Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00

Historical responsibility: have you paid your bills?

City Halls to Cancun Corridors recognised that changing balances of power also affect global climate negotiations. Prodipto Ghosh's lecture clarified and reaffirmed India's position in international climate negotiations. Particularly dear to his argument was the concept of historical responsibility when it came to carbon emissions and climate change.


Thursday, 25 November 2010 00:00

What next for Cancún: stakes and challenges

In December 2009, parties and stakeholders took note of the Copenhagen Accord, one of the documents that emerged from the COP15 and one of the more important documents in the post-Kyoto framework since COP13 resulting from long negotiations. However, the parties in the accord just “took note” and for the time being, negotiations to formulate the Post-Kyoto framework continue. The current negotiation process, including the AWG meetings in Tianjin, identify some key agendas for COP16 in Cancún. Tomonori Sudo joined former Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, Herwig Schloegl and NTU Professor Lee Hong-Yuan, for the 4th Session of Taipei summit Navigating Climate Change from Local to Global. The session entitled "What next at Cancún?" was chaired by Fabrizio Bozzato.

This presentation by Tomonori Sudo focused on the expectations of COP negotiations on key agendas including NAMAs, REDD+ and Climate Finance.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010 16:03

Micro clim-action in Moura, Portugal

José Maria Prazeres Pós-de-Mina is the Mayor of Moura, Portugal, who oversaw the building of what was the biggest solar power plant in the world, in a town of just 16,500 people. This led to Moura being a net exporter of sustainable energy.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010 00:00

Managing International Negotiations

Introduction

The Cancun Conference has to address the key unsolved issues:

How to deal with the twofold asymmetry of mitigation obligations in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol: the legal obligations for industrialized countries with the EU in the forefront and with the US as the most-prominent drop out vs the voluntary contributions of developing countries.

What kind of mitigation commitments can EU and US expect from emerging economies like China, India, Brazil and G20 countries in general, and are these countries ready to accept comparable commitments on measurement, reporting and verification (MRV).

How can developing countries be brought into an overall agreement by financial, technological and technical assistance.

These are not insurmountable obstacles for further progress in Cancun.

The global negotiations have already come a long way. They are well achored by the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This Convention is a remarkable document of insight into and recognition of the global Climate as a “Common Pool Resource” of mankind. It will continue to define the architecture of the international climate change negotiations for the years to come.

 

State of play before Cancun

 

 

A.Areas of evolving consensus:

(1) long term shared vision of CO2 reduction, keeping the rise of the global temperature in check.

(2) common but differentiated responsibilities, e.g. enhanced responsibilities for industrialised countries.

(3) technology and finacial transfers, including capacity building for developing countries.

(4) relevance of science based negotiations, supported by  the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1988) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and technological Advice (Art.9 UNFCCC).

(5)importance of rising public awareness by the work of NGOs and Civil Society at large.

 

B.Areas of deep rooted discord

(1) legal, political or voluntary commitments for mitigation measures.

(2) internationally supervised review and compliance mechanisms, based on agreed measurement, reporting and verification procedures(MRV)or selfassessments.

 

A. Areas of evolving consensus

 

(1) Shared long term vision

There is an  evolving consensus of scientists about the tolerable maximum of the overall temperature rise in the 21st century, recognised on the highest political level:

G8 Summit April 2009 in L’Aquila, Italy : recognising the broad scientific view that the increase in global average temperature ought not to exceed 2°C and reiterating the willingness to share with all countries the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050.

COP 15 Copenhagen December 2009: recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2° Celsius

These visions raise a sense of urgency and serve as guideposts for action, but they are by no means a substitute for concrete operational goals and real action.

What really counts are concrete mid term targets, accompanied by regular checkpoints, starting in 2015 to evaluate – in the light of the available science – whether the efforts are sufficient or not (“bottom up approach”).

Whatever the global reductions will be, they will always be the aggregate result of the national efforts of countries. ( As a reminder: The UN Convention reaffirms the principle of Sovereignty of States in international cooperation to address Climate change).

In conclusion:
While not rejecting the visionary goals for general orientation, they cannot serve as the starting point for allocating national quotas derived from these global goals. Such a global top down approach is neither practical nor politically feasable.

(2) Common but differentiated responsibilities

This principle in favor of developing countries is well established in global treaties (see for example the Law of GATT/WTO) but it remains an area of dispute between developed and developing countries, specifically vis a vis the leading emerging economies like China, India, Brazil.

(3) Technology and financial transfers

 

The need for technological, technical and financial assistance for developing countries enjoys general recognition. It will be an important element for reaching an overall package deal in Cancun.

 

(4) Science based negotiations

The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in Art. 9 of the UNFCCC and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 1988) provide an important scientific underpinning of the negotiations. Considering the complexity of the issues, these are major pillars in the architecture of the negotiations, making objective reasoning possible.

The two bodies deserve credit for the evolving global understanding that climate change in the 20./21st century is to a large extent manmade. Even the Bush Administration accepted this in its final phase; the Democrats, President Obama, former Vice-President Al Gore and others, have a clear notion of the science related to climate change.

Somewhat worrying are movements like the Tea Party in the US. According to the New York Times (20. Oct. 2010) skepticism and outright denial of global warming are among the articles of faith of the Tea Party movement. One member is quoted: “It (global warming) is a flat-out lie, I read my Bible. God made this earth for us to utilize.” Another quote: ”They are trying to use global warming against the people. It takes away our liberty.”(“ The American way of life” ).

Such attitudes are not intentionally meant to be injurious for future generations but they will have the effect. Unreasoned fatalism is not the way to go.”To prevent catastrophes caused by human negligence, we need critical scrutiny, not just goodwill towards others.”(Amartya Sen).

The Nov. mid-term election in the USA don’t bode well. According to the New York Times (17. Oct. 2010), all but one Republican candidates for Senate don’t accept the scientific consensus that humans are largely responsible for global

warming. The cap and trade energy bill, which was shelfed in the last Congress is probaly dead for some time. It remains to be seen what consequences the Nov. 2 Congressional elections will have for the negotiating position of the US Government in Cancun.

(5) Importance of NGOs and Civil Society

 

There is probably no other area like climate change where Nongovernmental Organisations (NGOs) are urgently needed to support a democratic decision making process. By their engagement the normal citizen get a voice and get heard in transnational intergovernmental negotiations.

