Focus on Needs of Times

August 26, 2017


On August 26th, 2017, the first “Taihe Civilizations Forum”, hosted by Taihe Institute, officially kicked off in Beijing.  The Forum focused on the Essence of Advancing Human Civilization and Developing Common Values with themed discussions on three topics: people-to-people exchange, artificial intelligence and digital citizenship, and climate change and sustainable development, to explore future paths of development for the whole civilization.

Hailong WU, director of Chinese People’s Institute for Foreign Affairs, attended the opening ceremony and made an opening speech.  The full speech is as follows:


Diversity is the basic feature of human civilization.  The history of human society development tells the replacement, continuity and inheritance of different civilizations as each embraces its prosperity and demise.  Through this process, the core issue was to seek mutual respect and find ways for harmonious co-existence and mutual prosperity between different cultures.  Cultural differences should not become the root cause of international conflicts; instead, it should serve as engines that empower cultural development.  Exchange, communication and mutual learning between different cultures should be the fundamental ways to resolve existing differences and conflicts as well as enhance understanding and mutual trust.  In China, we have a proverb saying that “pain arises out of obstruction and removing the obstruction releases pain”.  With removal of obstacles in people’s mind, disputes and fights would eventually come to an end.


Although the society development has entered into a high-speed period, in which technology advances and the way people communicate updates day by day, which makes people’s communication much easier.  The exchange between different countries and even between different people, however, still haven't meet the need of the society development.


With respect to China, we deem that we are the second largest economy in the world and everybody in the world should know us.  However, what many Chinese still ignore is that many people in this world know little or even know nothing about China.  Three years ago, I worked as the Chinese ambassador in EU.  Almost half of the members of the European Parliament have never been to China and their understanding about China is very limited, and was filled with bias and discrimination, which actually shocked and baffled me a lot.  Not long ago, I met up with a delegation group from the House of Commons of Canada.  Three out of the four delegates have never been to China before, even one of them is the chairman of a committee in the House.  They told me that all their understanding and impressions of China came from their local media.  After they followed our institute’s arrangement and visited several places, their impression towards China got totally overturned.  A female representative was so excited that she almost burst to tears several times after realized tremendous achievements of China.  Several weeks ago, I took three former leaders of foreign countries to Kubuqi desert in Inner Mongolia for a forum regarding to anti-desertification.  When they learned about China’s practices in turning deserts into oasis, they couldn’t stop exclaiming “Amazing! Unbelievable!”.  By sharing these examples, I just want to point out that China, a rapidly developing country, still lacks communication with foreign countries.  Actually, what we have done is far from enough.  There’s still a long way to go by telling Chinese stories to let more people understand and know us better.


The communication needs to grow both in breadth and in depth and with human interests.  Being honesty and frankness, other people could perceive and accept the right message we sent out.  Also, communication should help resolving misunderstandings and problems.  We should not only communicate with people who are friendly to us, but also communicate with those who hold bias and misunderstanding about us.


When I served as the director of the Department of International Organizations and Conferences of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we had dialogues on human rights with the EU in eight times and with the US in twice.  I think such dialogues on human rights were very tough communications.  Although we haven’t totally corrected westerners’ misunderstanding toward human rights issues in China, at least we have clarified many groundless misstatements and told the truth of many issues.  Though there was limited understanding that has been enhanced, we have encouraged knowledge between countries.  I think communicating is always better than doing nothing.  People become closer through communication and people-to-people exchange is an essential way to build mutual trust and develop a sustained relationship between countries.


Currently, there are ongoing debates on impacts of AI development over human future all over the world. Different arguments arise.  Even many well known person like Hawkin have also joined the league of debaters.  Not long ago, debates between Musker and Mark Zukerberg have attracted special attention.  And before that, victory of AlphaGo among the many international Go players also shocked a lot of people.


Debates over advantages and disadvantages of AI will keep lasting with the development of AI. Each individual or group has its logic, thinking, and impressive arguments.  No matter how it might look like in the future, no one can stop the general trend of AI development.  What impacts will AI development bring to the mankind?  What will be the results?  Maybe our knowledge, capabilities and vision so far still prevent us from making comprehensive and accurate forecast.  However, we should always prepare for the worst and take preventive actions to guard off potential risks.  The Chinese ancients said that “getting prepared before your speech so that you can make strong arguments; getting prepared before you take actions so that you won’t get stuck with difficulties and obstacles without a solution; getting prepared before you make the decision so that you won’t find yourself regretful; making plans before you act so that you won’t be down and out”.  If we can set boundaries and limits for laws, ethics and morality and set prospective regulations, perhaps we can address the human-machine relations properly and make AI a tool for our use.  I hope the discussions at this forum can generate insights that benefit AI development with clear understanding of its merits and demerits.


Climate change has already become a priority in global governance.  Voices and warnings like “climate change hurts global economy” “climate change leads to rise of sea level” “climate change worsens scarcity of water resources” “climate change causes distinction of species” “climate change has fueled frequent forest fires” can be found everywhere.


Despite the incessant debates over causes for climate change among the past few decades, it is undeniable that human activity has been affecting on climate change.  IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has long ago put forth clear conclusions on this issue.  What we should do is to encourage governments from different countries to undertake their common but differentiated responsibilities, and to take specific and effective actions according to their own capabilities to reduce emission of green house gases.  Although Donald Trump administration has shadowed the international community by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, we shall never give up or delay our efforts in resolving climate change.


When we have been fully aware of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, hesitating, looking around, focusing on private margins or bargaining on what responsibilities to undertake are equivalent to criminal activities to the future generations.


I have personally attended the 1992 UN Environment and Development Conference in which the Agenda 21 was passed to warn people not to pollute first and solve the problem later.  We shall not follow the path of western developed countries.  However, many developing countries still get stuck in the trap of “pollution first and remedy later” and have paid heavy prices for it.  These are all tragic historical lessons to bear in mind.  Otherwise, we would suffer even more.  In order to save ourselves from the consequences of climate change, we should take action now!


I am confident that all insights come up at this forum can contribute to promoting common values and harmonious co-existence of human civilization, and providing solutions towards challenges that we are facing with.  In addition, we should not only possess our own understanding and ideas of the issues we are facing with, but also lead the general public towards a correct path.  This is our responsibility as well as mission of this forum.



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