Cultural Exchange

Cultural Exchange under the “Belt and Road” Initiative

Cultural exchange is the soul of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Cultural exchange requires dialogues on an equal footing, mutual respect and learning, openness and inclusiveness. To this end, we should speed up building cultural infrastructure, diversify the channels and enrich the contents of cultural exchanges, to well present the stories and voices along the Belt and Road.

General Secretary Xi Jingping pointed out that, “A strong and prosperous nation or state is always supported by rich culture. It is no doubt that the Chinese nation needs to proper its culture to achieve the great rejuvenation.” The Belt and Road brings new opportunities for China-foreign exchanges, enhances mutual understanding and friendship between peoples, and facilitates regional cooperation and common progress. In turn, Chinese culture will develop and go global.

I. Bright Future for Cultural Exchange

Belt and Road roots in history and culture. Culture is the key driver for comprehensive and multi-field cooperation and exchange between China and countries along the route.

People-to-people connections will be enhanced through cultural exchanges. The Belt and Road crosses nations with disparate religions, political stances, interests and concerns, and patterns of action. Close relationship between two peoples requires close relations between the two countries; and good faith is needed for genuine friendship. To this end, nothing is more efficacious than cultural exchange to convey good faith, as the power of culture transcends space and time. We should let cultural exchange play a positive role in guiding and integrating things, and give a full play toits imagination, creativity and influence, to convey the history and culture, political status quo, and interests and concerns of the countries along the Belt and Road. In this way, we turn prejudice and disagreement into mutual understanding, and consolidate the social foundation of people’s will.

Win-win cooperation will be guaranteed. In recent years, terrorism, splittism and extremism are increasingly rampant in Eurasian regions. Some countries along the “21st Century Maritime Silk Road” are still in the middle of disputes over the sovereignty of certain territorial waters, islands and ocean. Against this backdrop, we need cultural and people-to-people exchanges to forge ahead win-win cooperation under the BRI. Cultural exchange is a future-oriented channel that warms people’s heart incrementally and imperceptibly. We should use culture as a bridge and guide to strengthen international multi-field exchange despite religion and social class. Culture should serve as lubricant and catalyst for cooperation in such areas as politics, trade and economy, military affairs and society, so as to boost win-win cooperation and common development among countries along the route.

China’s image will be improved. Historical resources of the ancient Silk Road enables China to establish new partnerships with countries along the route and jointly build a community of shared interest, responsibilities and destiny that features political mutual trust, economic integration, and cultural inclusiveness. For this purpose, we need to put ourselves in others’ shoes, improving mutual understanding and respect through cross-cultural exchanges. We will update our image as a major country in the world and enrich human civilization with Chinese wisdom. At the same time, we should enhance our presence in the international arena while becoming more friendly by inclusively sharing China’s development and achievements with the world through the BRI.

Upholding the Principles for Cultural Exchanges

Cultural exchange colors the world and enables all human beings to live together in a more peaceful community. Genuine exchange requires the following three principles: dialogues on an equal footing, mutual respect and learning, inclusiveness and openness.

Equality is a prerequisite for cultural exchange. As a saying goes, “Diversity is in the nature of things.” Cultural tradition and development path of every country and nation is unique enough to be an indispensable brick to the edifice of the thousands-year-old human civilization. They are all spiritual treasure to the world and humanity. Countries and nations may differ in size or influence, but their cultures are all equally important, just as all UN member countries have equal say. 

Mutual respect is necessary. Countries may in different stages of scientific, technological and economic development, but their cultures are never to be tagged as “advanced” or “backward”, because all of them are profound and colorful. The Chinese nation always treats peoples who treat us in the same way. We respect all cultures and traditions along the Belt and Road, and will never act like some western countries who impose “universal values” on other so-called “uncivilized” nations.  

Mutual learning is important. Various civilizations along the route need not only to be passed on, but also improvement by learning from one another with open and acceptive mind. We progress when we reinforce the weak links by learning from others’ strong points. This is what ancient China did. We benefited greatly from exchange with Western Regions, ranging from foods like pomegranate, grape and carrot, to music like five out of the ten famous pieces of Tang music. During cultural exchanges, it should be kept in mind that we need to learn from each other rather than repulsing other cultures. Nor should we enshrine our established authority and stop exploring. 

Finding More Ways for Cultural Exchange

Culture should be the priority of the BRI. We should foster an awareness that culture is a driver for economic development, and we are responsible for pass on the traditions and innovate modern culture. We strive for regional common development and win-win cooperation by deepening cultural exchanges among the Belt and Road countries.

We should speed up the construction of cultural infrastructure. We need to research and make use of available infrastructure before accommodating our standards of relative technologies to target countries and laying down demonstrative rules. Infrastructure for cultural exchange, especially the connectivity of the Internet should be improved at a higher speed. With cultural innovation at the core, we will consolidate the base for cross-border cultural exchange along the route by building platforms for investment, financing and trade to facilitate cultural exchange services such as R&D of innovation, protection and utilization of heritage, delivery of goods and resources. Meanwhile, we will build platforms for the cooperation of cultural industry w different values.

We will diversify the channels and enrich the contents of cultural exchange. Apart from such traditional forms as artist programs, press and publications, films and television, exhibitions of cultural relics, we should explore new channels: education, science and technology, tourism, academic exchange, IPR protection, etc. We need to tap into and carry forward the available cultural resources, and at the same time advance with the tide of human progress, breaking new ground via new path. Equal and two-way interaction will lead to common course and a solid cultural foundation for people-to-people exchange.

We should create high-quality and innovative cultural products. Special and diverse cultural products are messagers for cultural exchange. The key for this kind of products is product-centered and innovative technologies, commercial patterns and resources. Therefore, we need to create our own brands of cultural products by making full use of the “going global” and “inviting in” policy. Besides various fascinating forums, exhibitions, shows and trade, we also need the Internet and other new media. The history and spirit of the Belt and Road will be passed on through such new channels as film and television, book, music, animation, and online-game. The route itself will be an vital link to boost the development of countries concerned.

We should well present the stories and voices along the Belt and Road to the world. One of the best ways to bridge cultural gaps is to tell people the stories along the routes and expound the values and universal influence the stories carry, in the language and manner familiar to the people. We need to tell the international community the principles of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration, as well as the spirit of peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. Only in this way can we well present the stories and voices along the Belt and Road, promote and export our fascinating culture that embodies the time. Only in this way can we gain more say and presence in the international arena to further develop the Belt and Road. (Original article from People’s Daily, translated by Xiang Yueyi with the Cultural Exchange Organization of Presenting China to the World.)