Presentations given July 31st, 2021 at the symposium “China’s Rise: Its Meaning to Humanity’s Strivings” as a part of the Saturday Free School and Church of the Advocate’s Commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China
Du Bois’ 1959 trip to China, Alice Li
Fidel and Xi Jinping, Eunnuri Yi
India & China, Purba Chatterjee
Presentation on Du Bois’ 1959 visit to China by Alice Li
Du Bois had traveled extensively – aside from China, he had also been to Germany, England, France, and the Soviet Union. Rooted in the Black Freedom Struggle, he sought world programs of economic, political, and social change that might inform the revolution needed in America for America in the early 20th century, as it is now, was a country plagued with war, racism, and poverty.
Du Bois first saw China during a one-week trip in 1936. The China he had seen in 1936 was one divided and occupied by foreign imperialist powers and had reduced China to a semi-colonial country. China’s subjugation and humiliation was a result of a history going back to the Opium Wars during the early and mid-19th century during which opium was violently thrusted upon its society. By demarcating boundaries, claiming rights to seaports and railways, and pouring loans and investments into China, foreign countries such as Japan and the US commanded China’s industries and markets and reaped immense profits. All the while, China’s masses were deeply impoverished with little to no say over the wages, prices and taxes dictated by imperialist interests.
When he returned in 1959, Du Bois saw a different China, a New China, one that was, as we have discussed in the previous days of our event, led by the Communist Party of China and built for its masses of peasants and workers. Given an ideology, a program, and arms, the people had stood up. During his ten weeks, Du Bois witnessed China on a level of breadth and depth rarely experienced. He traveled “five thousand miles, by railway, boat, plane and auto”. He went to universities, factories, villages, theatres, tea parlors and people’s homes. He met with and conversed with China’s many leaders, both national and local, who were guiding the new nation’s systems of government, industry, education, and culture. He also met some of the many workers who made up the nation and were carrying out its tremendous reconstruction. Du Bois saw the spirit and lives of the Chinese people in work and in leisure, with their friends and with their families. Of his trip, Du Bois wrote in his essay “The Vast Miracle of China Today”,
“I have traveled widely on this earth since my first trip to Europe sixty-seven years ago. Save South America and India, I have seen most of the civilized world and much of its backward regions. Many leading nations I have visited repeatedly. But I have never seen a nation which so amazed and touched me as China in 1959.”
How was Du Bois able to understand China during a time when there was such intense anti-Communist sentiment? When New China was still an infant and still so poor?
- His understanding of democracy and therefore China’s contribution to the world
Du Bois writes in his unpublished manuscript, A World Search for Democracy
“Real democracy is based upon the widest recognition of human equality. It assumes that wisdom in government comes from the widest knowledge concerning the governed, a knowledge eventually so wide that it becomes in effect a pool of human experience to which all human beings contribute. Shut off one rill from this ocean of human life and it is incomplete. But when it is all there despite its waves and storms, the sheltered inlets and hidden rocks, it becomes for the guiding of men the voice of God.”
Du Bois saw that China was rid of emperors, warlords, and imperialists after a century of exploitation and the people were toiling not for the few but for the broad masses of their own countrymen. The Communist Party of China had built a democratic people’s movement and mobilized the masses through the expedition of the Long March, the building of Soviet bases, and the unification of the country to fight against Japanese aggression in beginning to build a country that could stand up after it had been beaten down.
Moreover, Du Bois understood the significance of China’s revolution for the masses of poor and oppressed in America and of the world for it had reshaped economic, social, and political life touching upon questions such as industry, education, and governance. It is the same reason China is seen as an existential threat to the Western order.
- His commitment to truth and his belief in the unity between America and China
Between Du Bois’ two trips to China – one in 1936 and the other in 1959 – he had been invited to China twice, once in 1946 and the other in 1956. The sentiment of the Chinese people was represented by a letter Soong Ching-ling, the wife of Sun Yat-sen, had written to Du Bois in 1948, “We feel that the common people of one land should work with and help the common people of others. Their plights and struggles are synonymous; one section of the world does not succeed or suffer without affecting the others.” Both times the US had not permitted him to visit China and even on his 1959 trip, his passport stated “not good for travel to China”. However, in the midst of dominant hysteria, Du Bois sought to know the truth of China unhindered and to tell it not for the ruling elite that were propagandizing war and hostility but rather for the working masses of the world that could benefit from China’s revolutionary experiment.
