Global Civilization Initiative (GCI)

November 13, 2023

About the author:

Einar Tangen, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute, Chairman of Asia Narratives.

The Global Civilization Initiative is the third pillar of China's proposal for a world order based on aspirations rather than coercion. 
Every country is a unique mosaic of peoples, customs, languages, philosophies, histories, beliefs, outlooks, systems, daily rhythms, physical and human resources. All countries are united in their aspirations for a secure, sustainable path to development, which respects their differences and choices. No country sees itself as a peg to be shaped by others, so it can be fitted into a designated hole. Therefore, in a multi-polar world, harmony will depend on shared aspirational goals that respect the diversity of the countries and people involved.
The Chinese notion of "harmony without uniformity" dates back to the Confucian Analects. "The gentleman aims at harmony, and not at uniformity," meaning that while each of us has our own ideas, harmony does not depend on us having the same idea. Harmony, in this sense, comes from the understanding and acceptance of differences, rather than a coercive insistence on uniformity.
In China, the notion of accepting differences, as a condition of a civilized society, is ingrained. Seeking harmony requires reconciling differences and striking a balance between them. As with the ancient Book of Changes, the I Ching, everything has its place and value; things, including differences, can coexist harmoniously as part of a diverse whole. For China, the Global Civilization Initiative is about recognizing and respecting the differences between countries, while acknowledging that they share common aspirational goals for their people in terms of security, sustainability, peace, development, respect, and self-determination.
In the past uni-polar world, you only needed to know about your country, your neighbors, and the dominant powers. Today, in a multi-polar world where the global supply chain touches everyone, there is a need for every country, each people, to study, understand, and respect every aspect of every other country's politics, economics, laws, languages, literature, philosophy, history, beliefs, resources. Only through mutual understanding and respect, can people and countries identify and understand each other's differences, then accept them, and exist in harmony.
For this to happen, people, businesses, and countries need to learn, understand, talk, and respect each other's points of view, societies and civilizations. It will require people-to-people, business-to-business, and country-to-country engagements, through educational, cultural, and government exchanges. So that when dealing with each other, each side understands the meaning of what is being said, not just the words.
To encourage this kind of deep and comprehensive understanding, I have suggested four ideas to Taihe Institute, host of the Taihe Civilizations Forum for the last 7 years, predating even this idea that was recently put forward about the importance of civilization:
The first one, a Taihe Civilization Index, which measures the progress of countries against Global Development Initiative goals. So if you're talking about the Global Civilization Index, you need to have an idea of what that means. Too often today, people are in outside of the developed world are held hostage of those who control the metrics. So how many of you read all of these different reports that talk about how progress is measured? They are all done where? Europe, and America. It is time for China to seize the metrics and start developing them, so that you can express exactly what the global civilization index means, the global development index means, the global security index... How do you know you've made progress until you have a measuring stick? It's time China develop its own. So hopefully next year, at this Forum, we will have a global civilization index, which in combination with those who're interested, who have the knowledge, can actually create a set of weighted measurements that talk about the goal that we have globally of getting together as civilizations. The same can be applied to development and security.
The second, a proposed network of Chinese/host country universities. Why do I say this? Many of you, especially ambassadors here, remember going to countries and seeing the American university. You saw them in the Middle East, You saw them in South America, Africa, all around the world. They had great influence on people. They offer two things: One, they offer places where people from the embassies, people from America, could send their children, so that they could in fact learn about their own country. It was a way of offering education overseas. In addition to that, it offered education in a different perspective to those from those countries, or other ambassadors who would send their children to these schools. Now, instead, though, of making it the American university, perhaps it's worth considering having it as a Sino-and-then-the-name-of-the-country university. Why? Because if you do that, it's harder to attack. The U.S. would have a harder time saying that the Sino-Egyptian university is somehow a plant by the Chinese government, as they have already done to the Confucius Institutes. They've ruined the name of it. They've made it in essence a spy organization. Why? Not up to facts, simply just by repetition. So you have to keep this in mind. But by having joint universities, you have the opportunity to be inclusive, to not be a power that is imposing, but be the power that is cooperating. 
My third thing is, a Chinese based advanced study program, similar in, if not in structure, in content, the Harvard Kennedy School. It would offer advanced study in comprehensive comparative civilizations and other subjects. Why do I introduce this idea? I know very few people who will not talk about the fact that they went to the Harvard Kennedy School. They will tell you that almost the moment you meet them. The issue is that it has had tremendous influence. China does not have an institution that offers the same thing. You have thousands of diplomats here, not only ambassadors, but also their staffs. Can you imagine if there was a study program here, where they could attend, where the curriculum is developed, so that they can learn about China from a Chinese perspective, get a degree. Imagine 10 years after you studied that program and every single capital of the world, you would have somebody who've attended that program, you would have people who have a different understanding, and these people will eventually be ministers, and ambassadors. Spreading this kind of soft power is important. There's little question in my mind that there's a chance to change the existing elites in Washington and Europe. They're wedded to the idea of an ideology that you may consider past, but which they will not abandon. If China is going to succeed in having good relations with the West, with other countries, it's gonna be based on future generations. So, having something like that can be very useful, very long-term. It's not brain-washing, you should endeavor to have the best teachers that you have to bring forth the questions that others would bring about China, have them discussed. You know, China has the best story in the history of the world. And yet, too often, I don't hear it. I hear responses to criticisms by dominate powers, but so little about what you've accomplished. Wouldn't it be nice if there's a way of instilling that in people.
My last suggestion is that... I'm on probably 50 plus different news channels around the world. Any given year, I'm on at least 40. Unfortunately, too often, when I'm on those channels, the people who are supposedly representing China are not very good, they are not eloquent, they are not able to punch back. They are not like Charles Liu here, who has 180 million views, on TikTok and all the rest of it. Because it's an ability to express the reality of China, to fight back. And this is very important. And what I'm saying is that I get calls an hour before, somebody wants somebody, there should be an agency that is booking them. It cannot be a government agency, because then they say it's held captive. But if there's a private entity that is able to do this and match up these stations, especially in the Global South... I'm on 6 or 7 stations in India, same in Saudi Arabia, I mean in the Middle East, all over, Africa, etc. There are hungry for voices from China. So if you can match up good voices who can represent what the issues are, another point of acts of changing over the long term, the soft power equation that exist.
Thank you!







Please note: The above contents only represent the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of Taihe Institute.


This is a speech at Sub-Session on International Relations of 2023 TCF.



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