Scholarly article on topic 'On the Clash and Coexistence of Human Civilizations'

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Academic research paper on topic "On the Clash and Coexistence of Human Civilizations"

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ELSEVIER Procedía Social and Behavioral Sciences 2 (2010) 7381-7391 _

Selected Papers of Beijing Forum 2008

On the Clash and Coexistence of Human Civilizations

Tang Yijie

Professor, Peking University

I "The Clash of Civilizations" and the "New Empire" Theory

In 1993, an essay entitled "Clash of Civilizations?" was published on the summer issue of Foreign Affairs, U.S.A., by Samuel Hungtington. In 1994, I criticized the American Hegemonism represented by Hungtington in an essay titled as "On Hungtington's Clash of Civilizations?", published in Philosophical Studies1. Between the publications of the two essays, Hungtington's theory was widely discussed and criticized in all aspects by many scholars at home and abroad. To respond to these challenges as well as to amplify and revise his own theory, Hungtington published his chef d'oeuvre, The Clash of Civilizations and Remaking of World Order, in 1996, which had marked some changes in his arguments; for example, in the Foreword to the Chinese translation, he writes: "The global politics, for the first time in human history, has become multipolar and multicultural." iiIn the section of "The Commonalities of Civilization," he points out:

Some Americans have promoted multiculturalism at home; some have promoted universalism abroad; and some have done both. Multiculturalism at home threatens the United States and the West; universalism abroad threatens the West and the world. Both deny the uniqueness of Western culture. The global monoculturalists want to make the world like America. The domestic multiculturalists want to make America like the world. A multicultural America is impossible because a non-Western America is not American. A multicultural world is unavoidable because global empire is impossible. The preservation of the United States and the West requires the renewal of Western identity. The security of the world requires acceptance of global multiculturality.iii

Though there are still some arguable points in the above-quoted paragraph, the opinion that "the security of the world requires acceptance of global multiculturality" is undoubtedly prudent enough. Why did this change occur in Hungtington's point of view? It was because he had felt the global challenges and threats endangering the Western (or American de facto) hegemony, and the domestic problems of racism and the like, that he proposed the "remaking of world order." In the section of "Renewal of the West?" Hungtington claims:

The West obviously differs from all other civilizations that have ever existed in that it has had an overwhelming impact on all other civilizations that have existed since 1500. It also inaugurated the process of modernization and industrialization that have become worldwide, and as a result societies in all other civilizations have been attempting to catch up with the West in wealth and modernity. Do these characters of the West, however, mean that its evolution and dynamics as a civilization are fundamentally different from the patterns that have prevailed in all other civilizations? The evidence of history and the judgments of the scholars of the comparative history of civilizations suggest otherwise. The development of the West to date has not deviated significantly from the evolutionary patterns common to civilizations throughout history. The Islamic Resurgence and the economic dynamism of Asia demonstrate that other civilizations are alive and well and at least potentially threatening to the West. A major war involving the West and the core states of other civilizations is not inevitable, but it could happen. Alternatively the gradual and irregular decline of the West which started in the early twentieth century could continue for decades and perhaps centuries to come. Or the West could go through a period of revival, reverse its

1877-0428 © 2010 Beijing Forum. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.05.101

declining influence in world affairs, and reconfirm its position as the leader whom other civilizations follow and imitate. lv

We conclude from the above quotation that, on one hand, Hungtington has felt "the gradual and irregular decline" of the Western leadership in the world and the potential threat to the West coming from those countries undergoing or having undergone the process of modernization and industrialization by imitating the West. Surely this is a reality unacceptable for him and some other Western scholars, especially for certain political leaders (Mr. George W. Bush, the current American president, for instance), involved with an unsolvable complex of theirs: why do those resurgent Islamic movements or rising Asian countries which have accepted the western way of modernization and industrialization become a threat to the West instead? According to their reasoning, these countries should and could only play the role of Western adherents or loyal subjects in all spheres, especially in politics and culture. Nevertheless, the reality contradicts their expectations, resulting consequently in an anxiety in the Western mind. On the other hand, the deep-seated dream Hungtington really cherishes is the "renewal of the West," to "reconfirm its position as the leader whom other civilizations follow and imitate." The performance of the Bush administration after "9.11" incident can be regarded from this standpoint as an attempt to reconfirm American hegemonic leadership on other civilizations.

