Dialogue between Asian civilisations key in facing challenges towards achieving peace, development

|     Lyna Mohamad in Beijing, China     |

ASIAN countries were invited to the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilization (CDAC) that took place on May 15, 2019 at the China National Convention Centre in Beijing, China to promote tourism and boost the economy and enhance friendship.

The conference was officially opened by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who in his keynote address among all stressed the need for all countries to uphold equality and respect and abandon pride and prejudice to promote dialogue and harmonious co-existence among different civilisations.

As the attending member of the ASEAN Media delegates for the ASEAN-China Media Cooperation Forum representing Brunei Darussalam, I had the privilege to not only witness the conference’s opening but also attend the parallel panel on ‘Safeguarding the Diversity of Asian Civilisations’ organised by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

President Xi also called on all countries to create conditions for other civilisations to develop while maintaining their own vibrancy and allow all civilisations of the world to fully bloom, adding that no clash of civilisation will surface as long as people are able to appreciate the beauty of them all.

He pointed out that there are only different civilisations, no superior or inferior civilisations, and that those who think their races or cultures are better and try to change or replace other cultures are wrong in their mindset and are doomed to fail, as every civilisation is rooted in its own soil which embodies the extraordinary wisdom and spiritual pursuit of a country and its own values.

“If countries are completely isolated from each other, human civilisation will lose its vitality,” said the President, adding that maintaining peace is a responsibility that every country should uphold as Asian people expect an Asia of peace, common prosperity, openness and integration, and that seeking goodwill with neighbours and harmony with all nations is the Chinese way of engaging with the world.

China’s President Xi Jinping with world leaders and ministers from representing countries in a group photo. – PHOTO COURTESY OF CHINA DAILY
A group photo taken at the entrance of the China National Convention Centre
ASEAN media members at the dialogue session
Senior Advisor to the President of Afghanistan Fazel Karim Fazel. – PHOTOS: LYNA MOHAMAD
Former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Yasushi Akashi
The opening performance at the Asian Culture Carnival

Following the opening, we as ASEAN media delegates invited by the host – the State Council Information Office of China – were divided into groups for the six parallel sub-forums panel around the theme of Asian civilisation exchanges and mutual understanding.

Themed ‘Pooling the Wisdom of Diverse Civilisations for a Beautiful Asia’, the topics of the parallel session focussed on topics on Asian wisdom to promote political advancement, Asian solutions to benefit the people, and Asian community with a shared future.

One of the speakers, Senior Advisor to the President of Afghanistan Fazel Karim Fazel, upon touching on Asian wisdom to promote political advancement highlighted that the proposition to build a community of shared future for mankind and Asian countries are direct response to global trends and the universal need for world peace.

This, he added, reflects the global efforts to address various challenges and from the global perspective, some fundamental questions concerning the future of mankind such as ‘What is wrong with the world?” and “What can we do?” can be answered by working together.

“Asian countries should work together and establish a relation to promote economic, political and security cooperation with each other,” he said. “Our region is facing lots of problems and challenges such as border disputes, human trafficking, natural and man-made disasters, and the most important challenge which is cross-border terrorism and insurgencies.”

On this note, Fazel Karim Fazel pointed out that it‘s important to find joint responses to the challenges mentioned by boosting the relation between the countries in the region, while a comprehensive governance concept that advocates lasting peace and universal security is required.

He said that regional countries should work on new concepts of global order, security, development and civilisation, hence pave the ground for China’s positive participation in Asian countries governance and creating realistic values for promoting lasting peace, stability and development in the region.

He added that the concept should promote world peace and common development and prosperity for all countries, identifying new dimensions in the common interests and values of mankind, and looking for new ways to handle multiple challenges through cooperation among countries and realising inclusive development.

What should become universal features of these programmes of international development are accountability, transparency, participation and inclusion.

With some Asian countries having suffered heavily from poor governance, social unrest and violence – partly due to the interference of superpowers and terrorism – people have paid a big price for the uncertainties that have hindered development.

Fazel Karim Fazel said, “The question remains as to what is wrong with this part of the world? Issues concerning the regional countries like peace and security issues, the refugees, terrorism, and issues affecting economic and social progress, are all linked with the underlying questions of global governance.

“Therefore, by working together we will learn from others to make up for our shortcomings, and advance human civilisation, promote mutually beneficial cooperation, raise awareness about human beings sharing a community of common destiny.”

He added that a country should accommodate the legitimate concerns of others when pursuing its own interests; it should promote common development of all countries when advancing its own development and countries should establish a new type of global development partnership that is more equitable and balanced, stick together in times of difficulty, both share rights and shoulder obligations, and boost the common interests of mankind.

“China is and should participate actively in developing the international governance system, work with the people of all countries in the region, pushing the international order towards equitable direction, preserving world peace and promoting common development, contributing to global development and safeguarding the international order,” he stated.

“China should seek a broader convergence of interests with all countries, with a view to establishing a new model of international relations based on mutually beneficial cooperation, and forming a community of shared future and interests for all mankind.”

Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (2016-2018) Rashid Alimov, Doctor of Political Sciences, meanwhile noted that the conference will without a doubt make its valuable

contribution to the rapprochement of the people of Asia, their rich cultures and civilisations through broad dialogue and cooperation. During a period of fundamental changes in the system of international relations, such a dialogue is especially valuable as it has great political and moral significance.

With the high-level Belt and Road International Conference completing its work in Beijing weeks before the conference, he said the conference can be considered as a logical continuation of the global discussion because the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative is essentially a civilisational project and is of great importance for overall sustainable development.

The conference also acted as a global dialogue platform, where the voice of each country and organisation was heard, and the voiced constructive proposals would form the basis for further joint actions.

Rashid Alimov also highlighted on the main objective, which is those who supported the initiative became part of a powerful creative process that, through dialogue, can and will change the world for the better.

He said the dialogue between Asian civilisations is the best answer in the fight against the most dangerous enemies of mankind, especially with international terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking and climate change, and relying on a mutually respectful dialogue will allow us to more actively develop cooperation in the fields of security, economy and culture.

He added that the dialogue between Asian civilisations has never ceased and has its deep roots, and that this should be recognised.

“Numerous people of Asia are products of different original cultures, but a common human history. The humanitarian space of the Asian continent is associated with the names of the greatest thinkers, eminent pioneers in science who have made an invaluable contribution to the development of human civilisation,” he said.

“Every third object from the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list is located in Asia (1,092 objects in total; 314 in Asia). Asia is the cradle of all the major religions of the world: Buddhism and Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In this regard, the role of inter-cultural and inter-faith dialogue in Asia is objectively increasing.”

The world is witnessing how an active process of expanding and deepening trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties is under way in the vast expanses of Asia; the transport interconnectedness of Asian countries is being strengthened while the pace of economic development in Asia is impressive.

Rashid Alimov said that of the top three largest economies in the world, two are Asian countries, namely China and Japan, while in terms of coverage with modern communication networks, Asian countries are again among the leaders, which are the Republic of Korea and Japan.

“At the same time, in spite of some outstanding figures, in Asia there is a high level of inequality both between and within countries,” he said. “Every fourth landlocked country in the world is in Asia. The level of their economic development is significantly constrained by the remoteness of seaports. In some countries of Asia, internal conflicts continue to smolder, the settlement of which is possible only by political and diplomatic means.”

Rashid Alimov further stressed that with the level of terrorist threat as not decreasing, this greatly increases the demand for the establishment and development of dialogue in Asia, and on the Asian continent, there are many dialogue sites.

He pointed out that about 20 regional international organisations can be attributed to them, where among them are reputable ones such as ASEAN and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), adding that each plays an important role in building mutual trust in Asia.

He said, “In my opinion, there is a need to organise a joint meeting of the leaders of these organisations to discuss topical issues in Asia. This form of dialogue on a regular basis could also help to maintain and strengthen joint efforts to ensure peace and maintain security, strengthen friendship among the people of Asia and mutually beneficial cooperation.”

Former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Yasushi Akashi highlighted on doing more to enhance Asia’s horizontal interaction.

He said, “Asia constitutes a vital part of the world which continues to develop in a largely positive direction. We rejoice in the fact that the countries we come from are closer together than ever before in many different fields, resolving or alleviating many problems and challenges we face.

“Barriers which separate us are constantly being lowered in the common interest of peace and cooperation. It is our joint responsibility to keep it productive, vigorous, safe as well as harmonious.”

Asia has been afflicted by all kinds of problems, conflicts and wars in the past and has experienced countless sufferings and cruelties, although there have also been many instances of heart-warming cooperation and mutual help.

This, according to Yasushi Akashi, is partly because Asia is so immensely large and diverse and it is still lagging behind other regions in several areas.

“Meeting in China today, we are made keenly aware of this country’s incredibly long and rich history and countless achievements in philosophy, religion, art, literature, drama, architecture, buildings, many inventions and creations by the Chinese people,” he said.

However, Asia has been invaded and inflicted much damage and destruction by imperialism and barbarism of all kinds in the last several centuries, hence those concerned cannot and must not forget such acts of inhumanity while at the same time they are encouraged by the fact that tremendous progress has taken place to make their lives more pleasant and convenient (in short, more civilised).

Yasushi Akashi said, “Of course, we should not minimise the remaining challenges facing us in Asia. Let us pledge to resolve these problems together through negotiation, dialogue and cooperation, and not through force, coercion or violence.”

Following our long day at the CDAC, we were then ushered to Beijing’s National Stadium to witness the Asian Culture Carnival, hosted by China Media Group (CMG) in the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan.

With the theme of ‘Celebration of Youth, Dream of Asia’, the magnificent and diverse gala showcased the distinctive charm of Asian civilisations and Chinese civilisation through various art performances and high-tech stage effects with over 30,000 performers from 47 countries taking part in 15 performances at the celebration, including Brunei Darussalam.

The cast included famous performers from different countries, Asian youth leaders and world-class artists. The event opened with a spectacular performance of its theme song, ‘Our Asia’, sung by musicians and students from many different countries.