In­clu­sive mind is cru­cial for so­cial progress

China Daily (Canada) - - ONE WEEK FREE SMART EDITION -

hat is it about our clothes that other peo­ple seem un­able to re­sist? Is dress­ing like us about want­ing to be like us? Clearly, this is about more than just clothes. It is about em­brac­ing an en­tire popular cul­ture that extends through mu­sic and movies, to say noth­ing of the soft drinks and fast food.” This is what Niall Fer­gu­son says in his book, Civ­i­liza­tion: TheWest and the Rest, about howWestern val­ues with industrial power be­hind them have been em­braced by the rest of the world over the past more than one cen­tury.

While talk­ing aboutWestern val­ues, we Chi­nese can never deny or ig­nore that, with­out learn­ing from theWest, China would not have be­come what it is now— the sec­ond-largest econ­omy in the world.

So when Yuan Guiren, min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion, said on Fri­day that text­books dis­sem­i­nat­ingWestern val­ues should never be al­lowed in our class­rooms, he should have an­tic­i­pated how strongly peo­ple, in­tel­lec­tu­als in par­tic­u­lar, would re­act.

Anachro­nism is what first came to my mind af­ter read­ing his re­marks.

Be­hind theWest­ern val­ues are an in­dus­try char­ac­ter­ized by mod­ern ma­chines and the pre­ced­ing in­ven­tions that brought about rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes in peo­ple’s lives. As for clothes, it would have been im­pos­si­ble forWestern suits and dresses to be­come popular all over the world with­out the devel­op­ment of the mod­ern tex­tile in­dus­try and the sewing ma­chine in­vented by Isaac Singer in the United States.

The same is true of the la­bel “made in China,” which would not have been popular across the world with­out the re­form and open­ing-up that were launched more than three decades ago.

Of course, not all things that rep­re­sen­tWestern val­ues are good; most of the soft drinks, for ex­am­ple. But the mod­ern ap­pli­ances such as wash­ing ma­chines, re­frig­er­a­tors, mi­crowave ovens and air con­di­tion­ers that make our life con­ve­nient are al­soWestern in­ven­tions. Mod­ern ed­u­ca­tion is also from theWest.

If we don’t like the word “West” or “West­ern”, we can call them the devel­op­ment of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion. But how do we re­sist the things or ideas that make our life eas­ier and make the world a bet­ter place?

As far asWestern po­lit­i­cal sys­tems are con­cerned, we can say it does not suit us and we should have a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem of our own. But there is no need to point fin­gers at a par­tic­u­lar kind of po­lit­i­cal sys­tem or that of a par­tic­u­lar coun­try.

We of­ten say China’s po­lit­i­cal sys­tem best suits China’s re­al­ity. What we need to do is to con­tin­u­ously im­prove it and make it ca­pa­ble of solv­ing prac­ti­cal prob­lems the coun­try faces in achiev­ing its goal of pro­vid­ing its peo­ple with a pros­per­ous and glo­ri­ous cul­ture.

Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping said at a meet­ing with for­eigner ex­perts work­ing in China in­May 2014 that China should al­ways be ready to learn from all coun­tries ir­re­spec­tive of how ad­vanced it be­comes. China will in­crease ex­changes and com­mu­ni­ca­tions with all coun­tries with a more in­clu­sive mind to fur­ther open up to the rest of the world, he said.

What is an in­clu­sive mind? An in­clu­sive mind should never stick la­bels of “West” or “East” on ideas or things that are ben­e­fi­cial to China’s eco­nomic and so­cial devel­op­ment. Rather we should con­sider them as part of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion from which we can draw in­spi­ra­tion to progress on our path to pros­per­ity.

Deng Xiaop­ing, the chief ar­chi­tect of China’s re­form and open­ing-up, said in 1992 that it is mean­ing­less to bother about cap­i­tal­ism or so­cial­ism as long as it benefits the pro­duc­tiv­ity of our so­cial­ist econ­omy, boosts the com­pre­hen­sive strength of our so­cial­ist coun­try and im­proves the living stan­dards of our peo­ple.

It is the re­sult of such an in­clu­sive mind that China has be­come what it is to­day. The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. zhuyuan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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