After Hungtington's The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, another book, Empire—A Global Political Order, coauthored by Antonio Negri (Italy) and Michael Handt (U.S.A.), was published in 2000. The basic judgment of this work on current global situation is as follows: "Empire is materializing before our very eyes"; it presents its rule as a regime with no territorial or temporal boundaries; "this new global form of sovereignty is what we call Empire," "the political subject that effectively regulates these global exchanges, the sovereign power that governs the world."v Embracing this doctrine, many scholars in the United States propagate the "New Empire" theories. For example, John J. Mearsheimer, professor of politics in the University of Chicago, put forward in his Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York, 2002) the following theory: as every state seeks the maximization of its share of world power, no balancing structure could exist, and the best defense is to offend (which provides a theoretical basis for President Bush's "Preemptive Strike" theory). Another "post-modern state" theorist is Robert Cooper, Foreign Office adviser of British prime minister Tony Blaire, who divides all states into three types: first, post-modern states, e.g. North American and European countries and Japan; second, modern states, i.e. nation-states like China, India, Brazil and Pakistan; third, pre-modern states, e.g. African and Middle East countries and Afghanistan. A concept put forward and reiterated by Cooper is "New Imperialism," which means: post-modern states should use their national power (including military power) to control modern states, meanwhile to contain the barbaric acts in pre-modern states such as mass slaughter. viMore aggressive still, the American neoconservatists in the 21st century have advocated three core creeds: 1. the extreme adoration of military force; 2. the claim of an American "benign hegemony"; 3. the emphasis on the exportation of American democracy and values. In accordance with this tone, President George W. Bush delivered his speech at the commencement of West Point on June 1, 2002, which could be summarized as three basic principles: first, America should maintain its power of "preemptive strike"; second, American values are universal; third, the United States should maintain an unchallengeable military force.™ This "New Empire" doctrine would inevitably arouse "clashes" among the states and nations of other civilizations, and its central rhetoric has already been echoed by Hungtington's theory of the "clash of civilizations." Two basic proposals are made in the latter's "Clash of Civilizations?": 1. to "limit the expansion of the military strength in Islamic and Confucian states"; to "maintain the military superiority of the West in East and Southwest Asia"; to "exploit the differences and conflicts among Islamic and Confucian states"; 2. to "strengthen international institutions that reflect and legitimate Western interests and values and to promote the involvement of non-Western states in those institutions."vm From these proposals we conclude that because of the "clashes of civilizations" kindled by the West, headed by the United States, on cultural differences (values, for example), the world has become a pandemonium with the upgrading of regional wars.

Should civilizations survive only in "clashes," in order to materialize the universal "New Empire" doctrine? Why couldn't they "coexist" in peace?

II "Coexistence of Civilizations" and New Axial Age

Human history has recorded enough cases of clashes caused by cultural (or religious) differences among states, nations or regions. Nevertheless, in view of the general tendency of history, we find that the development of

civilizations among different states, nations and regions should be dominated by mutual absorption and convergence. In my opinion, most conflicts among these states, nations and regions were not provoked by cultural differences. As my knowledge about Western culture (both civilization and culture concern with a comprehensive life style of a nation, thus civilization is a magnified culture) is limited, I am not authoritative enough to speak on this issue, here I would like to quote Bertrand Russell to justify a proposition that the present Western civilization is formed by absorbing and syncretizing several cultural elements. In 1922, after Russell's visit to China, he wrote in an essay titled as "Chinese and Western Civilization Contrasted" the following words:

Contacts between different civilizations have often in the past proved to be landmarks in human progress. Greece learnt from Egypt, Rome from Greece, the Arabs from the Roman Empire, medieval Europe from the Arabs, and Renaissance Europe from the Byzantines.K

Though it might be arguable whether Russell was accurate enough on every point of his views, two of which, however, are undoubtedly correct: 1. contacts between different cultures are important dynamics for the progress of human civilizations; 2. the European culture today has absorbed many elements from other national cultures, including some from the Arabian. Another observation based on the progress of Chinese culture would be even more forceful to prove that clashes of civilizations are always temporal, whereas mutual absorption and convergence are far more important.

In Spring-and-Autumn and Warring States periods, different local cultures existed in China, including Central Area (Henan) culture, Qi-Lu (Shangdong) culture, Qinlong (Shanxi) culture, Jinchu (Southern) culture, Wu-Yue (South-east) culture and Ba-Shu (South-west) culture. All of them were amalgamated later into a generally unified Chinese (Huaxia) culture. The possibility of the coexistence of two cultures would be especially illuminated by the importation of Indian Buddhism in the first century A.D. Buddhism culture spread in China peacefully; its cultural differences with indigenous Confucianism or Taoism had never brought their disciples into war. Only on three occasions had the Chinese imperial courts suppressed Buddhism, which were caused without exception by political or economic factors. Generally speaking, Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist cultures coexist well in China. A famous French sinologist (Kristofer Schipper) once asked me: "Why is China multicultural?" I pondered for a while and then answered, perhaps there are two reasons: First, from the ideological point of view, the Chinese always advocates "harmony in diversity" (fPM^I^), i.e. the harmonious coexistence of diverse cultures. Secondly, in terms of political systems, the Chinese emperor was the highest authority dominating the fates of religious, philosophical and ethical cultures in China. For the sake of social stability, the emperor did not want to see conflicts or wars provoked by cultural differences. Thus he usually sponsored the "debate of three schools," summoning the representatives of Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist scholars to debate in imperial court, arbitrating their respective statuses according to the degree of success in debate, instead of allowing any conflicts or even wars.

From the above arguments and historical experiences, I conclude that Hungtington's "clash of civilizations" theory is, at any rate, ex parte, serving merely for American international politics. He says as follows:

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in the new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.x

Hungtington's observation is insightful in certain cases, such as Palestinian-Israel conflict in the Middle East, Kosovo conflict, or even the Iraqi War, where some cultural (religious and ethical) elements catalyzed the outbursts of wars. Yet in closer analysis, the basic causes of wars or conflicts are not cultural, but political and economic: Palestinian-Israel conflict was a contest for regional hegemony, Iraqi War was mainly for oil, and Kosovo conflict for the strategies of power politics. But on the other hand, cultural differences have not provoked conflicts between many nations, such as in Sino-Indian, Sino-Russian, or even Sino-European relations. In fact, there have been no serious conflicts or wars (for whatever reason) between them, especially in the last decade. Thus the "clash of civilizations" theory hardly fits the present global situation, nor will it be the future perspective of mankind. Instead, the "coexistence of civilizations" should be the only outlet for human society, and a future goal we should strive for.

