DR. PATRICK HO
Three Knocks: Basic Questions About Chinese Values
This is a transcript of Dr. Patrick Ho’s Feb. 4, 2017 address to the Schiller Institute Conference in New York City.
Dennis Speed: Our next speaker is Dr. Patrick Ho. How can great nations of vastly different cultural backgrounds find common aims by means of which those differences and distinctions are not only overcome, but in some cases turned into new capabilities which benefit the other nation? It is possible for one nation, even for America to learn from another nation, and thereby allow both to improve themselves. The New Silk Road is as much a proposal for cultural growth and progress, as it is for economic growth and progress. As one example of that dialogue, this is our report, —I think everybody is familiar with it, in English; this is our report, as Helga reported to you, in Arabic; this our report in Chinese.
This report, on the other hand, the ‘Belt and Road’ Monograph, was edited and partially written by our next speaker. It is now being revised. I know some people were asking yesterday and today for copies of it. And those that want them should just see us at the table and we can order them; there’s a new one coming out and it can be made available.
Dr. Patrick Ho wrote the preface to this report which is entitled “One Belt, One Road: A New Model of Inclusive Economic Growth and Sustainable Development.” His organization, the China Energy Fund Committee has special consultative status at the United Nations and he’s here, and he’s been here before—he was here in December to give you another talk in the hope that he will inspire us all to do a little work, on behalf of getting the United States, as Helga has already urged, to join the policy and progress of the Belt and Road Initiative. So, Dr. Ho. [applause]
Dr. Patrick Ho: Thank you Dennis, and good morning everybody; it’s noon now. I was here two months ago, in December of last year. I spoke on the One Belt, One Road and the most recent thinking about that, and afterwards, I received quite a few questions, not only about One Belt, One Road, but some of the corollaries and implications that it refers to. But all these questions point to one very basic issue, that is: what is the vision behind it? What’s the value behind this? And what is it doing to humanity? What is it doing to the world? Is it just a figment of imaginations, or a tic of imaginations of our leaders? Or is it something that’s contrived out of the blue? What’s the foundation of it?
So today, upon the second invitation from Helga, and from Dennis, and from the Schiller Institute, I would like to take maybe half an hour or so to discuss with you these basic questions about Chinese values. And how does it measure up with the values of the rest of the world, especially with the Western values? And how do we look at it in the context of the history of developments, especially in recent decades and centuries.
So, we’re here today to discuss how the Chinese values, especially Oriental values have influenced the rest of the world. And we will learn from history while also keeping the future in mind.
This is the agenda that I will try to cover today:
I. Presentation of Thesis,
II. History: Overview of the Three Knocks,
III. Yi Jing and Leibniz,
IV: Yi Jing and DNA,
V. Dao De Jing and Sustainable Development,
VI. East and West Cultural Core Values: Second Renaissance,
VII. The Third Knock of China.
I. Presentation of the Thesis
What is China? What is it that has held so many people together for millennia? What is “Chinese-ness” What gives the Chinese the sense of what it is to be Chinese?
There are three things you need to remember about China. China is Land, it’s a big piece of land. China is People, a lot of people. China is Civilizations, a long legacy of civilization. That makes China, I think. That’s my definition.
China is the third largest country with the longest land border of any country in the world, totalling 22,000 km, which is shared with 14 neighboring nations. This is in stark contrast to America. How many neighbors does America have? America has Canada in the north, a weak nation; it has Mexico in the south, a weak nation. It has to the east, fish, to the west fish! [laughter] But China has 14 very fierce neighbors, that are trying to steal its borders. That’s why Chinese have always regarded the border issues within, always trying to uphold the sovereignty with border issues, with fierceness, with steadfastness, and determination, such as what we’re seeing in the South China Sea today. China also holds 22% of the world’s population, which it feeds with 8% of the world’s arable land.
So, we have heard from our Russian friends, that what they’re doing for land would be very, very applicable for China. China has 22% of the world’s population which it feeds with 8% of its arable land. So where does the rest of the food come from? We have to make do with what lands we have, unless we get more land. Or we turn more deserts and inarable land, into arable land. And also on top of that, agricultural production has to be of very high efficiency. So we have to have more crops per year, and we have to have more harvesting per each crop. So land is food, and it’s economic development.
China, the most populated country on Earth, has 54 races, each with varying sets of customs, habits, and living conditions. It’s extremely diverse, very pluralistic, and very much decentralized. They’re held together by a common written language and a set of core values derived from their long legacy of civilization. And China is the only one of the ancient civilizations that has been uninterrupted for the last 5,000 years.
