Report on the 1st Global China Dialogue

The 1st Global China Dialogue on the theme 'the experience of China's modernization from a comparative perspective', was held successfully on the 17th December 2014, at the London Capital Club. Professor Xiangqun Chang, Director of CCPN Global, chaired this event (left picture). It was organized by CCPN Global and YES Global (The Young Entrepreneur Society Global) and sponsored by many institutions inside and outside China. More than 40 academics, consultants, professionals and entrepreneurs participated (right picture).

The panel consisted of 7 guests: (from left to right in the middle picture): Professor Stephan Feuchtwang, The London School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Martin Albrow, Senior Fellow of the Käte Hamburger Centre for Advanced Studies, Law as Culture, University of Bonn, Germany; Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences, UK, Mr Charles Grant, Director of Centre for European Reform (CEF), Mr Xiang Xiaowei, Minister Counsellor, Cultural Office, Embassy of the PRC in the UK, Professor GUO Fengzhi, Deputy Dean of School of Marxism, Northeast Normal University, China, Ms Xinran Xue, author, journalist, and founder of the Mothers' Bridge of Love (MBL), and Mr Philip Hao, President of Young Entrepreneur Society (YES); CEO of UVIC Group.

Minister Counsellor Xiang Xiaowei (right) gave an opening address. He stated that during the visit of Premier Li Keqiang to Britain last June there has been a general agreement between the two governments that they will be hosting the Year of Cultural Exchange between China and the UK.  There would be huge anticipation for the ‘UK Season’ in China, starting from January to June and the ‘China Season’ in the UK from July to December. While organizing the activities we both agreed that we have to be creative. Following a very strong call from academia that we should further and deepen the exchange with our British counterparts, exchanging sources and creating platforms for cultural dialogues, we are currently trying to create a platform that would allow the free flow of ideas and encourage and nourish the discussions about topics of concern. 2014 was the 160th anniversary of Mr Yan Fu's birth, a pioneering character who helped to introduce a significant number of ideas from Britain to China (most famously Darwin’s Theory of Evolution) and commenced the process of modernization, which at the time was called the Yangwu movement, which means ‘learning from the West’. When we look back to our own history about our own modernizations, we have undergone such dramatic ups and downs in our process, if we take research in the movements in China and also if we could look around at the modernization movements worldwide we can see there have been some very important points that have been missed in this movement, based on not only how we look at modernization, but also on what concept the modernization should be based. From there, we are (referring to both government and academia) very interested in trying to find out and trying to build a forum for each and every country and its academia to come forward and discuss issues that concern them. I think this might be a good time for us to re-evaluate this concept of modernization. As a movement that originated in Europe and was accompanied by Industrialization, the modernization has already become a path that most countries are committed to for their social reform and evolution. Currently we are working very vigorously with different works and different influences from different academic circles in order to try and build this Forum, and will hopefully be able to host this Forum here in October 2015.

