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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: October 18, 2010 NO. 42 OCTOBER 21, 2010
Discourse Between East and West
The first Chinese-hosted cultural dialogue between the East and the West was held in Nishan, Shandong Province
"The declaration was not a simple review of some universal ethics extracted from Confucius' teachings. It also expressed our expectations for society. Foremost, there is an important urge that peaceful communication should be a way for different civilizations to coexist," said Kao Po-yuan, Vice President of Taiwan's Tamkang University.

Wolfgang Kubin, a professor of Chinese Studies at Bonn University in Germany, said that in the future, he expects to see deeper involvement from more religions and cultures, especially Buddhism, which is a vital part of Chinese civilization.

Voices From the Forum

In my recent research, I've been startled to learn that the fundamental principles of Confucius' teachings are the same as those I have been preaching all my life!

Robert H. Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, the United States

The significance is we are enjoying the dialogue between Confucians and Christians. This kind of dialogue was already started some 400 years ago, but because of a lot of misunderstandings, it ended in frustration on both sides.

Wolfgang Kubin, sinologist and professor at the Institute for Oriental and Asian Studies of the University of Bonn, Germany

I don't think some kind of final answer will emerge at this conference. Most of the really important things that go on are not at the podium, but rather at the lunch table. You know, when people talk to each other and develop relationships, they will have impacts on the world. But China is rising, Chinese culture is rising, and in some way, this conference tells the world: Here comes Confucianism.

Robert Chard, researcher in classical Chinese at University of Oxford in London

At the dawn of the 21st century, we have ample ethical and cultural resources from the East and the West to forge together a more peaceful, prosperous, and harmonious world.

Dwight N. Hopkins, professor of theology, University of Chicago, the United States

It is the right time for the different cultures of the world to have dialogues. If not, the conflicts and problems among different countries will worsen. Although the core values of different cultures are different, there are still many common ideas, which should be explored with dialogues, and the dialogues should not be limited to the scholars and thinkers, but should include people working in other fields, such as business.

With a view toward the future, it is likely that the spirit of East Asian modernity imbued with Confucian characteristics will serve as a reference for public intellectuals in North America and Western Europe, as well as intellectuals elsewhere in the world.

Du Weiming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy and of Confucian studies at the Harvard-Yenching Institute

Old superstition is the worship of ghosts and spirits, while new superstition is the blind belief in science and technology. This can meet our secular needs and even offer more than needed, but it can't meet our soul's need and may even obsess our soul.

Xu Jialu, Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Nishan Forum on World Civilizations

In handling cultural differences, there are some attitudes, one of which is "total indifference." It may lead to communication breakdowns. A French minister once said to me that he wouldn't visit China again, as he found it hard to resist the endless exhortations to drink at social occasions. He couldn't understand why Chinese thought he didn't take them seriously if he declined to drink and why they would make him drink until he was tipsy. I told him that we Chinese believe that great men have great capacity for liquor and that "when drinking with a bosom friend, a thousand cups may still be too little." He said he just didn't understand. Communication failures like this are very common in daily life due to cultural differences.

Zhao Qizheng, Member of the Standing Committee and Director of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference; Vice Chairman of the Nishan Forum Organizing Committee

There is a theory I don't agree with. According to that theory, it is extremely hard for one civilization—say Western civilization—to communicate with, understand, and identify with another civilization—say Islamic civilization, or Confucian civilization—due to differences in historical traditions, cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs and values. Thus, the only result possible is a clash of civilizations. Many regional conflicts and wars across the world today are the result of a clash of civilizations. If this theory held true, it would suggest that the more globalized the world is, the more serious the clash of civilizations will become.

Xing Bisi, former Vice President of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China; Vice Chairman of the Nishan Forum Organizing Committee

I once asked our top negotiator for our nation's WTO membership Long Yongtu why China should join the WTO. He cited this example. A farmer carries his vegetables to the market; he is gone as soon as his vegetables have sold. But as his business grows, he needs to set up a stall, then a shop, and eventually a supermarket. Thus, he must learn and comply with the market rules and exercise and defend his own rights and interests. Therefore, he needs to join the market and play by the rules.

Now, this farmer has become the general manager of the world's largest supermarket and the world's biggest exporter. But if Chinese culture doesn't go global, China will be a roadside vegetable vendor forever.

Ye Xiaowen, President of the China Religious Culture Communication Association, and Director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs of China

What is required for 'harmony in diversity' to be realized, I think, is that we exhibit the category of transcending love modeled by Jesus, and endeavor also to become junzi, as Confucius encourages us to do.

David Lyle Jeffrey, former Vice President of Baylor University, the United States

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