Published: 00:22, November 21, 2023 | Updated: 09:56, November 21, 2023
World peace is crucial to sustainable development
By Ho Lok-sang

Last week President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden met at Filoli Historic House & Garden about 40 kilometers south of San Francisco. The first owner of the estate, William Bourn, named the estate Filoli by combining the first letters of his personal motto: “Fight for a just cause — Love your fellow man — Live a good life.” It was a particularly apt site for this important meeting because “Filoli” represents the universal values that both the US and China cherish.

The world is facing an existential threat caused by climate change, the threat of economic catastrophe caused by “decoupling” or “de-risking”, and a possible world war that could flare up from geopolitical clashes in Ukraine, in the Middle East. The leaders of the US and China must work together to ward off possible disasters. Sustainable development must be the top “just cause” that all nations of the world fight for together. To achieve sustainable development, all nations must work and fight to restore peace, for war is the No 1 threat to sustainable development.

I recall that more than 20 years ago, on Feb 15, 2003, people from all the major cities of the world took to the streets and called for the return of peace. According to Wikipedia, the day was described by social movement researchers as “the largest protest event in human history”. On the following day, I wrote a poem: 

“A day in 2003.

Seas of humanity do I see,

Wave upon wave of humanity,

United in a peace call.

February 15, a day in spring,

Men, women, and children fill the world’s cities in huge gatherings

United in one voice:

No War! 

‘Tis a historical day —

Truly historical I say.

For now the world is united

As never before.

The sight made my eyes glitter in tears

As I bring to mind images that will not permit cheers:

Images of devastated homes and families

Shattered by war.”

It is time for the US and China to put aside their differences and work together for sustainable development, peace, and prosperity for the world

Unfortunately, wars have not stopped in the intervening years, and the Israeli-Hamas conflict has now developed into the worst humanitarian disaster seen in recent years.

On Feb 10, 2021, the board of directors of Filoli issued a policy statement saying that “Filoli is dedicated to nurturing and growing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in all that we do. … We strive to create a sanctuary for healing and building connections for all people.” It is important that we remember that love and a good life are the true universal values that we all share. President Biden’s slanderous remarks on President Xi, on the grounds that China has “a form of government totally different than ours”, at a solo news conference after the Filoli summit show that Biden has ideological hangups and has failed to respect “diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion”.

We have different forms of government because we think that selecting leaders through merit tests is better than selecting leaders through the ballot box. Can’t he see that all Chinese citizens have an equal chance to become China’s future leaders? China’s leaders are working for the good life of their people, just as leaders are in the US. There is no evidence that US leaders are doing better than Chinese leaders.

If President Biden is honest about his liberal leanings, he needs to respect other people’s choice and embrace diversity. Such slanderous remarks not only show a lack of respect but also potentially undermine the cooperation between the two nations, which are being used by some commentators to paint a picture of deep division between China and the US, ignoring the fact that fundamentally we share the same values and goals. The apparent differences merely reflect differences in the ways the two countries attempt to achieve very similar goals.

As I maintained in my article last week, China has no plans about how other countries should work. Indeed, China does not even have any detailed plans about how the Chinese economy should work. China is not a centrally planned economy and never micromanages resource allocation, production, distribution, nor people’s lives. Exactly because China allows individual enterprises, whether State-owned or privately owned, to manage their R&D, production and marketing, China is now among the most innovative nations. China ranks 11th among the 132 economies featured in the Global Innovation Index 2022 and first among the 36 upper-middle-income group economies. China is committed to opening up. Since 2018, China has been holding annually the China International Import Expo (CIIE), which is the only one of its kind globally. This year’s CIIE, which ended on Nov 10, attracted the attendance of 154 countries, regions and international organizations. Over the period 2012-22, China’s contribution to world growth averaged 31.5 percent, which is more than twice the contribution made by India (14.7 percent). Slowing down China’s growth will slow down world growth.

It is time for the US and China to put aside their differences and work together for sustainable development, peace, and prosperity for the world.

The author is director of the Pan Sutong Shanghai-Hong Kong Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.