Author: Li Anshan, Professor, Institute of Asian and African Studies, School of International Relations, Peking University

  Number of characters: 2975

  Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

  When different civilizations come into contact with each other, prejudice first arises, because the language and cultural barriers make all ethnic groups accustomed to ethnocentrism (ethnocentrism), this is a common phenomenon, it is a kind of national culture and values ​​as a frame of reference to measure and judge Attitudes and behaviors of others.

  Let me give two examples.

  Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta (1304-1377) took two locals when traveling in Mali-translator and porter.

He tried to walk to the river when urinating, but the porter tried to stop him.

Because of the language barrier, he was very annoyed, and finally had to end up in the grass.

The interpreter asked him, do you know why the porter is blocking you?

He replied: Yes, it's rude.

The translation said: The porter is afraid that you will be bitten by a crocodile.

He suddenly realized.

  In 1992, I stayed at the home of my junior brother Nana Brukum during my expedition in Ghana.

His wife and brother Jimmy invited me to visit the church where he works.

The priests bought a bottle of red wine in order to welcome me to dinner with them.

Before the meal, an elderly priest took a sip from the wine bottle.

I was surprised, and thought to myself that there would never be a host and a guest in China.

When I secretly compared the "politeness" of the nation with the "rudeness" of the Ghanaian priests, the old man said politely: "Dear guest, according to our rules, after opening the bottle, let the host taste a bite to ensure that the wine is There is no poison. As you can see, the wine is good and not poisonous." Then he poured me the wine.

I was deeply moved.

  Porters and priests express kindness or hospitality, which is a manifestation of local culture.

If there is no translation explanation and priest explanation, Ibn Battuta and I will have prejudice against his behavior based on our own cultural traditions.

In 2015, Ke Yang (right) and Li Anshan (middle), then executive vice presidents of Peking University, presented Li Anshan's works on Ghana in Chinese and English to Kofi Annan, the seventh secretary-general of the United Nations.

Author's photo

  Cultural prejudice prevails among nations that lack communication and understanding.

The ancient Greeks regarded themselves as the most civilized. The ancient Romans regarded other peoples as barbarians. The Chinese and Indians believed that they lived in the center of the world. Whites and blacks discriminated against each other.

Ibn Battuta told us that the Malian cannibals do not eat whites because "they are immature and it is harmful to eat them."

Chinese people are self-centered and use the derogatory words Yi, Rong, Man, and Di to call their neighbors. Foreigners are called "ghosts."

[1] The change in European impressions of the Chinese is a typical example of cultural prejudice.

Leibniz once said frankly: "Who in the past thought that there still exists such a nation on the earth, which is more ethical than a nation that thinks that it is well-educated in all aspects? Since we know the Chinese, I discovered this in them." He admired China's way of governing the country.

[2] Enlightenment scholars such as Voltaire and Quesnay once highly admired Chinese culture.

After China was bombarded by Western artillery, in the eyes of Europeans, China changed from an advanced nation to a backward nation, from advocating democracy to favoring autocracy.


  Cultural prejudice often leads to two results: the negative result is conflict; the positive result is mutual understanding through tolerance.

It is true that cultural prejudice has become a political tool in international exchanges, but what needs to be explored is how to change this behavior, promote understanding through mutual tolerance, and avoid conflicts, and achieve mutual learning among civilizations.

Tolerance and mutual learning can be implemented through cultural policies or through personal interactions.

The cultural prosperity of a country or an era is often directly related to cultural policies.

The reason why King Mansa Musa (reigned from 1312 to 1337) of Mali, an ancient African country, was able to stay in history is related to his designation of Islam as the state religion.

He is also the first African king to appear on the map of Europe.

[4] Xuanzang (602-664) went west to seek Dharma not only to promote the people's understanding of ancient India, but also to introduce the scriptures as a model of civilization.

The prosperity of the Tang and Song dynasties is closely related to an open and inclusive cultural policy.


  There are two situations of mutual learning among civilizations: interlinked and complementary.

The interoperability of different cultures is manifested in many aspects.

There are similarities between Chinese and African cultures. For example, both sides emphasize collectivism, respect for the elderly and the virtuous, live on an equal footing, and be tolerant to others.

