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Mutual learning among civilizations benefits China, world: British expert

By Qiang Wei (People's Daily)    09:18, May 10, 2019

The photo shows historical documents donated by the Needham Research Institute at Cambridge University to Zhejiang University. (Photo from Zhejiang University)

Mutual learning among civilizations benefits both China and the world, said Alistair Michie, Secretary General of the British East Asia Council in a recent interview with People’s Daily.

Visiting China for times in the past three decades, Michie has left his footprints in 28 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities.

In 2012, he became the first British national to be invited to a seminar with foreign experts held by Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee. In the following year, he was granted the Chinese Government Friendship Award.

Michie will soon visit China again for the upcoming Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC) which he said is a significant platform.

The conference was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia. In his keynote speech, the Chinese President remarked that “we should see the whole picture, follow the trend of the times, and jointly build a regional order that is more favorable to Asia and the world. We should, through efforts towards such a community for Asia, promote a community of common interest for all mankind.”

Keen on Chinese culture and history, Michie has been trying to figure out the reasons behind China’s rapid economic growth.

At the turn of the last century, he vigorously promoted cooperation between the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Needham Research Institute at Cambridge University, as a result of which a documentary named the Dragon’s Ascent co-produced by the two organizations captured broad attention after being aired by the BBC.

The cooperation also deepened Michie’s understanding of China.

Needham Research Institute at Cambridge University donates historical documents to Zhejiang University, including letters exchanged between Joseph Needham and Zhu Kezhen, Oct. 19, 2017. (Photo from Zhejiang University)

Joseph Needham’s volumes of Science and Civilization in China have totally changed the secretary general’s perception of civilization.

He introduced that he was stunned by a line in the book which goes ‘no country in the world has done as much in scale and size in civil engineering – but very little of this long history is known to the world’.

That’s why Michie believes that the CDAC will contribute to the inheritance and promotion of Asian and global civilizations and build a platform for mutual learning and common development for civilizations.

He said reform and opening up has brought impressive changes in China, but there were still many people in Europe who know little of China’s astounding changes over the past 40 years.

The CDAC will offer a great opportunity to create fresh thinking and ideas about how to reform communications between Asia, China and Europe, he noted.

Hoping to introduce China to the western world in an all-round manner, Michie partnered with Ron Dennis, the UK Business Ambassador, and other UK business leaders to establish the British East Asia Council, an organization aiming to advance positive relations between China and UK at the highest levels.

China’s reform and opening up is fueled by innovative thinking and policies, and Michie said he is expecting a round of reform and opening up of the exchange on civilizations that is also inspired by innovative thinking.

He believes that the achievements of the reform and opening up will be continuously recognized in history as one of the greatest ever gifts China gave to the peaceful and sustainable development of the world.

(Alistair Michie is Secretary General of British East Asia Council) 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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