China is, indeed, in so many ways not like the West. It is not even primarily a nation-state. Its people are defined by a political identity, but it is a civilization-state, which its people are defined by a cultural identity. Now this helps to explain why the Chinese place such a huge emphasis on unity and stability. Their reference for a state and their distinctive notion of family, social relationships such as guanxi, meaning personal relationship, and embrace of ideas such as harmony with diversity. And unlike Europe, China never sought to acquire overseas colonies, but established a tribute system in East Asia through cultural attraction and coercion, never by conquest or by force.
The Chinese state bears a fundamentally different relationship to society, compared with any Western state. The state of government is seen as an intimate, as a member of the family, a necessary good, rather than, as in the Western discourse, a problem, an evil, a threat, or even an enemy of the people. For the Chinese, the state is the embodiment of a civilization and as such, its legitimacy comes from cultural legacy and core values that it upholds and protects.
And in many ways we can already see how the return of China to prominence has not only been good for China, but for the world. By lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, China has contributed to global prosperity.
China’s most significant contribution to the world will be intangible ones: It’s cultural wisdom, its metaphysics, and its traditional values, a resource unique to China, rare gems formed by heat and pressure over immense periods of time and tribulations. Few if any countries can claim the cultural longevity of China. China’s culture is vast and its traditions run deep.
The re-emergence of Chinese culture will therefore help bring balance to global culture. The propagation and exchange of Chinese culture will lead to a wiser more thoughtful and more creative global culture. As it has in the past, exchange will spur innovation, creativity, and cause a flourishing in science, arts, and humanities.
And it will lead to a Second Global Renaissance.
II. History: Overview of the Three Knocks
Just as we knock on the doors and say, “who’s there?” in the same manner, we can look at the history of change and interactions between China and the world, for example. Three times the West has knocked on China’s doors; and three times China has returned the knocking on the doors of the West.
China was among the first countries to undertake major initiatives for long-distance trade and exchange outside of its territories. Two thousand years ago, just about the time of Christ, during the Han Dynasty, Zhang Qian from Xi’an established the first Silk Road. This was China’s first knock on the Western door, extending itself in friendship to territories outside its boundaries.
And it was during that period that ancient Rome came to know of China, which it called Seres. The Chinese similarly learned of a parallel empire in the West, which they named Da Qin.
Among other things, the Roman upper classes particularly prized Chinese silk, with demand so high that the government many times attempted—many times, unsuccessfully though—to limit its import.
The phenomenon was important enough for Pliny the Elder to discuss silk and its origins in China in his Natural History. The Chinese envoy Gan Ying, on the other hand, wrote about what he learned of Rome during his travels, among other things discussing the republican form of government that Romans once had. Although limited by the enormous distances, there was already an exchange of ideas between the East and the West, and among the East long-distance travellers, Marco Polo, in the Yuan Dynasty was the best known of them all.
China’s Second Knock came in the 15th Century just about 500 or 600 years ago, in the Ming Dynasty, when Zheng He’s fleet roamed the seas bringing peace and trade to distant lands. Zheng He was a general and also a eunuch, of the Muslim faith, coming from Kunyang. Zheng He’s seven voyages which reached eastern Africa greatly increased China’s knowledge of the outside world. Many were the people who found Zheng He’s fleet breathtaking and who subsequently sought to become tributaries of China.
In an early example of “panda diplomacy,” these nations gave Zheng He a variety of unique animals: ostriches, giraffes, and zebras, among other things. The giraffes in particular brought delight to the Ming court.
Whereas Julius Caesar said, “I came, I saw, I conquered,” the Chinese said, “I came, I saw, I made friends, and I went home.” [laughter] No battle was fought. No one was enslaved, and no colonies seized.
These two occasions saw China reaching out to the world in peace and friendship, wanting to understand and be understood. We take distance for granted today, and can only imagine the sense of wonder, a spirit of friendship and feelings of discovery that these “knocks” inspired both in China and in the world.
Then the West’s turn to Knock on China’s door came during the Renaissance, around the time of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The West’s advancements in seamanship, and long distance travelling in particular, allowed it to stretch its influence around the world, seeking trade and colonies under the pretense of preaching Christianity. This was the first knock by the West.
Western missionaries began to operate in China during the 15th Century. Many of these missionaries did not come simply to preach Christianity. They recognized the accomplishments of Chinese society, and sought to learn from the Chinese people. There was considerable exchange of knowledge during this period. The West shared its knowledge of mathematics, medicine, and astronomy; while China shared it philosophies, technologies, and political development.