Perhaps a clearer picture of our age may help to illuminate this problem. In my opinion, we find ourselves in a New Axial Age.

The idea of Axial Age was proposed by German philosopher Karl Jaspers (18831969). According to his theory, around 500 B.C., great thinkers appeared almost simultaneously in Ancient Greece, Israel, India and China, and they

contributed their original ideas to the solution of the problems which are of great concern to humankind. Distinctive cultural traditions were then formed respectively by Socrates and Plato in Ancient Greece, Laozi and Confucius in China, Sakyamuni in India, and Jewish prophets in Israel, which, after more than two thousand years of progress, have become the principle part of human intellectual wealth. These regional cultural traditions were independent in their births and developments, without mutual influence. "Until today mankind has lived by what happened during the Axial Period, by what was thought and created during that period. In each new upward flight it returns in recollection to this period and is fired anew by it. Even since then it has been the case that recollections and reawakenings of the potentialities of the Axial Period—renaissances—afford a spiritual impetus."" For example, the Europeans in Renaissance had traced the origin of their culture back to Ancient Greece, which had rekindled the European civilization and left its mark in world history. Similarly, the Song and Ming Neo-Confucian thinkers in China, stimulated by the impacts of Indian Buddhism, rediscovered Confucius and Mencius of the pre-Qin Period, and elevated the indigenous Chinese philosophy to a new height. In a certain sense, the current development of world multiculturalism might become a new leap forward on the basis of the Axial Age 2000 years ago. Has the contemporary human cultures created, or will create, a New Axial Age? Judging from certain evidences, we may well draw such a conclusion.

First of all, since World War II, with the gradual collapse of colonialism, the once colonized and oppressed nations have taken upon themselves an urgent task to re-affirm their independent identities by all means. Their unique cultures (such as languages, religions and social values) were the most important means for this justification. We know that Malaysia after World War II insisted on using Malay as their national tongue to emphasize the nation's unification; and after the establishment of Israel, the Israeli decided to revive Hebrew as a vernacular, though for a long period of time in the past, Hebrew had only been used in religious ceremonies. "The central elements of any culture or civilization are language and religion.""11 Some political leaders and scholars in Eastern countries also put forward the "Asian values" centered on community to distinguish themselves from the Western "universal values" centered on individual. So on and so forth. Even Hungtington began to understand that "non-Western civilizations generally are re-affirming the value of their own cultures."xin

Secondly, the Axial Age around 500 B.C. was a time when axial civilizations entered the Iron Age, and a time of great leaps forward in productivity, which in consequence produced great thinkers. Now we have entered the Information Age, when another great leap forward in human society is just happening. Because of the economic globalization, the integration of science and technology, and the progress of information network, different regions all over the world are tightly connected, and local cultural progress could no longer be independent as they once were in the "Axial Age" two thousand years ago. Instead, they will be developed in the midst of discords, conflicts, and through mutual influences or mutual absorptions. The self □ understanding of each culture is undoubtedly limited, as is described in a famous poem of Su Shi (10371101):

They know not Lushan Mountain's real face;

So long as they continue to stay in her embrace. xiv

This couplet tells us, a different perspective from another cultural system, i.e. from a cultural "other," might provide us with a more comprehensive view of our own culture. In an essay entitled "Why Is China Necessary for Us Westerners in Studying Philosophy?", Francois Jullien, a French scholar, writes: "We have chosen departure, which means a choice for leaving here, in order to create a space for thinking from a distant perspective. This detour in steady steps distinguishes itself from exoticism. We have made our trip traversing China in this manner in order to better understand Greece, which, though curtained off from our knowledge by a lapse of time, is something inborn and inherited by us through birthright. For the purpose of enhancing this perspective, we have to cut off this umbilical cord and constitute an exterior viewpoint."xv This kind of intercultural study in the spirit of intersubjectivity and inter-reference, together with its methodology ofjudging one's own culture from the standpoint of a culture "other," is gradually accepted by scholars at home and abroad. Why, then, should we understand our culture from another's perspective? Just because we desire to inherit and develop the cultural tradition of our own. In this case, it undoubtedly becomes a serious problem in how to preserve the proper traits of a culture and pass on its lifeline. As we know, economy can be globalized, science and technology can be integrated, but civilizations can never be monoculturalized. In the history of the progress of human society to date, it is neither possible nor wise enough for any culture to reject all external influences; but only when the essence of the target culture is sufficiently

digested could it better absorb foreign cultures to nourish its domestic culture. "When we keep in contacts and exchanges with Western world," Mr. Fei Xiaotong said, "we should make our own treasures part of the world cultural heritage. Indigenization first, globalization second."xvi That is to say, our own cultural root should be protected when learning from other cultures. Thus, the cultural progress in the 21st century concerning all human societies should be both national and universal.

