‘No clash’ of civilizations: Xi Jinping

‘NON-THREATENING’::The Chinese president touted the nation’s openness and denounced a US official’s comment on racial and cultural superiority as ‘stupid’

AFP and Reuters, BEIJING

Thu, May 16, 2019 - Page 5

Saying there was “no clash” of civilizations, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday denounced racial supremacy as “stupid” amid tensions with the US and concerns over Beijing’s rising global power.

His remarks came after a top US official last month described the rivalry between China and the US as “a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology.”

Kiron Skinner, the director of policy planning at the US Department of State, put it in racial terms, telling a security forum that China was the first US “great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”

“Thinking that one’s own race and culture are superior, and insisting on transforming or even replacing other civilizations is stupid in its understanding and disastrous in practice,” Xi said at the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in Beijing.

It was Xi’s first public address since trade tensions with the US spiked last week. The two nations are locked in an escalating trade dispute, with both levying tariffs on each other’s imports.

Beijing on Monday announced higher tariffs on US$60 billion of US goods, effective on June 1, in retaliation for a US decision on Friday last week to raise levies on US$200 billion of Chinese imports.

Just before Xi spoke, the government reported surprisingly weaker growth in retail sales and industrial output for last month.

Xi made no direct reference to the trade tension, focusing instead on presenting China as a non-threatening country open to all.

China has a glorious history of being open to the world and it would only be more open, Xi said.

Chinese civilization was an “open system” that had continuously had exchanges and learned from other cultures, including Buddhism, Marxism and Islam, he said.

“Today’s China is not only China’s China. It is Asia’s China and the world’s China. China in the future will take on an even more open stance to embrace the world,” he added.

No country could stand alone, Xi said, perhaps taking an indirect swipe at US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy.

“Civilizations will lose vitality if countries go back to isolation and cut themselves off from the rest of the world,” Xi said.

“The people of Asian countries hope to distance themselves from being closed, and hope that all countries will adhere to the spirit of openness and promote policy communication, connectivity and smooth trade.”

Xi offered no new concrete measures to open China up, aside from proposing an Asia tourism promotion plan, and even on that he gave no details.

Officials have billed the forum as part of a soft power push to put a gentler face on China’s growing might, though it only attracted a handful of foreign leaders to the opening session, at which Xi spoke, including the presidents of Greece, Sri Lanka and Singapore.