Whereas most people can vote and elect their representatives within their national borders, there is a democratic void in crossborder intergovernmental processes. Since lively democracy is primarily about public reasoning, the debates generated by NGOs can be seen as important contributions toward practicing the beginning of global democracy.

 

B. Areas of deep rooted discord

 

A closer look at the presumed relevance of legally binding mitigation commitments may help to put the disagreements into perspective.

Within the developed country group the most important industrial country, the USA, left the Kyoto Protocol (2001 decision by President Bush), specifically with reference to a lack of legal commitments of emerging economies like China, India, Brazil.

I wonder if it is really such a crucial question for future action whether commitments are legally binding in the formal sense, be it for developed or emerging countries alike. In my opinion the negotiations would be better served if the dispute about the formal legality of commitments would not be put on center stage.

If countries are serious in combatting climate change they should be able to set themselves ambitious mid term targets (2015, 2020) and commit to them nationally resp. EU wide, document these commitments in international for a and make them subject to internationally supervised scrutiny.

We know from many exaples that the formal legal character of international agreements is not a value in itself, considering that effective enforcement mechanisms are normally quite remote, unless one wants to argue for the use (abuse?) of WTO trade sanction or other kinds of sanctions.

What really counts are the real mitigation efforts, controlled by an internationally agreed regular review process based on effective measurement, reporting and verification procedures (MRV).

Recognizing the new Geopolitics: From G7 to G20

Since the 70ies of last century the then most important industialized countries functioned as a kind of global economic leadership group: 1975 G6 (USA, J, D, UK, F, It); 1976 G7 (+ Ca).; 1998 G8 (+ RUS); 2010 G20 (+China, India, Brazil, S.-Afrika, Indonesia, Australia, S.-Korea, Turkey, Mexico, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, EU).

In the 90ies of last century it became increasingly clear that the G7/8 did not represent the most important economies any more. Yet it took another two decades to enlarge this group into the G20.

The enlargement decision was taken at the G20 Leaders meeting in Pittsburgh in Sept. 2009:“…to reform the global architecture to meet the needs of the 21st century”.

The Pittsburgh G20 Statement addressed also the challenge of climate change: “We will spare no effort to reach agreement in Copenhagen through the UNFCCC negotiations.”

The first formal G20 Summit was held in June 2010 in Toronto.”…in its new capacity as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.” The G20 Declaration states: “…we are committed to engage in negotiations under the UNFCCC on the basis of objective provisions and principles including common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and aredetermined to ensure a successful outcome through an inclusive process at the Cancun Conferences.”

With more players at the head table, the dynamics of negotiations are changing. The former G7/8 countries have to accept a stronger voice of the emerging economies like China, India, Brazil, based on their respective geopolitical (e.g. economic, demographic, territorial, cultural) weight.

At the same time these emerging economies have to understand their enhanced responsibilities in the ongoing globalization process. This is especially evident in the context of global warming. China is besides the USA the greatest emitter of CO2, Brazil is home of the largest rainforest in the world and India is on its way to become the most populous country in the world, trying to catch up to the economy of China.

The G20 may signal the beginning of a new global architecture, manifesting the end of the bi-polar and the rise of a multipolar world, but the evolving new global order has still to stand the test to lead the world economy and to establish a global Climat Change regime.

Some remarks on the decision making process

The Copenhagen Accord would not have survived just by the goodwill of the Danish Chair. It required the full engagement of some of the big players like USA and the EU, but also emerging economies like China.

This tells a simple story: 
Even in a multipolar world –if we really already live in such a world –successful international negotiations still require enhanced engagement by countries who have the will to lead and can underpin their leadership by economic and political weight.

In this context it is worthwile to look at the overall constellation, which prevented the Copenhagen Accord from becoming a formal document for all Parties. Only six out of 192 countries spoke out against the Accord: Sudan, Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Tuvalu, not a very impressive list of countries.

(For some this blocking minority raises the question whether the UN (with its principle of one country one vote) can be the only framework for climate change negotiations.)

In defence of the consensus principle there are at least two arguments: First it reflects the respect for the legal equality of each nation and its sovereignty. Second it is the precondition for having every country on board, when it comes to adhering and implementing a decision. This second aspect is important, because most international decisions cannot be enforced by sanctions or military force.

At the same time, the consensus principle can block or water down urgently needed common actions. It is therefore sometimes wise to allow individual or groups of countries to abstain or move faster ahead than the rest. (In the EU this is called “variable geometry”).

In the UN system the Kyoto Protokol is a pertinent example for such a variable geometry approach. But this remains a reason for controversy.

Complex negotiations are practically impossible beyond a certain number of countries. It is therefore normal that smaller groups try to reduce the differences in the best interests of all, who have to be kept fully informed of the whole process and must stay in charge of the final outcome. The biggest challenge is to build trust between the small group and the rest.

Finally most countries have to make sure that their negotiated outcome gets the approval of their constituency at home: the parliament, the constitutional court and the civil society at large. Climate change policies with its close link to energy policy, industrial competitive issues and the “way of life” in general are of special national sensitivity.

Concluding remarks: What is at stake in Cancun?

 

 

It will be decisive for success in Cancun, how the big players, especially the USA, EU, China, India and Brazil will work out their differences on

 

-       the legal form of the Copenhagen Accord ( binding international treaty or political commitment in the sense of an “agreed outcome”).

 

-       the future of the two track approach of the Kyoto Protocol Parties and the UNFCCC Parties.

 

-       the quality of commitments of the emerging countries, especially China, India and Brazil.

 

-       the establishment of an internationally monitored MRV mechanisms for all big polluters.

Although the developing countries want to keep in place the enhanced commitments of the developed countries in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol, a Kyoto II is an uncertain prospect.

It is very doubtful whether the two track negotiations can continue with a Kyoto II (AWG-KP) on the one hand side and the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) on the other hand side.

I think it is a more realistic approach to merge the two tracks into one process and into one agreed document under the Convention. The Copenhagen Accord clearly points in this direction.

Already the Bali Action Plan (Dec. 2007) decided to launch a comprehensive process “…in order to reach an agreed outcome….” This call for a comprehensive process and an agreed outcome does certainly not endorse a two track approach, as some governments may assume.

Such an overall agreement will be extremely helped by offering developing countries, especially the poorest and most threatened ones, clear financial , technological and technical assistance for mitigation, adaptation and other measures.

