‘Diversity drives progress’
President Xi Jinping quoted extensively Victor Hugo, Napoleon Bonaparte and Chinese historian Zuo Qiuming in giving his views on civilization during a major speech on Thursday.
He stressed that Chinese civilization, along with others, will provide mankind with the right cultural guidance and strong motivation.
“Civilizations have become richer and more colorful with exchanges and mutual learning,” Xi said at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris on the third day of his visit to France.
Such exchanges and mutual learning are an important driver of human progress and global peace and development, said Xi, the first Chinese president to visit the headquarters.
“A single flower does not make spring, while one hundred flowers in full blossom bring spring to the garden,” Xi said.
He drew on this popular Chinese saying to explain that civilizations have come in different shades and such diversity has made exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations relevant and valuable.
He also said he had visited both the Louvre Museum in France and the Palace Museum in China, saying, “They are attractive because they present the richness of diverse civilization.”
Xi said he believed all human civilizations are of equal value, that there is no perfect civilization in the
• See more, world, nor is there a civilization that is devoid of merit. In short, no one civilization can be judged superior to another.
The ocean is vast, for it refuses no rivers, Xi said, quoting a well-known Chinese saying.
“Civilizations are inclusive, and such inclusiveness has given exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations the drive needed to move forward,” he said.
If all civilization can uphold inclusiveness, a so-called clash of civilizations will be out of the question and the harmony of civilizations will become reality, the president added.
Turning to Victor Hugo, Xi said the French novelist once said that there is a prospect greater than the sea, and it is the sky; there is a prospect greater than the sky, and it is the human soul. “Indeed, we need a mind that is broader than the sky as we approach different civilizations,” Xi said.
To better appreciate the value of different civilizations, education’s role is unique, he said.
To illustrate the urgency of developing education, the president quoted Napoleon Bonaparte’s saying, “There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”
He also shared his views on the relationship between the Chinese Dream and Chinese civilization.
The Chinese people are striving to fulfill the Chinese Dream of great renewal of the Chinese nation, and as they pursue the dream they will encourage creative shifts and innovative development of Chinese civilization, he said.
This civilization and others in the world are all the fruit of human progress, Xi said.
“We need to inject new vitality into Chinese civilization by energizing all cultural elements that transcend time, space and national borders and that possess both perpetual appeal and current value,” he said.
Ramzi Sanbar, a French businessman who listened to Xi’s speech, said it was a very good summary of China’s culture and soft power.
“The essence of the speech made for a good mix of the ancient and the new China,” he said. “The most interesting parts were the ideas on the diversity of civilizations and that no one (civilization) is superior to the other.”
Before making his speech, Xi met with Irina Bokova, director-general of UNESCO, on Thursday morning and spoke highly of the UN agency’s role in advocating cultural diversity and gender equality.
To support UNESCO’s education endeavors, China will offer 75 scholarships every year through the agency to sponsor teachers from African and other developing countries. The number of scholarships used to be 25 a year.
Also on Thursday, Xi’s wife Peng Liyuan was named special UNESCO envoy for the promotion of young girls’ and women’s education.
Abhimanyu Singh, director and representative of the UNESCO Beijing Office, said it has conducted extensive cooperation with all parties in China.
“The UNESCO Beijing Office is also committed to contributing to UNESCO’s mission in the region, addressing the social, environmental, economic and cultural dimensions of sustainable development since its establishment in 1984,” Singh said.
France is the second leg of Xi’s fourcountry European tour, which will take him to Germany on Friday.