[6] African scholar Metz believes that both Confucian culture and African culture advocate human sociality, and "harmony" and "filial piety" are manifestations of emphasizing social relations. This is in line with Western society emphasizing independence, freedom, self-expression, etc. and not caring about others. The ways of existence are very different.

[7] The Ubuntu philosophy exists in southern Africa, that is, it believes that the existence of an individual can only be realized in the relationship with others. Generosity, peace, humility, and respect are excellent qualities.

It values ​​the moral responsibility of people, the responsibility to the family, and the obligation to take care of strangers.

The similarities between Confucianism and Ubantu are quite obvious.

[8] The same ideas between China and Africa form the basis of cooperation between the two sides.

Data map: The picture shows Shandong students reciting classic Confucian classics.

Photo by Liang Ben

  Complementarity is another characteristic of mutual learning among civilizations.

Ambassador Liu Guijin, the first Chinese government’s special representative for African affairs, recalled the design of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum: “The original Chinese assumption was that two years after the ministerial meeting, we will hold another higher-level meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum. The leaders of China and African countries participate in the meeting to review the results of the agreements reached at the ministerial meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. If the progress goes well, we will turn the ministerial meeting into a long-term cooperation mechanism, that is, every three In ‧ the leaders of China and African countries will once again hold the Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. However, the African side made it clear from the beginning that the Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was established as a long-term system, because the leaders of African countries believed this This thing is sure to succeed."[9] The steady and cautiousness of Chinese culture and the enthusiasm and optimism of African culture complement each other, so that the mechanism of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation can be fixed and imitated by other countries. This is also mutual learning among civilizations.


Data map: "Ancient Roman soldier" wearing armor.

  The friendship between the nations lies in the friendship between the people.

There are many examples of mutual learning among civilizations in non-governmental exchanges.

African culture is extensive and profound. After experiencing the slave trade and colonial rule, it has not only survived, but spread to the world.

“One of Africa’s most original thinkers” Ali Mazrui believes that African culture contains three historical heritages: indigenous civilization, Christianity and Islam, and proposed the concept of “global Africa”, which fully demonstrates the importance of African culture. Tolerance, life and tenacity.

Various forms of African culture such as sculpture, drum music, and dance spread throughout the world.

A student of Peking University's National School of Relations asked me to direct a paper on the spread of Djembe drums in Africa.

I asked her why you chose this topic, and she replied: "Because I am a member of the Jinbei Drum Club of Peking University." [11] There are African cultural clubs in many cities, such as African dance, music and African drums.

[12] In order to cultivate students' aesthetic feelings, Beijing Sakura Garden Primary School uses African drums as the content of quality education and forms the characteristics of campus culture.


  Africans are also learning Chinese culture through different channels.

The documentary "African Who Wants to Fly", jointly produced by Gabon, Belgium and France, records the story of the Gabonese young man Luc Bendza.

Since he was a child, he admired Bruce Lee, who has a good kung fu.

Benza’s uncle was then Gabon’s ambassador to China. After 14-year-old Benza came to China, he went to Shaolin Temple to practice martial arts and succeeded after hard training.

He also studied Chinese at Beijing Language and Culture University, completed his undergraduate and master's degrees at Beijing Sport University, and became a Chinese Wushu 7th Duan and an international Wushu referee.

[14] The young Nigerian Moses majored in Chinese teaching. After coming to China in 2013, he named him "Wu Wenzhong" and fell in love with Chinese culture, especially cross talk and lion dance.

In 2014, he participated in the Hebei "Jizhiguang" Foreign Students Chinese Skills and Chinese Talent Competition. With his outstanding performances and skills, he won the "Best Creative Award", "Best Eloquence Award", "Second Prize of Ancient Poetry Recitation" and "Best Almighty". King".


Data map: Wushu students from five African countries practiced martial arts and meditation at the Shaolin Temple.

Photo by Li Yan

  In 1993, Huntington put forward a hypothesis in "Foreign Affairs" about the post-Cold War world conflict: "The main source of the huge differences and conflicts between humans will be culture....Civilization conflict will dominate global politics. The fault line between civilizations." It will be the front line of the future." To highlight this hypothesis, he added a question mark to the title.

