Encouraging signs in the promotion of dialogue

By Harvey Dzodin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, May 21, 2019
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Harvey Dzodin (L) attends the first Conference on the Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) in Beijing. [Photo courtesy of Harvey Dzodin]

The last week has been unforgettable thanks to the thoughtfulness of the parent company of china.org.cn, the China International Publishing Group, who kindly invited me not only to attend the first Conference on the Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) in Beijing, but also to a follow up Belt and Road Media and Think Tank Exchange Event (MTTE) in Nanjing. 

CDAC has been extensively reported on in various media. To me, the best dialogues were of the informal people-to-people variety with folks one would not normally encounter: a Hebrew-speaking Beijinger who taught in Tel Aviv; a current Pakistani senator who heads the Foreign Affairs Committee in his parliament; an 88 year old Japanese former U.N. undersecretary-general who helped broker a peace accord in the former Yugoslavia and knew all the players both heinous and heroic; and so on. 

My favorite though was a dignified Afghan lady of a certain age who had not known peace for decades and who owned and operated a radio station in a politically unstable region, where doing so might easily have led to her assassination. 

She told me that her biggest joy at CDAC was attending the Asian Culture Carnival. Not because the performance was spectacular, which it was, but because she had never attended such an event, as it would be potentially suicidal to organize such an event, let alone attend it in her war-torn country. 

For a first effort, CDAC was extremely well-organized, especially coming on the heels of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation and the Beijing Horticultural Expo days earlier. However, as with most things in this world, it could be improved.  

There could have been more structured networking opportunities, especially as people gathered the night before the opening. Although billed as a dialogue, it was a succession of consecutive speeches and presentations with little or no time for genuine discussion. 

The MTTE was a much more intimate event, so it should come as no surprise that it was also well run. While there was ample time and opportunity for informal discussion, the MTTE could have allowed more time for formal discussion and debate. 

There were two concurrent sessions. The think tank session participants discussed how to build closer partnerships, and develop new thinking on high quality development and cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The media session discussed how to enhance dialogue among civilizations along the Belt and Road, as well as media cooperation. 

For once, I wished I could have cloned myself so as to be able to participate in both, but I attended the media session. My own presentation focused on the newly-created Belt and Road News Network (BRNN) designed to enhance news coverage along the routes and focus on telling intriguing and emotion-filled stories, while promoting better understanding of what it is and how it can improve the lives and livelihoods of people in the many participating countries. 

According to its charter, BRNN aims to "enhance multilateral cooperation among its members, promote integration of resources, convergence of channels, combination of advantages, information aggregation, and marketing collaboration, as well as facilitate personnel exchanges, mutual assistance in reporting, content exchanges, technology exchanges, and mutual sharing of experiences." 

It will also, through extensive consultations, organize mutual visits among its members for better understanding and cooperation. It will hold BRI-themed media cooperation forums and dialogues, arrange relevant activities such as joint reporting trips, and organize seminars, workshops and other training programs. 

The purpose is "to promote dialogue and exchange of ideas, encourage media innovation, and to jointly combat the everyday challenges of the media industry."

I have every confidence that like BRI and the Belt and Road Forums for International Cooperation, future Conferences on the Dialogue of Asian Civilizations will also have complete success in building a community of shared futures for all humanity.

Harvey Dzodin is a senior fellow at the Center for China and Globalization.

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