Matteo Ricci, Joachim Bouvet, and Giuseppe Castiglione were among the many missionaries working in China during this period. Bouvet, a French Jesuit priest, most notably, brought the Yi Jing to the West, where it inspired many. The long-term consequences of the remarkable discoveries that took place in this period, is something I will discuss in more detail in a few minutes.
The first knock of the West on China’s door, using Christianity and the sciences, began well, but ended abruptly when the West discovered that the Chinese rites and rituals were finding their ways into Christian practices, threatening the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. The door of China was opened for just a while, and then was callously slammed shut.
The Second Knock by the West on China’s door, followed the industrial revolution. During this period, Western countries hoping to enrich themselves with natural resources through their military supremacy, forcibly expanded colonialism into the East.
In 1840, Britain, prompted by its opium merchants, invaded China. This was the First Opium War. Despite China’s vast economy and its military forces, it lost the war, and was forced to sign unequal treaties with the West.
The Second Opium War, and the Sino-Japanese War which followed—which took place later in that century—brought even more disaster to China. The Second Knock by the West on China’s door was accomplished with guns and warships. China’s door was pried ajar, brutally, against its will, followed by 100 years of humiliation and national disaster.
The West’s Second Knock was a difficult period for China, but it also awakened the nation. China realized it would have to modernize and catch up with the West, and finally began strengthening its military economy and politics. The Self-Strengthening Movement (1861-1895), the Hundred Days’ Reform (1898), Sun Yat-sen’s overthrowing of the Qing Dynasty (Xinhai Revolution, 1911), the May Fourth Movement, (1919) all were responses to the hard lessons learned during the West’s Second Knock.
The Second Knock initialized a cultural and political dialogue within China which continued throughout the last century. For China, this process of modernization has been one of self-reflection, self-renewal, and self-fortification, during which traditional core values have been endowed with new meaning and applications. Ultimately it was these traditional core values that provided the necessary cohesive spiritual forces that bound the Chinese people together during this period of trial and tribulation.
The West itself, despite this aggression took many lessons from China. Thomas Wade and Herbert Giles, for example, developed the first romanization system for the Chinese language. The latter translated the Analects, the Dao De Jing, and the Zhuangzi and developed the first widely distributed Chinese-English dictionary.
The West’s Third Knock on the door of China, came in the 1970s, using diplomacy. In 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon visited China offering an olive branch to China and seeking to integrate the country into the global economic system. When Deng Xiaoping came to power, China began its journey of developing a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics. With the resulting rapid economic advancement, China became a moderately well-off society.
As with the case of the other knocks, considerable exchange took place during this period. China was introduced to the Western concepts of market economy and international trade. The multifaceted social contact that China experienced during this period was vitally important to its modernization.
III. Yi Jing and Leibniz
Now I would branch off just a little bit, and retrace the path of Yi Jing and Leibniz. Thousands of years ago, Chinese philosophy found a metaphysical and magical instrument, called the Yi Jing, which probably is the oldest book in Chinese history and Chinese culture. It describes not only life and events in the changes of things, but also harbors the secretive and primeval laws of nature. Indeed, Chinese metaphysics is behind one of the driving forces of the present age, the computer and the Internet. These technologies which have revolutionized human experience, can trace their origins to some of the most ancient Chinese wisdom, the Yi Jing.
The computer relies on the binary number system to make its calculations. All the activities of the computer, all the information exchanged across the Internet, is ultimately reduced to two numbers, 1’s and 0’s.
The mathematics of the binary system were expounded by Gottfried Leibniz, a German philosopher and mathematician in the late 17th Century. Although Leibniz had been working on the binary system for some time, a breakthrough inspiration for his work came from China, after he was introduced to Yi Jing, and particularly, Shao Yong’s work [1011-1077 CE], whose work existed, and who lived in the world some 500 or 600 years before Leibniz.
Interpretations of Yi Jing and the Song Dynasty dated from more than 600 years before Leibniz’s time. So Leibniz had rediscovered what Chinese wisdom had done some 600 years earlier.
Leibniz was in correspondence with Joachim Bouvet, a Jesuit priest, who among other things, had taught the Emperor Kang Xi, the Western developments in mathematics. Bouvet had come across the Yi Jing and had recognized the depth and insight of the work. Bouvet, who himself saw the Yi Jing as reaffirming his views on the universal oddities of spiritual knowledge, forwarded the work to Leibniz.
Now, there’s a series of slides that are very complicated, but this shows you how the binary system and the Yi Jing have all come together. Leibniz immediately saw the parallel between his work on the binary system and Shao Yong’s version of Yi Jing interpretation from the Song Dynasty.