Du Bois writes in Russia and America, “China is inconceivable. Here first, a man out of the empty West, realizes where the population of the world really centers. Never before has a land so affected me. For Africa I had more emotion – a greater wave of understanding and recognition. But China to the wayfarer of a little week, and I suspect of a little year, is incomprehensible. I have, of course, a theory and explanation which brings some vague meaning to the mass of things I have seen and heard. But I understand now as never before how I have mistrusted human history and missed the whole meaning of a people. And this I know: any attempt to explain the world, without giving China a place of extraordinary prominence is futile. Perhaps the riddle of the universe will be settled in China; and if not, in no part of the world which ignores China.”
In China, Du Bois saw the potential for unity between the revolutionary forces of both the United States and of China. For both American black worker and the Chinese worker, their common enemy are war and poverty. And both, whether the black worker during Reconstruction or the Chinese worker in the Long March, showed that they would struggle.
In the current times of American society in which poverty exists next to extreme wealth, in which wars between nations are promoted so carelessly, in which people are depressed and anxious about their and their children’s futures, we should look to Du Bois for a path forward. In the past century, America has been the greatest purveyor of violence against the American people and those of world. We have a great and urgent responsibility to fulfill our claims of democracy and to call for peace and unity. Fortunately as Du Bois shows, we have a rich American tradition to draw upon both in the American Revolution and the Black Freedom Struggle and a world tradition, including that of the Chinese Revolution to learn from.
Fidel Castro, Xi Jinping, and Humanity in the 21st Century, by Eunnuri Yi
In 1999, Fidel Castro reflected on the coming of the new millennium:
“What year 2000 are we going to celebrate and what kind of a new century will we live in?”
He continued: “The world will reach that 21st century with people living under New York bridges, wrapped in papers, while others amass enormous fortunes. There are many tycoons in that country but the number of those living under bridges, at the entrance of buildings or in slums is incomparably higher. In the United States, millions live in critical poverty, something in which the fanatic advocates of the economic order imposed upon humanity cannot take pride.”
This was a bleak image that is still too-familiar today; yet Fidel had hope for the 21st century with the rise of China. For Fidel, the distinction between the people and the enemies of the people were clear: the most significant divisions of the world were not between races, religions, or cultures, but rather between those who supported imperialism, colonialism, and neocolonialism and those who opposed the forces which suppressed the people and their development. Fidel’s leadership, characterized by his undying faith and confidence in the people, his commitment to the battle of ideas, resulted in the clarity and strong unity of the Cuban people and society, but also in a selfless and principled internationalism — which I believe has new relevance for our times, as we struggle to free ourselves from the 500 year long Age of Europe to finally achieve the Age of Humanity: an age of free nations and people, united and self-determining.
Before the 1959 revolution, Cuba was a country dominated by American imperialism, and the political corruption of the ruling class. American companies dominated the Cuban economy, treating it as a semicolony such that Cuba was a backyard playground for organized crime and wealthy Americans to use for gambling, drugs, and prostitution. The many country clubs and beaches enjoyed by tourists and the wealthy were strictly segregated, while in the countryside and sugarcane plantations, abject poverty was common, and only around 2% of the population had attained an education beyond the 5th grade level.
The 1961 Literacy Campaign, which had the goal of eradicating illiteracy in the span of just eight months, paved the way to the new Cuba, united around the ideals of the revolution: 100,000 teenage volunteers left school to live and work in the countryside. Before their departure, Fidel told them:
“You are going to teach, but at the same time you will learn. You will learn much more than you teach… They will teach you the why of the revolution better than any book… They will teach you how living creatures had to suffer under exploitation from selfish interests. They will teach you what it is to have lived without sufficient food; they will teach you what it is to live without doctors and hospitals. They will teach you, at the same time, what is a healthy, sound, clean life; what is upright morality, duty, generosity, sharing the little they have with visitors… And when you come back… you will feel better citizens, better revolutionaries.”
