“Clash of Civilizations”, A Political Haunted Card
May 13, 2019(Dr. Li Yongchao: Special Researcher of Chinese Society of World Political Studies, President of Chinese Public Culture Research and Promotion Association in Macao, President of Chinese Dream Research Association in Hong Kong, PhD in World Economy at Xiamen University, Adjunct Professor at Jilin University and Yangzhou Institute of Technology, author of Looming Nature’s Mystery and Ecological Civilization — Civilization Proposition of Contemporary China.
Kiron Skinner, Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State, said at a forum in Washington, D.C on April 29, that Trump administration is developing grand strategy towards China and the core of it is “clash of civilizations”. There will be a “fight over civilizations” or “clash of civilizations” between the US and China.
Soon the hashtag “clash of civilizations” became a top search and Skinner caught attentions and comments from various countries. It’s not surprising that Skinner’s viewpoint rocks the boat, partially due to she is Director of Policy Planning, or might be because of the common fear is coming true.
For a long time, theories of Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” and Fukuyama’s “the Last Man” have been used to interpret politics by the western mainstream. Conveniently, “clash of civilizations” becomes a political haunted card, which has been played by some politicians from time to time to confuse the public and disguise their political agendas.
I. The clash of civilizations is a pseudo proposition. Civilizations are not clashing themselves. It is a political conspiracy to strategize civilizations.
In the study of modern and contemporary civilization theories, the Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Huntington, a Harvard scholar in politics, focused on the outward clashes among the cultures in different civilizations. It became too prescient in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Another popular seller, The End of History and the Last Man by Fukuyama, stating that a civilization under certain political system would become the end of history. In his research, Fukuyama has never given up “selecting the best” in the binary opposition. As seen either from his praise or criticism, he is a supporter and an advocate of modern Western mainstream civilizations.
The drawbacks of these politicized interpretations are far too obvious. Not to mention that Fukuyama is a spokesman of one empire, even Huntington who stressed the coexistence of different cultures and civilizations may coexist, yet he focused only on the outward clashes of different cultural systems and hasn’t made enough researches on the inherent law of the cultivation and development of civilizations. The greater value of civilization framework analysis is to make people aware that there will be no single universal culture dominating the world in the future. Instead, a variety of cultures and civilizations will coexist with one another. Therefore, the mankind need a new framework to understand the turbulences brought about by global political and economic changes. However, as situations in the world turn weird and turbulent, some just rudely misinterpreted and politicized the content of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order into so called “clash of civilizations” theory which become the basis and excuse for power politics.
In my book Ecological Civilization — Propositions of Contemporary China’s Civilization published in 2015, I tried to address this issue by transforming the direction of theoretical research on the human civilizations from outward-oriented comparison to introverted exploration. Covering studies from “mechanism analysis of civilizations” to “comparative study of national civilization ecology”, this book delivers the following point of views:
Civilization itself has ecosystem functions and characteristics. Civilization has its own vitality and an internal energy flow of “generation, transmission, conversion, progressive decline to loss”. Civilizations might exist in different forms, but they share one common attribute — — they are the outcomes of society harmony.
The combination of substance and cultural genes is the basic for generating civilizations. In short, substance and culture are inseparably interconnected and indispensable. Civilization is the sum of substance and spiritual achievements of mankind in reconstructing the world. The generation speed, height, quality and energy of a civilization depend on how well the substance and culture are matched and integrated, how well the cultural attributes are coordinated in different social sectors and what the integration efficiency of the social organizations is. Therefore, civilization itself is neutral. It is the harmonious result of different societies in different phases.
Conflicts among countries and classes are not the so-called “clash of civilizations”, but the cultural conflicts and the conflicts of interests of the political groups. War is the form of state and high-level demonstration of such conflicts. In a nutshell, civilization itself doesn’t have the nature of conflict. The so-called “clash of civilizations” misinterprets the true meaning of civilizations, twisting civilizations as a scapegoat for certain political agendas. “Clash of civilizations”, a pseudo proposition, a strategized and politicized tool, is leading the public opinion astray with concealed intentions.
II. National civilization is the cornerstone of human civilization. “Minding one’s own business” would be the best way to contribute to the overall progress of human civilization.
As an outcome of highly-matched integration of substance and culture, civilization consists of three basic relations, namely, individual body and mind relations, and spiritual relations. mind, social interpersonal relations and human nature relations, manifested as individual civilization, social civilization and human civilization. Wherein, individual civilization is individual, human civilization is universal, while social civilization is limited in a specific nation. National civilization consists of public belief and moral system, is relatively concentrated and stable with obvious ethnic and regional characteristics.
National civilization refers to the sum of cultural concepts, life patterns and habits formed by a nation’s citizens in the process of material resources management. No matter which country is, the generation and progress of its civilization is subject to the genetic matching of culture and substance, the coactions among different cultural attributes, the effective integration of national organizations’ functions. All of these elements are comprehensively manifested as different social harmony.