Thirdly, judging from the status quo of human scoieties and cultures, a new pattern of cultural diversity with a global consciousness has already been formed or is still being formed. Perhaps the 21st century would be dominated by four principle cultural systems: the Euro-American, the East Asian, the South Asian, and the Islamic (Middle Eastern and North African). Each of the four cultures has a long tradition and a population of over a billion. Of course there are other cultures influencing the future of human society in the 21st century as well, for example, the Latin American and the African; nevertheless, at least in the present, the influence of these cultures are far less than that of the four principle cultures mentioned above. If human society hopes to terminate the present chaos, it should especially criticize the cultural Hegemonism and cultural Tribalism, it should not only face this new cultural Axial Age but also make unremitting efforts to promote the dialogues among states or nations belonging to different cultural traditions, in order to coordinate all the cultures into a project of solving the common problems challenging human society. Undoubtedly, the four principle cultures are burdened with a major responsibility for the current human society. At present, human society is standing on a historic turning point, and every nation or country should seriously reexamine its own culture in the historical perspective. This is especially true for those nations in Euro-American, East Asian, South Asian or Islamic cultural regions, because of the crucial functions they perform in contemporary human civilization. This kind of reexamination is surely quite necessary for the future of human society. The culture tradition is a reality de facto for every nation or state, especially for those nations and states with a long history and having crucial influence on contemporary human society, for it is deeply rooted in the hearts of its people, forming the spiritual prop of this particular nation or state.

Let us return to our own cultural tradition, make it a starting point, and seek in it the source of our power and our spiritual prop, in order to promote the development of our contemporary culture, and to solve the pressing problems existed in human society. In this sense, the Euro-American, East Asian, South Asian and Islamic cultures, with their long historical traditions, might help to promote the human society in the 21st century to the level of a "New Axial Age," comparable to the Axial Age 2,500 years ago. Different cultural traditions would subsist in this New Axial Age, each with a population too large to be eliminated—even with wars, there would be only little or temporary effects. Thus, in the long run, the coexistence of civilizations is predictable.

III Can Chinese Culture Make Contributions to the Coexistence of Civilizations?

If Chinese people want to make contributions to the "coexistence of civilizations" in contemporary human society, they must first know their own culture well, which means they must have a cultural self-consciousness. The so-called "cultural self-consciousness" refers to the fact that people in a certain cultural tradition can give serious consideration or make earnest reexamination of their own culture's origin, history, characteristics (including both merits and weakness) and its tendency of progress. It is fair to say that the Chinese nation is on the eve of a national renewal. To achieve this goal, we must have some self-knowledge about Chinese culture, make a proper estimation of its place in human civilizations, and try to ascertain the genuine spirit of this ancient culture, in order to present its true essence to contemporary human society. On the other hand, we must analyze the weak points of our own culture as well, to better absorb other cultures' essences, and to give a modern reinterpretation of Chinese culture, so that it can adapt to the general tendency in the development of modern society. Only in this way may our country become a vanguard in the development of a global culture, and create a brave new world together with other cultures.

Confucianism and Taoism were two principle schools of thinking in traditional Chinese culture, and generally considered to be complementary to each other. Of course, since Indian Buddhism was introduced into China, Buddhism has also played an important role in Chinese society and culture. Now I would like to discuss whether the Confucian and Taoist thinking can provide meaningful resources to the doctrine of "coexistence of civilizations."

1. The Confucian Doctrine of Ren benevolence, virtue) Is a Resource of Thinking with a Positive Meaning for the "Coexistence of Civilizations."

"The Way originates in Emotion" (^n^ts), as prescribed in "Destiny is the resource of Human nature" ('№§ a manuscript text in Guodian Bamboo Slips ( «fK^^M)) ). "The Way" here means "the Way of

Humanity" (A^), i.e. the principles in dealing with human (or in other words, social) relationships, which is different from "the Way of Heaven" (A^), i.e. the laws of nature or of universe. Human relationships are established on the basis of emotion, which is the starting point of the Confucian doctrine of Ren. Once a disciple named Fan Chi asked Confucius: "What is Ren?" The answer was: "To love people." Where is the origin of this idea—"to love people"? In The Doctrine of the Mean a saying of Confucius was quoted as: "Ren is the characteristic element of humanity, and the great exercise of it is in loving relatives."™ The spirit of Benevolence and Love (tS) is rooted in human nature, and to love one's relative is the most basic exercise of it. But the spirit of Ren goes far beyond this level. To quote Guodian Bamboo Slips: "To love and love deep, that is love; but to enlarge the love for one's father to the love for human being, that is Ren."xviii "The enlargement of filial piety is to love all the people below Heaven."xix From these sayings we observe that the Confucian Doctrine of Ren demands to enlarge "the love for relatives" to "the benevolence on people," i.e. to "enlarge one's self-concern to the concern for others" (ffifi^. A), to "treat with the reverence the elders in your own family, so that the elders in the families of others shall be similarly treated; treat with the kindness due to youth the young in your own family, so that the young in the families of others shall be similarly treated"xx- that is Ren. It is not easy to practice the doctrine of "enlarging one's self-concern to the concern for others," which requires a "practice of Ren" rooted in "the Way of Loyalty and Forgiveness" (i.e. "never do to others as you do not wish done on yourself,"xxi "wishing to be established himself, he seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others."™ ("Loyalty is the complete devotion of oneself; Forgiveness is the deduction of one's self-concern." A

