Seek Common Ground While Setting Aside Differences
The term means to seek points of agreement while maintaining difference of opinion. Scholars of the Warring States Period such as Hui Shi (370?-310? BC) and Zhuangzi (369?-286BC) believed that differences and antitheses between all things are relative, and that commonalities exist within differences. From a dialectical perspective, differences between all things are relative and there is always the possibility of one thing transforming into its opposite. The Confucian culture represented by Confucius (551-479BC) stressed that in relations between people and between states, “harmony without uniformity” should be achieved through accommodation, provided that differences between the parties are recognized. The greatest possible consensus between all sides is ultimately reached by acknowledging the existence of differences or setting them aside. To achieve such consensus, people should recognize the diversity of cultures and values and not seek absolute unanimity or forced agreement; and they should look at problems as much as possible from the perspective of others. This approach subsequently became an important principle underlying China’s handling of foreign relations.
When there are major commonalities and minor differences, or minor commonalities and major differences, it is called “minor commonality and differentiation.” When things are totally identical or totally different, it is called “major commonality and differentiation.” (Zhuangzi)
A virtuous man seeks harmony but not unanimity; a petty man seeks unanimity but not harmony. (The Analects)