Saturday, November 8, 2014

372. American Civilization, European Civilization and Chinese Civilization

It is well-known that "for much of their history, Americans defined their society in opposition to Europe." "America, it was argued, was a distinct civilization." George Washington had believed that “the new nation would develop a unique American character.” Thomas Jefferson alleged American civilization “was the part of a form of civilization higher than the polished societies of Europe.” US cultures have evolved and absorbed elements from other cultures in the historic process of the formation of American civilization. American civilization drew positive elements from other major civilizations of the world, including Chinese civilization.

In contemporary society, American political leaders have also clearly realized the influence of Chinese civilization on the development of American civilization. President Barack Obama made it clear that “Americans know the richness of China's history because it helped to shape the world and it helped to shape America. We know the talent of the Chinese people because they have helped to create this great country." (-Barack Obama in his remarks at U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue on July 27, 2009) Former President William Jefferson Bill Clinton pointed out that China as “a stronghold of creativity, knowledge and wealth” had an impact on American life long before the United States was even born. He told Americans that “From the printing China invented to the poetry it produced, from medicine and mathematics to the magnetic compass and humanistic philosophies, many of China’s earliest gifts still enrich our lives today.”

The founding fathers of the United States were among the main weavers of the fiber of American civilization. Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had positive attitudes towards Chinese civilization and worked hard to borrow from it in their efforts to make a new and flourishing society in North America. For example, Benjamin Franklin studied and promoted Confucian Moral philosophy in his effort to cultivate his own virtue as well as to encourage Americans to do the same. George Washington personally supported the opening of trade with China. He also conducted an experiment to grow Chinese flowers in his garden. Thomas Jefferson incorporated Chinese architectural elements into his own buildings in Monticello.

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