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Bridging the Cultural Divide: A Call to Action for Global Collaboration and Leadership

Equilibres mondiaux | Coopération

In an era marked by increasing cultural fragmentation, bridging the divide between different societies is more crucial than ever. Despite advancements in technology that enable instant communication across the globe, the irreplaceable value of face-to-face interactions remains a cornerstone in fostering genuine understanding and empathy. This article explores four fundamental pillars essential to addressing the cultural divide: convening in-person meetings, collaborative solutions through artificial intelligence, deriving hope and inspiration from community champions, and empowering leadership from the next generation. Furthermore, it proposes the formation of the China-France Philanthropy Alliance in partnership with the Paris Peace Forum, aimed at bridging cultural gaps through concerted efforts in convening, joint research, grant making, and youth leadership development.

A World in Turmoil

The current global environment is marked by unprecedented challenges and escalating tensions. The rivalry between the United States and China has intensified, with economic, technological, and geopolitical competition straining international relations. Meanwhile, the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine continues to wreak havoc, causing significant humanitarian and economic repercussions. In the Middle East, Israel’s aggression towards Palestine remains a contentious and deeply polarizing issue.

In the United States, the political landscape is fraught with turmoil. The heated presidential election features a convicted presidential candidate and the current president’s son facing legal convictions—both unprecedented events in American history. This has fueled fears of a potential civil war, as the country grapples with deep-seated divisions and the lingering impact of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Across the Atlantic, the recent European Union elections have seen a landslide victory for far-right parties, reflecting a broader shift towards nationalism and populism in Europe. This political climate underscores the urgency of addressing cultural divides and fostering greater understanding and cooperation.

These global developments paint a daunting picture of where we are today, highlighting the critical need for proactive measures to bridge cultural gaps. The four pillars—convening face-to-face interactions, fostering collaborative solutions, deriving hope from community champions, and empowering leadership from the next generation—are essential to navigating these turbulent times. They offer a pathway to resilience and unity in an increasingly fragmented world.

The Power of Convening: Face-to-Face Interactions in a Digital Age

Despite the digital revolution, personal interactions provide a depth of understanding and empathy that virtual meetings cannot match. My recent travels to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Washington DC underscored this truth.

In Beijing, engaging with Justin Vaïsse, founder and director general of the Paris Peace Forum, revealed the profound impact of personal dialogue in fostering global collaboration and peace-building efforts. His visit aimed to better understand China, and the face-to-face interactions were invaluable. We had the privilege of meeting with Miranda Qu, the co-founder of China’s leading social media platform Xiao Hong Shu. Her insights into China’s digital landscape and social trends offered perspectives that would be impossible to grasp through a screen. We also engaged with Professor Lan Xue, Dean of Tsinghua University Schwarzman College, whose academic expertise and vision for global leadership education were profoundly inspiring.

Our discussions with Dr. Jin Fang, Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the China Development Research Foundation, illuminated the critical role of think tanks in shaping policy and fostering international dialogue. As the host of the prestigious China Development Forum, Dr. Fang’s perspectives on China’s economic and social policies were both enlightening and thought-provoking. Eric Xin, Senior Managing Director of Trustar Capital, shared his experiences in investing in China, including managing portfolio companies like McDonald’s China. His insights into the Chinese market and investment strategies were invaluable. Additionally, meeting Ms. Ping Wang, Chairwoman of Youcheng Foundation, highlighted the importance of fostering an ecosystem for social innovation and impact investing in China.

Similarly, in Hong Kong, my subsequent meeting with Alice Mong, President of Asia Society Hong Kong, highlighted the importance of cultural diplomacy and regional cooperation. Reconnecting with Brian Gallagher, the former global president and CEO of United Way Worldwide, in Washington DC reinforced the enduring significance of community engagement and philanthropy.

These meetings created a dynamic energy and generated ideas that would not have been possible through virtual interactions. The personal touch of face-to-face meetings enhances understanding, builds trust, and fosters deeper connections, emphasizing the irreplaceable value of convening in person.