The panellists then gave talks from global, European, Chinese, grassroots, professional and practitioners’ perspectives in turns. Professor Martin Albrow (left) began his talk by responding to the original European idea of modernization. He said, “'the idea of 'modern' has undergone many changes in the course of the history of Europe, and it really takes off at a very crucial time in East-West relations, roundabout 1700, when there were these very enlightened Jesuit priests going to China and taking Western science there and bringing Chinese ethics back'”. He continued, stating that ‘the idea of the ‘modern’ was the rational, the reasonable and human beings all finding their common humanity, now that’s the basis we need for global governance, the sense that every nation, every civilization can contribute, and of course, the contribution of China in the future is going to be, I would say, the most fundamental because in a sense, it is the newest when we’re thinking about global governance, that is, it is the newest contributor because it is the only civilization which, for a very long time, was in the shadow of the West, no longer.So what we look forward to, and I’m sure this Forum looks forward to, is that joining together of civilizations in creating a general global humanity'.
Mr Charles Grant(2nd left) said, 'global governance is a good idea because it means that states regulate their relations through negotiation and rules rather than ‘might is right’ and invading each other but I don’t think it’s going very well; look at the World Trade Organization, created 20 years ago it’s achieved just about nothing; one set of rules recently agreed in Bali on so-called ‘Trade Facilitation’. The G20, which became an important talking shop when the financial crisis blew up in 2008 to resolve some financial difficulties it’s now'. He wrote a book a few years ago comparing Russia and China’s views on global governance. He found that 'China is quite committed to the economic institutions of global governance, it joined the World Trade Organization rather early and it’s a part of the financial stability board that regulates financial markets at an international level, so it likes the economic side but its much more cautious on the security side'.
Professor GUO Fengzhi (middle) believed the Chinese model is different from the Western model of modernization because 'in order to realize modernization China has to pursue the domestic objective of improving its people’s quality of life, as well as resolving the external issue of being backward compared with other countries. All the issues related to China’s modernization need to be addressed in a globalized context, in the same way as China’s development can only be evaluated in comparison with the rest of the world'.
Ms Xinran Xue (2nd right) worked at The Guardian and the BBC as a journalist and a writer, and founded a charity as a volunteer. Based on her working and living experiences in the UK and many countries in the world she raised three questions: (1) understanding before thinking or thinking before understanding; (2) human history is rooted, shaped or ordered by family or religion? (3) globalization or Englishlization? She believes there are 'brilliant, remarkable values of in our society, of our history', and would like to ask the world 'how much and what the world can learn from China'.
Mr Philip Hao (right) also made three points: (1) 'a deeper understanding about what corporate social responsibility is something China should learn from Europe'. Corporate social responsibility so 'one of the key things to make a business sustainable, one of the key tools to engage business itself, employees, talents, clients and society'. (2) 'The second one is about something that Europe could learn from China,...... In the last 10 years we have clearly seen Europe fall way behind in terms of business development in the Internet industries' than China because lack of the motivation for changing the lifestyle Chinese people have already been enjoying. (3) Based on his work experiences he realized that 'the integration between Europe and Asia particularly China is irreversible, ...... so we just have to deal with the differences so let’s try to embrace a modern mindset, I call it ‘Stay together and stay different’.
Professor Stephan Feuchtwang (left) Began his closing remarks by commenting on every panellists’ talk only with an academic perspective, neither ‘idealistic or business-related or speak from [his] own experience except in [his] profession’. In response to Albrow’s quoting of Leibniz, Feutchwang added that there are several other 18th century theorists espousing a ‘kind of global language… [And] global government’, which are idealistic, in contrasting Grant’s more ‘realistic’ stance, agreeing that most global institutions are indeed ‘talking shops’ but that they ‘are capable of being reformed’, believing that we all have a responsibility to discuss what kind of ‘pressures we can help put on for the reform of the United Nations Security Council and all the other organizations, including the WTO’.
Commenting on Professor Guo’s assertion, as well as Mr Xiang, that China had found its own path of modernization, they were both promoting the path of modernization against the Washington Consensus. Feuchtwang stated that he would ‘certainly support’ their point and came back to this after his general comments.
Feuchtwang proceeded to contest Mrs Xue’s controversial views about Western family values in comparison to Chinese family values, to say one country was more or less ‘family-oriented’ would be disingenuous. He believed that whilst there were certainly differences in family values in both cultures, as Chinese family system is patrilineal, but for more general claims for the importance of Chinese family’s function in society needs more empirical based studies.
Philip Hao’s talk received high regards from Feuchtwang with a description as ‘rousing’, noting his particular ‘endorsement’ of Hao’s final statement: ‘stay together and stay different’, choosing to elaborate on it. He stated; ‘I do believe that this is a forum for comparison, but also for different kinds of views coming from different experiences… but I do think that comparison needs to be solidly evidence-based, and the only way to get evidence about other countries… is to try and question the Euro-centrism, the assumptions that we come with, in order to say ‘you’re different from me’ I have to open myself out to you in was that are going to shock me’. He continued by backing up his claims with assertions made by Professor Fei Xiaotong, who said that [in his fieldwork in a minority nationality in China] that ‘the thing he’d learnt most from was the shock, the unexpected that he met there in studying those people. It is the readiness to be shocked and to have your own foundations shaken, but never to assume that you are the same, and so therefore I don’t think global governance is going to come from any assumption that we’re the same, but from listening to each other, and listening to each other’s differences, so that’s my idealism', methodologically, it is more advanced and realistic than the 18th centurial European theorists’ idealistic views on modernity and global governance.    
Feutchwang then returned to Mr Xiang’s opening address, believing that ‘the dialogue on modernization is inevitably going to be between different experiences of adapting whatever we mean by modernization as a project and what have been the accompanying sources of advice and the orthodoxy of the times in which that has happened’. He stated that ‘modernization needs to be broken down… It’s not just one thing; it’s state formation including militarization and security, it’s industrialization, it’s the provision of welfare, it’s marketization, it’s aspirations to individual freedom’, then noting the differences between the concept of ‘patriotism’ in China and the West and how this is yet another part of the modernization process. He ardently believed that ‘we shouldn’t assume to know China’, and that ‘neither should Chinese people assume they know China’, as there are many Chinese academics who do not know China despite studying it empirically. He stated that this made it necessary to open a dialogue between people, ‘not just from their experiences but what they have learned by studying, by investigation, from more than one country.’
In relating to the above topic Feutchwang also tackled Ms Xue’s question how Europe can learn from China with the Beijing consensus, which he has been studying, and just came to the end of a large study of urbanization in China, and ‘it tends to be an immensely effective top-down process, but it has a huge amount of waste’. According to Fuechtwang, ‘The Beijing consensus also includes Chinese measurements, the most wasteful use of efficiency per unit of production, much more wasteful than any in Europe, so I’m saying that one needs to make good economic comparisons using those kinds of measurements as well as the extraordinary growth, the 52 airports while Terminal 5 was built, the extraordinary growth in renewable energy industries in China, which are now exporting to the rest of the world, I think that’s an extremely helpful sign. But there’s also comparisons to be made, with Europe, as well as with the UK and other countries in Europe, for instance the whole move to privatize the state and welfare, and compare that with China, that’s personally what I would be most interested in comparing, its privatization, it goes on in China but in a different way’.
Finally, Fuechtwang continue to answer Ms Xue’s question how Europe can learn from China with a contrast of Yan Fu and James Legge. ‘Yan Fu is a translator and a policy maker and advisor to be compared to subsequent translators or advisors on China in Europe as well as in China’. In contrast, James Legge’s translated work is hugely influential in Europe about China. He ‘translated the Confucian classics and some Daoist classics in the late 19th Century, and this is long, long after Matteo Ricci and the Jesuits had translated into Latin, this is one of the many, many translations into the vernacular languages of Europe, which had a huge influence on people who did learn from China, … so people became Buddhist, Europeans became Buddhist, Europeans have become Daoists, Europeans above all have become to some extent impressed with Confucius through these books. So that is one thing we have learned from China, or thought we had learnt (it’s a sort of idealization of Chinese philosophies and religions) but nevertheless, very influential, and not just the religions but the poetry, in my case it was through reading Chinese poetry that I began to study China, it’s the Chinese literature, it’s a great literature, and you underestimate the amount to which it has been read by people in European countries who come to China through them.’