If Ren is to be extended to the whole society, it would be as what Confucius once said: "To subdue one's self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue. If a junzi (^A: gentleman, nobleman) can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will return to Ren (after his example). Is the practice of Ren from a man himself, or is it from others?"™ "To subdue one's self' and "to return to propriety" are usually interpreted as two parallel teachings, but I do not consider this the best explanation of this doctrine. "To subdue one's self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue" actually means the behavior of "returning to propriety" based on the "subduing of one's self' can be regarded as Ren. Mr. Fei Xiaotong had his own interpretation about this doctrine: "Only after one has subdued one's self could one return to propriety. The return to propriety is prerequisite for one to enter the society and become a social man. Perhaps it is just on this point Western and Eastern civilizations have parted, that is, whether to expand or to subdue one's self."™ I think Mr. Fei's remark makes a lot of sense. Zhu Xi also had an exegesis on this doctrine. "To subdue means to conquer," he said, "and the self' means one's personal desires. To return means to restore, and the propriety' means the laws and patterns of the Principle of Heaven." According to this exegesis, one should subdue one's personal desires to abide by proprieties and social criteria. Ren is one's natural virtues ("Love is born in nature."™); and propriety is exterior conventions to rule one's behavior, the function of which is to adjust social relationships so that people could live in harmony, as is summed up in one of Confucius's old saying: "The most valuable function of propriety is harmony."xxvi Only if one abides by proprieties and social criteria willingly, i.e. by an innate will to love people, can one fulfill the demands of Ren. Thus Confucius asked: "Is the practice of Ren from a man himself, or is it from others?" He made a distinction between Ren and propriety: "If a man be without Ren, what has he to do with the rites of propriety? If a man be without Ren, what has he to do with music?"xxvii He who performs the rites or music without a heart of Benevolence and Love is a hypocrite, and is serving a purpose of cheating. It is in this sense that Confucius thought, if people would pursue Ren self-consciously and practice what a heart of Benevolence and Love demands according to the proprieties in everyday life, then harmony and peace would be achieved in a society, —"If a junzi can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will return to Ren." In my opinion, this teaching of Confucius is not totally meaningless for the political leaders of a state or the ruling class in developed countries (United States in particular). "The politics of Ren" (A®), or "the Way of a virtuous emperor" (i^) instead of "the Way of hegemony" is indispensable to "rule the state" (fnH) and to "harmonize all under Heaven" (AAT). If "the politics of Ren" or "the Way of a virtuous emperor" is practiced, different cultures would be able to coexist and develop in peace; while "the Way of hegemony" will bring forth the "clash of civilizations," resulting in monoculturalism and cultural Hegemonism. If Confucian doctrine of Ren is applied to the regulating of intercultural relationships, clash or war of civilizations will be avoided, and the coexistence of civilizations, achieved.

Of course, even the Confucian doctrine of Ren is no miracle drug to solve all the problems about the existence of civilizations in contemporary society. Nevertheless, as a set of moral self-regulations based on Benevolence and

Love, it would undoubtedly be of some practical significance to harmonize the coexistence of civilizations if practiced as a principle to regulate intercultural and cultural relationships.

It is not easy to make different cultures get along in harmony and thus to make states and nations in different cultural traditions coexist in peace. Probably the Confucian doctrine of "Harmony in Diversity" (fnM^|^)xxvul could provide us with an illuminating resource of thinking. According to Confucius, "The virtuous (junzi) get on in harmony without agreeing to each other; the base (xiaoren) agree with others without harmony."™ Junzi, as intellectuals with moral discipline practicing the Way of Loyalty and Forgiveness, should try to get on with others in harmony in spite of their different opinions; but those with no morality or discipline always force others to accept their opinions, thus could not maintain a harmonious relationship with others. If this doctrine of "Harmony in Diversity" could be applied as a principle in dealing with intercultural and cultural relationships, it can play a very positive role in resolving the conflicts among states or nations. It would be especially true in dealing with those discords and conflicts provoked by cultural differences (e.g. the differences in religious beliefs or social values) among states or nations, if we practice the teaching of "Harmony in Diversity" as principle to resolve these conflicts.

"Harmony" and "Sameness" are generally regarded as two different concepts in traditional Chinese thinking. There was even "a debate on the differences between Harmony and Sameness" in China's history. As a passage in Zuo-zhuan relates, once the Duke of Qi asked Yan-zi: "Is there only Ju who can get along with me in harmony?" The reply of Yan-zi was: "Ju merely expresses the same opinion with Your Highness, —how can it be called harmony?" "Is there any difference between Harmony and Sameness?" asked the Duke. "They are quite different," replied Yan-zi. "Harmony is like well-cooked dish, you must concoct fish and meat with water, fire, vinegar, sauce, salt and plum, and then cook the dish with firewood. The cook harmonizes these flavors to make it moderate. If it is too light, then salt should be added; if too salty, then water. When Junzi dines with such a dish, his heart would be pacified. This is analogous to the relationship between the King and his magistrates. But Ju is different from it. When Your Highness say that something is right, he agrees; when Your Highness say the opposite, he agrees as well. It is as if to moderate water with water, —who could tolerate to eat such a dish? Or as if a zither always plays the same tune, —who could tolerate to enjoy such music? This is why Sameness differs from Harmony." (

) Another saying of Shibo (ÜÓ) was recorded as follows: "In fact, only Harmony can activate the growth of lives, and Sameness would stop it on the contrary. Harmony is to moderate something with heterogeneous things—only in this way, the lives would flourish and find their belongings. If something is supplemented by homogeneous things, it can only be abandoned after its exhaustion. Thus the ancient virtuous emperors had concocted Earth with Metal, Wood, Water and Firexxx, to transform it into miscellaneous lives. "xxxi ( )

From the above quotations, we understand that Harmony and Sameness are totally different concepts. Only under the presupposition of difference and correlation could things "be moderated with heterogeneity," and the diverse things progress together in harmony with one another. "To supplement something with homogeneity" is to aggregate the sameness, which would only suffocate the lives. The supreme ideal of traditional Chinese culture is that "miscellaneous lives are nourished together without harming each other; miscellaneous ways are practiced together without counteracting each other."™" The "miscellaneous lives" and "miscellaneous ways" refer to Diversity; and the "without harming each other" and "without counteracting each other" refer to Harmony. This doctrine would provide us with inexhaustible resources of thinking for the coexistence of diverse cultures.

