China's renaissance a fulcrum for global transformation
Two-way opening-up can create an expanding world of ideas, possibilities and hopes
The West should look at China' renaissance as a catalyst for change.
First, the Chinese reemergence is simply the world's major factor of change. One of the quickest ways to end up as "the frog at the bottom of the well" - jing di zhi wa - is to take the footnotes for the megatrends.
Since 1978 analysts have been constantly overestimating the risks associated with the Chinese dynamics while the facts are no equivocation: In 1980, China's economic output was only 7 percent of the US economy; around 2025 its GDP will surpass that of the United States, and, in 2045, the Chinese economy could be double the size of the US economy.
Second, one fails to take into account the notion that global interdependence will intensify in the foreseeable future, crises certainly affect globalization but de-globalization has become an academic hypothesis, connectivity and connectedness will increase with the advancement of technology. In this context, the West is a part of the solution to China's problems and vice-versa, we share a common destiny on a planet with diminishing natural resources and an increasing population.
The Chinese traditional understanding of universalism is a catalyst for globalization. While Europe has historically put great emphasis on the particular (cities, kingdoms, nation-states), China has often aimed at the universal, the rich notion of tianxia - all-under-Heaven.
Third, China's reemergence does not have to be synonymous with the decline of the West. China's return to centrality and Western modernity are fundamentally compatible.
Fourth, one should not assume that Sino-Western relations have to vary on a scale which spans from mutually antagonistic to mutually beneficial, another paradigm can serve as both an engine and a compass for our actions: Sino-Western relations can be mutually transformational.
The Chinese renaissance can not only be understood as a catalyst for globalization and an integrator factor, but it also enlarges the global village by opening new economic, political, diplomatic, intellectual and artistic horizons. China's revival widens the Chinese people's representation of the world, but it also expands a world-system which has been, to a certain extent, contracting for more than five centuries.
While in 21st century China is still facing internal and external challenges, it could be argued that for the very first time in the history of the world a process of globalization and a great economic convergence are creating the conditions for a more cohesive global village.
Contrary to what partial examinations suggest, China is not an obstacle to a period of global enlightenment. Just as six centuries ago the Italian Renaissance reaffirmed man's central position and opened a period of progress, creativity and innovation for the European continent, the Chinese cultural and intellectual renaissance can signal a 21st-century world humanistic movement. In that sense, China's reemergence should not be perceived as a threat but as one of the major catalysts of a new axial period.
Jacob Burckhardt's classic The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy presents a chapter on "the discovery of the world and of man" whose opening is a powerful synthesis: "Freed from the countless bonds which elsewhere in Europe checked progress, having reached a high degree of individual development and been schooled by the teachings of antiquity, the Italian mind now turned to the discovery of the outward universe, and to the representation of it in speech and in form."
Burckhardt's words are, mutatis mutandis, the outlines of the Chinese contemporary dynamics: economic development, the emancipation of the individual, and the reinterpretation of the Chinese classical tradition have created the conditions for China's journeys to the world.
While the first globalization has been triggered by European energy and curiosity, the engine of the second globalization is, to a certain extent, China's extroversion.
China's opening-up has already enriched the global village but if the West opens itself to the possibilities that the Chinese renaissance offers, Sino-Western cross-fertilization would not only be mutually beneficial - the quantitative and objective win-win - but mutually transformational - a qualitative and almost limitless creative process of values and of a greater common good.
Communications and technologies have abolished distances, the planet has shrunk in the globalization process but simultaneously dialogues between civilizations have broadened our horizon and enlarged our world, and it is from these new immaterial territories, from these utopian terrae incognitae, that the vision of a better future can be imagined.
An expanding universe of ideas, possibilities and hopes on a compressed planet, this is the rich paradox of our new world.
In an era of renaissance, one has to return to the very possibility to transform ourselves, to recreate ourselves, a potential which has been the fulcrum of the greatest moments of European and Chinese history. In his Oration on the Dignity of Man, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola summarized the spirit and power of the renaissance: "You, with no limit or no bound, may choose for yourself the limits and bounds of your nature ... To you is granted the power of degrading yourself into the lower forms of life ... and to you is granted the power contained in your intellect and judgment to be reborn into the higher forms ... "
And, in classical China, the wise Lao Zi, a master in the art of metamorphosis, pointed at our fundamental freedom and responsibility: "He who has room in him for everything is without prejudice and in a community of feeling with all things, from this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character, and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like."
The author is the founder of the Europe-China Forum (2002) and he established the New Silk Road Initiative (2015). He is the author of Limited Views On The Chinese Renaissance (2018). The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
Source：China Daily Editor：Lucky
(Source_title：China's renaissance a fulcrum for global transformation)