Before the floor was opened the panellists had some discussion amongst themselves. For example, Professor Xiangqun Chang introduced an empirical-study based comparative research work on academic mothers in four cities in China and the UK which found that the British mothers are always put their children at the first priority above their work. She also revealed a life fieldwork finding that two important attendees made their absent apologies because they were either looking after their new born granddaughter or in helping with a daughter-in-law's birth. 

During the Q & A there were many interesting questions raised, such as (1) what China can learn from pensions and social welfare from Europe and the West as it approaches the new dynamic of cultural rebalancing with an aging population? (2) what is it about the UK that is attractive to Chinese entrepreneurs’ to come in and start a business? Is it much easier to start a business here than in other European countries? (3) What are the panellists thoughts on new ideas about modernization, for example, in the Colombian Pacific, in the West and globally, particularly in Latin America. How do they see these new kind of ideas impacting China in the future, do they think they will gain hold or they will remain brittle?  (4) What are the Asian values or Chinese values that would prove to be coming from the legacy of Chinese cultures to be productive in China’s modernization, rather than, so those Asian values could be the helpful elements that could make China’s modernization something more advanced than Westernization. (5) ...... in Western culture long term is something like four to five years, whereas in China it’s more like a hundred years, so when we get this more in sync we can start learning a little more productively from each other and apply something from globalization, modernization, every single country needs to change, so it’s not just about Chinese problems, it’s not just about British problems, it’s a global issue, because the world is becoming smaller and smaller, and I think it seems to be that if we find the sync time in terms of what kind of progress we’re looking at I think that would help us a lot, any views on this.

Professor Albrow made a final touch to the event. 'I think the outcome of all the academic research there’s ever been suggests that we can never understand another person or another culture completely.... The best things that we can learn from each other are when we do things together, and I think the prospects for global governance are best if we think in terms of projects for the future, reforming what we’ve got, creating better things and collaborating with each other in those things, and not to assume that collaboration with each other means we understand each other perfectly, because that’s not the case, you can collaborate very effectively with other people even when you don’t understand them and I think that is a very crucial thing to recall.'

During the networking session the panellists and participants has further discussions.

Let us remember that we have been involved in the launch event for the series of ‘Global China Dialogue Forum’!

edited by Neil Clarke

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