Leibniz recognized the Yi Jing’s Yin and Yang were equivalent to the binary system. That’s Yin and Yang, binary system. [Takes pointer to display] That’s Yi Jing; this is Bagua of course. Now this is one, what we call a yao [phonetic], this is one yao, just anything; this is yang, yang is a solid line, is a one; yin is a broken line, yao is zero.
When the two come together we call a Gestalt, we have two yao together; we have two yin, zero and zero, if you add one to this, is one and zero; zero one; add another one to this and you look at two, but you have 1000 (one thousand) to the yin becomes yang, and then this becomes yin, this 10 (ten). Then you add another one to this this becomes two yang. This is the binary system progression.
If you add another one to this, instead of having two lines, you have three ones, then you are beginning with 000 (zero, zero, zero). You add one to this, you have 001 (zero, zero, one); you add one to this one, then this is bounced by the first position to the second position, so you have 010; you add another one to this, you have 011; you add one to this, you bounce again so this yin becomes yang and this yin becomes yang, so you bounce one of this and it becomes 100 (one hundred); you add one to this and 101 (one hundred and one); get one to this, you bounce this one to this one, so you leaped over one, so 110 (one one zero) and so forth.
This is what is called binary progression; everything from 1 to 9, from a thousand to millions, is all represented by 1 and 0 in different positions. So this is how a computer works. This is geometry; this is calculus. And this is the basis, the foundation of the Internet. This is Yi Jing, all right! Aha!
And Yi Jing with different combinations of Yin and Yang in different positions came together and it derived itself into 64 possibilities of combination, and with this 64 possibilities, it encompasses all the options of what’s happening in the whole wide world. It predicts all possibilities in all situations and all options—all with these 64 of what are called hexagrams—six lines, each line represented by either a solid line or a broken line of Yin and Yang. And this is all this computer, this digitalization.
Furthermore you saw that the Yi Jing used those two fundamental values to encompass deeper symbols, assembling the Yin and Yangs to form trigrams and hexagrams. The Yi Jing utilized binary calculus and these binaries 600 years before Leibniz treatise of that number system.
And there’s another rendition of the Yi Jing, the binary system; if you have the time you can go through them and you can see the progression—it’s beautiful. Everything works out just very nicely, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. . . all the way from 1 to 64.
There’s another way of realigning this (Shao Yong’s Order of the Hexagrams Conformed to a Binary Progression).
Here’s another way of realigning this, and this is all binary system and Yi Jing (Shao Yong’s Order of the Hexagrams Conformed to a Binary Progression).
Leibniz did not hesitate to acknowledge the insight gained from Yi Jing, even mentioning the work and the full title of his treatise on the binary system. This is what Leibniz actually wrote in his treatise, and that’s exactly the same as the progression of the binary system as enumerated in the Yi Jing before. The centuries that followed the publication of that treatise have seen tremendous progress in science and technologies.
This progress has often confirmed the foresight of Chinese metaphysics.
Niels Bohr, a modern physicist, nuclear physicist, and atomic physicist, whose contributions to quantum physics paved the way for the development of the microprocessors, chose to use the Yin/Yang symbol in his coat of arms. And this coat of arms is still being engraved in the cornerstone of the Bohr Institute in Poland.
The exchange between China and Leibniz was the first step in the development of the computer, a technology that now is helping us bridge different nations and cultures. And it could be stated that Chinese metaphysics of Yi Jing predicted and lay a foundation for the binary system and opened up a “byte era” typified by computer and cyber-technology leading to a higher level of intelligence.
IV. Yi Jing and DNA
Now Yi Jing also has implications for human DNA, and this is the cutting edge of research in Chinese metaphysics and also in the binary system and implications on the DNA. During the last century the strictly analogous relationship between the mathematical structure of this Chinese wisdom from the Yi Jing and the very recently deciphered mathematical structure of DNA molecule, was noted.
Now we all know that DNA is made up of four nucleotide-based molecules called A, for adenine; T for thymine; C for cytosine; and G for guanine. These are the four basic nucleotides, made up of all the genes. These letters are in a single long molecule, but apparently they are rooted in threes as codons. That means the possible combinations along the DNA molecules are as such, very complicated but to make a long story short: Our genes are made up of combinations of these nucleotides. Each nucleotide is dictated by the binary functions of what is positive and negative. And you can manipulate and juggle with that, and everything comes out perfectly, fitting the equation very well. I won’t go into details because it would take hours to do that.
And this is just to show you that, in modern science, the human body is made up of proteins. The proteins are made up of amino acids; the groups of amino acids are the building blocks of our body. The amino acids are made up of combinations of these nucleotides. The nucleotides are made up of combinations of 1 and 0 (one and zero). That’s what it boils down to. So that’s the basic elements of the human makeup.
Well, this is 16 already, starting with A, another 16 starting with T—it’s very, very complicated. I won’t go into this. But DNA is written in words of three letters, out of four possible letters. That makes four by four by four, or 64 possible words in the entire dictionary of the DNA language, called codons, which contains all the genetic secrets of the cell. It was soon referred to a similar mathematical combination and permutation as found in the Yi Jing. Both DNA and the Yi Jing were based on a binary-quaternary code that generates a system of 64 possibilities for the combination of properties of triplicities and diagrams. Both of these embody probabilistic principles with determination of specific results.
And both systems involve a process of transformation and changes:
In Yi Jing: The hexagram changes into another hexagram through the interchange of yin and yang lines.
In DNA: Point mutation occurs through changes in the nucleotide bases.
A very precisely defined triplet of sequences is specific for the protein structure of a very precisely defined part of a living creature. These precisely formulated instructions in the DNA structure define the genetic makeup of the organisms. The sum total of these code words is similar to the “blueprint” for producing a whole living being with all its characteristics. Analogous relationships are gradually discovered to be related to the metaphysical relationship with the genetic composition of living cells. Possibly, such direction of work may provide a scientific basis to explain how Yi Jing based Fengshui—or Chinese astrology—may affect people and offspring on a cellular level.
V. Dao De Jing and Sustainable Development
Next I will discuss Dao De Jing which is another Chinese heritage, and Sustainable Development.
Dao De Jing by Lao Tze, the bible of Daoism, is also a book of profound wisdom and great learning. Dao De Jing composing only about 5,000 Chinese characters, 5,000 words, together with Yi Jing provides the architectural framework for Chinese metaphysics and indigenous religion. Work has been under way to apply the wisdom of Dao De Jing in addressing modern day problems and difficulties in life.
In particular the book may yield clues to a sustainable lifestyle, which is paramount in underpinning all initiatives in reaching the 17 targets of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals rolled out by the United Nations last year.
And I’m sure we will be hearing more about this. For example, we know that although with the technological progress today, there’s still 1.2 billion people in the world that are still living in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined by having less than one U.S. dollar a day. Whereas 850 million people are still chronically undernourished, while at the same time on the other side of the globe, one-third of the food produced for human consumption, 1.3 billion tons per year, is wasted—it’s wasted! We understand that 1.2 billion people in the world have no access to electricity; and 2.7 billion people of world have no clean cooking facilities. Whereas on the other side of the world, with 5% of the world population,—we’re talking about the United States of America—consumes 20% of the world energy, drives 25% of the world’s cars and uses 40% of the world’s gasoline.
Is that sustainable—Ladies and Gentlemen?
So, a sustainable goal has to inspire responsibility for those who are affluent as well. What we really need is not to hand out fishes, but to teach people how to fish. We need a sustainable lifestyle. What is a sustainable lifestyle? It’s to use what we need, but not what we want. There are too many wants and so few needs. So, we’re calling upon the world for careful consumption, use resources efficiently, sparingly, responsibly, and smartly, and warn the world against excess and extravagance. That’s the spirit and teaching of Dao De Jing. You see how we can apply it to the world?
VI. East and West Cultural Core Values
If we can do that, I think we will see on the horizon, a Second Renaissance. We have seen how the ancient Chinese wisdom Yi Jing, combined with the technological know-how of the Western scientists can bring development into game-changing breakthroughs, that deeply affect human life. Such a observation points out the importance of dialogues, exchanges in metaphysical cross-fertilization between civilizations and of different cultural core values.
OK, we were talking about the Second Renaissance.
The Renaissance has brought humanism into European societies previously dominated by the Church, but whereas Western humanism centers on the self. . . . We’re talking about the Second Renaissance and this is really the meat of it: What do I mean by that? Chinese culture is dominated by Confucianism. The Renaissance has brought humanism into the European society previously dominated by the Church, but whereas Western humanism centered on the self and emphasized individualism and other specific values, Eastern humanism not only focuses on human relationships which prescribe the essence of a Chinese person, but also the entire holistic makeup in which humans are part and parcel of the overall arrangement.
So this differentiation is not only between the East and the West, after the last elections in the United States we’ll see that this differentiation is also happening in the United States. Maybe you can call the Western humanism “liberalism” and Eastern humanism “conservatism.” Just watch.
Chinese culture is dominated by Confucianism which anchors its principles on an ancient religious foundation of Daoism, while establishing the social values and ideals for the traditional Chinese society.
