Strengthening exchange and ties between China and Southeast Asia

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Chinese and foreign leaders pose for group photos with representatives of guests before the opening of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) at the China National Convention Center in Beijing, capital of China, May 15, 2019. Xinhua/Wang Ye

Although the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations has ended, the exchange and mutual learning among civilizations will not end. In the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the conference, President Xi Jinping initiated four proposals and suggested three specific measures to promote the exchange among civilizations and consolidate the humanities foundation. This undoubtedly paves the way for further promoting cultural exchanges between China and Southeast Asia.

The cooperation between China and Southeast Asia is a model for East Asian collaboration, despite the fact that China’s goodwill among Southeast Asian people still needs further improvement. The reasons why China’s exchanges and dialogues with neighboring countries are hindered are as follows: on the one hand, the long-standing friendly exchanges between China and Southeast Asia were once interrupted by Western colonialism and the Cold War; on the other hand, the exchanges were affected by real politics and competition among major powers. Strategic suspicions are being placed on China. Under the context of the current rise of Asian countries and the intensification of competition among major powers, we need to continuously deepen the exchanges of human civilization and further enhance the relationship between China and Southeast Asia.

Adhering to mutual respect and treating each other as equals is the fundamental principle to continuously deepen the cooperative relationship between China and Southeast Asia. The influence of Chinese civilization on Southeast Asia has a long history, covering almost every aspect of material, spiritual and social system. With the rise of China, some Southeast Asian countries display an ambivalent attitude toward China. On the one hand, they hope to learn and absorb Chinese culture in the expectation to develop and perfect their own cultures; on the other hand, they worry about their own cultural space. To allay their fears, China should emphasize mutual understanding and attach greater importance on bilateral exchanges and cooperation.

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Sticking to constant upgrade and innovative development is the only way to build a China-ASEAN partnership with common interests. “The country is in the hands of the people” means that the key to building a community of common interests between China and Southeast Asia lies in the mutual understanding of the people. In the new historical period, we need to continuously innovate by means of method and content to further enhance the level of humanities exchanges between China and Southeast Asia. For instance, the China-ASEAN Youth Art Creation Competition, the China-ASEAN Innovation Year and the China-ASEAN Smart City Forum are all useful attempts and have achieved good results. Promoting the exchanges of civilizations and mutual understanding, along with forming a multi-interactive humanistic exchange pattern will not only benefit the peace, common prosperity and openness of the Asian region, but also provide substantial reference and fresh impetus to strengthen cooperation and exchanges around the world.

The author is an intern with the Silk-road Planning Research Center.

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