The literacy campaign, like the campaigns of the Red Army, won the masses of people to the revolution while developing its participants around its core values, and firmly set the moral foundation and principles of the new Cuban people’s democracy for the generations to come:
“The children of those people who could not read or write developed such a high consciousness that they shed their sweat, and even their blood, for other peoples: in short, for any people in the world. ” (Battle of Ideas)
Over 500,000 Cubans have taken part in internationalist missions in the last 60 years, participating directly in the Angolan liberation struggle, for example. Doctors went to serve the people “where there are no physicians and where other physicians would not go,” all over the world — whether in Suriname, remote mountain areas, or even in the Canadian Arctic Circle. Fidel highlights just one example:
“Once, when Nicaragua requested 1000 teachers — later they asked for some more — we invited volunteers and 30000 offered. Then, when the bandits organized and supplied by the United States who waged that dirty war against the Sandinistas murdered some of our teachers who are not in the cities, but in the most isolated places in the countryside, sharing the peasants’ living conditions — 100,000 volunteered to go… That is why I am discussing ideas; that is why I am discussing consciousness. That is why I believe what I am saying, that is why I believe in mankind. Because when so many of our fellow countrymen and women went or were ready to go to those places, consciousness and the idea of solidarity and internationalism proved to be a mass phenomenon.”
Out of all of the world figures, I really feel that Fidel exemplified the principle of international solidarity, and that even today, he is a beacon that the people of so many countries look to — the Cuban minister of foreign affairs, Felipe Perez Roque, wrote that “Fidel’s internationalist mission was to transform Cuba from a tiny island lost in the sea into solid ground for all who struggle for justice and honor anywhere in the world.”
He was a leader not just of Cuba, but of the world struggle against imperialism — and one of the great fighters and believers in the ideological struggle. Fidel gave this speech on the ‘Battle of Ideas,’ also known as “A Revolution Cannot be Born without Culture and Ideas,” in 1999 in Venezuela shortly after the election of Hugo Chavez. This was coming out of Cuba’s special period of economic hardship after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, but Fidel’s analysis of the time period was that although the collapse of the Soviet bloc had indeed caused great difficulty for Cuba, the neoliberal American policies of globalization had also created economic crisis for the West due to its fundamental instability, that “the high and mighty, those who thought they had created a system or an empire that would last a thousand years, were beginning to realize that the foundations of that system, of that empire, are falling apart” (end quote) and that this contradiction was a great weakness for the West, causing (quote) “confusion and even despair.”
In the crisis of the Western world order, Fidel was confident that the deciding force of history would be the decisive will of the people and their collective unity through their high political awareness. He said that despite the onslaught of the economic blockade and the ideological attacks of the imperialists,
“they have been unable to defeat a united people, a people armed with just ideas, a people endowed with a great political consciousness, because that is most important for us. We have resisted everything and are ready to continue resisting for as long as necessary, thanks to the seeds planted throughout those decades, thanks to the ideas and the consciousness developed during that time. This has been our best weapon and it shall remain so, even in nuclear times.”
Fidel on China:
Beginning in the 1990s and into the beginning of the new millennium, around the same time of the “Battle of Ideas” speech, Fidel began to speak more and more emphatically on China as the country of the 21st century, the country of the future,” (end quote) as well as “the most promising hope and the best example for all Third World countries“ (end quote). What he says is very interesting I think, and useful for us:
In a 1994 interview, Fidel was asked, “Do you think China is an example that must be followed?” Fidel responded:
It is an experiment that must be studied. The Chinese themselves say that no one should automatically imitate what others are doing. They criticize themselves for mechanically applying the Soviet experience during its first years. But if you want to talk about socialism, let us not forget what socialism achieved in China. At one time it was the land of hunger, poverty, disasters. Today there is none of that. Today China can feed, dress, educate, and care for the health of 1.2 billion people…
There are no fully pure regimes or systems. In Cuba, for instance, we have many forms of private property. We have hundreds of thousands of farm owners. In some cases they own up to 110 acres (some 150 hectares). In Europe they would be considered large landholders. Practically all Cubans own their own home and, what is more, we welcome foreign investment. But that does not mean that Cuba has stopped being socialist.”
