Youth Cultural Inheritance, Civilization Exchange and Mutual Learning in the Belt and Road Initiative Countries and Regions By Zahid Anwar

The 7th Annual Meeting of International Youth Dialogue jointly hosted by the Research Center on Youth Cultural Exchange, UIBE, Beijing, China was held on 25th November 2023. Many scholars from different countries including, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia participated in the meeting. The UIBE (University of International Business and Economics) is a double first-class and Internationally Renowned University. Students from different countries graduate from this University and Internationally famous professors come and teach courses to the students of the UIBE. Its Research Center on Youth Cultural Exchange under its Director Prof Wang Yuhang contributed a lot to international collaboration and strengthening the niche of UIBE among the double first-class Universities. Prof Dr Zahid Anwar, former Vice President University of Peshawar, Director, of China Study Center, and Chairman of PEDF was invited to deliver a presentation at the 7th Annual Meeting on, ‘BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) and CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor): A Way Forward to Cultural and Civilizational Understanding”.

The 7th annual meeting started at 9.30 am. The Opening Ceremony was moderated by Prof Wang Yuhang. He introduced the keynote speakers to a large number of audience. Prof Hong Junjie, Member of the Standing Committee of the CPC and Vice President, of UIBE welcomed all the delegates and participants. Prof Hong discussed ten years of BRI, community with a shared future and the Silk Road and cultural exchanges in the course of mutual learning. Prof Hong further highlighted the current unfolding developments in an unprecedented way and emphasized the unity of purpose, work in harmony and the importance of cultural heritage. Regarding the achievements of UIBE Prof Hong said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  UIBE is an important international cultural exchange platform and students at UIBE are from different cultural backgrounds.

Ms. Sun Ming, Deputy Director of the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies, CICG said that dialogue and cultural communication among youth are important. She said that many cultural exchanges occurred among BRI Countries in its first decade. Cultural communication is important and she further highlighted the responsibilities of youth in the context of BRI and underlined the promotion of cultural exchanges.

Prof Wang Yuhang released the UIBE Report on the Development Research on the “Belt and Road” Youth Cultural Exchange in the Past Decade”. After that the launching ceremony of the first phase of “Young Ambassadors for International Cultural Exchange and Cooperation Program” took place. Prof Wang Yuhang said that Beijing is the Center of International exchanges as Shanghai is an important financial Centre. He said that students` enrollment from abroad increased in UIBE with passage of time and that International cooperation in higher education increased too.  Youth was encouraged to participate in global cultural exchanges.

The next session after the tea break was focused on, “The First Phase: Belt and Road Cultural Inheritance and Policy Coordination Cooperation” and moderated by Mr. Yuan Lin – Director of the Office of Major Special Tasks of the Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies, CICG.

Prof. Yu Hongjun – Former Deputy Minister of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the CPC in his keynote speech highlighted the achievements of BRI in the last decade and also talked about the six corridors of BRI. BRI is a perspective on the Development of the whole world he added. Prof. Yu Hongjun further stated that trade system and infrastructure improved, people-to-people contacts increased and despite many ups and downs, many projects aligned with our visions were launched and completed. BRI is a very important chapter in our history and the history of our development. China is inclusive and welcomes cooperation in any country in the world for common development. These years are very important for the youth of BRI Countries. Youth is the beneficiary of BRI’s three thousand projects and its four hundred thousand investments globally. He further talked about the next decade of BRI its targets, directions, pathways and new ways of cooperation.

Prof. Deng Chundong- Deputy Chairman of, the China Association of Policy Science in his keynote speech explained the role and meaning of cultural exchange in BRI and interconnectivity. He emphasized the significance of cultural connectivity for other forms of connectivity under BRI. He further elaborated on the importance of cultural communication and that in the first decade of BRI, many projects related to cultural communication were launched which considerably promoted cultural cooperation among BRI countries. He turned the attention of the audience to the importance of learning from history. He said that we should choose the right pathway and position and learn from history. Nations historically communicated in different forms, military invasions, colonialism etc. China communicated through the Silk Road and that China treated other civilizations on equal footing. The world needs to oppose cultural hegemony and cultural colonialism. We should promote peaceful cultural communication, he emphasized.

Prof. Ahmed Badrais – Vice Chairman, Board of Governors at New Westminster College in his keynote speech thanked UIBE for the invitation and discussed the brilliance of Arab Civilization and its contribution to the world’s civilizational heritage. He spotlighted the important role of youth and their responsibilities as future leaders. Prof Badrais also highlighted the importance of cultural heritage and cooperation among civilizations so that human suffering is ended in any part of the world including Gaza.

