The basis of China's 'win-win' foreign policy

By John Ross
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 30, 2015
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But he also outlined a cultural aspect: "Mencius, the great ancient Chinese philosopher, said, 'Things are born to be different.' Civilizations are only unique, and no one is superior to the other. There needs to be more exchange and dialogue among civilizations and development models, so that each can draw on the strength of the other and all can thrive and prosper through mutual learning and common development. Let us promote inter-civilization exchanges to build bridges of friendship for our people, drive human development and safeguard peace in the world."

Earlier, in a speech to UNESCO, Xi Jinping dealt still more widely with China's analysis of this cultural aspect, analyzing the way civilizations and cultures originated as crystallizations of particular human experiences:

"Civilizations are equal, and such equality has made exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations possible. All human civilizations… have their respective strengths and weaknesses. No civilization is perfect on the planet, nor is it devoid of merit. No single civilization can be judged superior to another…

"I have visited many places in the world. What interested me most… was to learn about differing civilizations across the five continents, what makes them different and unique, how their people think about the world and life and what they hold dear… An attitude of equality and modesty is required if one wants to truly understand various civilizations… Both history and reality show that pride and prejudice are the biggest obstacles to exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations...

"Civilizations are inclusive, and such inclusiveness has given exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations the impetus to move forward. The ocean is vast because it refuses no rivers. All civilizations are crystallizations of mankind's diligence and wisdom. Every civilization is unique. Copying other civilizations blindly or mechanically is like cutting one's toes to fit one's shoes - impossible and highly detrimental. All achievements of civilizations deserve our respect and must be cherished.

"History proves that only by interacting with and learning from others can a civilization enjoy full vitality. If all civilizations are inclusive, the so-called 'clash of civilizations' can be avoided and harmony among civilizations will become a reality."

Therefore, in China's conception, economic and cultural interactions are entirely integrated and flow from a common basis. The economic "win-win" flows from benefits derived from the global division of labor. The "win-win" benefits in culture and civilization result from the interaction of different experiences reflected in different cultures, which in turn reflect the differentiated aspects of humanity's development. Therefore the outcome - both in the realm of economics and culture/civilization - is win-win.

It is striking to contrast China's view with the entirely different U.S. concept. The latter is sometimes referred to as "American exceptionalism," but that is actually an attempt to soften it. The accurate term is "U.S. supremacism" - the U.S. leads, others follow, and the U.S. sees itself as superior to other countries. As Michael Mandelbaum, a key U.S. foreign policy expert, noted regarding the narrow issue of U.S. foreign policy, "For the [U.S.] foreign policy elite, the need for American leadership in the world is a matter of settled conviction."

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