Now in Western countries, people of insight have already admitted the possibility of coexistence of civilizations, that the clash or war provoked by mere cultural differences should be avoided. They believe that different nations and states should be able to achieve common understanding through cultural exchanges, dialogues, and discussions. This would be a process moving from "Diversity" to mutual understanding. This mutual understanding is neither to extinct nor to assimilate the individual cultures, but to find a cross point in two different cultures and to use it as the basis to promote the progress of both cultures, —such is the function of "Harmony." It is just because of the differences of diverse cultures that human civilizations have become so colorful, and that the complementary and interactive setup is formed gradually in the ever-flowing river of human history. Cultural differences might lead to clashes or even wars, but not all differences are destined to cause clashes or wars. Especially in an era when science and technology are rapidly developing, a massive war, if it really happens, would easily destroy humankind itself. Thus we must endeavor to maintain a harmonious coexistence through intercultural dialogues. Many scholars at home and abroad have recognized the importance of mutual understanding achieved through dialogues between different cultures. Habermas, for instance, begins to emphasize the concepts of justice and solidarity. In my opinion, they are significant principles in dealing with international cultural relationships. Habermas's "Principle of Justice"

can be understood as follows: every national culture has a right to protect its independence and autonomy and to develop freely according to the will of its people. His "Principle of Solidarity," on the other hand, can be interpreted as an obligation to sympathize, understand and respect other national cultures. By uninterrupted dialogues and communication between different national cultures, there will be a time, sooner or later, when a positive cycle of interactions can be formed.xxxl11 Another advocator of this principle is Gadamer, the German philosopher who passed away only recently. He proposed that "understanding" should be extended to the level of "universal dialogue." Because of this extension, the relationship between subject and object (as cognitive or grammatical concepts) is possible to be transformed from inequality to equality; in other words, only when the dialogues are conducted on equal basis, can there be any meaningful dialogue and fruitful result. Gadarmer's consciousness of equality between subject and object and his theory of "cultural dialogue" are important ideas urgently needed in our time, xxxiv illuminating enough for us to understand properly and thoroughly the cultural or national relationships between China and other nations. Nevertheless, whether it is Habermas' principles of justice and solidarity or Gadamer's theory of universal dialogue, their common presupposition should be the principle of "Diversity in Harmony," since only when nations and states in different cultural traditions coexist in harmony through dialogues, can they acquire equal rights and obligations and only then the "universal dialogue" between them may become meaningful and fruitful. Thus, the Confucian principle of "Harmony in Diversity" based on the belief that "harmony is the most valuable"xxxv should be practiced as one of the basic principles in dealing with intercultural relationships. This principle, if adopted by all states and nations, would become a positive factor not only in eliminating the discords, conflicts and even wars, but also as a dynamics in promoting the development of all states and nations through exchange and communication. It is just in this sense that Bertrand Russell said: "Contacts between different civilizations have often in the past proved to be landmarks in human progress."xxxvi The contemporary human society needs different cultures to develop their traditional characters through mutual absorption and convergence, in order to bring about the coexistence of civilizations on a new basis.

2. The Taoist Doctrine of the Way (tao) Can Provide Significant Resources of Thinking to Prevent "the Clash of Civilizations."

If Confucius is a "man of virtue" (t#), then Lao-zi is a "man of wisdom" The Way is the fundamental

concept in Lao-zi's Tao Te Ching, while "the spontaneity and doing-nothing" to obey natural laws

without offences) are the basic features of the Way. "The spontaneity and doing-nothing are the Way of Heaven," said Wang Chong in his Lun Heng.xxxvn All kinds of conflicts in contemporary human society are undoubtedly caused by the greedy desires for power and wealth. Those great powers, in their pursuit of selfish gains and expansion of power, exploit the resources of underdeveloped countries and practice power politics, which is the fundamental cause of global chaos. Lao-zi's doctrine of "spontaneity and doing-nothing" could be interpreted as to do nothing against people's will, which will render the society and the world peacefulness. Lao-zi once quoted the saying of an ancient sage: "As I do nothing, the people will reform by themselves; since I like quiet, they will keep order by themselves; when I seek no trouble, the people will prosper by themselves; when I have no desire, they will live in austerity by themselves."xxxvui It means: the ruler with political powers should neither interfere with his people (doing-nothing), nor disturb their everyday life (liking quiet), nor act against their will (seeking no trouble), nor exploit them insatiably (having no desire); thus, the people will reform by themselves, keep order by themselves, prosper by themselves, and live in austerity by themselves. If we give a modern interpretation of this teaching and apply it to the administration of contemporary society, it will not only bring peace to a country but also function significantly in eliminating the clash of civilizations. We can interpret the above-quoted teaching as follows: in international politics, the more a country interferes with the affairs of other countries, the more chaotic the world will become; the more those great powers threaten others with military force, the more turbulent and disorderly the world will become; the more those great powers exploit the underdeveloped countries under the pretext of international aids, the poorer those underdeveloped countries will become; the more those developed countries desire and fight for the world dominance of wealth and power, the more immoral and terrorized the world will become. Therefore, in my opinion, the doctrine of "doing-nothing" may be an effective prescription for the leaders of the so-called "new empire." If they would accept this prescription, the world will enjoy peace. Nevertheless, the "new empire" always bully other states and nations by means of "willful acts" (WA), such as interference, exploitation or military threat, which are undoubtedly determined by its greedy nature as an empire. According to Lao-zi, "No calamity is worse than to be discontented. Nor is there a sin more dreadful than coveting. He who knows how to be content, truly he will always be so."xxxix Isn't the "new empire" discontented and coveting? Lao-zi

