By Ruiqi Wei
“Enter to grow in wisdom, depart to serve better the world and humans”
Interpretations of “Peacebuildling”
There are no facts, only interpretations.- Nietzsche
Then what are our interpretations of “peacebuilding”?
Peacebuilding is more than “To cross the line from a world of international conflict and violence to a world in which respect for international law and authority overcomes belligerence and ensures justice.”
While Waltz thinks peacebuilding is the integration of the peoples in the international arena with one common goal, Jean-Marie Guéhenno deems peacebuilding as “the political process through the promotion of national dialogue and reconciliation, protect civilians, assist in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, support the organization of elections, protect and promote human rights, and assist in restoring the rule of law.”
Although for Kant, perpetual peace can be simply achieved through democratization since democratic states are less likely to fight each other, dictators throughout the world still hold it true that only with the power under their own grips: the absence of wars as negative peace can be easily created through deterrence.
There are thousands of forms of peacebuilding.
For artists, peacebuilding is art. (Premaratna & Bleiker, 2016 )
Arts have the potential to be embedded in and work through communities. And arts happen at all levels. Arts can also evolve along with the needs of the community. It can also play a role in resisting forms of monopoly rule by offering alternatives to prevailing approaches.
Firstly, Arts can deal with the emotional issue which traditional institutions neglect. It can address the emotional core of the conflict in ways that surpass laws and institutions leading to sustainable peace.
Secondly, as a part of dealing with emotional and political legacies, it can narrate and transform personal traumas. And it can evoke feelings, bringing things beyond rational cognition. It can bring people to the perspectives of others evoking empathies and reflections thus bring changes.
Thirdly, it can break boundaries of daily communication through revolving around stereotypes that fuel conflicts. And it can also break through community barriers by offering alternatives to the type of verbal discourses that constitute a conflict. (see pp.81-93).
For united nations, peacebuilding is not only to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.
It is also to “Create a secure and stable environment while strengthening the State’s ability to provide security, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights, to Facilitate the political process by promoting dialogue and reconciliation and supporting the establishment of legitimate and effective institutions of governance, and to provide a framework for ensuring that all United Nations and other international actors pursue their activities at the country-level in a coherent and coordinated manner. “
And when it comes to my understanding of peacebuilding….
Every time when my reflections on “peacebuilding” are called upon, the hurtful memories that should have sunk unwept into oblivion just rewind in a cinematic way.
Inter-state: reconcile the irreconcilable
Japan means a lot to me. It witnesses my growth both as an academic and a responsible person during my stumbling puberty. But my experience as a Chinese studying in Japan is somehow nuanced from international students from other countries, given the undeniable fact that Japan had an issue with China in the Sino-Japanese war during WWII.
My mother back in China was often asked a lot why I went to Japan. It seems strange to some elders back home that I as a Chinese can be even fascinated by Japanese Culture under the pretext that mainstream TV channels in China are playing Anti-imperialism TV series on a rolling basis that never seems to stop. And generally Chinese audiences love this a lot.
Throughout these years I spent in Japan, although I indeed met lots of friendly people who helped me and treated me fairly, somehow on some occasions where it is said that statistics about Sino-Japanese wars are fabricated since the war is not specifically written on the textbooks, we still inevitably disagree each over to an extent that we got failures to communicate because our perceived pasts are disparate rather than different.
History is created rather than told as it was. History foremost serves politics. Not many Japanese students know as much about what happened in Sino-Japanese wars as average Chinese students do. Due to the obvious absence of a shared common past (a census over what did happen in the past), my Japanese friends and I disagree over a lot of issues, such as the Yasukuni Shrine, where the “spirits” of Japanese war dead as the heroes of Japanese imperialism are specifically honored. But from the perspective of a conscious Chinese, what is being honored in Yasukuni Shrine are demons instead of heroes, whose swords are doused in the blood of millions of innocent civilians who were treated brutally until the very last moment of their lives.
The essence of the Yasukuni Shrine dispute is de facto a clash of incompatible identities shaped by different narratives of the past. Because of these conflicting identities, the Japanese the Chinese, and the Koreans have no choice but to oppose, dispute, and demonize the Japanese rightists. There exists a fundamental disconnect in how some people see the symbolic content of the Yasukuni Shrine.
Merely negative peace as an absence of wars, normalizations, and reconciliations are far from enough. What we are looking forward to is active peace that requires efforts from every sector, every level of society, that is based on mutual understanding through dialogues.
intra-state: the demonized other
Never have I realized that Chinese mainlanders in the eyes of a few people across “Straits” were somehow ill-mannered ‘eerie puppets’ until I scanned through social media of our own, Zhihu, Chinese mainland version of Quora, a site where general life experience is shared for consultation in Q and A format.
Chinese mainlanders, as described in top-voted answers on Zhihu, are often perceived by people across straits as so economically desperate that they cannot even afford a boiled egg. Furthermore, Chinese mainlanders actually often get called by ‘XX mainlando’, a very derogatory term that should be omitted here in the passage.
It was even said in the top-voted answers that the local travel slogans attracting tourists, especially from Japan was, “A nice place of tranquility without the disturbance of mainland tourists.”
Unconsciously immersed in this kind of biased information source, throughout these years overseas, although as a mainlander, sharing the same type of blood in my veins with the people across the straits, I always consciously refrain myself from talking to people across straits and keep the contact minimum since I think the scenarios would be intertwined if I do speak to them.
However, by chance, I went across straits for a transit.
Before I stepped out of the planes, I got wars going in my mind that, should I just speak English instead of Mandarin to the local so that I would not be referred as “Mainlando”….Or just simply speak Mandarin like I am not fragile and sensitive to discrimniations…..
I pictured several scenarios where I spoke Mandarin and got embarrassed with the contempt from the local.
After my thorough contemplation of which language to speak, I felt it better to speak Mandarin otherwise I would be too contrived not to speak it.
As the day turned out, nothing I expected has ever happened. Except for a conversation with a college student over the issue of local sovereign where he insisted that PRC intervened too much in their domestic affairs whilst I think they are a part of PRC as well, everything went off well.
Ending this trip, I got to learn that, the prerequisites for peace, are not only communications but also to consider things from the perspectives of others. Behind the perspectives are their narratives of history, culture, and education.
Diverse perspectives should be appreciated and understood in their own historical, cultural and political context.
Peacebuilding is more than mere tolerance of different ideas. It is about empathy, mutual understanding, and appreciation of diversity.
I was to remember that distant morning when my flight landed in L, a relatively underdeveloped country in Southeastern Asia, from S, a very well-off country often illustrated as the development model of the world.
As I stepped out of airport, the here and now just changed so suddenly and drastically, becoming a totally different world, from a world of prosper to a world that is hard to define in terms of both infrastructure and life quality of the local.
The very first time in my life was I stroke by what I saw: why the life of people can be so different and even destined from the moment when they were born.. Why can not just everyone in this world live an equally fulfilling life?
Ever since then my research focus shifted from International Relations more to development study.
When we are talking about development, our thoughts should not be just circumscribed to economic development. Social and political developments should be highlighted with the same significance as well.
The world is faced with more problems than we generally think: gender inequality, injustice, social stratification, abuse of power, food security discrimination, and such on.
What brought me to the field of peacebuilding, is a prospect for positive changes: the changes for everyone in this world to live with justice and equality. Ultimately, a prospect for peace that perpetuates in a scientific and sustainable way.
As for me, my drive for wisdom that enables me to serve better the world and humans, brought me to SPP.