Confucian philosophy presupposes three spheres, three biospheres of human interactions, Heaven, Earth, and Humans. And man must find peace in all three.
For the Man-Man biosphere, Confucius emphasized proper conduct in one’s social relations, because it is in the company of others that man reaches his ultimate fulfillment. This code of behavior is called Li or the social and ethical norms that guide people to do the appropriate things at the right time, manifesting respect and kindness.
The most important of all virtues is benevolence, called Ren, which is love of fellow humans, a sense of compassion based on the dignity of human life and great self-respect. We cultivate Ren, or charity, or kindness, or love, by putting ourselves in the position of others and treating them as you wish them to treat you. Confucius said, “Do not do unto others what you would not wish to have them do to you. And, do unto others what you want others to do unto you.” Benevolence means the practice of these two golden principles which universally permeate all world ethical, cultural, and religious traditions throughout the ages.
Regarding Man-Earth interaction, we are ultimately linked to all life on Earth and therefore must treat our environment with respect and care.
(Differences in political culture.) Furthermore, man’s obsessions with development and growth, and particularly still more things to give us greater convenience, pleasure, and comfort, contradicts all teachings against extreme greed, and the principle calling for moderation. Whereas Western civilization often regards nature as an object for eventual conquest, the Chinese treat nature with great reverence and respect. Chinese are appreciative of nature as Humans and Earth, as part of nature, are deemed to be one entity. Such a world outlook brings up a civilization with a sense of tolerance and pursuit of coexistence and harmony.
Concerning Man-Heaven interaction, Confucius honored Heaven as the supreme source of goodness upon which every human being is personally dependent. The pinnacle achievement in life is to be one with Heaven and it is because in Confucian teaching, the primary concern is humanity and the interrelationship between people, Confucianism has only a very general description and mention of Heaven or God, leaving a large amount of room in the spiritual realm for Chinese people to learn from the other civilizations’ religions, such as Buddhism from India, Islam from the Middle East, and Christianity from the West. And perhaps, for that reason, Chinese culture, and thus religion, is a very tolerant one, being a culture and religion of infinite possibilities, and capable of accommodating any and all supreme beings.
And perhaps for that same reason Chinese would seldom engage themselves in arguments about whose God is the True God and whose God isn’t, or whose is the better God. And Chinese culture, unlike other cultures of monotheism do not have the burden of being self-ordained missionaries defending one religion while attempting to convert everybody else to a particular one. Perhaps the Chinese regard Heaven or God as so Supreme and Magnificent that it is beyond description and definition by humans, and that unlimited possibilities in imagination exist with this Heavenly state of mind.
Instead Chinese culture focuses on interfacing layers between the spiritual sphere and the materialistic world, and on which can explain, as a network of social and interpersonal relationships, relationships between man and his inner self, man and his surrounding environment, and man and his fellow man. Therefore, any type of belief or religion can easily blend into the Chinese spiritual world but for it to be practiced by people in local communities it has to be filtered through the Confucian network of traditional and social relationship and be “Sinicized,” or interpreted with Chinese characteristics. Therefore, when Buddhism, or Islam, or Christianity was introduced into China, they are customized with local interpretations and have to blend in with the house practices of Chinese society.
So a combination of Chinese and Western culture and Chinese modernization will constitute a Second Renaissance.
Chinese traditional core values are established and time-tested while undergoing twists and turns throughout history.
These values are modified and adapted in different times and contexts, and yet, are made applicable to solving the problems of time. In different eras and locations, the manifestations and the applying methods could vary, but the underlying core values remain steadfast and sustained. According to great learning, if you can renovate yourself one day, do so from day to day and let there be daily renovation. This statement signifies a unique innate quality of a life force of perpetually renewing power of Chinese culture, and gives momentum to self-improvement and self-regeneration as has been testified to in recent Chinese history.
Ever since the mid-19th Century, the Chinese people have been looking forward to a modernized China with a Renaissance of Chinese culture.
We believe that the values of the East and the West are not incompatible. Instead, they constitute a set of values at the two ends of a spectrum, just like the Yin and Yang of Tai Chi; Western and Eastern emphasis of core values are paired to define the latitude of interpretation.
Individual, community, rights and obligations, freedom with responsibilities, achievements through sacrifices, accommodations with alliances, diversity with harmony, the two sets of values operate with one another as two opposing principles in nature, complementing and supplementing one another. But one will be incomplete without the other. Our decision to lean towards one end over the other in any occasion is time-dependent, place-dependent, and people-dependent. Oftentimes, Chinese prefer the middle way, a position that offers the greatest flexibility, and is called “moderation.”
