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Xi Jinping’s preaching on engagement and self-contraction

Xi Jinping’s preaching on engagement and self-contraction

Posted May. 17, 2019 07:43,   

Updated May. 17, 2019 07:43


It was 10 a.m. on Wednesday on the second floor of the National Convention Center in Beijing. Shouldering Chinese President Xi Jinping for the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations was not any Asian leader, but Greek President Prokopi Pavlopoulos. Following them were the heads of Cambodia, Singapore, and Mongolia.

“It was a symbolic moment to show that the origin and the core of Western civilizations are rooted in Greece, and those of Asia are derived from China,” commented an official of cultural business industry.

“It is an unwise effort to change and replace other civilizations out of the belief in one’s cultural supremacy,” said President Xi Jinping in his keynote speech, apparently targeting Washington. The U.S. defines China as strategic competitor for a fight in civilization and ideology. America’s pressure for restructuring in the process of trade negotiations with China, which went so far as to demand revision of Chinese law, must have been perceived as threat in the eye of President Xi.

In response to Western criticism, the Chinese president chose to find a way in solidarity of Asian countries. Xi stressed the importance of the shared fate of Asia, mentioning “Asia” 45 times in his 30-minute speech. Mr. Xi has been an exponent of establishing a community of mankind sharing the same fate. A lecture by the head of the international strategy research center at Peking University came to my mind. “How can anyone build a community without the enemy?” he said. “Making a community of mankind with the same fate is only possible when we are at war against aliens.”

The enemy that President Xi presumed for his Asian community must have been the U.S. In his speech, the Chinese head of state said the conference provides a new platform to build the capacity of culture and civilization to jointly respond to the volatility of political landscape of international community. One could clearly see the logic behind it: Asian countries that have a long history of trade with China must joint forces and fight together. During a celebration concert in the evening at Beijing Olympic Stadium, the MCs repeated such phrases as “one big Asian family” and “Asians are relatives and friends.”

Mr. Xi revealed his Sinocentrism outright, saying, “Chinese civilization is a crucial building block of Asian civilizations.” With the Chinese president watching, the concert presented a series of two-or three-minute traditional performances from various participants from Asia. After North Korean and Indonesian delegations finished their performance, the massive Chinese troupe hogged the center stage, with the teams from other Asian countries giving way to the host country, which offered a glimpse into China’s national centrism.

“We hope to implement our plan to promote exchange of movies and TV shows and galvanize tourism with various Asian countries,” said Mr. Xi in his keynote speech. In fact, he mentioned the specific areas of cooperation South Korea has been banned from engaging in over three years due to the deployment of THAAD system. It was a clear testimony to the fact that his emphasis on openness and inclusion is self-contradictory. The shoddily-prepared conference in Beijing proposed a task to Seoul as to how it will cope with China that is expanding fast with an ever growing national influence.

Wan-Jun Yun zeitung@donga.com