The described approach moves beyond the dychotomy of the Kyoto Protocol and the Conference of Parties (COP)  of the UNFCCC into the direction of a new architecture:

The negotiating efforts would shift from the formal legality of reduction goals to the establishment of an effective review process for all notificated reduction targets and other mitigation measures.

In a way a globally agreed monitoring regime for implementation of the notified targets would make up for the lack of legal formality of the mitigation targets.

Such a review process should not be so difficult to be agreed. Regular country by country reviews are common place in IMF, WTO and OECD. They apply to all members and not just to a selective group of countries.

The MRV-obligations in the Copenhagen Accord for developing countries point in principle in the right direction, but it seems odd why countries like China deserve a lesser degree of discipline in the MRV process than developed countries.

 

In conclusion :
Universal legally binding, internationally enforceable commitments are at this point not in sight. Therefore a more pragmatic approach, taking the Copenhagen Accord as the starting point, while also integrating a “Kyoto II” into this framework , has a better chance to produce tangible results in Cancun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 16 November 2010 16:06

World cities: The case of Greater Paris

As a senator for Greater Paris, Yves Pozzo di Borgo was particularly welcomed to City Halls to Cancun Corridors a conference held in and co-organised by Taipei County (Xinbei City). How could these world cities share their experiences and wisdom for improved urban planning and a better environment?
 
 
 
Here is the speech in its entirety:
Dear Chairman, Dear Friends,

I am pleased and honored to speak today in a meeting that brings together elected officials and representatives of greater Taipei and of so many cities around the world - Asia, Europe, America ... All of us are aiming to make our metropolitan communities more human, friendlier, more apt at balancing natural and social equilibriums, and able to ensure the future well-being of their descendants. All of us are convinced that urbanisation is not a “fate” that will go inevitably with pollution and destruction of resources, but that it rather represents an opportunity that humankind gives itself so as to invent technological, political and human solutions to tackle the evils from which we suffer. The city is a place where imagination can be released, generosity expressed and solidarity forged.

Thank you, Mr. Governor, for giving us the opportunity today to exchange our experiences, and to return home richer in knowledge thanks to what we will have shared. Let me tell you today about the experience of Greater Paris. This is a work in progress since the law that frames this structure and project, passed last June, now serves as a framework for the setting up of urban, strategic, social and administrative operations, which will redraw the landscape of Paris and Ile de France, so as to design one of the largest cities in the world - and - such is our purpose - the most human of all.

The thinking around the world on the relationship between urbanisation and new forms of governance has several notable features: Firstly, everyone observes that we are marching towards a knowledge economy, a system that favours interactions between entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, developers and production engineers. The second feature that characterizes globalisation is that it integrates the power of urbanisation into the economic development of the regions and countries that these cities irrigate. In this urbanisation process the concept of world cities has taken root. The characteristic of such a process is that economic growth is generally much higher among these world cities than in the rest of their countries. There are currently five world cities: Tokyo, London, New York, Paris and Shanghai. Many cities in Asia, especially China and India, and Latin America will eventually reach this status.

Paris Ile-de-France is a world city, a sort of economic giant at the national and European levels, which represents 5.3 million jobs, or 25% of French jobs. 55% of French patents filed involve at least one partner residing in the Paris Basin, which has 70 000 researchers and 25% of French students. In terms of GDP, Ile-de-France is by far the leading European region, ranked well ahead of Lombardy and London. It represents 29% of French GDP, of which only 22% are actually consumed by the inhabitants of the Greater Paris, with the remainder distributed in other French regions. But if the Ile de France appears to be an economic giant at the national and European levels, it suffers from a lack of dynamism in terms of GDP and jobs. It is, somehow, a huge oil tanker slowly advancing! Indeed, in recent times, employment in the region is up by only 9.7%, while it increased in France by 14.2%. During this same period, growth in the Ile-de-France amounted to 2%, while that of Greater London was 8%. Ultimately then, the region of Ile de France could lose its status if it does not urgently address the reform of its governance structures. The figures on the Ile-de-France region are even more disturbing if one takes into account the fact that a group of economists reports an expected drop of 25% to 12.5% of EU GDP in the world GDP by 2050. Therefore it was necessary to build a project that would foster the dynamism of this region, useful to France and Europe: the draft of the Greater Paris. The law passed last June has the following objectives:
  • Conduct a comprehensive transportation system connecting the suburbs, airports and economic areas around Paris. This is the main objective of the law;
  • Make the Saclay plateau a global economic territory based around new clusters of innovation;
  • Create for the implementation of the two aforementioned projects ad hoc proceedings and structures: the Society of Greater Paris as owner of the transportation system, and the Public Company Saclay Paris for the economic governance of the area. The “public contracts for territorial development” provide in turn for a concerted development of the transportation system between the state and local governments.
Let us summarize the situation up until now as follows:
pozzo_speech_map
 
One of the specific problems we meet with is this regional community still suffers from stacking structures. It is not Paris per se which is presently developing, but rather the cities that surround it. The multiplicity of actors - state, region, departments, communes and union of communes - increases public taxation, impede the consistency and efficiency of public decision making, particularly regarding transportation and commuting, but also in terms of housing, urban planning, economic development and structural facilities. To compete globally with sufficient critical mass, most major European cities including Berlin, London or Rome, brought together local authorities included in their urban area to organise their development and management. Even in France, Lyon, since 1966, conducts urban management under a single administrative authority. For the last twenty years, Lyon has remained among the twenty European cities considered most attractive.
 

