At a ceremony held in Beijing on November 29, the Communication University of China formally announced the creation of the “Institute for a Community with Shared Future” — a new think tank paying homage to Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy concept. According to state media reports, this is the first research center in China devoted to the study of the notion of a “community of common destiny.”
The unveiling of the new center was attended by an array of foreign guests, including diplomats, university officials and think tank representatives, all of whom were pictured with the new director of the center, Li Huailiang (李怀亮), signing memoranda of understanding for unspecified cooperation. Participants included Brazilian Ambassador to China Celso de Tarso Pereira, Montenegrin Ambassador to China Branko Perovic, the president of Saint Augustine University of Tanzania, and Jean-Christophe Bas, the CEO of the Berlin-based Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute.
News reports gave little indication of the future research and cooperation to be undertaken by the center, although they did mention that the center’s director, Li Huailiang, read out loud an “Initiative on an International Scholarship Alliance” (人类命运共同体国际学术联盟倡议书). The principles of this initiative were broadly outlined as follows:
Cultural diversity is the basic character of the world; common prosperity, openness and accommodation are the common aspirations of people of all countries for a better life; the international scholarly community should actively promote consciousness of a community of common destiny for humankind, encouraging exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations; universities, think tanks and research institutes and scholars should be constructors of world peace, and contributors to global development, and protectors of international order.
This brief passage provides a tantalizing glimpse of the values underpinning the notion of “community of common destiny for humankind,” which in its official English-language translation has been called “community of common future.” Despite its apparent embrace of diversity, tolerance and mutual understanding, Xi Jinping’s notion of “common destiny” is premised on the supremacy of the state, and the priority of national development over individual and community values such as human rights.
The language of this International Scholarship Alliance,” therefore, would suggest that the new center’s interest is in encouraging greater tolerance and less criticism internationally for the policies and values of the Chinese Communist Party, on grounds of cultural relativism. It is the doctrine of non-interference translated into the realm of culture and scholarship.
Li Huailiang, the new center’s director, was the deputy editor of Hebei Studies (河北学刊), a scholarly journal of the Hebei Academy of Social Sciences, and the author of several books on media and culture. The Shanghai-based news site The Paper reported that Li is known as a pioneering figure in the field of “international culture trade” (国际文化贸易), noting that his book International Cultural Trade and Cultural Competition Today (当代国际文化贸易与文化竞争) was the first book domestically dealing with the field of cultural competition.