On March 23th, in Rome, the Italian version of the book if President Xi Jinping,”The Governance of China”, (“Governare la Cina”) has been presented by The State Council Information Office of China, China International Publishing Group (CIPG) The Chinese Embassy in Italy
Foreign Languages Press and Giunti Editore S.p.A, in Palazzo Colonna, Rome. Xi Jinping’s thought, as it has been expressed in the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and in the book, is focussed on the idea that China is entitled, and obliged, because of its unique history, scale and power, to participate on an equal footing in decisions concerning the future of mankind.
Notwithstanding the frequent comparisons between the “Americam Exceptionalism” and the idea of “Zhong Guo”, China’ approach is different from the one adopted by the United States, which, according to a constant tradition, starting from George Washington, Emerson and Whitman, have conceived themselves as “the legislators of mankind”, so deliberately understating the contributions of different cultural traditions.
- Wu Wei
The concept underlying the idea of the participation of China in world affairs is the typically Asian idea of “Wu Wei” (Sanskrit “ahimsa”= “action without effort, or violence”), which means that, though wise men may act in society and history, their action is not direct, nor violent, but, on the contrary, aims at a long term impact of their wisdom, of their self- control, of their example and of their teachings.
Things have changed since the times of Lao Tse, but this has not made Wu Wei obsolete; on the contrary, that approach is still more needed now than before, because digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence have emphasized the immaterial aspects of geopolitics.
In reality, it is impossible, for this kind of reasons, to address today’s existential risks (such as the taking over, by machines, of control over mankind), either via a XX century approach, or through a sort of technological determinism. Relevant solutions can come only from a higher level of wisdom, such as the one of the Confucian Junzi, of the Daoist Xian,of the Buddhist Rshi or of the Christian Saints.
The crucial question for the survival of mankind is its capability to maintain control over the complex technological apparatus, enhancing, to the maximum extent as possible, the positive qualities of mankind, in such a way that decisions will be taken, also in the future, at human level, whereas only their implementation will be a task for machines. The symbol of this control is the gigantic robot Mazinga, steered by a child hidden at its heart.
2.China’s unique achievements
China’s ancient culture and strong organisational structure allows the country to achieve a high level of understanding of the ongoing processes, beyond temporary moods and ideologies, permitting to it an effective decision-making process. This is shown, i.a., by the unique achievements of China in the last 50 years, after the massive destructions caused by one hundred years of wars (Opium Wars, Taiping and Boxers uprisings, North Campaign, Long March, Japanese invasion, civil war, Korean, China-India and Vietnam wars).
In the last few years, China has become the country with the highest gross internal revenue, the main holder of foreign debt (including US and Italian debts), as well the most advanced country in the areas of telecommunications, quantic computing, high speed railways and hypersonic missiles.
Invoking his country’s ancient past in order to define its future, Xi makes, in his book, a cultural appeal that fashions a historical continuity between Confucian values and contemporary “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. With the formal systematization of Xi Jinping’s thought in the CCP’s Constitution ,a new political era has emerged in China. The present-day merging of Confucianism with another dominant logic—Chinese Marxism—mirrors, at least tangentially, an ancient Chinese antecedent, when the Ming and later Qing governments codified Neo-Confucianism as a guiding convention within their respective administrations.
Also from a commercial point of view, China has shown a unique capability to cope with the challenges of today’s world, governed by digitalisation, by the creation of multinational corporations such as Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, Huawei and ZTE. Up to now, only China has succeeded in this effort, what has not yet happened with Russia, India and Europe. Therefore, the existence of a strong Chinese digital industry is the best guarantee against the risk of a monopoly in the area of Artificial Intelligence.
Gradually growing into an iconic brand in Europe, China Railway Express, which connects 59 Chinese cities with 49 European cities in 15 countries, made 6,363 trips in 2018, surging 73 percent from 2017, according to the China Railway Corporation. The Belt and Road Initiative will liaise the Chinese high speed trains network (the largest of the world), with the existing TEN-T corridors of the European Union, bringing new business opportunities to crisis-ridden Europe.
3.Negotiations with Italy and Europe
On 23 of March, the MOU about the Belt and Road Initiative has been signed in Rome with the Italian Government. This MOU, strictly compliant with several European documents dealing with the relationships with China and with connectivity with Asia, opens up a large spectrum of cooperation opportunities in areas such as worldwide policies, cultural exchanges, joint industrial projects, the promotion of Italian style, and, especially, connectivity.
In particular, the MOU gives a concrete content to China’s interest for Italy as a western terminal for the Belt and Road Initiative, defining an interest for the ports of Genoa and Trieste. This choice has a paramount impact on Northern Italy, presently ridden by a 0% growth as a consequence of the worldwide slowing down of economy, caused by Trump’s trade wars. Northern Italy is nearer to the Suez Channel than Rotterdam and Hamburg. Therefore, it is important that ships may be downloaded there, so better serving not only Northern Italy, but also the Alpine Region and Central-Eastern Europe. The Chinese cooperation will speed up the renovation of those two Italian ports, for making them apt to convey a heavy burden of maritime traffic.
On the 9th of April, the Chinese Government will meet the European Union, many members of which have already signed MOUs similar to the one signed in Rome.
The meeting is important because it should speed up a commercial treaty, including the investments regimes, between China and Europe, due to substitute commercial agreements in force with each member State, and overdue since a long time because of the ever changing international political and business climate.
A tight connection with China is badly needed by the EU because of the present economic crisis and for facing US duties. Already the purchase of 290 airplanes from Airbus, the European aerospace champion, has been an important help, by China, to the ailing European economy. Moreover, completion of the TEN-T, especially for what concerns Central and Eastern Europe, is delayed. The Chinese contribution should help Europe to carry out the proposed programs.
4.A cultural Silk Road
As it has been made clear in Xi Jinping’s book, as well as in the other book presented in Rome in these days, “La Chiesa in Cina”, with the participation of Italy’s Prime Minister Conte, as well as in the speeches exchanged during Xi Jinping’s visit, the core meaning of the Italian adhesion to the Belt and Road initiative is neither economic, nor political, but rather cultural. China and Italy (“Da Qin”) two of the oldest civilisations in the World, have influenced immensely the Western and the Eastern parts of the world for three thousand years. Their mutual relationships have shaped the ancient Silk Road, with Giovanni da Pian del Carpine, Marco Polo, Matteo Ricci, Giovanni Castiglione, ecc…
These countries have an important role to play also in the future of Mankind, thanks to their ancient wisdom.
The Belt and Road initiative is important for us because it gives a concrete content to this ancient relationship.