The lack of governance structure explains why despite its economic power, the Ile-de-France recorded growth figures lower than those experienced by the rest of France or other European cities. This lack of governance also explains that huge nuggets of jobs are not exploited. For example, the Saclay area is home to two universities and many prestigious schools and businesses. Its campus, in terms of scientists’ numbers and scientific fields concerned, bears comparison with the most prestigious foreign campuses. Thus the number of research publications, used as a criterion of effectiveness in the research sector, is equal to the one registered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University and Stanford. And it should catch up very quickly the level of Cambridge. However, at present, commuting in Saclay is ensured only by a few bus and one regional metro station, with no overall vision! That's why the State (in its role as strategic decision maker) had to come up with a bill on the Greater Paris. This text aims at fostering nine urban strategic poles, similar to that of Saclay, and at developing their transport infrastructure so as to support their dynamism. We hope that these nine clusters will eventually become modern cities, each of around 400 000 to 500 000 inhabitants. Thus, the law on Greater Paris tends to bring two main answers for reviving growth in the Ile-de-France and its global attractiveness in the world system. The first answer lies in a transport network serving the areas around Paris, according to a double-loop route that will serve the strategic areas.The second answer lies in the establishment of a ground-breaking cluster of innovation, based on a concentration of world-class universities and public or private researchers installed on the Saclay plateau, with State guarantees to support the development strategy. At a time of accrued competition among major world cities, it was essential to give Greater Paris the scale of, say, Greater London. At the same time, the unity and cooperation of local authorities that together constitute the Greater Paris could not simply be decreed from above. Like any very large region, Greater Paris is an ecosystem and a living ecosystem relies on self-regulation, ongoing consultation, flexibility, and continued creativity - not just planning and prioritisation.

To sustain that ecosystem - and here we enter the heart of our topic - traffic, communication and fluidity are key requirements. And here we have a lot of work to do. 900 000 residents of suburbs come daily to work in Paris and 300,000 Parisians go in the opposite direction. 95% of Parisians live within 600m of a metro or RER, while in inner suburbs it is the case of less than 50% of the population. The average time traveled between home and the workplace is 30 minutes for the inhabitants of Paris and 45 minutes for residents of inner suburbs. Traffic jams remain a sad reality in the Paris region, as experienced by tourists who go from the Roissy Airport to the heart of the capital... Fluid transportation is a key factor for the quality of living in urban areas. When meeting with environmental requirements, finding alternatives for clean transport and increasing the availability of transit is a priority for the future of metropolitan Paris. Today, the travel conditions in the Paris area remain insufficient and uneven, failing to respond to changing needs. The development of transversal transportation across suburbs is a priority. Network saturation during peak hours, lack of stops in small crown, the frequency of failures and ensuing longer transit time seriously harms the quality of metropolitan life. These weaknesses also weigh on the economic life of the city, because they affect the delivery time of goods and movement of employees.

All stakeholders (government, communities, unions and private carriers) are now mobilizing around large projects such as construction of a transport ring, designed to strengthen and streamline the public transport network in a comprehensive planning process. The realization of these projects will allow for the reduction of car use and road congestion, in a context where environmental issues (noise, air pollution, dwindling resources), economic issues, issues of access employment and social cohesion have a cumulative impact. The Law of June 3, 2010 for Greater Paris has defined the Transport Network of Greater Paris as "consisting of infrastructure affecting urban public transport of passengers, with the use of (a) a circular high-capacity automated metro which, by participating in opening up some areas, will connect the central Paris area and the main urban, scientific, technological, economic, sporting and cultural centers of the Ile-de-France region , (b) high-speed rail network and (c) international airports. "The restructuring of transport goes hand in hand with the one of economic and social areas. But it was important for the reasons stated above, to limit the power of the state on the development of these areas. Development contracts concluded with territorial local authorities are therefore an interesting new legal tool.

Reflecting on the planning and development pursued from the ground realities we must avoid copying the models of global cities that, while developing fast economically, are noisy, polluted and violent. The quality of life in a metropolis on a human scale is a key factor of attractiveness.

Since the implementation of the transmission (an automatic metro line running over a 130 Km), and the establishment of a concentration of universities, research centers and industries on the Saclay plateau requires close cooperation with local communities, and important public works, the law allows for special contracts and new public institutions to implement this project, which is considered to be of national interest.

Even if the Grand Paris is a project implemented in the territory of the Region Ile de France, the economic benefits, financing, and implementation work has a national dimension. Therefore, the government, not the region, created a special ministry to propose a bill, and manage the project, which should take place until at least 2020.

On this basis we will be able to develop even further Greater Paris, maybe even to Le Havre, its maritime horizon, 200 kms further away. Mr. President, exchanges such as those we have these days provide us with a sharper awareness of the ultimate meaning of the action of elected officials and policy makers. Let us therefore take full advantage of such opportunity, and foster a spirit of inventiveness and a growing solidarity that will be rooted in mutual understanding and friendship.

Thank you.

{rokbox size=|300 20|thumb=|images/stories/audio/audio_play_basic_thumb.jpg|}images/stories/conf_ifri_2010/diporgo.mp3{/rokbox}

(Photo by Cathy Chuang)


 

Tuesday, 16 November 2010 15:18

Knowledge networks: diversity in the face of adversity

Benoit Vermander discusses the complexity of the the various networks and actors when it comes to global climate change negotiations and environmental issues. How can these difficulties be turned into opportunities? How can cities take the leading role on climate change?


Thursday, 11 November 2010 15:17

World cities meet before Cancún Climate Conference

Will cities and local communities take the lead when it comes to mitigation action against climate change? This was the definite lesson of a summit held in Xinbei City (formerly Taipei County) on November 8-9 2010.


Tuesday, 25 May 2010 00:00

Towards a global ethic

On May 11th, 2010, the Inaugural International Forum on "Dialogue among Civilizations and Global Challenges" was held to open the new Xu-Ricci Dialogue Institute at  Shanghai's Fudan University. Dr. Stephan Schlensog, the Secretary General of the Global Ethic Foundation, Tübingen/Germany, gave his speech on “Global Ethic as the Basis for the Dialogue of Civilizations”.


Thursday, 01 May 2008 02:14

A New Perspective on the Opening and Development of West China

 
Speech pronounced during the "Cultural Resources for Sustainable Development" Conference, Shanghai, China, April 25, 2008.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

Mr. Chairman and Distinguished Guests:

I feel honored to be able to attend today's Forum which made us all feel the importance of dialogue between culture and development and the role of culture as a tool for self-reflection. This spirit of self-reflection has generated and continues to generate a more and more mature reflection on the historical task that constitutes for the Chinese the development of West China.

Today, being south of the Yangtze river and considering  our geographical opposite North-West China (the former state of Loulan around Lob-Nor in Xinjiang), we cannot but recall how the men living in the North two millenia ago (then in a central position in cultural and economic terms) were describing the state of things in Southern China.

At that time, Sima Qian, the father of Chinese historical science, and Ban Gu, author of the “History of the Han”, both said that “on the south of the Yangtze the land is low and humid, most men die when they are still young.” when characterizing the life condition of people situated in the south of the Yangtze and Hui rivers. They also wrote that in these regions the territory was vast and men were few, and the farmers burned the fields, in order to use the ashes of weed fertilizers, and then watered rice.