Collaborative Solutions: The Role of Artificial Intelligence and Joint Efforts

The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) presents both immense opportunities and significant risks. If countries fail to work together, the potential dangers of AI could escalate uncontrollably. Companies, driven by profit, are highly motivated to push the limits of technological advancement. This relentless drive often overlooks the broader societal implications, necessitating government intervention to prevent unresolvable consequences.

However, in the current global environment, fostering international collaboration on this critical issue is increasingly challenging. A prime example is TikTok’s ongoing lawsuit with the US government. Despite the lack of evidence that TikTok provides data to the Chinese government, the debate is heavily influenced by geopolitics. Similarly, Shein’s recent challenges with the EU highlight the complexities of global business operations. As one of the world’s fastest-growing online fashion platforms, Shein does not operate in China, yet it is still perceived as a Chinese company and subjected to heightened scrutiny.

These examples illustrate the widening gap between countries, where mutual suspicion and geopolitical tensions hinder cooperative efforts. The Chinese government, in response, continues to impose strict requirements on foreign technology companies operating within its borders. This adversarial dynamic leaves no room for a win-win situation. Instead, it exacerbates divisions and hampers the collective ability to manage AI’s future responsibly.

Wisdom and dialogue are crucial to overcoming these challenges. France, positioned uniquely as a neutral mediator, can play a pivotal role in fostering dialogue and facilitating concrete partnerships, collaborations, and joint research initiatives. By bridging the gap and encouraging cooperative efforts, France can help navigate the complex landscape of AI development, ensuring that its benefits are harnessed for the greater good of humanity.

Hope and Inspiration: The Role of Community Champions

In a daunting global environment, hope is more important than ever. Pioneers and champions can offer us not only hope but also the power to heal. During my time in Washington DC, attending the DEI education module supported by the World Economic Forum, I had the privilege of meeting incredible individuals who are making a profound impact around the world.

One such inspiring figure is Ahmad Joudeh, the founder of “Dance or Die.” Joudeh, a ballet dancer who faced down Al Qaeda, has become the voice of stateless refugees. His work helps refugee children embrace hardship and find a sense of hope through the transformative power of dance. His story and dedication exemplify how the arts can be a source of healing and resilience.

Lady Mariéme Jamme’s initiative, “I am the Code,” is another beacon of hope. Her efforts to change the future of African girls through the advancement of STEAMD (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, and Design) education are groundbreaking. By providing access to quality education in these fields, she empowers young girls to break free from cycles of poverty and create brighter futures for themselves and their communities.

In Indonesia, Iim Fahima Jachja’s social venture “Queenrides” promotes motorcycle riding safety for working women in a creative and fashionable way. By offering stylish riding looks, Queenrides positively influences riding behavior and empowers women to embrace safety with confidence and style. This innovative approach not only enhances safety but also promotes gender equality and empowerment.

Francesca Colombo leverages her extensive experience in the opera industry to bring outstanding cultural events to BAM – Biblioteca degli Alberi Milano. This innovative public-private partnership for managing a public park showcases the potential of creative collaborations in enhancing community spaces and fostering cultural enrichment.

These remarkable individuals demonstrate that even in the face of global challenges, hope and inspiration can be found in the efforts of community champions. Their work highlights the importance of identifying and supporting more pioneers who can lead the way in our dismantling world. By celebrating and amplifying the stories of these champions, we can inspire others to take action and foster resilience in their own communities.

Leadership for the Future: Voices from the Next Generation

In these turbulent times, strong and inclusive leadership is essential for bridging cultural divides and addressing global challenges. Investing in youth leadership development programs is a critical step toward fostering a new generation of leaders equipped to navigate and address these pressing issues. Two exemplary initiatives in this regard are the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders community and the France-China Young Leaders Program.

The World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders community is a network of exceptional young leaders from diverse backgrounds and industries. This program convenes these talented individuals to collaborate, share insights, and develop innovative solutions to global problems. By bringing together young leaders, the program fosters a sense of shared purpose and collective responsibility for creating a better future.

Similarly, the France-China Young Leaders Program aims to strengthen ties between future leaders from

France and China. This initiative facilitates dialogue and collaboration between young professionals from both countries, promoting mutual understanding and cooperation. The program is a testament to the importance of international partnerships in addressing global challenges.

