(The following discussion of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s notion of ‘a ‘Community of Common Destiny’ is excerpted from the introduction to my forthcoming monograph with Palgrave MacMillan, Culture Paves the New Silk Roads. Preceding and following this excerpt I site from a Xi speech, on Mar 28, 2015 (“Towards a Community of Common Destiny and a New Future for Asia.”1 )

What is a Community of Common Destiny?

The crux of the CCD project is to stress what in Chinese is known as he er bu tong 和而不 同, which translates literally as ‘harmonious but different,’ and bears some similarities as well as differences in comparison to ‘E pluribus unum,’ (‘Out of many, one), the traditional motto of the United States. He er bu tong derives from the Confucian Analects, a book of sayings by Confucius 孔子 (551-479 BCE) compiled in the Spring and Autumn period by the philosopher’s students. In a gloss by late Eastern Han (25-220 CE) dynasty and early Cao Wei (220-266 CE) period philosopher and politician He Yan 何宴 (196-249 CE), we find an interpretation of this statement by Confucius that refers to the ability of a junzi 君子 (gentleman, or cultivated person) to maintain composure whilst acknowledging difference. Another hundred years on, during the Western Jin (265-316 CE) dynasty, poet and writer Xia Houzhan 夏侯湛 (c. 243-c. 291 CE) spoke of he er bu tong in terms of the chaoyin, or court hermit. The court hermit was unique to the period of of the Wei and Jin period, as well as of the Six Dynasties period, both periods after the fall of the illustrious Han empire in the early 3rd century. This period of disunity continued for nearly four hundred years, consisting of the Three Kingdoms period, then the 6 Southern Dynasties and 16 Northern Kingdoms. It wasn’t until 581 CE that the Sui Dynasty unified China for the first time since the Eastern Han fell apart in 220 CE. Throughout these hundreds of years, political leaders and poets alike had a hard time keeping their head on their shoulders, as with the rapid shifts in political climate and going ideology of the day, beheadings and other uncomfortable tortures befell many. Thus, the court hermit practised dissent whilst toeing the line. He er bu tong refers to one’s ability to command respect and abide harmoniously with others with whom you may not agree. In his 2015 Boao Forum speech which we cite at the opening of this chapter, Xi quoted Mencius (c. 372-c. 289 CE), a Confucian philosopher living two hundred years after Confucius as saying, “Things are born to be different.”1

“Full text of Chinese President’s Speec at Boao Forum for Asia- Xinhua English.New.Cn,” accessed October 6, 2021, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-04/20/c_139893192.htm

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