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Lanting Forum: Experts discuss need to promote people-to-people exchanges

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By Talibeh Hydara

At least eight well-rounded and well-experienced individuals have shared a panel at the Lanting Forum on Friday to discuss the path for stronger interpersonal exchanges across the world.

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The panel, themed people-to-people exchanges for greater prosperity of civilizations, was ably hosted and moderated by Wu Hailong, the president of China Public Diplomacy Association, who are joint organizers of the Lanting Forum.

Yoro Diallo, a professor and researcher at the Institute of African Studies of Zhejiang Normal University, commended China’s efforts in promoting exchanges across the globe despite the threat of persistent instability.

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 “As you know, the world is facing enormous tensions and challenges. The unilateralism, the protectionism, the hegemonism, the spirit of confrontation and cold war are among many others, factors which affect world peace and development. Instead of trying to put out the fire, some countries and organizations are energetically fanning it, with the sole motivation of satisfying their ambitions for hegemony, thus exposing the deficit of global governance. In this difficult and complex context, a source of peace and development has been unfolding for some time to enrich international relations and serve as guide light for the International Community. Those are the Initiatives proposed by Chinese, President Xi Jinping. When talking about these Initiatives it is important to read in the contemporary history, immutable witness to historical truth. This history teaches us that since its founding in 1949, the People’s Republic of China has never provoked a war, nor a conflict, nor committed armed forces in a foreign land. China foreign policy is based on the five principles of peaceful coexistence, principles shared by countries which love peace and justice.”

Professor Diallo lauded the Belt and Road Initiative, which is a decade old this year, as unprecedented to the global economy, becoming an inclusive alternative cooperation model of shared development.

“It is important in the actual situation to remember that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative. Today, the Belt and Road Initiative has registered more than 150 countries and 32 international organizations, making this initiative probably the largest investment campaign launched by a single country. Since its inception on 2013 by President Xi Jinping, ‘the Belt Road Initiative has continuously expanded cooperation regions and fields, and explored new cooperation models, and enriched, developed and improved them,” he said.  “For 10 years Belt and Road Initiative has grown from a concept to a key platform that has proven to be politically, economically, and culturally effective. Today, such grandiose initiative that is unprecedented to the global economy has become an inclusive alternative cooperation model of shared development, hopes to redefine, reorient and deliver trillions of dollars in infrastructure financing to Asia, Europe, Latin America, South Pacific and Africa. Belt and Road investments have offered to many countries all over the world the potential to create novel growth industries, surge job opportunities, boost productivity and trade, and ultimately economic growth. It is conducive to the smooth realization of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.”

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He shared personal experiences for the past two decades in the country, witnessing a rising nation in all facets of development as China takes its rightful place as arbiter of world peace.

Malcolm Clarke, a two-time Oscar-winning director/writer, said America used soft power to win the hearts of generations with the help of Hollywood which has successfully made the country a dream for many people. The American argued that China needs a similar tactic, telling the Chinese stories and appealing to the hearts of nations.

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In a moving opening remark, Clarke stated: “In Europe and America, China is seen as a threat; an existential threat to values that have been developed to continue the West as on top of the mountain and everyone else further down the hill. I think China makes a huge mistake in the field of media, journalism and film-making. There is something called soft power; the power of messaging; the power of telling your own stories. China should be proud. China has a huge amount to be proud of but when they tell those stories to the west, they emphasize their achievements in technocratic, technological statistical terms. The fastest this. The longest that. The tallest this. The highest bridge. We hear about achievements that make us frightened because you do it better than we do but what we never hear and we never see are stories of Chinese people.”

Mr Clarke advised the Chinese authorities to shift from propaganda to soft power which will enable the nation tell human stories about the extraordinary sacrifice and work and suffering that went into this Chinese miracle.

Another speaker, Yuan Ming, the Honorary Dean of Yenching Academy of Peking University, reminded the gathering of a statement made by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang at a press conference following the conclusion of the Two Sessions last month.  

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Mr Qin Gang was asked about the role of youths in the future of China and Madam Yuan Ming expressed satisfaction with his answer.

“The State Councilor said the young people should be confident and aggressive. I was moved by this speech,” she said.

Madam Ming described the demographic cohort as the Z Generation whom she said have three major characteristics.

She said the Z Generation are less influenced by ideological frameworks and have broad visions, which allows them to think and follow a more independent path.

She described the youths of Asia as amazing who are as confident and capable as their European and American counterparts.

Another panelist, an eminent former basketball player, Yao Ming, shared his experiences with the audience as a sportsman and how it can be used to unite nations.

Ming, who is also the president of the Chinese Basketball Association, said the statement Nelson Mandela made that sports has the power to change the world doesn’t only apply to winning but adopting rules and providing a leveled ground that favors everyone. 

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Mr Ming said he, like Mandela, believes sports is a uniting activity which can serve as a “bridge” to connect and shape the world.

He Zhiming, the president of China Institute, said citizens of China and America ought to reach out and understand each other as they are the most important in the relatiohsip between the two governments. 

He said China’s rise to the top has caused discomfort in the world order but that will not cascade down to ordinary people if a bond is built and strengthened between them. 

He advised China and America to open their doors and have bonding dialogue.

“I know we have a lot of challenges right now, a lot of struggles, but we need to build these bonds and connections. I am very happy to see that the Chinese government and people are already working hard in this regard and are propagating the importance of modernization to the world. In any case, China will always be here and be very important to our future. Anyone who cares about China-US relations should make an effort to make everyone feel more comfortable,” he said.

Several other panelists, including those via video link, alternately deliberated on the need to promote unity and use the Chinese story as an inspiration to the world.    

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