said again: "Isn't the Way of Heaven much like a bow bent? The upper part has been disturbed, pressed down; the lower part is raised up from its place; the slack is taken up; the slender width is broader drawn. For thus the Way of Heaven cuts people down when they have had too much, and fills the bowls of those who are in want. But the way of man will not work like this: the people who have not enough are spoiled, for tribute to the rich and the surfeited."xl Why is the human society in this world today in a state of turbulence and disorder? Isn't it totally caused by human beings themselves, especially those leaders of he "new empire" acting against the "Way of Heaven" and losing the "hearts of men," practicing a policy of spoiling those who have not enough, in order to pay tribute to the rich and the surfeited? Isn't it the root of discords, conflicts and wars in contemporary world? Thus we find that the "clash of civilizations" theory is closely related to the theory of "new empire" hidden behind its back.

Lao-zi strongly opposed wars for the sake of preserving peace in the world. In Chapter 31, Tao Te Ching, he said: "Weapons at best are tools of bad omen, loathed by all. Thus those of the Way avoid them."xh In wars there are always people killed, production interrupted and social orders broken, thus Lao-zi thinks that war is evil, because people hate it, and virtuous statesmen would not push the country into war to solve their problems. Again Lao-zi said: "To those who would help the ruler of men by means of the Way: let him not with his militant might try to conquer the world; this tactic will be revenged by Heaven. For where armies have marched, there do briers spring up; where great hosts are impressed, years of hunger and evil ensue."xlu This is generally true in the history of all nations. In China, after every major war, the population would be reduced dramatically, farmland disserted, production interrupted, and robbers and thieves infesting. The two world wars both ended in this way, and the current war in the Middle East is no exception. Whenever the leaders of the "new empire" provokes a war anywhere, they will surely be bogged down there, since the people in the conquered countries will not surrender, they will fight without the fear of death, as Lao-zi said: "The people do not fear at all to die; what's gained therefore by threatening them with death?"xlm And: "As for those who delight to do murder, it is certain they can never get from the world what they sought."xliv We see from history that those who had initiated wars, though momentary successes they might get, would finally fail and be dishonored. Hitler was such an example, and Japanese Militarism, another. As a "man of wisdom," Lao-zi could observe the latent converse side with his wisdom, as he said: "On bad fortune the good fortune always leans; in good fortune the bad fortune always hides."xlv Now people in some countries are suffering, but it would be a necessary precondition prepared for their nation's renewal in future. Take the past hundred years of China's history, for example, it is just after being beaten repeatedly that the Chinese people had finally waken up. Today we may say that the Chinese nation is on the eve of a great renewal. In my opinion, leaders of every country, especially those of the "new empire," should learn some wise teachings from the Tao Te Ching, and realize that, in the long run, the politics of great powers and Hegemonism will have no future. Therefore, I consider the thinking of Lao-zi valuable in refuting the theories of "clash of civilizations" and of the "new empire." We advocate the theory of "coexistence of civilizations" and are in agreement with Lao-zi's idea of "doing-nothing," in the expectation of a world of Great Harmony, with peace and security, general progress and common wealth for humankind. Of course, as Lao-zi was born two thousand years ago, his philosophy cannot be used to solve all the problems that contemporary human society is confronted with (including the discords and conflicts among nations), but his wisdom should be of important value to illuminate our way. Our task is to rediscover and develop the essence of his thinking, to give it a modern interpretation, so that the general public can benefit from the edifications in the treasury of ancient Chinese philosophy.

Differences in religious beliefs, values and ways of thinking may lead to conflicts among nations and states; and conflicts can breed wars. However, we may ask: Are these conflicts inevitable? Would it be possible that these conflicts be resolved peacefully, without a war for cultural differences? We have to find a common resources of thinking in all national cultures advocating the coexistence of civilizations, in order to prevent any possible conflict or war. As argued above, the Confucianism and Taoism in Chinese culture could provide significant resources of thinking to bring about the peaceful coexistence of civilizations. I believe that the same kind of resources can be found in cultures of other nations and states as well. At the turn of the 21st century, we must make a careful choice whether to practice the theory of "clash of civilizations" in dealing with the problems among nations and states, or the theory advocating the "coexistence of civilizations" to bring peace to human society. It would be a blessing to humankind if we choose not the clash but the coexistence of civilizations. The Book of History teaches us: "All the states under Heaven should be harmonized."xlvi Like many other nations, the Chinese nation is a great one with a long and brilliant tradition of history and culture. Chinese culture is undoubtedly one of the most valuable treasures

for mankind. With this cultural heritage, we should be able to make contributions to the peaceful coexistence of human civilizations, promote cultural exchanges, so that harmony might befall on this world of divers cultures.

