【Summary of Article】 Zhu Weilie: "China-Arab Cultural Exchanges Transcend ‘Clash of Civilizations’”


On July 6, 2018, Professor Zhu Weilie, Director of the Expert Committee of CARC, and Professor Ding Jun from the Institute of Middle East Studies published a commentary China-Arab Cultural Exchanges Transcend ‘Clash of Civilizations’” in the Reference News. The summary of the article is as follows:

The friendly cultural exchanges between China and the Arab countries have a long history and profound foundation. The ancient land and sea Silk Road closely links Chinese civilization and Arab civilization. For thousands of years, the cultural exchanges between the two great civilizations have written a historical story about the mutual understanding of human civilization and made great contributions to the cultural exchanges between the East and the West.

       Silk Road Connects Two Civilizations 

      This section introduces the long history of friendly exchanges between China and the Arab world. During the Tang and Song Dynasties(618-1279AD), China’s contacts with Arab countries had become increasingly close. In the middle and late Tang Dynasty, a large number of Arabs settled in China, studied Chinese culture, and began to integrate into Chinese society. The Silk Road still kept booming During the Yuan Dynasty(1270-1402AD). China's four great inventions, porcelain, textiles and other technologies had been passed down to the West, and then spread to Europe. Arab’s science and technology, culture and humanities were also introduced to China. At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644AD), the navigator Zheng He went to the Western Seas and visited countries along the Silk Road in the world, including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia and Egypt, which promoted friendly cultural exchanges between China and Arab countries. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, a group of Hui scholars such as Wang Daiyu and Liu Zhi emerged in China who promoted the exchanges and mutual learning of the two civilizations to the philosophical level. 

During the Republic of China era(1912-1949AD), many Chinese scholars continued to visit the Arab world along the Silk Road, to introduce Chinese culture to the local people and academic circles. After the founding of New China in 1949, China-Arab friendly cultural exchanges entered a new era. Since the reform and opening up, it has established diplomatic relations with all Arab countries. The cultural exchanges between China and Arab countries have developed deeply in terms of the quality and quantity of projects, which has effectively promoted the traditional friendship and political mutual trust between the two sides.

           Platform Built by China-Arab States Cooperation Forum

        In the 21st century, especially after the establishment of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in January 2004, Sino-Arab cultural exchanges entered the era of mushroom growth. The China-Arab States Cooperation Forum plays not only a leading role in promoting the strategic relationship of China-Arab comprehensive cooperation, but also builds a broad platform for China-Arab cultural exchanges and opens up a wide range of cooperation areas. In the past 14 years, the people-to-people exchanges between China and the Arab countries have increasingly developed. Various exchange activities have been brilliantly presented and remarkable results achieved unprecedentedly.

      In the field of education, China has established 12 Confucius Institutes and 4 Confucius Schools in 9 Arab countries. Since 2004, it has trained about 70,000 students, organized 4,952 cultural activities with nearly 680,000 people participated, 13336 people participated in the HSK.

     At the same time, China-Arab nongovernmental activities are also increasingly active. So far, it has successfully held the five China Arab Friendship Conferences, seven China-Arab Business Conferences, two China-Arab Women's Summits, and two China-Arab Countries Travel Business Conferences.

        The Belt and Road Initiative Adds Impetus

      In order to further and comprehensively promote the development of China-Arab relations in the new era, President Xi Jinping has delivered two important speeches. First, in June 2014, President Xi Jinping deeply explained the spirit of Silk Road peaceful cooperation, openness and tolerance, mutual learning and mutual benefit at the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of the China-Arab Cooperation Forum, and proposed the joint construction of China and Arab countries. The “Belt and Road” initiative emphasizes that the people-to-people exchange is an important part of the “Belt and Road” construction, and also a crucial basis. Second, in January 2016, President Xi Jinping clearly stated in the speech at the Arab League Headquarters that China and the Arab countries should adhere to the concept of action of peace, innovation, guidance, governance, and integration, in order to jointly promote the reunion of the two great nationalities. Over the years, the “Belt and Road initiative between China and Arab countries has been warmly welcomed and responded positively by the Arab countries. When we were in contact with the Arab countries, we felt that many Arab countries have been planning to link their development strategies with the “Belt and Road” initiative, which is also a hot topic and keen interest in the Arab academic circles, media and think tanks.

   As for promoting Sino-Arab cultural exchanges, the establishment of the “Belt and Road” initiative between China and Arab countries is also a valuable historical opportunity and a powerful driving force. In the China's Policy Document on Arab Countries issued in January 2016, it formulated a strategic plan for the sustainable development of Sino-Arab cultural exchanges and mutual understanding, stating that China is willing to work with Arab countries to promote the diversity of world civilizations, enhance cultural exchanges and mutual learning between different civilizations. It will further strengthen Sino-Arab cultural exchanges, promote cooperation in fields of science, education, culture, health, etc., enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the two sides, build bridges between the two nations of China and Arab, and jointly promote the development and progress of human civilization. It can be seen that cultural exchanges and mutual understanding of civilizations have become an important pillar of the “Belt and Road initiative in the new era.

      Facts have proved that in the short period of the “Belt and Road initiative, China and Arab countries have extensively carried out various forms of humanities exchanges and promoted mutual understanding of civilizations. Exchanges and cooperation in many fields have become more abundant and expanded.

           Adhering to the Silk Spirit to Face the Challenges

       In the long history, the Silk Road Spirit “peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit ”has always been the main theme of Sino-Arab exchanges. In the journey through time and space, the two nations of China and Arab communicate with great sincerity, work hard together in the struggle for national independence, help each other in the governance of country, and deepen the people-to-people exchanges. Both China and Arab countries are willing to actively commit themselves to transcending civilizations difference by friendly exchanges, and setting an example for exchanges and common symbiosis between different civilizations.

     However, we should also clearly see that there are still many difficulties and problems in the cultural exchanges between China and Arab countries. Such as shallow understanding of cultural differences, the social cognitive deficit is still outstanding, and the connotation of civilized dialogue needs to be further expanded, the cultural products exchanged between the two sides also need to continuously improve quality and be more grounded. In addition, international discourse hegemony is still clamoring for China threat theory, China expansion, Islamic threat theory, Islamic phobia, etc., from external interference, hindering the exchanges of Sino-Arab cooperation. These problems are actually inevitable in the process. We trust that as long as China and Arab countries adhere to the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, facing the future with sincere cooperation, the prospects for cultural exchanges between China and Arab countries will be extremely broad.

    Under the background of the “Belt and Road initiative between the two countries, the increasing political mutual trust and increasingly close economic and trade cooperation will undoubtedly inject a steady stream of momentum for the cultural exchanges between China and Arab countries, because the extension of “Belt and Road” is human communication. The Chinese and Arab people are willing to make greater contributions to construction of BRI, work together to promote the governance in the Middle East, and promote the building of a community of shared destiny.