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We need a change of mindset to create a community of common destiny: Alistair Michie

By Morag Hobbs, He Zhuoyan (People's Daily Online)    17:06, May 15, 2019

The idea of creating a community of common destiny, a term championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, will take centre stage in the upcoming Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC), scheduled to begin in Beijing on May 15th. Alistair Michie, the secretary general of the British East Asia Council, explained in a recent interview with People's Daily Online that a change in the way countries communicate with each other is key for the successful creation of a global community of common destiny.

"The main message I want to try and get across in this conference is about a change of mindset. Fresh, innovative thinking was brilliantly successful during the economic reform and opening up of China. That fresh, innovative thinking now needs to be applied to how China communicates with the world," Michie said ahead of his participation in this week's CDAC.

The CDAC will host six parallel sub-forums around the theme of Asian civilization exchanges and mutual understanding, welcoming more than 2,000 people, including government officials from 47 countries in Asia as well as from outside the region.

Michie, who has lived and worked in 28 cities, provinces and regions in China over the last 30 years, said that this conference is hugely important, not only for China but also for the rest of the world. He believes that if China can use the same innovative thinking used during its economic reform and opening up, and apply it to communication, then bilateral relations will become more open and more productive.

Since the country first implemented its reform and opening up policies 40 years ago, China has trans-formed itself from a poor and underdeveloped centrally-planned economy into an economic powerhouse. When Michie first arrived in China, the country was home to around 1,000 kilometres of inter-provincial highway. Now, the country's highway system is more extensive than any other country, exceeding 140,000 km last year, according to Xinhua.

"I've been incredibly lucky because as a foreigner I've been able to observe 30 of the 40 years of reform and opening up, it has been a great privilege because I've been able to see China industrialize and modernize at a speed and scale that's unprecedented in human history."

However, Michie, who is from the UK, notes that despite these incredible changes, the western perception of China is still stuck somewhat in the past, a fact he puts down to a western monopoly on global mindset.

"The frustration is that many people outside China don't know that China now, arguably, has the most advanced infrastructure in the world. Little of this is known outside China.”

Asia, as a continent, is home to 60 percent of the world's population. In stark contrast, only 9.83 percent of the world's population resides in Europe, and a tiny 4.27 percent live in the US. "So, Europe and the US add up to only 14 percent of the world's population, but they dominate thinking and mindset because of the success they've had over the last couple of hundred years," Michie notes.

"But Europe and the USA are struggling. The economic system is not working well, and the financial crisis that started in 2008 in the USA nearly broke the global banking systems. The political systems in Europe and USA are failing, so I think it's important that Asia and China takes a lead and has a new way of thinking."

The world is under threat from unilateralism, and America seems to be gunning for what Michie calls a "clash of civilizations". In his opinion, the better alternative is a dialogue of civilizations with President Xi's community of common destiny at its core. "That's the only way we, as the human race, are going to tackle the many issues that we face that can only be dealt with by communal action - things like climate change, nuclear weapons and the stability of the global financial system."

To help bring Asia's voice to the rest of the world, China needs to implement fresh thinking. Michie believes that China is not yet communicating in a way that the people outside of China can identify with. "China is brilliant at digital media inside of China, but it's not using that to bridge and reach out to people around the world."

Under the theme of "exchanges and mutual learning among Asian civilizations and a community with a shared future," the CDAC will give China the opportunity to share its experience as well as learn from other nations.

As Michie puts it, "[The CDAC] is a crucial step to help China communicate internationally and help the world better understand where China's headed, what its foreign policy means and how it is truly about creating a community of common destiny." 

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

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