(Trans. by Yang Zhiyi: Revised by Shen Hong)


i ,SA^aaa». 1994AM3Mo

ii «^AMAA» , »AftMA 1999 A. 111 Samuel P. Hungtington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, 1996, p.318.

iv Samuel P. Hungtington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, New York, 1996, p.302.

v Michael Handt & Antonio Negri, Empire, "Preface", Harvard University Press, 2000.

vi C.f. □□•□□□□Perry AndersonD□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□ nn("Three Recent Theories on International Relationships in Globalization

Era")nnnnn2002D □ 10M

™ C.f.,|fAA: «<Affl>AAAfflAin|®> ("Empire and the problem of de-empirization"), «AA» 2002A 7M-, ffiAA: «A ftgl, HAAAA^ RffiAAA» ("Principles of Bush, Western humanity tradition and Neoconservatism"), «AA» 2003 A 8 JA

("Would Blair's Liberal Imperialism work?"), originally Tony Blair's speech: "The best defense of our security lies in the spread of our values." (Sunday Telegraph, May 30, 2004)

vm Samuel P. Hungtington. "Clash of Civilizations?" p.49, in Foreign Affairs, summer, 1993.

ix Bertrand Russell. "Chinese and Western Civilization Contrasted", in The Problem of China. London. 1922.

x "Clash of civilizations?", p.22, op.cit.

xi Karl Jaspers. The Origin and Goal of History. Michael Bullock (trans.). New Haven: Yale University Press. 1953, p.7. x" The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p.59, op.cit.

xi" Ibid., p.20 op.cit.

xA □□□□□□□□□"□ □□□□□□□□□□□□□□□"

x As the translator fails to find the French version of this essay, this translation is based on the Chinese translation,

□ □□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□, published on □□□□□□□, 5th issue, p.146, □□□□□□□, Jan. 2001. -Translator's note.

xvi □□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□14□□□395□□□□□□□□1999□□

□□□□ □"□□□□□□□□□□□"C.f. The Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter 20.


xix □□□□□•□□□□□□"□□□□□□□□□□"

xx □□□•□□□□□□"□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□"C.f.Mencius, Chapter 2.

xxi □□□•□□□□"□□□□□□□□□□"C.f. The Analects, Chapter 12. i □□□•□□□□"□□□□□□□□□□□□□□"C.f. The Analects, Chapter 6. " □□□•□□□□"□□□□□□ □......"C.f. The Analects, Chapter 12.

^□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□□^□□□□□□2002^2 □□

xxv (AKAA^AA-»: "SAAtA "

«AiAATO»: "^¿ffi.iAS. "C.f. The Analects, Chapter 1. «AiAA-ft»: "ATOAAAAM?ATOAAASM? "C.f. The Analects, Chapter 3.

In this context, I translate this saying as "Harmony in Diversity," instead of "Unity in Diversity"—the latter is another popular translation of this term. Tong (|^) means Agreement when applied on human relationships, or Sameness/Homogeneity on material objects. Thus the translator would use different translations according to the contexts, and translate the "AIA' as diversity, disagreement, or heterogeneity, etc.. -Translator's note.

xxix «AiAAK»: "AAWMAIA ^A^MAff. "C.f. The Analects, Chapter 12.

xxx In ancient Chinese philosophy, Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth are Five Processes (AA), i.e. five basic elements, to make up the world. - Translator's note.

xxxi «HiAAA»: " (AfiS:) AWAA^, l^fJA^I. AAAA.

AA, AwA AA, "

xxx11 «№»: "A^AWTOAfflA.MAATOAMA "C.f. The Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter 30.

xxxiii««S= «AAfflAAAAfctgAA». «SfAAA»» 2002A.

xxxiv«^^= «fnARAWAAlA» , A« «21 t®> , 2002 A 4 AA«= №A№AAA$» , A« «21 t®> , 2002 A 8

xxxv «AiAATO»: "iAf. "C.f. The Analects, Chapter 1. (Also: note 23.) - Translator's note.

xxxvi Op.cit.


™ «Mil A» % 57 A: "SAAMSgA. SAffMegA.aAAMega.aAAMegA. "C.f. Tao Te Ching, Chapter 57. :i!A» % 46 A: "ffi^AAAAA. AAAA.AA^. " C.f. Tao Te Ching, Chapter 46.

i^^Kft^. "C.f. Tao Te Ching, Chapter 77. xli mmi)) % 31 "C.f. Tao Te Ching, Chapter 31.

xlii «Mils» m 30 Ml ^K^SAT. ^tB^. "C.f. Tao Te

Ching, Chapter 30.

xliii «MUS» M 74 "K^SS.SflK^-Ri? "C.f. Tao Te Ching, Chapter 74.

xliv «MilS» % 31 Mi "^S^Af.l^^fif^T^. "C.f. Tao Te Ching, Chapter 31.

xlv (WiM&)) % 58 "ffi^.ffi^Mf; ffi^. "C.f. Tao Te Ching, Chapter 58.