Fidel evaluates China, not in terms of lofty abstractions or dogmas about socialism, as is common among our armchair, academic left — but in terms of its concrete achievements and its undeniable impact on the real lives of 1 billion people freed from imperialist exploitation with the Chinese Revolution and 700 million people lifted out of poverty in the span of a single lifetime — basically, in terms of whether China is working to achieve the fundamental goals of socialism. His question is not ‘is China socialist?’ but rather, ‘what has China done for its people’? and ‘what can the Chinese experiment teach us?’
In 2004, ten years later, when then-president Hu Jintao visited Cuba, Fidel awarded him the Order of Jose Marti, one of the highest state honors, and in his speech reiterated his admiration of China, the need to learn by its example, and the importance of creative synthesis for each country to chart its own path based on its unique conditions. He said then:
“the Communist Party and the people of the People’s Republic of China have irrefutably demonstrated, as Cuba and other brotherly countries have shown, that each people must adapt their strategy and revolutionary objectives to the concrete conditions of their own country and that there are not two absolutely equal socialist revolutionary processes. From each of them, you can take the best experiences and learn from each of their most serious mistakes…
China has objectively become the most promising hope and the best example for all Third World countries. I do not hesitate to say that it is already the main engine of the world economy. In what time? In only 83 years after the foundation of its glorious Communist Party and 55 years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China.”
Firstly, Fidel’s approach to understanding China, like the 1981 Report of the CPC’s Assessment of the Cultural Revolution that Emily presented on yesterday — is measured and self-reflective, grounded in the desire to draw conclusions as lessons to better serve the people and build the revolutionary process. This is the approach of the true revolutionary… Secondly, I also think that these two quotes speak to what Doc was saying yesterday about Mao and the Chinese Revolution’s strivings to find a “Chinese essence” in applying the theories of Lenin and Marx. “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” — as Deng put it — is not something that can be exported, which I believe Xi Jinping emphasizes in China’s internationalist approach today. Rather, as Fidel says, each country should study and synthesize creatively, developing independently along a potentially unique revolutionary trajectory, but while still learning from world history and uniting towards a shared global community.
Xi Jinping, Chinese-Cuban Friendship, and the Community of Common Destiny in the 21st Century:
By 2014, just two years before Fidel’s passing, Xi Jinping visited Cuba, and Fidel declared, “Xi Jinping is one of the strongest and most capable revolutionary leaders I have met in my life,” also presenting him with the Order of Martí. This was when he said,
“I feel a profound affection for the Chinese people, an undying admiration because of their millenary history, personal qualities, love of independence and freedom, their heroic struggles in the face of interventions and colonialism, and for the efforts they have made for over 100 years to attain liberation, for the work they are currently conducting, for the great economic successes they are reaching, for… the stability they have achieved. For that reason, I realize that China is the country of the 21st century, it is the country of the future because of its human potential, natural resources, scientific potential, the talent of its children, and the hard-working spirit of the people. I believe that in the 21st century, China will be the giant that arises.”
China and Cuba have had a long and beautiful friendship, with deep connections over the years: Cuba was the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China in September of 1960. China sent oil lanterns to Cuba one year later so that the brigadistas in the literacy campaign could teach and students could study by night after the day’s work was done. Both Fidel and Xi Jinping have remarked on the special quality of this relationship. In 2014, when Xi Jinping visited Cuba, he reflected,
“This relationship [between Cuba and China] has stood the test of constant changes in the international landscape and set an example of unity and cooperation between developing countries. Cuban national hero Jose Marti said, “To be united: this is the word of the world.” China and Cuba are good friends, good comrades and good brothers who share the same visions and beliefs.”
The longstanding example of Cuban-Chinese friendship and the connections between Fidel’s internationalism and Xi Jinping’s philosophy of win-win international relations offers one bright possibility for the future of international relations with the rise of China — the possibility that the relations between countries could in general be characterized by friendly cooperation, brotherhood, and unity, as opposed to being the exception to the rule under the system of American hegemony, competition, division, and war.