Still according to them, fruits, vegetables and fishes were abundant, the life there was easy and the people prone to laziness, not experiencing cold and hunger, and there were no rich families either. One sees clearly that social divisions had not arisen yet, no gathering of important population in one place either; people were speaking a large variety of languages, including ancestor languages of present-day Zhuang, Dong, Tibeto-burmese and Mon-khmer languages  

At the time of the Song dynasty it was already noticed that in ancient times the character “jiang’ (river) was used only when referring to the rivers of southern China. This might have been the case because of the origins of the word in Mon-khmer (kroŋ) that might have produced a loanword in ancient Chinese. Such evidences testify to the fact that in the Yangtze basin there were a number of ethnic groups using Mon-khmer languages.

During the same period, the civilization of the central plains had already developed in a number of areas. Using again the description of Sima Qian, in North China, in big and small towns people were pressing against each other to the extent that if you were attaching their sleeves together you could have made a tent for obscuring the sun. The bustling crowd was scrambling for schemes and profit.

All this points out to a situation in which the North was strong and the South weak, in political, economic and cultural terms, a situation that was to gradually change during the first millennium of the Common Era. The most important reason for the change was the gradual large-scale migration of Chinese-speaking people from the North towards the South and the consequent shift off the center of gravity of Chinese civilization.

This large-scale migration had two climaxes, one around the year 310 and the other around the year 750. The first one was the “Yongjia southward migration”[1] provoked by the invasion from the five non-Chinese people from the North, and the second followed the rebellion of An Lushan that precipitated the decline of the Tang dynasty. The northern people having migrated to the south abandoned the planting of millet, wheat, sorghum and their dry land farming methods in favor of higher rice output. For the sparsely populated South they were not only a precious labor force, they were also most important agents of economic, cultural and social change.

At the beginning of the second millennium of the Common Era, as Northern immigrants and local populations were melting into a new “southern population”, they were able to overcome the disrespect shown to them by the northern Song dynasty and to introduce themselves into the elite circles.

In the years after 1120, the entry of the (Northern) Jin dynasty into the central plains provoked the “disaster of the Jingkang era”[2] and the third large-scale wave of migration from the North to the South. If we compare the southern population of China in the final years of the Southern Song dynasty with the one recorded five hundred years before this time, we discover that the rise of population south of the Yangtze is of 643 percent, with a peak in the coastal provinces of 695 percent. In comparison, the rise in the central plains region is only of 483 percent.

During the same period of time, the rise of population in North China had been only of 54 percent. According to the present evaluation of ancient European agrarian conditions, on the same surface of land the calorific values produced by pasture, wheat and rice were respectively 1, 4.4 and 21.6. This might help us to understand how Southern China was continuously able to receive and integrate such a large influx of immigrants from the North.

The military weakness of the Southern Song dynasty has put it in a very unfavorable light in the eyes of the Chinese today, and they are quick to forget the glorious achievements of this period. It is during this time that the center of gravity of China’s economy and culture completed its shift from North to South. What Eurasia witnessed during the 12th and 13th centuries was the economic and cultural flourishing of the Southern Song dynasty.

Even the destructions that accompanied the dynastic shift from the Song to the Yuan did not stop such dynamics. With the help of new historical factors, this flourishing continued during the latter period of the Yuan dynasty. And Chinese civilization flourished again from the late Ming dynasty on, overcoming the troubles associated with the change from the Ming to the Qing dynasty, till the middle of the Qing era.

However, when evoking the shift of Chinese civilization from North to South, our geographical and historical understanding is still limited to the eastern regions. Here, let me introduce a well-known frontier that characterizes the distribution of Chinese population. On the Chinese map draw a line going from the extremity of the North East to the one of the South West, from the middle of Heilongjiang province (city of Heihe) to the middle of Yunnan province (county of Tengchong), and this line will divide the present territory of China into approximately two equal parts, one on the East and the other on the West. Still thirty to forty years ago, the proportion of the population living on the Western part (54 percent of the total territory) was around 10 percent – which means that 90 percent of the Chinese population was living on the 46 percent of the territory that forms the eastern part.


What the drawing of the Heihe-Tengchong line suggests to us goes beyond the mere repartition of the population. When you add to the map the ethnic repartition of the population it is not difficult to see that, on the East (except for some agrarian ethnic minorities such as the Zhuang, the Dong and the Tai) the immense majority of the population is Han. So, such a line can also be considered as a line of separation between the Han ethnic group and the territories of other ethnic groups. But what makes the Han population settle and distribute itself within this geographical area?

What we must notice is that such a line also roughly corresponds to a division of the territory where yearly rain fall stands between 200 and 400 millimeters. And, in ancient conditions, such a division is also the one that allows respectively for agrarian and pastoral activities.

Therefore, with the exception of the central plains where additional considerations should be brought in, this line already divides from ancient time agrarian territories from the world of West China. Migrating Han population were not staying within this lien for no reason. Success and limitations of the expansion of Chinese civilization were intrinsically linked to its agrarian characteristics.

During the course of Chinese history, central powers emanating and developing from Han civilization have determined several times the extent of the political territory of non Han-speaking populations. During the Tang, the Song and the Ming dynasties, the central power  stabilized the territory of non Han populations, making it enter into the map of the country, using three successive methods, first “subaltern prefectures’, then “indigenous chiefs’ and finally  “assimilation” (i.e. substituting indigenous chiefs with Han dignitaries).

And this policy of assimilation was meant to raise the percentage of Han population in these areas. But in the West of the Heilongjiang-Yunnan line this was very hard to achieve. The successive dynasties could not really attain durable success in controlling these areas.

During the Song and Ming dynasties, we do not find a ministry or organization effectively in charge of the administration of these territories. The integration of the West into the territory controlled by the central power originating from the central plains has been a task mainly accomplished by dynasties originating from non Han-speaking populations. This achievement itself testifies to the indispensable contribution made by ethnic minorities in the course of Chinese history. Let us now say a few words more about this question.

We just spoke about the Southward migration of Chinese economy and culture. What deserves attention is that, about the same time, the political center of China moved on a line going from Xi’an to Loyang to Kaifeng till today’s Beijing. What was the reason for this?

