Optimism for a new form of human civilisation?
"Xi is optimistic that Chinese civilisation's inclusive nature can foster coexistence with other nations marked by 'harmony in diversity,'" declared Xinhua, the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.
This vision set out by Xi Jinping ostensibly defines a trajectory for global development, positioned as a contrast to the Western model and framed as embedded in the ethos of China's historical and cultural identity.
However, analysts have met this portrayal of a "new form of human civilisation" with a wave of scepticism.
Observers question the authenticity of a path purportedly distinct from Western modernisation, suggesting it may be a strategic narrative crafted to advance Beijing's geopolitical interests under the guise of promoting cultural diversity and mutual respect on the global stage.
The Global Civilization Initiative, announced by Xi in 2023, exemplifies this vision, advocating for a world where equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusiveness among civilisations are paramount.
Yet, the application and implications of such a vision contrast sharply with the realities within China's borders. Analysts highlight the incongruence between the initiative's ideals and the treatment of ethnic and cultural minorities within China, notably the Uyghurs, whose internment in camps starkly contradicts the proclaimed values of mutual respect and dialogue.
Further complicating this vision is the Chinese Communist Party's elimination of free speech and the creation of a surveillance state's stringent control over the internet and public discourse, which starkly contradicts the initiative's advocacy for open dialogue between civilisations.
Such discrepancies raise questions about the initiative's sincerity and feasibility domestically and internationally.
Despite the initiative's ambition, its success and legitimacy hinge on the genuine application of its principles, a point of contention among analysts who view the "new form of human civilisation" as a veneer for China's attempts to reshape global narratives in its favour.
As championed by Xi Jinping, the "new form of human civilisation" fits into a historical pattern where authoritarian leaders propose grand narratives to reshape societies around their distinctive versions of ideology.
Throughout history, numerous dictators have offered visions for recasting human civilisation in their image, often under the guise of progress and unity. While promising harmony and advancement, these initiatives frequently serve more as instruments of power consolidation rather than genuine efforts to foster global coexistence and diversity.
Despite its portrayal of fostering a harmonious global community, the Global Civilization Initiative raises significant concerns among analysts. The stark contrast between its proclaimed ideals and the realities of China's domestic policies—most notably, the suppression of ethnic minorities and stringent control over free expression—casts doubt on the sincerity of its ambitions. Such discrepancies highlight a broader pattern of discrepancy between visionary rhetoric and authoritarian practices.
Moreover, the initiative's emphasis on a civilisation narrative shaped by a single nation's leadership echoes historical attempts by dictators to centralise power under the guise of global or national rejuvenation.
The risk lies not just in the potential imposition of a homogenised cultural or political model but in undermining the global community's pluralistic fabric.
In conclusion, while the rhetoric surrounding a "new form of human civilisation" might resonate with mutual respect and global harmony ideals, the world remains wary.
History teaches us to scrutinise the motives behind such visions, especially when they emerge from regimes with questionable records of human rights and freedom.
The challenge for people is to differentiate between genuine calls for global solidarity. It attempts to recast the world in a manner that primarily serves the interests of a singular leadership or ideology. Therefore, the scrutiny of Xi Jinping's initiative is about assessing its feasibility and safeguarding the diverse mosaic of human civilisation against authoritarian ambition.
The Language of Optimism
The Communist Party's promotion of the Global Civilization Initiative uses the language of optimism, optimistic poetry, and optimistic storytelling and narrative.
By way of example, Pakistani commentator Saher Liaqat writes that the initiatives "bring new optimism to the present-day world of turbulence", offering humanity a vision for a community with a shared future.
A founding board member of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden Hussein Askary lauds the transformative impact of China's rise within Asia as a beacon of optimism. He states, "The only bright spot in the past three decades of serial wars and economic-financial crises is the rise of Asia with China at its core. More and more nations are gravitating towards this new centre of economic power, optimism, and a belief in a common future of all mankind. President Xi, in his launching of the Global Civilization Initiative, has revived that optimistic spirit for a dangerously divided world today."
Chinese Ambassador Zhou Limin's observations on an optimistic Kiribati culture were used to portray an alignment with the Global Civilization Initiative's ethos, highlighting the optimism stemming from the island's serene environment.
Promoting the Global Civilization Initiative is intricately linked with a language of optimism. It paints an aspirational picture of a future where civilisations coexist peacefully and contribute to a collective, prosperous destiny. This narrative seeks to position China as a guiding force in global unity and inspire actions toward communal well-being and understanding among the world's nations.