[16] In 1996, he provided a "full, profound and more detailed solution to the question of "clash of civilizations?", that is, the main conflict after the Cold War is the conflict between "civilization and barbarism". It is "a global'real conflict'".

[17] This speculation is related to its political background and service experience.

[18] He realized that war was not a wise choice, leaving room for civilized dialogue, which is manifested in four aspects.

First, he recognizes a multi-civilized world.

"In the 20th century, the relationship between civilizations went from a stage dominated by one civilization's unidirectional influence on all other civilizations to a stage of strong, continuous and multi-directional interaction among all civilizations." "Global politics first Become multi-polar and multi-civilized."

[19] Second, he recognized that ASEAN is a multi-civilization regional organization and recognized the possibility of dialogue among civilizations.

[20] Third, he mentioned the operability of world leaders to cooperate to stop the war-willingness and cooperation.

Fourth, he mentioned the dialogue of civilizations in the "Preface to the Chinese Version".

[21] This is not only the need of real politics, but also the conscience.

  There are many forms of civilized dialogue, and the importance lies in enhancing understanding and friendship, and avoiding misjudgments or conflicts.

There are many historical examples.

Dialogue among civilizations has won opportunities for understanding and cooperation.

Take ASEAN as an example.

After the establishment of the ASEAN ministerial meeting in 1978, its foreign ministers can communicate with dialogue partners.

The first meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum was held in 1994.

In 2009, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area "Investment Agreement" was signed.

Since January 1, 2010, the two sides have realized the liberalization of trade in goods, which "has a profound impact on the world economy and politics in the first half of the 21st century."

[22] This is the result of multi-civilization cooperation.

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is a model of civilized dialogue and win-win cooperation. The SCO is a multi-civilization cluster. The Sino-US Political Party Dialogue launched in 2010 and the 2017 CCP-World Political Party High-level Dialogue are new forms of civilized dialogue.

The clash of civilizations is not inevitable.

Mutual learning among civilizations is to follow the trend and the cornerstone of building a community with a shared future for mankind.

  [1] Zhu Chunting: "The Western Image in the Eyes of Chinese in the Ming and Qing Dynasties", "Journal of Jiangxi Institute of Education (Social Science Edition)", 25:5 (October 2004), pp. 98-103.

  [2] [Germany] Xia Ruichun edited: "German Thinkers on China" (translated by Chen Aizheng and others), Nanjing: Jiangsu People's Publishing House, 1995, pages 4-5.

  [3] For the influence of Chinese culture on Europe, see [French] Yasuda Park: "Chinese Culture Spreads to the West in European History" (translated by Geng Sheng), Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2000; [French] Virgil Bino: "China's Influence on the Formation of French Philosophy" (translated by Geng Sheng), Beijing: Commercial Press, 2000; [Italian] Bai Zuoliang, Massini: "Italy and China" (translated by Xiao Xiaoling and Bai Yukun), Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2002.

  [4] [America] David C. Conrad: "The Medieval Empires of West Africa" ​​(translated by Li Anshan), Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2015, pp. 48-54; [America] Ken Wolf: "Large Historical Vision" (translated by Bao Huiyi and Li Yun), Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press, 2016, pp. 115-122.

  [5] [America] Ai Hua: "The Golden Peach of Samarkand: A Study of Foreign Products in the Tang Dynasty" (translated by Wu Yugui), Beijing: Social Science Archives, 2016; Wei Chengsi: "On Cultural Policy and Cultural Prosperity in the Tang Dynasty" "Relationship", "Academic Monthly", Issue 4, 1989; Deng Guangming: "The High Development of Song Culture and the Cultural Policy of the Song Dynasty", "Historical Research", Issue 1, 1990.

  [6] Li Anshan: "The Cultural Similarity between China and Africa—A ​​Discussion on What China Should Learn from Africa", West Asia and Africa, Issue 1, 2014.

  [7] Thaddeus Metz, "Confucianism and African Philosophy", in Adeshina Afolayan and Toyin Falola, eds., The Palgrave Handbook of AfricanPhilosophy, Palgrave, 2017, pp207-221. African scholars have also noticed the difference between Chinese cultural traditions and African cultural traditions. Different, especially the realization of the realm of "harmony".

Confucian "harmony" is based on a hierarchy and guided by gentlemen or other upper levels, while African "harmony" is "achieved through close and sympathetic relationships within the group."

Yvonne Mokgoro,'Ubuntu and the Law in South Africa'. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 1(1998), pp.15-26.

  [8] Daniel Bell &Thaddeus Metz, “Confucianism and Ubuntu: Reflections on a dialogue betweenChinese and African tradition”, Journalof Chinese Philosophy, Supplementary to Vol. 38 (2011), pp.78-95.

  [9] Liu Guijin: "Dialogue with the Ambassador: The Present and Future of China-Africa Relations" ([Comoros] Daoude), edited by Li Anshan and Liu Haifang: "China Africa Studies Review (2015)" (Volume 5) ), Beijing: Social Sciences Literature Press, 2017, p. 31.

  [10] The China-Africa Cooperation Forum is held alternately between China and African countries every three years.

South Korea, South America, India, Turkey, Iran and other countries have established similar forums a few years after the establishment of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum.

The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), established by Japan in 1993, is held in Japan every five years.

African countries have put forward their opinions on the setting up of such conferences and asked to learn from China.

In this way, the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development made a decision to imitate China and change the convening cycle to three years. The sixth conference was later held in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

  [11] Wang Hanjie: "Analysis of the Popularity and Distribution of African Drumming in China", Li Anshan and Liu Haifang, editors: "China African Studies Review 2012" (Second Series), Beijing: Social Science Literature Press, 2013, No. 442-458 pages.

  [12] Zhao Manchao and Gan Ting: "Cross-cultural Communication of African Drums in China: A Case Study of Dayan Ancient Town, Lijiang City, Yunnan Province", News Research Guide, 8 (19), 2017, p. 167.

  [13] Li Anshan, “A Long-Time Neglected Subject: China-AfricaPeople-to-People Contact”,in Garth Shelton, Funeka Yazini April and Li Anshan,eds., FOCAC 2015 A New Beginning of China-AfricaRelations, Pretoria: Africa Institute of South Africa, 2015, pp.456-475.

  [14] "Benza's Kung Fu Dream", January 14, 2009, August 4, 2018 day;

  "The Chinese Martial Arts Dream of an African Youth", March 4, 2017, China Culture News, August 4, 2018.

  [15] Yang Mengjie and others: "The Chinese Dream of "China Master" Wu Wenzhong", November 28, 2016,, August 4, 2018.

  [16] Samuel P. Huntington,“The Clash of Civilizations?”Foreign Affairs, 72:3(Summer 1993),pp.22,49.

  [17] [United States] Samuel Huntington: "The Clash of Civilizations and the Reconstruction of World Order" (translated by Zhou Qi and others), Beijing: Xinhua Press, 1997, p. 1,321.

The emphatic number is added by the original author.

  [18] For the danger of Sino-U.S. conflict and ways to avoid war, see Graham Allison: "Doomed to a War: Can China and the U.S. Avoid the Thucydides Trap?"

"(Translated by Chen Dingding and Fu Qiang), Shanghai: Shanghai People's Publishing House, 2019.

  [19] [America] Samuel Huntington: Foreword, pp. 39, 132.

  [20] [United States] Samuel Huntington: Foreword, pp. 137, 253.

  [21] [United States] Samuel Huntington: Foreword, Preface to the Chinese edition, page 2.

  [22] "Writing on the occasion of the establishment of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area: New Starting Point, New Opportunity, and New Mission", the central government portal website, December 31, 2009. .htm. Both parties are committed to substantially opening up the market for trade in services and establishing a free two-way investment system.

A free trade zone with 1.9 billion people and a trade volume of 4.5 trillion U.S. dollars built by 11 countries is an important contribution to the economic integration of the region.

  About the Author:

Photo courtesy of Li Anshan

  Li Anshan, Professor of the Institute of Asian and African Studies, School of International Relations, Peking University, Professor of Agreement at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, President of the Chinese Society of African History, Vice President of the Chinese Society of Asian and African History, UNESCO "General History of Africa" ​​(Volume 9-11) International Science Vice Chairman of the Committee.