National civilization tends to show strong ethnic features, historical traditions and regional characteristics while universal civilization is the common ideal and pursuit of human beings. Civilizations have minds. Universal civilization is the mind of mankind. Universal civilization is not exclusive to the West, nor should it be the propaganda and a hard sell of some developed countries. When any kind of value, be it a western one or an eastern one, is shoehorned into some other values, contradictions or conflicts would be inevitably arisen. There are different discourse systems. The western democracy and freedom may emphasize humanism more than the other part. However, the ideal of great harmony in “a peaceful world” belongs to all human beings. The progress of human civilization should firstly get rid of the binary relationship, to jointly build a kind of symbiotic relations at a higher level through the integration of eastern and western wisdoms. What is the true universal civilization? It should be highest level and common pursuit of human civilizations, originating from the integration of the intrinsic and the extrinsic, the substance and culture，and the overall consciousness of human beings.
National civilization is an integral part and solid foundation for the universal civilization. A great power shall at least run its own affairs well and cultivate its own national civilization ecology, which in return will contribute to the greater human civilization. Taking “the clash of civilizations” its basic national strategy, deliberately escalating the conflicts of interests in an all-round way, Trump administration not only disrespects the civilizations of other countries, but also rudely tramples on the progress of human civilization.
III. Community of shared future for mankind is a great idea in facing the future of human beings. China, in the new era, is working on “a new integration of the three”, namely, the traditional culture, Marxism and core socialist values.
The world in early 2017 was at a crucial juncture in the course of human history: The choices of opening up or isolation, cooperation or confrontation, advancing or retreat, the weak world economic recovery, the headwinds faced by globalization, the heavy fog of uncertainties prevailing the world …… Where will the human go?
President Xi Jinping delivered a historic speech at Palais des Nations in Geneva, in which he proposed to build a community of shared future for mankind from such five aspects as partnership, security pattern, economic development, civilization exchange and ecological construction, providing the “five in one” guide to action for the progress of human civilization. On February 10th, 2017, the concept of a community of shared future for mankind was written into the United Nations security resolutions. More and more countries have realized that the concept of building a community of shared future for mankind is highly compatible with the spirits of the Charter of the United Nations and will surely highlight its time value in facing the major global challenges.
President Xi’s answers from China: building a community of shared future for mankind and achieving win-win development. This great advocacy put forward higher requirements on the researches on academic theories, the overall thinking on the human destiny, the innovation of civilization theory, which is a historical mission and the new requirements in the new era as well. Objectively, the development and practice of China have surpassed the interpretation capabilities of the Western theories and discourse systems, which requires theoretical innovation in philosophy and social sciences. It calls for Chinese scholars to build up a set of original civilization discourse system that is applicable to China and other countries in the world.
The characteristics of the eastern traditional cultures make it possible for China to consciously integrate the advanced western ideas with the eastern traditional cultures, thus, to promote or accomplish such a mission. As Toynbee said, “if this conscious and controlled integration succeeds, the result may provide a new cultural starting point for the civilized mankind.”
Combining Marxism and China’s practice has always been the important experience for the Communist Party of China to lead China to continuous victory in the socialist revolution and construction. This “Chinese characteristic” has exerted its advantages and played its roles in the different historical periods. The essential for this combination benefits from the fertile soils of Chines traditional cultures, but also from the determined innovation of and practice by the Communist Party of China. China has stepped into a new era in which the core socialist values are moral norms and codes of conduct. Under such circumstance, the relationships among the three, namely, traditional culture, revolutionary culture and core socialist values should be clearly stated, and the integration of them is the cultural integration in the new era, referred to as the “new integration of the three”.
The first part is the product of the wisdom of the east and the west. Chinese traditional culture has a history spanning over several thousands of years, and Marxism is a branch of the traditional evolution theory of the Western society. Marxism has made great achievements in China through the practice by the Communist Party of China. It is a successful example of integrating the wisdom of the east and the west, as the doctrine of the mean or the inclusion is the essential of Chinese culture.
The second part means that the elite are compatible with the public in terms of culture. The traditional culture has the publicity of the ethnics, while the revolutionary culture has the ethnicity of advanced representatives. The revolutionary culture, leading the socialist construction and development of China, can’t truly become the inheritor and innovator of excellent Chinese cultural traditions and assume the contributions of a great power to the human civilization until it’s integrated into the Chinese traditional culture.
The third part refers to the time achievements of the history and future. Core socialist values, as a social ethics, are the norms and also the results of civilizations when the traditional historical cultures are mixed with the modern political theories in the contemporary era.
Supporters follow only when just causes are demonstrated, and once the key link is grasped, everything else falls into place. China is taking the traditional culture as the foundation, the revolutionary culture as the core, and the core socialist values as the criterion, to gradually achieve the cultural integration in the new era — “new integration of three aspects”.
In summary, Skinner endorsed the U.S. strategy towards China with “the clash of civilizations”, which is a historical reversal in essence and casts shadows on human civilization. The progress of human civilization relies on the solid foundation of different national civilizations. Every nation has its own distinct ethnical and regional characteristics, history and future. The mankind urgently needs self-consciousness, as the innovation and consciousness of civilization theories can’t be solved simply by political systems or economic modes, nor can they be accomplished by the ethnical advocacy and religious redemption.
The great concept of a community of shared future for mankind will lead the innovation of human civilization theories. The civilization theories not only need to focus on the external cultural conflicts, but also need to reveal the inherent laws to rebuild the internal-external framework of systematic understandings. Only in this way can different forms of national civilizations be understood well, the social systems be effectively run, and higher level of symbiotic relationship be jointly created with their influences in different historical periods and under the complex and realistic backgrounds of multiculturalism.