However, convening these talented young leaders is just the first step. To truly harness their potential, further efforts are needed to strengthen ties and dialogue among these communities. Education modules are an effective way to achieve this goal. By curating topics that address the most pressing global issues, young leaders can come together, spend time learning, exchanging ideas, and forming partnerships to tackle specific challenges.

For instance, modules on climate change, sustainable development, technological innovation, and social justice can provide young leaders with the knowledge and tools needed to drive change in these areas. These educational experiences not only enhance their understanding of global issues but also foster collaboration and innovation.

By investing in the education and development of young leaders, we can empower the next generation to take on leadership roles and drive positive change. Programs like the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and the France-China Young Leaders Program demonstrate the transformative potential of fostering young talent. Through continued support and targeted educational initiatives, we can equip young leaders with the skills and networks needed to bridge cultural divides and create a more inclusive and resilient world.

Proposal for the China-France Philanthropy Alliance

The China-France Philanthropy Alliance, in partnership with the Paris Peace Forum, represents a unified effort to bridge cultural gaps through four strategic objectives: convening global leaders, conducting joint research, grant making for innovative projects, and developing youth leadership modules. This alliance leverages existing networks and expertise to promote cultural understanding and cooperation:

  1. Convening Global Leaders: Personal interactions are irreplaceable for fostering understanding and building trust. By bringing together global leaders from various sectors, we can engage in meaningful dialogues, share ideas, and create stronger relationships. These face-to-face interactions are crucial for addressing global challenges effectively.
  2. Conducting Joint Research: Collaborative research initiatives are essential for developing informed strategies to bridge cultural divides. By pooling resources and expertise, we can conduct comprehensive studies that provide valuable insights into cultural dynamics and foster evidence-based solutions.
  3. Grant Making for Innovative Projects: Supporting innovative projects that promote cultural understanding and cooperation is a key focus of the alliance. Through strategic grant making, we can empower organizations and individuals working on groundbreaking initiatives that drive positive social change and bridge cultural gaps.
  4. Developing Youth Leadership Modules: Investing in the next generation of leaders is crucial for a sustainable and harmonious future. By developing targeted youth leadership modules, we can equip young leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to address global challenges and promote cultural understanding. These modules will provide opportunities for young leaders to engage in dialogues, collaborate on projects, and form lasting partnerships.

As we move forward, it is imperative to join forces and invest in these fundamental pillars. I invite global leaders, organizations, and individuals to engage in dialogues, support collaborative initiatives, and invest in youth leadership. Together, we can create lasting change and foster global harmony. Let us commit to this shared vision and take actionable steps toward a more connected and empathetic world.


In an increasingly divided world, bridging cultural gaps is more urgent than ever. The China-France Philanthropy Alliance, in partnership with the Paris Peace Forum, is a strategic initiative aimed at fostering cultural understanding and cooperation through four key objectives: convening global leaders, conducting joint research, grant making for innovative projects, and developing youth leadership modules.

Personal interactions are irreplaceable in fostering understanding and building trust. My recent travels to Beijing, Hong Kong, and Washington DC underscored the profound impact of face-to-face dialogue. Engaging with influential figures such as Justin Vaïsse, Alice Mong, and Brian Gallagher highlighted the importance of personal connections in fostering collaboration. Meetings with leaders like Miranda Qu, Professor Lan Xue, and Dr. Jin Fang revealed the invaluable insights and energy generated from in-person engagements.

Collaborative research initiatives are essential for developing informed strategies to address cultural divides. Pooling resources and expertise allows us to conduct comprehensive studies, providing valuable insights into cultural dynamics and fostering evidence-based solutions.

Supporting innovative projects through strategic grant making empowers organizations and individuals to drive positive social change. Examples like Ahmad Joudeh’s “Dance or Die,” Lady Mariéme Jamme’s “I am the Code,” and Iim Fahima Jachja’s “Queenrides” illustrate the transformative impact of such initiatives.

Investing in the next generation of leaders is crucial for a sustainable and harmonious future. The World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders community and the France-China Young Leaders Program demonstrate the potential of youth leadership development.

As we move forward, it is imperative to join forces and invest in these fundamental pillars. Let us commit to this shared vision and take actionable steps toward a more connected and empathetic world, creating lasting change and fostering global harmony.