GCI a truly multicultural concept

Xi’s Global Civilization Initiative shares Africa’s Ubuntu spirit in supporting all equally

Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and Chinese president, attends the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting via video link and delivers a keynote address in Beijing, March 15, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The Global Civilization Initiative, or GCI, proposed by President Xi Jinping advocates the common values of humanity at a time when some so-called democratic governments around the world are declining or stagnating in the face of a rapidly changing international situation.

Last month, Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, invited global leaders at the CPC in Dialogue with World Political Parties High-Level Meeting to promote peace and development by respecting the diversity of civilizations, advocating the common values of humanity, valuing the inheritance and innovation of civilizations, and strengthening international people-to-people exchanges and cooperation.

As a global public good, the GCI calls for the progress and prosperity of all civilizations. This is in contrast with the narrative of the “clash of civilizations” and the concept of the Thucydides Trap, which perpetuate, respectively, the notions that conflicts among civilizations will occur along the cultural fault lines of different societies and the rise of a new power must lead to a catastrophic conflict with the old power.

First, the GCI, a significant concept developed by humankind, is an antidote to retrogressive philosophies that have bedeviled global civilization for decades. The initiative establishes that peaceful development must not be a monopoly of a few countries or specific classes or segments of society. It must be shared prosperity.

Second, it underpins the idea of humanism rather than imperialism, meaning that every civilization must be treated with respect and dignity. If all people act with respect for others’ path to modernization, the global community will live in peace and harmony.

Third, the initiative advocates multilateralism. This form of multilateralism is more global in its outlook and is bringing the Northern and Southern hemispheres together to build a community with a shared future characterized by tolerance and cooperation.

Fourth, the initiative calls on all civilizations to embrace the notion of soft power when dealing with challenges affecting the various democracies in the world. Soft power is more appealing, as it uses the power of persuasion and dialogue rather than threats, coercion or the use of military power. Today, China is using the approach of soft power to persuade the world to respect other civilizations’ forms of democracy and their path to modernization and to uphold the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness.

Fifth, the initiative espouses that no civilization is greater than any other. As Xi noted, there are many ways to achieve democracy. The true barrier to democracy lies not in different models of democracy, but in arrogance, prejudice and hostility toward other countries’ attempts to explore their own paths to democracy, and in assumed superiority and the determination to impose one’s own model of democracy on others. Thus, the GCI calls on developed and developing countries to respect the diversity of world civilizations.

Last but not least, the initiative encompasses the same spirit as Ubuntu, an African philosophy that holds that “I am because you are”. Knowing that we live in an interconnected society, we need each other. The notion of a superiority complex regarding other civilizations must be rejected. 

Therefore, different civilizations can coexist and support each other in the wake of the devastating impacts of climate change, a looming global recession, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of protectionism and nationalism, and conflicts in different regions.

The GCI is a transformative public good, a custodian of humanism to advance modernization among different civilizations, and the epitome of globalization.

The author is executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Africa Policy Institute in Kenya. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.