BRIX Chairman Speech in Beijing Global Human Rights Forum

Mr. Stephen Brawer, Chairman of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden gave this speech in Beijing on June 14, 2023, at The Forum on Global Human Rights Governance. The forum was co-hosted by the Chinese State Council Information Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and China International Development Cooperation Agency. The Forum was organized by Xinhua News Agency and China Society for Human Rights Studies. More information on this forum can be found here.

Watch video of the speech on BRIX YouTube channel!


Host: Thank you very much professor Chen for your very thoughtful speech.

Now, let’s give the floor to Mr Stephen Brawer from the Belt and Road Institute. He is the chairman of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden. Let’s welcome.


Stephen: Thank you Mr Li Shulei, Mr Mao. Excellencies, ministers, distinguished guests, friends, ladies and gentlemen.

The title of my remarks is “The significance of History and Culture on Global Human Rights Governance”.

The dramatic and profound changes that are emerging worldwide can be effectively connected to the rise of a new China. This is expressed clearly in Xi Jinpings thoughts on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era. And the importance of understanding and of studying these ideas, for not only the people of the Peoples Republic of China, but even more importantly for the rest of the world.

These ideas can no longer be ignored. In fact, the great majority of the world’s populations are embracing the ideas. As chairman of the Belt and Road Institute in Sweden it has been my goal to promote and Educate Swedes, other Europeans, and ultimately even the United States to the great advantages that advantages that the Belt and Road Initiative has for global development and cooperation.

We celebrate this year, 2023, the 10th anniversary since China’s president Xi Jinping launched the initiative in 2013. So in addition to being honored to represent the importance of the BRI to my fellow Swedes and Europeans who have yet to, seemlingy in general, understand the importance of it, it gives me great personal happiness to advance this cause for a community for a shared future for mankind.

I’m convinced it is the pathway to peace as to true human rights, in the proper sense of development and the elimination of global poverty. As a philosophical thinker and educator I am deeply connected to the importance of the BRI and it is through  culture and history, as my friend, China’s ambassador to Sweden, Cui Aimin, expressed it in an article published in Sweden: “Through culture, we are more united than divided”. Of course, this is dependent upon certain common fundamental principles of human society and culture that unite us. These are, in my view, the basic goodness of men and women. Secondly, the harmonious nature of humanity in relation to the Universe and the unique quality of creative and innovative thinking which separates human beings from the lower beasts and animals. Shakespeare expressed this most beautifully as “man and woman as the crown of creation”. When we live and understand one another in light of these ideas, we communicate, we cooperate. We discover and find friendship and trust. We build bridges between cultures. And Xi Jinping’s extremely important latest initiative for a Global Civilization Initiative reflects this. Naturally there are differences and they must bee respected but they do not need to divide us. Rather, in the best sense they teach us to learn from each other. Unfortunately the present ongoing effort to demonize China coming from the US, the UK and the G7 is based on a combination of fear and virtual total ignorance of both modern China and the great history of over 5000 year old civilization. I fully respect the sovereign choice of political system of the People’s Republic of China, yet I see the Belt and Road Initiative emerging out of this very long and profound history of China. Western political leaders presently lack any insight into this great long history. They are trapped in a “philosophical basement” of Western philosophical thinking – a Hobbsian view that sees men and women fundamentally as only evil and egotistical. Therefore they operate on the law of the jungle. They consider brute force to be the solution to problems. And they can not, and do not trust others. And this is creating the basis for the great geopolitical conflicts that are terrorizing and tragically affecting the human race at the moment. And this kind of Hobbsian view lacks any substance in protecting or defending human rights, as it has been expressed by others here.

However, there is, in my view, a bridge that is both a true basis for optimism as well as cross-cultural understanding that will and can unite both East and West in the right spirit. It is a period of history from 1647 to 1716. That is the time of a philosopher and scientist and economist Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. And I am a strong Leibnizian thinker and follower. I am told that – although I haven’t had the personal pleasure of meeting president Xi Jinping – that he is a great admirer of Leibniz, which I fully understand, I hope I will have the chance to meet and share ideas with him because I consider president Xi Jinping not only a great leader but a philosophical thinker who is affecting the direction of history. Leibniz’s thinking and life works adressed this spirit of optimism reaching from Europe to China and even from Europe to the English colonies that were to become the future United States. And I’m going to read just one very brief quote to give you a flavor, this is from Leibniz’s writings on China, entitled “The Latest News of China”, to give you a taste of what I think the spirit can be to unite Western thinking which at this moment is highly problematic – Europe, the G7, The United States – in a different direction, because Leibniz was a thinker who emerged out of what was at that time Germany… so let me read the short ideas:

“I consider it a singular plan of the Fates that human cultivation and refinement should today be concentrated, as it were, in the two extremes of our continent, in Europe and in China, which adorns the Orient as Europe does the opposite edge of the Earth. Perhaps Supreme Providence has ordained such an arrangement, so that, as the most cultivated and distant peoples stretch out their arms to each other, those in between may gradually be brought to a better way of life.”

That is the spirit of cooperation, the Belt and Road. This in my view is a living part of history that is as much relevant for the present challenges that we face in the world today as it was during the time that Leibniz lived. At some point in the near future I can elaborate on these ideas in a more… a longer possibility, but, one crucial idea is this idea of the common good for all people. I believe it is the pathway to improved relation, and what Leibniz called “a commerce of light”. This is where Human Rights and the BRI can merge to give the world a community for a shared future for mankind. Thank you.


Host: Thank you very much mr Brawer, I think it’s fair to say that you broadened our understanding of Human Rights. Very inspiring speech, thank you!