EYESHENZHEN  /   Opinion

Diversified cultures and shared future

Writer: Shen Xianzhi  |  Editor: Jane Chen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2021-06-21

According to Genesis, following the Great Flood a united human race who speaks a single language agrees to build the Tower of Babel to reach heaven. God, afraid that nothing will be restrained from them, confounds their language so that they can no longer understand each other, and scatters them around the world.

Thank God! Diverse human languages and races thus came into being.

Language and culture have developed together and influenced each other as they evolved. "Language is culture and culture is language," as the saying goes.

In this context emerged diversified cultures. Diversified cultures add rich color to the world. Due to cultural diversification, the world has become a colorful canvas of people from different religions, racial identifications, and ethnic identities who speak different languages, and who celebrate different holidays.

The diversification also helps different cultures learn from each other. Cultural assimilation and language borrowing are key to the evolution of cultures and languages. Take loanwords as an example. A loanword is a word adopted from one language and incorporated into another without translation. No data is available on the number of loanwords, but according to Dictionary.com, about 80 percent of the English words are of non-English origin. Words like café, bazaar, kindergarten and qipao are borrowed words, to name just a few.

Great states are often great learners and borrowers of others. The Roman Empire is regarded as the greatest empire in its time. But Roman greatness was marked by their willingness to borrow other people's ideas. The term Greco-Roman culture, or classical civilization, shows the intimate connection between the ancient Greek and Roman languages, cultures and religions. Roman architecture, technology, city planning, art and military planning are all results of other people's influences. Roman conquerors treated their conquered enemies in a generous way. They often accepted them as Roman citizens. The Roman Empire even accepted some non-Roman residents as their emperors. Trajan, reputed as the second of the Five Good Emperors who presided over an era of peace and prosperity, was born in Italica, close to modern Seville in present-day Spain. Valerius Licinius, the Roman emperor from 308 to 324, most famous as the co-author of the Edict of Milan that granted official tolerance to Christians in the Roman Empire, was born to a Thracian peasant family. Thrace was a conquered land of the Roman Empire.

The same scenario occurred in Chinese history. The Tang Dynasty was the greatest empire in the East in its time. But it is preceded by the great social turmoil in the Southern and Northern dynasties when China suffered from large barbarian invasions and was split into different kingdoms. It is these ethnic cultures that greatly enriched the Han culture and helped create the great Tang Dynasty. According to historical documents, royal families of the Sui and Tang dynasties are of Xianbei ethnic descent, and Emperor Taizong Li Shimin was born to the Hetou family of Xianbei tribe. So historians conclude that the fusion of the five northern barbarian tribes and Han nationality is a great blessing from the perspective of cultural integration. The Han culture has been infused with chivalry and gallantry while a touch of gentleness was blended into the nomadic culture of Xianbei. These eventually created the Tang Empire's broad-mindedness and inclusiveness toward the world, and made it a great world center.

The United States is another beneficiary of cultural fusion. The U.S. boasted itself "a melting pot." Whether it's a melting pot or a mosaic, America is a nation mixed with different cultures and ethnicities. To some extent, scholars say, inclusiveness and tolerance of the society have helped create the world's most powerful nation.

Unfortunately, while the United States has enjoyed the fruits borne out of cultural diversity, theories of "the end of history" and "clash of civilizations" still prevail in American politics. While the three-decade-old post-Cold War history has proved the end-of-history theory a failure, ideological conflict and hostility remain deep-rooted under the cover of civilizational clash. True, different cultures may lead to conflict, as misunderstanding and misinterpretation could often happen in intercultural communication. But conflict is bound to happen among diverse cultures only when one culture shows no respect for the other, such as the unsubdued anti-Asian sentiment in the United States.

Western politicians may strongly advocate ecological protection and biodiversity, because they believe it is civilized to treat equally the varieties of species and even have the vision that biodiversity is essential to the long-term survival of life on Earth.

Sadly, they dislike cultural diversity and do not hold the following truth to be self-evident: that cultural diversity is vital for the long-term survival of humanity, and that cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature. They prefer monoculture. Thus Biden's debut on the international arena at the just concluded G7 summit is to peddle his long-cherished idea of monoculture and ideological conflicts.

Did he make it? No, because he is against the will of God, who demands diverse cultures of humankind, and because all human beings have a shared future which demands cooperation and coordination, as President Xi Jinping advocates.

(The author is the executive deputy editor-in-chief of Shenzhen Daily.)