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Op-Ed: Promulgating the myth of “clash of civilizations” is stupid and dangerous

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    10:10, July 19, 2019

Not long ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China for having a different value set, suggesting that the biggest problem between the two countries is that the Chinese have a fundamentally separate set of values.

In an interview, Pompeo said: “China is a nation that has a set of values that are so deeply at odds with the American way that we think about the world.” Pompeo seems to believe that Western values are superior to all others and seems to be using the State Department as a vehicle to promote religious-right ideology, rallying the “noble nations” of the world as he called them in a foreign policy speech last year to build a new world order centered on the West.

His radical vision for the world received greater attention when the Washington Examiner reported the State Department was preparing for a “clash of civilizations” with China. Kiron Skinner, the director of policy planning at the State Department, was quoted as saying at a security forum that America is in a fight “with a really different civilization” and that China is America’s first “non-Caucasian” great power competitor. The world widely denounced her remarks as racist.

Not long after those remarks were published, Pompeo, who once boasted that the CIA “lies, cheats, and steals” for the glory of America, doubled-down on his view of American exceptionalism and took aim again at Chinese values, suggesting in an interview that the West and China cannot coexist because Chinese values are “fundamentally different.”

Then, on July 16, John Bolton, national security adviser to Trump, spoke at the National Conservatism Conference in Washington, DC. Bolton argued that the growing rivalry between America and China has elements of Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” thesis, suggesting this is all about racial supremacy.

The belief that a certain set of values or a culture is superior to others fuels the dangerous myth that America is an exceptional nation chosen to lead the world and twists the way people perceive China and other non-Western nations. Pompeo, Bolton, and others in the Trump administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, are nationalists with a crusading mentality, who believe that America is the center of the world and see China’s rise as a civilizational threat.

They are trying to insert a radical agenda of nationalism mixed with religious-right ideology into US foreign policy, with the goal of dividing the world based on civilizational lines. They refuse to respect different values and cultures and ignore the fact that China is a country with over 5,000 years of civilization. They are completely blind to the fact that China values coexistence over hegemony and that Chinese have long held a philosophy and belief that “all under heaven are of one family.”

Their agenda is likely to have disastrous consequences, dividing the world into “noble nations” and “different nations,” or “white nations” and “non-white nations,” and thus setting the stage for a fierce ideological battle.

Promulgating the myth of a “clash of civilizations” is dangerous and stupid and will only lead to more divisions and conflicts. It is a shameful fact that for most of US history, war has been a constant and there have been few years without war. It would be wise for the radicals in the town of Washington to take a hard look in the mirror.

To the contrary, China advocates respecting differences, uniqueness, and diversity of civilizations. At the opening ceremony of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations in May this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that various civilizations are not destined to clash if people are able to appreciate the beauty of all civilizations. Xi said: “It is foolish to believe that one’s race and civilization are superior to others, and it is disastrous to willfully reshape or even replace other civilizations.”

The Trump administration has picked a trade war fight with China and other countries. Now, a clique of radicals in the administration are trying to apply the “clash of civilizations” label to the China-US relationship as an excuse to bully the world and grab as much power as possible to advance their agenda. It is nothing short of an attack on humanity and history, and it shows their simplistic and ignorant view of the world.

Curtis Stone is an international relations expert based in Beijing. You can reach him via email at [email protected]

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

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