It’s another huge task to begin to try to understand Xi Jinping’s leadership and what it means as a new era for China, and so thankfully, I will leave that to the next panelists — but I just wanted to share a small piece of what Xi Jinping is saying in this time about China’s philosophy of international relations, and how well it fits in with the historical current of ideas that Fidel, the Chinese Revolution, and the world anti-colonial struggle all were enmeshed in. In 2015 at the Boao Forum for Asia, Xi Jinping gave the keynote speech, entitled “Towards a Community of Common Destiny and A New Future for Asia,” in which he commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference to discuss the cause of peace and development in Asia and the world in the current era. In it, Xi said,
“Asia belongs to the world… To build a community of common destiny, we need to make sure that all countries respect one another and treat each other as equals. Countries may differ in size, strength or level of development, but they are all equal members of the international community with equal rights to participate in regional and international affairs. On matters that involve us all, we should discuss and look for a solution together. Being a big country means shouldering greater responsibilities for regional and world peace and development, as opposed to seeking greater monopoly over regional and world affairs.
To respect one another and treat each other as equals, countries need to, first and foremost, respect other countries’ social systems and development paths of their own choice, respect each other’s core interests and major concerns and have objective and rational perception of other countries’ growing strength, policies and visions. Efforts should be made to seek common ground while shelving differences, and better still to increase common interests and dissolve differences…
To build a community of common destiny, we need to ensure inclusiveness and mutual learning among civilizations… each adding its own splendour to the progress of human civilization… Mencius, the great philosopher in ancient China, said, “Things are born to be different.” Civilizations are only unique, and no one is superior to the other. There needs to be more exchange and dialogue among civilizations and development models, so that each could draw on the strength of the other and all could thrive and prosper by way of mutual learning and common development. Let us promote inter-civilizational exchanges to build bridges of friendship for our people, drive human development, and safeguard peace of the world.”
The “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind,” as a key term for China’s international relations in the new, emerging era under Xi Jinping, in some ways possibly looks like the fulfillment of so many revolutionary dreams and ideas. It recognizes Fidel’s assessment of China and Cuba as countries with particular contexts, conditions, and a unique essence to contribute to world revolution. It follows Du Bois in the World and Africa, who wrote,
“No culture whose greatest effort must go to suppress some of the strongest contributions of mankind can have left in itself strength for survival. War which typifies suppression and death can never support a lasting culture. Peace and tolerance is the only path to eternal progress. Europe can never survive without Asia and Africa as free and interrelated civilizations in one world.”
It draws on China’s Five Principles of Coexistence from the Bandung era; it echoes Martin Luther King Jr’s insistence that “all life is interrelated, that we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny, and that whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
And so, I think I’ve just opened up a huge can of worms, with more allusions and questions than answers and not much to conclude with finality, but this much is clear: Today, in the 21st century, the key division of the world is still between humanity and the enemies of the people, which are war, poverty, and imperialism. But we are also at a crossroads, perhaps, between the countries and people who look to the shared future and uplift of humanity in the 21st century: those who have clarity of ideas, are willing to engage in study and struggle, and thus have good faith and hope in China — versus the cynics and nihilists who cling ever more viciously and desperately to the decaying rule of the old world order based on war, competition, exploitation, and degradation, and refuse to face the future.
And if China does manage to follow through in action to make good on its new promises of the “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” — as it has made good on its promises to its own people to lift 700 million out of poverty in less than a century — to stand as a civilization of respect and human values, then it will be a huge leap towards finally fulfilling the centuries-long dream of the world anticolonial and revolutionary freedom struggles Fidel, King, and Du Bois played such great roles in, and a great victory for humanity in the 21st century.