During the last millennium, today’s Beijing was chosen as a capital by the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, three of them being founded by Non-Han populations. For the Han, the plains of the North and the forests of the North-East were simply a line of defense of their agrarian societies. Not so for non-Han rulers. For these rulers with a very specific cultural background, these regions were the depository of their cultural origins and identity, and also where human resources of the same ethnic origin could be found, hence the most important meaning that these regions had for them.

Because these rulers’ concern for the land of their ancestors and of the necessity for them to preserve the stability of the agrarian land of the Han population, they had to move the capital northward, in a zone still deemed acceptable by the Han population. During the time of the Ming dynasty the transfer of the capital to Beijing was somehow due to circumstances, as the military and economic bases of the Emperor Yongle were gathered in the North and he himself was strongly influenced by the Northern culture, but looked at from a broader historical perspective, this move was taking place within a long-term trend.

In the perspective of the central powers emerged and developed within the framework of Han civilization, making the non-Han areas their “frontiers” meant to make “hanization” their most important policy objective, which meant unifying measurements, written signs and behaviors, without any exception.

  What is interesting is that the shift of the Jin, Yuan and Qing dynasties from the status of “marches of the Empire” to the one of “Empire of the marches” did not result in a simplistic reversal of the relationship between the original “political center” and the “periphery.” Thanks to high political wisdom and art, the “Empire of the marches” resulted in a truly diverse territorial organization. Only thanks to such diversity could the “periphery” be on equal footing with Han territory, and even gain more importance. The languages spoken by officials of times past were not limited to spoken and written Mandarin but, by law, were including several others.

According to what precedes, we may be able to take one millennium for one given historical period, and divide the three last millennia of Chinese political, economic and cultural evolutions in an extremely rough fashion:

In the millennium preceding the Common Era, North China establishes itself as the core territory of China’s economy and culture. The rulers who gathered centralized powers into their hands in these areas started to spread the influence of Chinese civilization towards the new frontier areas under their control.

During the first millennium of the Common Era, the flourishing Chinese civilization achieved a shift from North to South and, on a more and more rapid rhythm, activated the economic and cultural progresses of East China. The efforts of the central powers for making the West of China enter into their sphere were important but the results were quite limited.

During the second millennium, the South overcame the North, the historical shift towards the South was completed. The West and then the North West were progressively integrated into the territorial structure controlled by the central power.

History is a master of wisdom. When using a historical perspective for evaluating the present drive for opening and developing the West, what useful lessons can we draw?

From the course of evolutions during the last three millennia, we can know very clearly that we need to reduce the economic, cultural and social gaps between the development of the East and the West so as to accomplish the historical task inherited from the past to make the West a more and more integral part of a China united in the diversity of its nationalities.

This sense of history is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for nurturing the sense of duty of every Chinese when it comes to prioritize and implement the task of opening and developing the West.

From another perspective, relying on the testimonies of human activities of the three or four last millennia, the differences between East and West in natural and cultural conditions teach us an all-important lesson: today’s opening and development of the West cannot and absolutely should not reproduce the model and strategies that characterized the shift from the North to the South – including the migratory flux for opening new territories, the prevalence of agrarian economy as developmental model, the overall hanization of opened territories, and so on.

During the last thirty years, the policies followed in East and West China of letting forests, pastures and wild fields take over some cultivated land show that what we have learned already has helped us to make necessary adjustments. However, since the Han account for the overwhelming majority of China’s population, and especially in the Han developed regions of the East, most people do not have any experience nor any feeling about the degrading ecological condition of the West or about the basic fact that China is a nation composed of a variety of nationalities.

From the earlier stages of modernization, the traditional model of development of the South which in history was a tremendous success of the Han civilization has brought with it a reverence for large-scale industrialization (with the smoke and the roaring engines that go with it), with a kind of romantic complex expressed in sentences such as “a man’s resolve can overcome fate” or “calling the mountain to make room for roads and ordering the river’s water to submit.” This model is still silently influencing the way we are looking at West China’s development and acting accordingly. Should we not be extremely vigilant in this respect?

The difference from the conditions that preceded the shift of the Chinese civilization towards the South is that today’s West China has produced in the course of its history a multiplicity of cultures possessing their own achievements. Such is the case of the Tibetan people having crafted the Tufan culture and its own Buddhist tradition, the encounter of the Gandhara and Han cultures in the southern part of Xinjiang on the Silk Road and the historical testimonies of Indo-European peoples living there, the specific Islamic culture of the Uighurs in the oasis of Xinjiang, the nomad culture of the highlands of West Mongolia, and so on.

From a cultural viewpoint, the duty of opening and developing the West means to accelerate the transition that each of these minorities’ culture faces when confronting modernity, and is certainly not to impose a cultural “model’, be it endogenous or exogenous, on the whole of these areas.

While the process of modernization makes this world become a “global village”, it does not mean nor does it imply that it should abolish the multiple differences and cultural specificities that exist among groups and territories. When looking at the development of the West from this perspective, I think that two points need to be stressed:

First of all, following what my teacher, professor Han Rulin used to say, the Chinese civilization has not been shaped only by Han culture. Each non Han culture of the West, including the one of the Hui who are already speaking only Chinese, is an inalienable constitutive part of Chinese civilization, each maintains the health and equilibrium of the “ecology” of Chinese culture, and each contributes to maintain the precious resources that nurture its splendid life. This point cannot be overstressed.

Second of all, the characteristics of West China’s cultures essentially reflect the variety, richness and complexity of these areas’ nationalities and religions. At the present stage, when speaking about the West’s development, attention is focused on the way to develop the economy, which is of course understandable.

However, the problem of Western China is not only one of economic development. Using a larger perspective, when confronting this problem in the 21st century – when confronting the next stage of the problem should I say - Chinese people might very well have to focus on how to deepen institutional solutions for problems linked to nationalities and religious development. China is one nation with many nationalities, and is developing in very special historical conditions, be it on the national or international level.

Loving the unity and territorial integrity of this nation composed of various nationalities as we love the pupil of our eye does not mean that we make “unity” an uncritically accepted “grand tale”. We need to enter into a larger perspective, a deeper humanist concern, a more diverse understanding and sense of empathy so as to nurture more harmony among the ethnic groups, to unite in happiness as in sorrow, and to foster a political and cultural environment based on union of hearts and virtue.

