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To Understand Where China Is Headed, Look at the Ancient Concept of ‘He’

赵启正:从“和”字看清中国之路向何方.jpg


Given the sheer size of China, its development has the ability to impact the world. With its rapid growth, China is often put under the international spotlight. However, China is very different from many countries in terms of its cultural traditions, social system, development path, and value systems. These differences sometimes lead to doubts about China in many quarters, which are neatly captured by the question: Where is China headed?

中国是一个庞大的国家,其发展状况足以影响世界。中国因其发展之快,经常成为全世界的焦点。然而,在文化传统,社会制度,发展模式和价值观念等多个方面,中国与许多国家都大不相同。这些差异经常让人对于中国产生很多困惑,这些困惑总结成一个问题就是:中国到底去向何方?

Indeed, international symposiums often focus on "China at a crossroads." Many foreigners want to know the answers to the following questions: Will China pursue hegemony? Will it export instability? Will it collapse? But few have asked: Does China seek peaceful and friendly relations with the international community?

确实,国际社会经常形容“中国站在一个十字路口上”。很多外国人想知道以下问题的答案:中国会寻求霸主地位吗?中国会带来不稳定因素吗?中国会垮掉吗?但是很少有人问这样的问题:中国是否寻求与国际社会建立和平友好的关系。

As China continues to rise, some people will continue to portray China as a threat. International forces hostile to China will amplify this narrative to check and contain China.

随着中国的不断发展壮大,有一些人会一直认为中国是对国际社会的威胁。国际社会对中国的敌意使中国威胁论的声音不断放大,进而会更加严苛的限制中国。

In the face of searching questions, Chinese officials often quote ancient classics: the Chinese people "value peace" and "seek common ground while respecting differences." But this is not convincing enough. Foreigners will retort: How can teachings that are 2,500 years old adequately address concerns about today's China? I would admit that these foreign critics have a point. Of course Chinese people can take pride in the culture created by our ancestors, but we cannot use it to shield ourselves from uncomfortable questions.

面对诸如此类的问题,中国政府总是喜欢用古代经典来作出回应:中国人民爱好和平,求同存异。但是这还不足以令人信服。外国人或许会反驳:2500年前的古代经典怎么能恰如其分的解决当今中国所面临的问题呢?我不得不承认,这一说法不无道理。当然中国完全有理由为中国古代先贤创造的灿烂文化感到骄傲,但是我们不能总是用它来抵御各种各样尖锐的问题。

We have to tackle the international community's concerns about China head-on, and explain why the Chinese system has its merits, where the country is headed, and why China is not a threat to others. Rather than quoting ancient classics, we need to bring them up to date and define the core meaning of contemporary Chinese culture. In other words, we need to give a concise, easy-to-understand answer. The best answer, in my view, is the concept of "he". It is important that we discover the historical connotations of this word and expound on its current meanings in light of China's modern history and the process of reform and opening.

我们应该直面国际社会对于中国的种种疑问,向他们解释,中国体制的优势在哪里,何为中国的发展方向,还有为什么中国并不会对其他国家造成威胁。相对于引经据典,我们更需要与时俱进,了解当代中国文化的核心内涵。换句话说,我们需要给出一个更加具体,更浅显易懂的答案。在我看来,最好的答案,莫过于“和”这个字。当我们挖掘这个字的历史内涵的同时,根据中国的当代历史和改革开放进程来赋予它新的含义,这显得尤为重要。

In the modern period, China — poor, weak and using a language that was not widely spoken elsewhere — has had little cultural impact on the world. When Renaissance ideas were spread around the world by European colonialists, the philosophical precepts of ancient China were largely kept within the Middle Kingdom. Today, this sorry situation persists. The "core socialist values" that China has embraced include western ideas of "democracy" and "freedom." In contrast, China has yet to produce any value that has gained international acceptance.

在近代历史中,中国根本没有什么文化方面的影响力,当时的中国一直是一个穷困落后的国家,而且使用的语言在世界上也并不流行。当欧洲殖民者把文艺复兴的观点带到世界各地的时候,中国古代的哲学思想很大程度上只被中国人所熟知。很遗憾的是,这种情况依旧存在。中国倡导的“社会主义核心价值观”包含了西方思想中的“民主”和“自由”。而反过来,中国还没有创造出任何被国际社会广泛接受的价值观。

The "Chinese Dream" is not just about economic and military prowess; it is also about cultural revival and contribution to the world. Survey the Chinese cultural landscape, and the word "he" stands out as the most promising. A simple word with rich meanings, it stresses the opposite of "confrontation" or "difference" that often characterizes Western thinking. It is the best idea that China can offer the world, one that will provide a fresh perspective for resolving many of the difficult issues confronting the world today. If we can do a good job of explaining it, the idea stands a good chance of gaining international currency.

中国梦不仅仅关乎于经济和军事实力,它也包含文化复兴以及对世界作出贡献。纵观中国文化,其中“和”这个概念颇有前景。简简单单一个字,但是却有着丰富的含义。它恰巧站在了“对抗”或者是“差异”这种描述西方思想的概念的对立面。如果中国可以一种全新的角度来解决当今世界面临的诸多问题,那就再好不过了。如果我们很好的解释了“和”的观念,那么它更加有可能获得国际社会的认同。

Conveying the messages of "peace," "harmony," "reconciliation," "amity," "preference for peaceful settlement," "respect for differences," "harmony is the universal path that all should pursue," etc. "he" is held as the highest ideal for handling relations between states, between individuals, and between man and nature.

“和”蕴含以下概念:和谐、和解、和睦、和平解决问题、尊重差异以及“和谐万物追求的一种近乎于真理的状态”等等。“和”这个概念是处理国家间,个体间以及人与自然间的关系时的追求的最高境界。

Since there is no single word in any Western language that corresponds fully to it, to avoid any simplification and misunderstanding, it may be best to introduce the original idea, not its various translations, to the world. And since a single syllable may not leave a lasting impression, it may be best to present it in the form of "Hehism." Of course, just the word itself is not enough. There is a lot of explaining to do to make the idea stick in the Western mind.

因为在西方语言中,没有任何一个词可以完全对应“和”这个概念,为了避免任何的简化和误解,最好的方法就是直接用它本来的概念,而不使用任何翻译版本。而且由于单音节词可能不会造成太深刻的印象,最好是使用“和主义”这样的说法。当然,仅有一个字是完全不够的,要想让西方人完全接受这种观念,还需要做大量的解释。

Just one reminder: When presenting the idea of "he," we should avoid polemics. The Chinese nation has an open mind and embraces all that is good in the world. There is no need to pit the idea of he against "democracy" and "freedom." If we do it properly, the world will come to see China not just as a large and important country, but also one worthy of respect and admiration.

只想要提醒一点:当我们阐释“和”这个概念的时候,我们应该避免纷争。中华民族有海纳百川的胸怀,乐于接纳全世界美好的事物。将“和”与“民主”“自由”对立是完全没有必要的。如果我们态度得当,那么在全世界人民的眼中,中国就不仅仅是一个有分量的大国,还是一个值得尊敬和钦佩的国家。

2016-06-23

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