Some Thoughts from Fellows on Topic of Next Month’s Global Dialogue

On Monday, some of our fellows convened on Zoom to mull over the implications of thinking about “civilizations” and our emerging global order.

The ideal of civilizational states as replacing the nation state system introduced in Europe as a way of ending the wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants is quite current in Russia and China.

The February 4, 2022 pact between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping contains the following paragraph:

The sides note that Russia and China as world powers with rich cultural and historical heritage have long-standing traditions of democracy, which rely on thousand-years of experience of development, broad popular support and consideration of the needs and interests of citizens. Russia and China guarantee their people the right to take part through various means and in various forms in the administration of the State and public life in accordance with the law. …The sides call on the international community to respect cultural and civilizational diversity and the rights of peoples of different countries to self-determination.

The Economist has concluded that:

Not unrelatedly perhaps, on June 2nd, Mr. Xi outlined his broadest-yet claim to rule, based on China’s exceptional culture.  He called China the only civilization to be uninterrupted over many millennia.  As if suggesting that convergence with liberal values would betray every dynasty that preceded him, Mr. Xi declared: “The fact that Chinese civilization is highly consistent is the fundamental reason why the Chinese nation must follow its own path.”  Because Chinese civilization is unusually uniform, Mr. Xi went on, different ethnic groups must be integrated and the nation unified: code for imposing Chinese culture on Tibet and other regions and for taking back Taiwan.  For anyone puzzled that a once-revolutionary party now calls itself the “faithful inheritor” of “excellent traditional culture” (plus a dose of Marxism), the People’s Daily weighed in with commentaries explaining why Mr. Xi’s emphasis on cultural confidence is vital in a perilous moment when “strategic opportunities, risks and challenges co-exist.”  Economic heft is not enough, the newspaper added.  If China’s economy develops, but its spirit is lost, “Can the country be called strong?”

Take a step back and Mr. Xi is crafting an appeal to what might be termed civilizational legitimacy. 

I attach here a summary of comments from the fellow’s meeting for your review.

It seems that the scope of problem-solving we will attempt at the Global Dialogue is indeed global and timely.  I hope you can join us.

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