A Historical Perspective of India-China Relations: The Hope for Modern Times. by Purba Chatterjee
The historical ties between India and China must be reckoned not in decades or centuries, but in thousands of years. Rahul Sankrityayan, one of India’s greatest scholars, has written extensively on the ancient civilizational belt from Eqypt to China that these two great countries of Asia were a part of. The southern Silk Road, which forged economic ties between them also served as an avenue for the exchange of ideas and philosophies. Most significant of these was the spread of Buddhism from India to China and other parts of East Asia in the 1st century AD. This was an age of spirited collaboration, seeking to reach a new synthesis of Indian and Chinese thought, leaving its mark directly or indirectly on the culture and economic development of all parts of Asia. Although forged by Buddhism, the civilizational ties between India and China went far beyond religion. Indian influences in Chinese art and literature in the 4th and 5th centuries tells us that China, though as culturally advanced, was willing to learn from Indian traditions. They met as equals, two great and ancient peoples devoted to the cause of universal truth and the fulfilment of human destiny. For a millennium they coexisted without conflict, which points beyond the difficult terrain that separated them, towards an essential commitment to peace that is the mark of great civilizations.
These cultural ties diminished with the decline of Buddhism and deteriorated further with the subsequent colonization of Asia by Europe. The early 20th century however saw a resurgence of an Asian identity, rooted in the anti-colonial movements of Asia and Africa. The devastation caused by the two world wars, fought primarily for imperial control over colonies, exposed the moral bankruptcy of western political theories. The anti-colonial movement grew out of the struggle for political independence and self-determination of colored humanity. In each country, it strove to uplift the spiritual and material realities of the working masses and to develop a new national consciousness based on civilizational roots. It also sought for principled unity among Asians and Africans against the inhumane white supremacist world order which had plunged the colored world into poverty and war.
It was in the context of this great movement of movements that the bond of friendship and solidarity between India and China was rejuvenated. Rabindranath Tagore, the great Indian poet and philosopher, was the living embodiment of this reawakening. He recognized the common humanity of the Indian and Chinese people. On his visit to China in 1924, he carried with him the message of peace and brotherhood. He proclaimed his belief in the ideal of a united Asia resisting the self-seeking materialism of the West through the moral force of love and spirituality. At a time when the conflict of traditional values with modernity was at the forefront of the national consciousness in both countries, he rejected the identification of modernity with westernization. Pointing towards the emphasis on universal truth and love in ancient Chinese and Indian philosophy, he asserted, “All true things are ever modern and can never become obsolete”. He equated civilization not with the mechanical progress of the West, but with dharma, or the moral imperative which “binds humanity and leads to the best possible welfare”, that was the legacy of the East.
The republic of India, under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and the People’s Republic of China under Chairman Mao Zedong came into being within a year of each other. Nehru recognized the commonality of the Indian and Chinese struggle as free nations: both poor countries with large and predominantly agrarian populations, in need of rapid industrialization and agricultural reforms to raise the standard of living. He extended the hand of friendship to China, firmly believing that their unity was key to the revival of Asia, and the ushering in of an era of peace after the ravages of war and two centuries of colonial oppression. This was the vision of the Asian Relations Conference conceived by Nehru in 1946, and organized in India in March 1947.
As early as April 1950, India established formal diplomatic relations with the New People’s Republic of China. India’s ambassador to New China, K.M. Panikkar, recorded his impression of the Central People’s Government as being run by “men and women who were efficient and honest, who knew their minds and were prepared to put their best into the service of the State”. In his talks with Mao, the latter acknowledged the common traditions of the two countries, and also their common struggle to recover freedom from foreign aggression. It was agreed upon by both parties that this freedom was threatened by the entrenchment of European economic power in Asia, and that India and China needed to develop their own resources in response. Panikkar described the new regime as committed to the upliftment of the working masses, with great emphasis laid on education and village reforms but also on bringing beauty, recreation, and a new spirit into the lives of common people.
Nehru’s commitment to principled unity with China was reflected in his prioritizing the legitimate admission of the PRC into the United Nations, over the question of India’s own membership. It was he who brought China to the Bandung conference on Afro-Asian unity in April 1955. The Bandung conference upheld the right of the colored world to determine their own political and economic destinies and resolved to lift the globally deprived from poverty and illiteracy. It adopted a resolution of mutual respect and cooperation building on Panchsheel, the five principles of peaceful coexistence laid out by India and China in 1954. The Bandung spirit was the very spirit of our anti-colonial struggle, and its faith in the agency of the darker masses of humanity to create a new world free from oppression and war.