By combining the strength of the East and the West we can make possible a multipolar world order for the modern century. Therefore the Renaissance of the Chinese culture is not simply a matter for China and the Chinese nation. New elements are being injected into global civilization paving the way for a Second Renaissance for the entire human race. This Second Renaissance brings about a new dimension to define and awaken a generation of humanity.
VII. The Third ‘Knock’ of China
Since the “Third Knock” by the West in 1972, China has undergone a miraculous transformation, blossoming a poor agricultural economy into a major economic powerhouse. The 21st Century will see us embarking on the Third Silk Road, this is the Third Knock on the doors of the West, offering dialogue and friendship, this is a visionary “One Belt, One Road” narrative proposed by President Xi Jinping.
This initiative will help further the exchange of not only material goods, namely energy resources, transportation, and a variety of services, but also the exchange of ideas, knowledge, culture, and values, through new communication lines and networks to promote people-to-people interaction.
The two previous Silk Roads trading tea, silk, spice, exotic fruits, jewelry and gold; the 21st-century Silk Road trades—apart from creative ideas and innovation—values. It offers peace.
This modern Silk Road travels neither by land nor sea, nor goes from one place to the other, but travels through the inner workings of the human mind, driven by the desire to captivate the advantage of peaceful competition in this globalized world.
In 2013 President Xi Jinping put forward his strategic vision known in brief as the One Belt, One Road Initiative. It is a new model of connectivity among peoples. However, connectivity is not merely about building roads and bridges, high-speed railroads, oil and gas pipelines, and electric power grids. Fiber optics are making linear service connections of different places. More importantly, it should be a three-dimensional combination of infrastructure, institution and people-to-people exchanges, and a five-way multifaceted progress in policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, trade link, capital flow, and understanding among peoples.
And maybe even more! It should be so.
Infrastructure consists of thoroughfares, which includes roads, airspace, ship lanes, railroads, high-speed electric grid, fiber optics, pipelines, water, and waste. What are the characteristics of this One Belt, One Road Initiative? Looking back in history, we can learn from the ancient Silk Roads that there were three: Firstly, perhaps people are the most central element. Why is this new initiative for regional cooperation named as a “Belt and Road” instead of group and plan, like the G-7 and Marshall Plan? The answer is, people!
The new initiative is not just a government-to-government (G2G) platform, for people-to-people exchanges. True the process is underpinned by government bodies. But the materialization of this grand vision revolves around people, and it was the many ordinary people across the continent that actually connected the East and West together by interactions, exchanges, and trade. Diasporas in neighboring countries could all be mobilized to forge steadfast bonding with the people of all countries.
The second characteristic is goodwill. The second characteristic of this new model of connectivity must be goodwill because this initiative is open to all countries and peoples interested in being connected.
For mutual development, regardless of the forms of government, culture, cultural and religious backgrounds, and geographic locations, common development was once the superglue which bonded different countries along the ancient Silk Road together, and equal footing is what made this “win-win” situation possible—Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, black and white or yellow people, we all benefited equally from trade and exchanges along the Silk Roads.
Western media often refer to the recent rise of China as “threatening.” Indeed, in the last 500 years, the Chinese have recorded at least four periods of prosperity. Four peaceful rises without colonies or threats.
As I said before, Julius Caesar said, “I came, I saw, I conquered.” The Chinese said, “I made friends, and I went home.”
So the new initiative should not be construed as China’s ambition to become a regional hegemon, but China’s reaching out, offering friendship and peace. More accurately it is also about China’s bringing in: Motivated by goodwill, China is inviting people and countries along the Silk Road to build a community of shared interest and common destiny, a community in which no one is left behind and no one has to take second place.
We all have different pasts, we also have a common future to face and a common destiny.
So, the overall vision of the One Belt, One Road Initiative is expected to bring about shared economic, cultural, and social prosperity, but unlike regional cooperation projects which have a fixed policy agenda as its mechanism, the One Belt, One Road Initiative is a grand vision, providing ample and infinite room for creative solutions and possibilities. It is more ambitious and farsighted and, at the same time, more flexible, accommodating, and adaptable to new conditions and challenges than the ancient Silk Roads. It provides an overarching theme and umbrella under which all sorts of cooperation can be made possible.
Simply put, the One Belt, One Road Initiative is neither about seeking for spheres of influence nor striving for hegemony. It is about connecting countries, and people, accommodating differences, embracing diversities, realizing potentials, and enabling various goals and prosperities. However, mutual understanding is the most difficult task in the national cooperation. In fact, it might take hundreds of years for the West to understand what constitutes China, and Chinese-ness. In the recent past, starting in the 15th Century, we have seen the Three Knocks.
