jointly exploring the building of a global network for inter-civilization dialogue
As inter-civilization dialogue and exchanges call for novel, dynamic, and appealing means and media, we should actively adapt to the new requirements of the digital, smart, and low-carbon era. While continuing to strengthen traditional channels for communication and exchanges among civilizations, we also need to innovate the paths and forms of inter-civilization dialogue with new media and new technologies and jointly find ways to integrate cultural exchanges into people’s daily lives.
On the basis of establishing and consolidating bilateral and multilateral relations for dialogue and cooperation among civilizations, we need to work together to build a global network for dialogue and cooperation among civilizations with multiple mechanisms, varied contents, and diverse forms covering a range of entities and fields.
China has not only proposed the GCI but also has been instrumental in its implementation. Standing firmly on the right side of history and as a proponent of the progress of human civilizations, we will work with the international community to implement the GCI, carry forward the shared values of humanity, and deepen inter-civilization exchanges and mutual learning. By doing so, we will make the flowers of human civilization blossom more beautifully and the shared future of the global community brighter.
(Reprinted from English Edition of Qiushi Journal, No.3, 2023)
Liu Jianchao is Director of the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.