Xi rejects view of China-US row as 'clash of civilisations'

China's top leader Xi Jinping yesterday denounced the notion of race superiority as both stupid and catastrophic, as he refuted recent attempts to frame the US-China rivalry as a clash of civilisations.

All civilisations are unique, and no one civilisation is superior to another, President Xi said at the opening ceremony of a summit in Beijing to promote cooperation among Asian countries.

"It is stupid to believe that one's race and civilisation are superior to others, and it is disastrous to wilfully reshape or even replace other civilisations," he said to applause.

A senior US administration official told a security forum in Washington recently that it was the first time the United States is facing a great power competitor that is not Caucasian, and that the clash is "a fight with a really different civilisation and a different ideology".

Mr Xi's rebuke, without mentioning the United States, is the latest pushback by China against the view promoted by US State Department director of policy planning Kiron Skinner.

"If human civilisations are reduced to one single colour or one single model, the world will become a stereotype and be too dull a place to live in. What we need is to respect each other as equals and say no to hubris and prejudice," Mr Xi said.

His comments at the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilisations (CDAC) come amid escalating China-US tensions after trade talks ended without a deal last week and with both sides levying tariffs against each other instead.

 
 
 
 

Calling on countries to come together to promote dialogue, harmony and economic globalisation, Mr Xi said that his country was willing to work with them to "protect Asian cultural heritage, and better preserve and sustain our civilisations".

"In the many places I have visited around the world, what fascinates me the most is civilisations in their rich diversity," he said.

"I cannot (help) but think of the Central Asian city of Samarkand, the Luxor temple in Egypt, Sentosa in Singapore, Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok and the Acropolis in Athens, to mention just a few."

Yesterday's inaugural CDAC came just weeks after the Belt and Road Forum on Mr Xi's marque foreign policy strategy. It is Beijing's latest effort to position itself as a leader in global governance.

The one-day conference featured discussions on issues including Asian governance, education and culture, and was held alongside various cultural events.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2019, with the headline 'Xi rejects view of China-US row as 'clash of civilisations''. Print Edition | Subscribe