The West has knocked on the ancient doors of China for at least three times, and in the first knock we have seen Matteo Ricci, Bouvet, Marco Polo; but the door was shut.
The second knock came in 1840, when Britain invaded China and launched the First Opium War. China’s doors were pried open for just a while.
The third knock came in the midst of the Cold War in 1972 when Richard Nixon visited China.
For more than 100 years after being brought to its knees at gunpoint by the West, China has awakened, realizing that it had to catch up with the Western world. When Deng Xiaoping came to power, China moved, with rapid economic advancement, towards a moderately well-off society.
China’s Third “Knock”—A New Silk Road. The Third Silk Road:
This modern Silk Road merges creative markets and aligns policies to form alliances in exploring the commonality among cultures and community values.
This Silk Road sees citizens of different cities and countries sharing common aspirations and inviting one another into their dreams, such that life is celebrated through cultural pursuits, and our people are enchanted by the arts, enlightened by cultural differences, and enriched by society diversity.
This Silk Road teaches people to learn with mutual respect that despite our different backgrounds and upbringings, there are some fundamental values we all hold dear, some basic principles we all respect, and certain core understanding we all embrace.
The purpose of this Silk Road is not to establish an empire of might but to extend our empire of minds.
A China Dream. A very famous Chinese, Sun Yat-sen, once had this dream. He said, “Once our goal of modernizing China is accomplished, the dawn of a new century will shine upon our beautiful country, and the whole of humanity will enjoy a more brilliant future.” And last year was the 150th anniversary of Sun Yat-sen’s birthday. So we here quote him. And Sun Yat-sen drew his Three People’s Principles from Abe Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and also drew from Henry George’s philosophy of man.
Let me take one minute to tell you about Sun Yat-sen. Sun Yat-sen’s Three People’s Principles, enshrines the throne, and the purpose of doing that is to establish a China which is free, which is prosperous, which is powerful. They say that China has to subscribe to a government of a country of the people, by the people and for the people. Of the people means, Nationalism. By the People means, Democracy. For the people, means improving people’s livelihood. And where he got those ideas, he got it from the Gettysburg Address, and from Henry George’s “Progress and Poverty.”
I hope you all know who Henry George is, right? No? He’s a very famous New Yorker. His funeral was the most important event in New York, in the first half of the last century.
Sun Yat-sen got his ideas of national democracy early on, before he overthrew the Qing Dynasty, when he formed the Tong Meng Hui and was first publishing Min Bao editorials. But it was in 1906 that he formulated this Three People’s Principles and put it in print.
First of all is Nationalism, is “of the people,” meaning its cultural identity. What makes Chinese Chinese? Therefore it was Chinese nationalism versus ethnic nationalism, and it’s a way of uniting all the 56 ethnicities of China. Not only the Hans, which make up the world’s largest tribe, but also others as well.
So he used nationalism to combine China, and formulated a China nationality. He was the first one who did that, and even the first flag of the Republic has five colors signifying the five major ethnicities in China.
The second one, “by the people,” is democracy, it means “People’s Power.” He probably separated those into the power of politics and the power of governance.
The power of politics is voting, in the national assembly; the power of people meaning to be able express their political wish and political choice.
There are four powers: Election, Recall, we call it impeachment; Initiative of new processes and new legislation, and Referendum, being reaffirmations of people’s choice.
And whereas the Power of governance, is really the combination of the Western three branches of government together with the Chinese traditional administrative traditions, traditions of education, and examinations as well.
Lastly is the People’s Welfare, this is “for the people.” For people in ancient Chinese, good government has to be righteous, be able to create wealth, improve the livelihoods, therefore producing a harmonious society.
For a lot of concerns about government, we’re talking about the two—creating wealth for the people, and improving the livelihood of the people. I won’t go into details on that.
But I also have a dream. I’m somewhat less known—there’s Sun Yat-sen, but “I have a dream. I have a dream of a cultural China, with ideas and values to inspire humanity. The redefinition of Chinese core values signifies the awakening of a modern humanity, and would eventually lead to another human Renaissance during modern times.”
As President Xi Jinping and President Obama at the Annenberg Retreat, exchanged views that “The Chinese Dream is interlinked with the American Dream, which is inclusive of the beautiful dream of the people from countries around the world.” And what’s that dream?
And this Chinese dream is not only the dream of 1.3 billion Chinese over 5,000 years. It is also A World Dream. It is a dream of Peace Under Heaven and the World as One. And this dream belongs to all of us. It belongs to you, and it belongs to me as well.
So, thank you. [applause]