The anti-colonial movement has however remained unfinished due to the counter revolution of western imperialism. Today, the rewriting of world history to exclude Africa and diminish Asia, coupled with neocolonial exploitation and war, has once again plunged us into economic, cultural and intellectual servitude to the west. In these times of deep ideological confusion, the narrative of India-China relations is dictated, not by the thousand years of friendship and peaceful coexistence, but by their recent history of conflicts which are the troubled inheritances of a post-colonial world. Western propaganda, with the self-serving interest of maintaining status-quo, fans the flame of anti-China sentiments. China is authoritarian, they say, and India must defend its democracy lest it go the same way. What is sad is that some Indian intellectuals, still to recover from their colonial training, have often echoed this western hysteria about a rising Chinese threat. This is why, today when President Xi Jinping is talking about reviving the Bangdung spirit and rebuilding the civilizational and economic ties of the Silk Road through the Belt and Road Initiative, India has hesitated to answer his call. Instead, she has partnered with U.S.A, Australia and Japan through the Quad alliance, countries she has very little in common with historically and culturally.
Tagore has said “The most memorable fact of human history is that of a path-opening, not for the clearing of a passage for machines or machine-guns, but for helping the realization by races of their affinity of minds, their mutual obligations of a common humanity.” Such a path was created between the Indian and Chinese people two thousand years ago, when they met as noble friends to exchange the best of their knowledge and cultural accomplishments . In stark contrast, the West came to us in war, not to learn and assimilate, but to subjugate and exploit, and to establish their dominance and superiority over the colored world. Those Indians that see in China a threat, and in the West a principled ally, would do well to remember the evidence of history. India should strengthen its commitment to regional peace and collaboration through a closer engagement with the Association of South East Asian Nations, or Asean. The Asean countries are invested in good relations with both India and China, and unlike India’s partners in the Quad alliance, seek not to contain China but to maintain a balance of powers in the Indo-Pacific, in the interest of fruitful economic and cultural cooperation and the maintenance of peace.
We must remember that while India and China might have adopted different political ideologies for the fulfilment of their respective national destinies, the Indian and Chinese people are bound by the common humanity of their civilizational histories, a bond that is older and stronger than nationalism. The greatest threat to democracy is not authoritarianism, but the brutality of poverty. The great task before India today is to raise the masses of poor that make up most of its population into lives of dignity and fulfilment. In this, we have much to learn from China’s remarkable success in extreme poverty alleviation through state action. We must also recognize in the Chinese national project the fundamental hope of our own freedom struggle, that a people united can transform society and make essential contributions to the progress of humanity as a whole.
Today the west is in the thralls of a deep political and economic crisis, and a viable alternative to the western world order is being presented by an economically and technologically ascending China. This is a world historic moment ripe with possibilities and India must decide which side she stands on. We must reflect on the past and draw deep from the well of history, so that through principled unity India and China can once again revitalize Asia both materially and culturally. Together, they are home to a third of the world’s youth, a storehouse of energy and potential waiting to be unleashed, 600 million young minds waiting to be lifted into the realm of true freedom. In them, and in young people everywhere rests the future of mankind. It is the work of our times to channel their creativity, idealism and innate goodness into the service of humanity, through an inspired synthesis of our ancient wisdom with the spirit of modern times. We must instill in them the firm belief that that true strength lies not in mechanical force and self-assertion but in the spirit of struggle and sacrifice for peace, and that true freedom is to be found not in material seekings and individual liberties, but in the moral imperative that binds us together in a common humanity and seeks the broadest measure of justice for all. We must inspire in our people a renewed faith in the unfulfilled dream of our anti-colonial struggle, that out of Asia and Africa can emerge the vision for a more human world order that places at the center of its concern not wealth and power, but the hopes and aspirations of the masses. As today we celebrate the centenary of the Communist party of China, we harbor great hope for the future, and great faith that India and China will answer the call of the times, not as two nations divided by political ideologies, but as one people with common roots dedicated to this vision of a new and better world.