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One of the special plans for the root nature of civilization (III): Liu Cheng: Why is it said that the connotation of peace is so much more than “no war”?

Beijing, 21 Feb (ZXS) — Why is it said that the connotation of peace is far more than “no war”?

China News Agency reporter Zhu Fangfang

At the beginning of 2022, the leaders of the five nuclear-weapon states of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States issued the Joint Statement on the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Avoidance of an Arms Race, once again demonstrating that peace is a common value for all mankind and bringing more hope to the world.

Peace, which has flowed in the blood of Chinese since ancient times, has been one of the core aspirations of the Chinese nation for thousands of years. The first sentence of “Sun Tzu’s Art of War” opens with a clear meaning: “Soldiers, the great affairs of the country, the place of death and life, the way of survival and death, must not be ignored”, and its main meaning is to be cautious and not to fight. How can peace be understood and shaped from a broader perspective? What will China’s view of peace bring to the world? Liu Cheng, professor of the School of History of Nanjing University, host of the UNESCO Chair in Peace Studies and director of the Institute of Peace Studies, recently gave an exclusive interview with China News Agency’s “East-West Question” to give an explanation.

The first sentence of “Sun Tzu’s Art of War” opens with a clear meaning: “Soldiers, the great affairs of the country, the place of death and life, and the way of survival and death, must not be ignored.” Photo by Zhang Bingtao

The following is a summary of the interview:

China News Agency: Peace and war often appear correspondingly, can it be called peace without war?

Liu Cheng:

The devastating consequences of war, especially the harm to human life, have been repeated throughout human history, leaving painful memories. Especially in modern times, war has posed a threat to human civilization. Thus, war becomes the antithesis of peace, and there is no peace without war, or peace means no war. But this is a static way of thinking that ignores the institutional structural and cultural causes of war.

Peace without war is of course very important, and it focuses on all aspects of preventing the outbreak of war, such as the elimination of nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction, and the reduction of troops. This type of peace can be called a “negative peace” and is more concerned with immediate and short-term security issues. Roman peace is a typical negative peace, and people must abide by Roman law and be subject to social and political control. Peace through the “balance of power”, the establishment of the League of Nations and the United Nations, the promulgation of international law, the establishment of international tribunals, etc., are all means of trying to achieve a negative peace.

On 21 September 2021, the general debate of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly opened at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Photo by China News Agency reporter Liao Pan

But a negative peace without war has never really been achieved, leading to the pessimistic conclusion of Kant, Einstein and others that it is impossible for mankind to eliminate war. War is decided by man and driven by human interests, sometimes for the defence of the freedom and justice of the people, and sometimes for the self-interest of groups or individuals, that is, their power, religion and economic influence. War is brutal, and all moral rules hardly work in war.

After World War II, academics began to rethink the meaning of peace, and the concept of “positive peace” was born. Positive peace goes beyond the “alibi” connotation and includes key themes such as healthy living, human rights upholding, racial equality, gender empowerment, ecological protection, etc., which means creating a beautiful and safe space where families, communities, schools, workplaces, countries, and the international community can live in abundance and live in dignity.

Active peace includes four aspects: one is natural peace, which refers to cooperation between species rather than struggle. The second is direct peace, which includes verbal and material benevolence, concern for the basic needs, survival, happiness, freedom and identity of all people, of which love is the epitome of body, mind and heart. The third is structural peace, replacing oppression with freedom and exploitation with equality; This substitution is accomplished through dialogue rather than penetration, integration rather than fragmentation, solidarity rather than isolation, participation rather than marginalization. The fourth is cultural peace, replacing the legitimacy of violence with the legitimacy of peace, and building a positive culture of peace within religion, law, ideology, language, art and science, in schools, universities and the media, which means opening up, not inhibiting, the different tendencies and talents of human beings.

In November 2021, in Qinghai Thar Temple, believers lit butter lamps to pray for peace and auspiciousness. Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhang Tianfu

China News Agency: Peace is one of the core concepts of traditional Chinese culture, what are the commonalities and differences between the East and the West’s understanding of peace?

The quest for peace may be as old as human history. The English word Peace is derived from the Latin Pax, which means the absence of war under a hegemonic order. Chinese “peace” has the connotation of harmony, stability and order. Literally, compared with China’s peace, English lacks positive peace content. However, the English adjective for peace, Peaceful, also has the connotation of positive peace.

The concept of peace is a historical category that has different key connotations in different historical stages, and its meaning will change over time, even within the same country or nation. There was a debate at a peace conference abroad: a Western scholar emphasized the threat to peace posed by the global arms trade. Meanwhile, a scholar from the East argues that eradicating hunger or extreme poverty is a more urgent task for peace.

Peace studies originally originated in Europe and the United States, but the core concepts originated from the East, such as non-violence in India, the balance of yin and yang in Chinese Taoism, “harmony with real creatures, the same is not continued”, “love and non-attack”, “turn dry war into jade” and other ideas. Galtun, the father of peaceology, believed that “peace is the creative transformation of conflict through non-violent means”. The concept of positive peace is based on the understanding of a wide range of social conditions, justice and equality as fundamental elements of peace, advocates the elimination of all forms of discrimination based on class, ethics, tribe, age, religion, race and gender, and is concerned with a future, lasting and comprehensive peace. This is in line with the Chinese culture’s understanding of peace.