Prof Zahid Anwar, Former vice President of the University of Peshawar and Chairman of PEDF ( Peace, Education and Development Foundation)  in his keynote speech focused on, “ BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) and CPEC ( China Pakistan Economic Corridor): A way Forward to Cultural and Civilizational Understanding”. He said that the opening up and economic reforms in China by Deng Xiaoping and his successors made the Chinese economy the fastest-growing and second-largest in the world. That economic strength enabled it to realize its cherished dream of reviving the legendary Silk Road. Belt and Road Initiative is the 21st Century Silk Road that was launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013. If the Silk Road is a modern metaphor for sharing and learning across cultures, then BRI is a simile for exploring regional commonalities he added. Prof Zahid Anwar said that CPEC is a flagship project of BRI and the projects under the CPEC framework have created 192,000 jobs, produced 6,000 megawatts of electric power, built 510 kilometers of highways and added 886 kilometers to the core national transmission network in Pakistan.

President Xi Jinping’s Global Civilizational Initiative advocates respect for the diversity of civilizations and the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue, and inclusivity, stresses humanity’s common values like peace, development, equality, democracy, and freedom, calls for the inheritance and innovation of traditional cultures, and promotes the strengthening of international people-to-people exchanges that foster mutual understanding. He concluded his speech by saying that a win-win approach, dialogue among civilizations, and mutual learning will pave the way for the realization of the precious dream of a community of shared future.

Prof. Xue Xinguo, Professor of School of Marxism, Xihua University in his presentation talked about the different schools of Marxism and socialism with Chinese characteristics. He explained the importance of International communication, and shared universal values, in the context of Chinese values and civilization. He further added that led by UIBE his institution is willing to participate in the project.

The next session dealt with, “The Second Phase: Youth Cultural Inheritance and Literary and Artistic Innovation” and was moderated by Prof. Jin Bing – Deputy Dean of the School of International Studies, UIBE. Prof. Wang Ning- Zhi Yuan Chair Professor of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Foreign member of the European Academy of Sciences in his keynote speech discussed modernity, post-modernity, colonialism, post-colonialism and Chinese modernization. He explained modernity in the context of social life developed in Europe in the 17th century. Then he turned the audience’s attention to modernity in the age of globalization. He also elaborated on different dimensions of Chinese modernity and underlined modernity as a narrative and as a social construct. He also talked about the cultural connotations of Chinese modernity and the Chinese style of modernization. Then he threw light on how Chinese modernity is different from the European variant of modernity and said that Confucianism is harmony between humanity and nature. He added that literature is a unique expression of the spiritual and material world and it should express the spirit of the time.

Prof. Sandro Jung – Distinguished Professor at Fudan University and Editor-in-Chief of ANQ in his presentation focused on the fictional novel of Johann David Wyss’s “The Swiss Family Robinson”. He explained the visual narrative consisting of six woodcuts that was commissioned for the first Chinese translation of the work, which was published in installments in the Shanghai-based magazine, The Tapestry Portrait Novel in 1903. He further elucidated that the manner in which the illustrator for the Tapestry Portrait Novel visualized Wyss’s novel differed fundamentally from Western practice. Creating a diachronic map that could embody and group together actions unfolded over several hours even several days resulting in complex image structures that captured micro-narratives. It is these separate narratives that the reader-viewer needs to integrate in a holistic reading that stresses the episodic and the adventurous. This method reflected the essential character of Wyss’s novel more accurately than the illustrations in Godolphin’s edition had done. The Tapestry Portrait Novel version emphasized the adventure-driven structure of the Robinsonade, whereas Godolphin’s edition, targeted as it was at children, used the work as an educational manual that inculcated humility, industry, and a strong civilizatory work ethic. The Chinese illustrator did not pursue such an agenda but cast, in Chinese visual terms, a popular foreign work the illustrations for which highlighted its entertaining rather than its didactic nature. lt introduced the strangeness of a Western work, but its illustrations familiarized it in such a way so as promote intercultural understanding.

Prof. Li Xiujian- Director of the Art Institute, Chinese National Academy of Arts in his presentation said that China is open and inclusive to other nations. From a historical perspective, he talked about rice, silk and porcelain and explained that in ancient times many foreign people and missions came to chang`an. They shared their visions, Western technologies and philosophies and China also contributed to world development. He also talked about China’s impact on the enlightenment movement in Europe and that mutual learning and cultural exchanges took place between China and the West. He explained that Chinese deal with other people with respect, and equality and their attitude to other cultures is innovative and inclusive. Toynbee, a British historian was also impressed by Chinese culture and that due to exchanges, we in China have a more flourishing culture, he added

Mr. Yasir Masood – Former Director of Media at the Centre of Excellence for China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Islamabad in his presentation talked about the empowerment of youth as partners in progress and added that the BRI cultivates youth development through economic ventures. He said that young people from both countries should engage, collaborate, and build lasting relationships. They can Lay the foundation for a strong and prosperous future partnership and have immense potential for mutual understanding, cultural exchange, and collective growth. In the end, Prof Wang Yuhang thanked the audience particularly the students of UIBE for their participation in the event in such large numbers for so long. The lunch was followed by a visit to the China Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum.

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