Before concluding, I would like to mention two famous prime ministers of the Tang dynasty, Fang Xuanling and Du Ruhui. The 11th century historian Song Qi speaks of the two by saying that after the period of troubles that accompanied the succession between the Sui and the Tang dynasties they were able to enforce right principles and to regulate the State and that their influence lasted for several hundreds of years.

Although they achieved such a task, they did not try to elevate themselves or leave any trace of extraordinary action. Song Qi praises the sense of public good shown by these two men, saying that they had not tried to exalt their names and become famous.

Today, the historical task of opening and developing West China requires the contribution of all people of good will. Maybe the ones who participate in this task will not be included in historical records, but this does not matter. We are not trying to exalt our own names. The most important is that, through the efforts of all of us, China’s West may have a beautiful future, filled with hope. Such is the objective that inspires us.

Thank you.

 


[1] The Yongjia era corresponds here to the reign of the Emperor Huai Di (306-311).

[2] Jingkang era: reign of the Emperor Qin Zong of the northern Song dynasty (1126-1127).

 


Thursday, 24 May 2007 09:15

How Culture Transcends Politics

First of all, starting from the position I am holding in Hong Kong since a few years, I ask myself: what do Hong Kong people see in Taiwan, and what attracts them there?
They come to see the cultural values of this place, from Eslite bookstore to small eateries in the mountains, puppet shows of the Huang family, aboriginal people’s songs and craftsmanship, the Hakkas’ flower festival, inns… this is the Taiwan that deserves to be appreciated.
Especially the night life, the night markets of Taiwan attract a lot of Hong Kong people who come to Taiwan for the evening markets of Shilin and Liuhe, the colorful night life and riverside coffee shops of Kaohsiung…

Seen at a first glance, the so-called cultural values seem to be an abstraction, Once they are located in a well-oriented space, most characteristics however find their respective position.。For example say, if “creativity” and ’ “pluralism” (including democracy and the protection of the weakest among us) are considered as two axis, the Taiwan characteristic of discussing, debating that goes within all cultural activities appears out naturally : the Huang family puppet show originates from a variety of cultural currents, showing Taiwan’s pluralism, elasticity and capacity of absorption.
Same thing for the night market with the heterogeneity of its flavors and the plurality of its manifestations.
The experience of the night market life echoes Richard Florida ‘s “The Rise of the Creative Class” (2002) on the characteristics that most awakens the creative mind .

How the stranger sees us is one thing, the other side of the mirror is how we consider ourselves. Considering oneself allows one to go beyond external representations and false pretence. For instance, the idea of “the human rights originating from one’s talent “ originally opposes “the divine right of kings” and the reflection on what “talents” entails has been developed through the Enlightenment. Creativity is not a characteristic of a given place, Margaret Boden in “The creative mind” shows that such mind can indeed improve through practicing. By being conscious that we are a people filled with creativity, we naturally reinforce our creative power.
The founding spirit of every country starts a process of self-reinforcement.
For example say, after the French Revolution, the red blue white three color flag was not an ethnic symbol but was attached to the universal ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
The U.S.A., by becoming a melting pot was fulfilling the democratic ideal of its founders and the ideal of human rights enshrined in the Constitution. Also refer to Turner’s “The Significance of Frontier in American History” when it comes to the Western spirit , a mythology that can be adulterated, but, even in its political uses and abuses of today, refers to a founding spirit - and Americans still keep up a dream of youth, progress and heroism.

As to us, Taiwanese, where are the cultural values that define our identity?
If “creativity” and “pluralism” are indeed our cultural characteristics, they also might become a topic for tourism promotion. Becoming “the island of creativity” , “pluralist island”, whether it refers to the experience of going to Eslite, coffee house experience , night market experience (Florida says: for the creative man, “Experience” replaces goods and service as the main consumption item), and recognizing this characteristics as our assets will bring in people from the whole world.
In other words, this is a self-reinforcing characteristic that can be put into practice at the level of community life. Building consensually on these values, accumulating tacitly a certain lifestyle, we, Taiwanese, who are extremely flexible, are able to design and mould the figure of our own culture as perceived everywhere.

In fact, this will allow Taiwanese to display self-confidence too, linking “the island of creativity” with the creativity displayed in the world as a whole. This is a direction full of potentialities as it will allow us to go beyond the stranger’s idea of a Taiwan flowing with money, and also to go against an image built on “hardware” for enhancing the Taiwanese “software’ provided by creativity and pluralism.

Let us turn back to the way Hong Kong, Taipei and Kaohsiung are respectively underestimating each other. Hong Kong is always treating Taiwan with contempt for its messy politics, Taiwan sees Hong Kong as a bird cage, while Hong Kong people, with a functionalist approach, will find the narrow alleys or the humble airport building too unattractive.
Our “island of creativity and pluralism” is actually hurt by over-politicization and by the primacy given to money as a value and means of decision:
Narrow political vocabulary
Vulgarized Confucianism used to consider the relationships between political decision makers and the people on the Father-Son relationships model
In modern time, the willingness to counterbalance the ancient attitude and establish democracy has led to overstate the influence of politics.
Money oriented value system
Commercial values are predominant, standardizing not only products but also demands. “The Disappearance of Childhood” by Neil. Postman was already saying, many years ago , that standardization and brands were threatening the experience of childhood, making the child use the vocabulary of adults and losing creativity.
In our Chinese tradition, the great mission of any individual was to continue the family lineage, and the sense of insecurity created by the possibility of the lineage not continuing was fostering the accumulation of wealth. So far, what Taiwan worries about most is the decline of the economic figures and of having no money. But is it that kind of accumulation that will earn us the respect of the world inhabitants?