Mozi’s hometown in Tengzhou, Shandong, the Mo Festival Ceremony. “Love and non-attack” is the main ideological view of the Mojia school. Photo by Yan Feng, reporter of China News Agency

Since the 60s of the 20th century, the concept of positive peace has been more accepted by Eastern and Western countries, including Eastern and Western countries. Peace studies can be compared with medicine, medicine diagnoses people’s health conditions, and peace diagnoses the violent state of human society; Medicine can perform surgical excision (Western medicine) or body conditioning (TCM), and peaceology can reduce direct violence (negative peace) or improve the living environment (positive peace). As peace studies become popularized around the world, and as Chinese culture becomes more well-known and accepted by the world, the understanding of the rich connotation of peace and the understanding of conflict resolution through peaceful means will continue to converge in all countries of the world.

China News Agency: Does China’s concept of peace reflect China’s concept of peace by creatively transforming the harmonious thinking in traditional culture, putting forward a new type of international relations concept with win-win cooperation as the core, and issuing an initiative to build a community with a shared future for mankind?

China has become the world’s second-largest economy and a rising power. China’s traditional thought, history and culture contain rich concepts of peace, and China’s diplomacy has always followed the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, pursued the policy of peaceful diplomacy, and in recent years put forward the initiative of building a community with a shared future for mankind, demonstrating China’s peaceful image as a responsible major country. China has developed itself through safeguarding world peace and maintained world peace through its own development. Culture and fundamental interests determine that China is an advocate, defender and defender of world peace.

Worldwide, the relationship between culture, religion and state is divided into four different models, with different choices for each country. The first is the “self” model, that is, thinking that one’s culture, religion, and nation are the best and higher. In this self-centered understanding, all other cultures, religions, and nations cannot be compared with the self. Imperialism, colonialism, racism are examples. The second is the “pluralistic” model, which is a living world in which different cultures, religions and countries coexist. In the pursuit of self-equality, it is often accompanied by fierce competition, hostility, violence, and even war. The third is the “interaction” model, in which all our cultures, religions and peoples exist and develop through interaction, exchange and cooperation. The fourth type of “integration” is the top-level model, in which all people sit in the same boat, live in the same world, have the same experiences, desires and problems (e.g. ecological problems), and are united in a global social network. Obviously, the community with a shared future for mankind reveals precisely the goals and approaches of this integration model, which is the product of Chinese culture and wisdom, and is a non-violent way to achieve peace, which epitomizes China’s concept of peace.

In December 2017, the first South-South Human Rights Forum was held in Beijing with the theme of “Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind: New Opportunities for South-South Human Rights Development”. More than 300 people, including officials, experts and scholars from more than 70 countries and international organizations, attended the forum. Willy Nyamitwe, chief press adviser to the President of Burundi, reads the Beijing Declaration. Photo by China News Agency reporter Han Haidan

Peace begins with shared interests and understanding, which is not the same as recognition, but conflicts that arise from cognitive differences can be avoided. The second step is characterized by mutual tolerance, followed by reconciliation, and the formation of an interdependent ideology and force. The third step is mutual acceptance beyond simple tolerance, and mutual differences become the reason for enriching oneself. The fourth step is to value the traditions and cherishing of others, and when people build a bridge to each other, they will find that the other world is just as wonderful. The final step is the interconnection of human society into a community of solidarity and fraternity.

Mr. Fei Xiaotong’s 16-character motto, “The beauty of each other, the beauty of the people, the beauty of the United States, the unity of the world”, expresses this non-violent way to achieve peace. Taking the Beijing Winter Olympics as an example, “the beauty of each other” is the best performance of athletes from various delegations on the big stage of competition; “The beauty of beauty” means that athletes from various delegations learn from each other and encourage each other inside and outside the arena, and the audience appreciates the style of athletes; Through exchanges and mutual learning, the Winter Olympics presents a colorful world, shows diverse cultures, highlights “one world, one dream”, and promotes the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind.

On February 2, 2022, athletes trained at the National Biathlon Center in Zhangjiakou to prepare for the Beijing Winter Olympics. Photo by China News Agency reporter Tomita

Of course, differences are not unimportant. The concept of a community with a shared future for mankind is not to ignore differences, but to respect and transcend differences by seeking commonalities, and ultimately achieve the common goal of positive peace for mankind in the new era. (End)

Respondent Profile:

Liu Cheng is a professor and doctoral supervisor of world history at the School of History, Nanjing University, specializing in British history and peace studies. He graduated from Nanjing University in 2001 with a doctorate in history. He is currently the Moderator of the UNESCO Chair on Peace Studies at Nanjing University, Director of the Institute of British and Commonwealth Studies at Nanjing University, and Director of the Institute of Peace Studies at Nanjing University. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), a member of the Steering Committee of the Northeast Asia Institute of Peace Education (NARPI), and a director of the International Association of Cities for Peace (ICP). Selected by the Ministry of Education “New Century Excellent Talents Support Program” (2008). He has been to universities in the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, Canada, Belgium and other places for academic exchanges.

Liu Cheng:

Liu Cheng: