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We all must work together for our future

By Essam Sharaf | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-09-07 09:15
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Kiron Skinner, whom United States President Donald Trump appointed last year as the director of policy planning at the State Department, said, according to a video speech released last year by the think tank New America: "When we think about the Soviet Union and that competition, in a way, it was a fight within the Western family, but the fight with China is with a really different civilization and a different ideology.

"And the United States hasn't had that before. It's also striking that it's the first time we will have a great power competitor that is not Caucasian."

Critics argue that the remarks, first reported by weekly magazine Washington Examiner, risk reviving the racist rhetoric of a "yellow peril" that was used against East Asians a century ago and provoked bans on Chinese immigrants.

The good thing is that her speech has prompted heavy criticism from international leaders.

This incident reminded me of cultural theorist Stuart Hall's 1996 dissertation, "The West and the Rest: Discourse and Power". He has deeply analyzed and described how people living outside the "West" have been depicted by Western civilization as "others "during known history, and their cultures as "inferior ones".

What makes me worry is the mixing up between civilization superiority or inferiority and the issue of distinctiveness, and requires faithful attention from all of us. Let me now state three important points.

First, we are facing serious global threats, such as health and the environment.

Second, since we are connected and should remain connected, there should be a global orchestrated mechanism capable of bringing people together to be able to face current and future global threats, and to motivate economic and social development for all.

Third, the global mechanism should be based on two pillars: a fundamental need or philosophy for global cooperation and a platform for systematizing global cooperation.

The first pillar is the basic philosophy. If we compare current civilizations with older forms of civilizations, we find that the degree of interdependency is much higher and more complicated, meaning that a partial failure can put human civilization as a whole at a tremendous risk and may lead to a complete dissolution. Therefore, the key now is to work together and harmonize (or synergize) our diversities for the sake of saving our future.

This is exactly the philosophy behind the concept of building a community of shared future, continuously stressed by President Xi Jinping, and was reaffirmed and elevated to a strategic level for China's future diplomacy during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. It also was recognized internationally during the 2018 United Nations General Assembly.

Moving to the second pillar, namely the global cooperation platform, the Belt and Road Initiative can satisfactorily offer this platform for countries to conduct cooperation and make joint efforts to face threats and develop economies.

The BRI has been successfully transformed from an initiative to an international cooperation platform that contains a set of thematic and regional sub-platforms, and synergy is achieved through five pillars: policy coordination, connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration and people-to-people bonding.

It has been currently joined by more than 160 countries and international organizations. Regional sub-platforms include, but are not limited to: China-Europe for Technical and Economic Cooperation, Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, China-Latin American countries, and China-Oceania countries.

Out of the five connectivity pillars, people-to-people bonding is a fundamental necessity. In this regard, culture can play a vital role as an effective tool for people-to-people mutual understanding and communication. This is to achieve the golden rule of one humanity and different cultures through harmony, not sameness.

This highlights the utmost importance of utilizing the power of culture and its ability to bring together people of different countries, of different religions, of different schools of thought and of different ethnic groups, or simply different civilizations.

The world is now at a crossroads, and we have to select one of two alternatives. The first is to continue the same way (business as usual), facing a substantial risk of existence. The second is to make radical changes in the world order and global governance, toward the establishment of a new form of globalization leading to a desired global harmony, or harmonized civilizations.

It is time to select between multilateralism or unilateralism, cooperation or domination, free trade or protectionism, coexistence or superiority, mutual understanding or arrogance, trust or prejudice, openness or seclusion, control of divergence or widening of the gap, dialogue or confrontation, negotiation or bullying, and civilizations' embracement or civilizations' clash.

We have great challenges and also great opportunities. The global challenges we are facing require global cooperation. We have to react wisely and collectively with appropriate cooperation plans and exchange of ideas.

It is time to open a serious and continuous dialogue between civilizations, digging into the history and extracting those valuable noble values of our predecessors, and utilizing those precious treasures of the past in making our future.

It is time to recognize that science and conscience should go hand in hand on our road to the future.

We should always remember that the future is not a time we wait for, but rather a reality we make.

The author is a former prime minister of Egypt. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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