Reinvigorating Ancient Civilizations and Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind, Speech by H.E. Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China at the First Ministerial Meeting of the Ancient Civilizations Forum

Athens, 24 April 2017

Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Friends,

Good morning!

Let me begin by thanking the Foreign Minister of Greece Mr. Nikos Kotzias for his significant initiative of the Ancient Civilizations Forum (ACForum), which has made the meeting of representatives of countries with ancient civilizations possible. The ACForum provides an opportunity for us to share views on what and how modern society can learn and benefit from the original human civilizations in the world and discuss how we can reinvigorate ancient civilizations in a modern context.

Let me also thank all my colleagues present today for your positive response to the ACForum initiative. As the co-initiator, China has every confidence that history will bear out the relevance and far-reaching impact of this Forum.

As a two-thousand-year-old Chinese saying goes, “Even an established state like the Kingdom of Zhou regards self-renewal as its never-ending mission”. This ancient saying may well illustrate why we the representatives from countries with the oldest ancient civilizations are meeting in Athens today.

We meet to explore new impetus for rejuvenation. The strength and prosperity of a nation or country are rooted in its culture and civilization. Given the challenges we face in our pursuit of development and rejuvenation, we need to turn to our outstanding traditional cultures for strength and inspiration, and we need to energize all values and cultural elements that transcend time and space and that are of ever-lasting appeal and remain relevant today so as to improve governance.

We meet to find new solutions to world peace and development. In the face of sluggish world economic recovery, multiple regional hot-spots, surging terrorism and other challenges in today’s world, many visionary people have come to a common understanding that we need to draw upon wisdom and experience from our millennia-old civilizations and see how our forefathers had surmounted difficulties of their time. Their success stories can be a source of solutions to problems we face today. The purpose of the ACForum is among others to gain wisdom and strengthen from philosophies, culture, values and moral principles highly esteemed in ancient civilizations so as to address the current issues vital to the future of the world and mankind.

We meet to open up new paths of progress for human civilizations. The history of humanity has seen all civilizations living and thriving side by side. For thousands of years, the original ancient civilizations of the ancient Egypt, the Euphrates and the Tigris, the ancient Greece and Rome, the Indus River, the ancient China, the Maya and the Inca are like twinkling stars that have shone upon each other. They jointly contributed to the progress of human society. We are meeting not to repeat the cliche of “clash of civilizations”, but to start an inter-civilization dialogue and work together to push forward human civilizations in the right direction in the new century.

Dear Colleagues,

China, with a history of over 5,000 years of civilization, has contributed significantly to the progress of human society. The concept of peace and harmony has run through the history of Chinese civilization and represents a continuous pursuit of the Chinese nation. The pursuit of peace and harmony can be found in every aspect of China’s domestic and foreign policies.

The idea of “Peace is of paramount importance” and “Harmony in diversity” is an ideological philosophy in the Chinese civilization. The “people-oriented and virtue-based” governance and “winning people’s minds and hearts with virtue” has always been China’s way to run a country. “Fostering harmonious and friendly relations with neighbors” has been a long-standing principle of China’s foreign policy.

Hegemony goes against the Chinese tradition. Expansionism is not in Chinese genes. The pursuit of peace and harmony, which is the soul of the Chinese civilization, has led China to where it is today and will determine where China will be heading for.

On my way to Athens, I had a stopover in an European city and visited a museum. One of the museum’s halls displays weapons used in old times, none of them came from China. Another hall features cultural relics, and most of them, especially porcelains, came from China. As early as six or seven centuries ago, China already started to interact with the outside world through the ancient silk routes, bringing to other countries the message of peace, trade and cultural exchange.

Today, countries are more interconnected, interdependent and mutually affected than any period in the past thousands of years. On the one hand, we face a great opportunity of creating new splendors of human civilizations. On the other hand, we are confronted with a daunting challenge that some achievements of human civilizations are in danger of being eroded.

In his speech at the Palace of Nations in Geneva earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for joint efforts to build a community of shared future for mankind and achieve shared and win-win development. This is China’s vision for the future of the world. It is based on China’s historical experience and cultural tradition, and conforms to the trend of out times. It has been well received and broadly supported.

China hopes that the ACForum will facilitate inter-civilization exchanges and mutual learning and that all countries will work together for the lofty goal of building a community of shared future for mankind. China stands ready to work closely with others to contribute to this goal. To this end, I propose the following for your consideration.

First, we need to promote inclusiveness and shared progress of all civilizations while carrying forward our own proud heritage. A civilization connects the past and the future. It is by carrying forward its cultural heritage can a nation stand firm in the family of nations. To build on ancient civilizations, we should first and foremost be proud and confident in our own culture. We should carry it forward and enrich it creatively, so that ancient civilizations can go on with renewed vitality and dynamism in the new era.

The ten countries we represent are all ancient civilizations. This makes us feel more deeply that no civilization is superior to others and all civilizations should be respected and valued. While carrying forward our own civilizations, we need to maintain and promote cultural diversity, work together to protect all historic and cultural heritages of mankind, and foster a sound environment where all civilizations can thrive and advance side by side. The social system and development path that a nation may choose is an integral part of its civilization, and therefore should be recognized and respected by other nations or countries.

Second, we need to promote international peace and stability through dialogue. Inter-civilization dialogue is an important pillar underpinning global peace and regional stability. History and reality show that where there is more and smooth dialogue and exchanges between civilizations, there is less conflict or war.

China has all along stood for peaceful settlement of disputes or differences through dialogue and consultation. China opposes the use or threat of force and has played a positive role in the making of a number of international and regional mechanisms for dialogue and consultation.

As the countries with original ancient civilizations, we should develop inter-civilization dialogue and exchanges and do so more conscientiously. We need to reject clashes or exclusion among civilizations.

We need to rise above the differences in social system and ideology as well as prejudice arising thereof, and build greater mutual understanding and trust among all peoples. It is important to encourage all parties of an international dispute or hot-spot issue to seek peaceful settlement of their disputes through dialogue and negotiation. We the ten countries should play a constructive role in promoting dialogue and reconciliation in regional and international affairs, and contribute to regional and world peace and stability.

Third, we need to drive global development and progress through cooperation. Just as nuclear fusion creates more energy than nuclear fission, inter-civilization cooperation and harmony provide a strong push for the progress of human society. Faced with the complex and changing international landscape and growing global challenges, we must come together with a spirit of peace and cooperation to tackle the difficulties we encounter. Next month, China will host the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The forum is an echo to the long-held aspirations of countries along the Silk Road for common prosperity and is an clear indication of China’s strong commitment to working with other countries for win-win cooperation.

In history, the ancient Silk Road was an artery for exchanges between East and West civilizations. Today, the Belt and Road Initiative sets a broad stage for inter-civilization dialogue and mutual learning among countries along the Belt and Route routes and beyond. We hope and believe that this important gathering will open a new chapter in the exchange and cooperation of human civilizations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Every four years, the Olympic flame is lit here in Athens and tours across the world as a symbol of peace and friendship. Today, we, the ten proud countries representing original ancient civilizations, are starting a new torch relay of the flame of civilizations. Let us work together to defuse confrontation and differences through dialogue and exchange, so that the ancient civilizations will shine with new splendor in the world today.

Thank you.