If Taiwan indeed nurtures a colorful cultural scenery, then, borrowing the expression of Benoit Vermander, though it cannot become a “normal (ordinary) member”, it might transform itself into a “outstanding (extraordinary) member” of the international community ----This kind of self- understanding is actually what Taiwan can share with other people, and the personnel stationed abroad of Taiwan, could help to popularize and introduce this specific culture. A bolder proposal (forgive me for I am also a creator) would be to merge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the Ministry of Culture and the Tourism bureau…
Taking again as an example Hong Kong which I comparatively know very well, in November 2006, our centre made great efforts to introduce a “Taiwan month”, overcoming the doubts raised about Taiwan politics, mobilizing Taiwan residents and entrepreneurs, surmounting political divisions, during that month, in the Hong Kong media, the “November-Taiwan month” formula was spread all around, while exchanges naturally developed from heart to heart, and it is worth mentioning that on the ground, the course of arrangement was by itself a creation process, with fundraising being more and more provided by Hong Kong charities proper, and the “creativity of Taiwan” being more and more connected to concerns about Hong Kong local society.
In a word, when looking at Taiwan from the cultural viewpoint, its peculiar vision is displayed by the accumulation of experiences in civil society and democratic politics for so many years now. Think about it: if one day, on the signboards on the buses, train station, performance halls on the each metropolis of the world is on display the creative culture of Taiwan, maybe Taiwan does not need to be worried by the number of its diplomatic allies! Using the cultural card this way, letting Taiwan go to the world, letting the world see Taiwan, this might be the best present to offer to this “island of creativity.”
And going one step further, if in each place in the world cultural pluralism and creativity are the basis for international relations, then, hostility in the world will be reduced, goodwill increased, and cooperation too will increase naturally, reaching the objective of ensuring “world governance”…



Monday, 21 May 2007 00:00

Taiwan and Europe: Past Interactions and Future Pursuits

Much of what we understand of the world, and what we know about the world, derives primarily from what we learn at school. In Taiwan we have known from a very young age about humanity’s four great ancient civilizations, Egyptian, Mesopotamia, Indian and Chinese respectively; later on we also learnt about the development and expansion of the Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations and finally the rise of Europe during the Renaissance. Intense creative activity began in Italy, and it soon spread all over Europe, progressively leading to an unprecedented full scale reform. Europe had stepped on to a well-paved road for development. From then its strength and power dominated the world for several hundred years. Europeans invaded the whole of Asia, coercing many to submit to their power, changing the collective lives and destinies of Asians, the effects of which went far and deep.
 
Our knowledge of Europe for the most part comes from fact. However it is difficult not to mix in an element of imagination. In my opinion, and I believe that many would share my thoughts on this; in terms of technology Europeans are without question superior, with their weapons, power and wealth, they exceed every country. Europeans utilized technology and developed powerful military force. It colonized and controlled vast areas of the world, and coerced many countries into abiding by their laws, and accepting their political hegemony and cultural influence that would be imposed on them and would change their lives.
 
The very first contact between Taiwan and Europe occurred during what can be referred to as an important stage in the history of mankind; the age of discovery. In 1544 a Portuguese fleet on their voyage east-ward along the seas of South-Eastern China, passed through the Taiwan Straits and arrived in Taiwan. As they looked into the distant vast emerald green ranges of Chong Mountain, they shouted ‘Ilha Formosa’. Not long after one after the other, the Spanish, Dutch landed on these shores and established political power, later British and French troops also arrived, and with trading and armed forces came European missionaries, explorers, naturalists. Western buildings, religion also began to appear in Taiwan. Furthermore Europeans began to recognize that Taiwan had its own distinctive Taiwanese local customs and practices.
 
Taiwan is unlike other Asian regions in that it has not been subjected to any direct long tern Western colonialist or Imperialist rule. It was unable however to escape 50 years of Japanese Colonialist rule. The Meiji Restoration saw the end of the Shoguanate Era, the Japenese not only learnt how to build boats and guns from Europe, they also followed Europe’s example in bringing together a democratic system, legislative politics. The Japanese even gathered information about European city infrastructure, art culture and many other areas of new knowledge and values.
 
The 50 years of Japanese rule thoroughly transformed Taiwan and left a profound impact on the lives of Taiwanese people. In other words, in many respects we adopted much of Western Culture through the Japanese, much like how the Japanese adopted Western culture. My father was a painter, he passed the entrance exam to the Tokyo Art School, and was greatly inspired by the Impressionist school; he loved Western art, especially French paintings and French art. I was greatly influenced by my father from quite a young age, and because of this I began to understand another important dimension of European art; artistic creation, in a more narrow sense of the term; culture.
 
The impact of European culture on people was immense. People glorified it, worshipped it. European culture drew people to want to learn more, to gain more knowledge. We are all too familiar with famous European literary works; these have even found their way into Chinese translated versions. Even works of famous European artists have also had their albums published in Chinese (although the quality of the print are not all good); I myself am deeply in love with European classical music and have even done an intensive study in this field. We in many respects want to pursue European popular fashion; we feel that it is an ultimate expression of elegance, luxury, modernism. This kind of mainstream culture dominates our tastes, and often just lap it all up.
 
Whether it was direct or indirect contact, interaction between Taiwan and Europe goes back three to four hundred years. After the Second World War, the Kuomintang government came to Taiwan and the Republic of China firmly took root and exercised its political power on Taiwanese soil. In 1964 France began to establish diplomatic relations with Mainland China, this created a domino effect and shortly after led to all other European countries ending diplomatic relations with Taiwan, leaving Taiwan to turn to the United States. And thus a barrier gradually formed between Taiwan and Europe. Under the ‘Kiss America’ policy American culture began to enter Taiwan in a big way. What is more, faced with the plight of international isolation most young Taiwanese students choose to go to America to study; thus only a very small amount of students would choose to go to Europe for higher education.
 
During the Age of Discovery Taiwan was in fact an important East-Asian stronghold. The mutual surge of interaction and exchange between its own internal culture and external foreign cultures created rich and diversified cultural developments. This was originally a big turning point in the making of ‘New Taiwanese culture’, however the realities at the international stage combined with the autocratic rule of the Kuomintang party greatly influenced any opportunity for a second dialogue between Taiwan and Europe. Another factor being to do with the central principles of Confucius Orthodoxy, inhibiting local native language and culture, making the younger generation uncertain of their own homeland. In fact their knowledge and understanding of the relations between Taiwan and the world can be said to me extremely limited.
 
Under my father’s influence, when I was 16 years old I chose to go to Europe to study music. I passed the entrance exam into a music school in Paris, France. In the place where my idols, great musicians Debussy and Hector Berlioz had resided and learnt, I realized my childhood musical dream. However this so-called musical fantasy was quite unexpectedly crushed on my first day in class by a mean teacher.
 
The majority of the students in my class were French. I still remember when my teacher asked me about my knowledge of music from where I come from, and even asked me to sing a few songs. I was stunned; apart from a catchy Taiwanese traditional folk ballad ‘look forward to love’ I couldn’t think of anything else, my mind had gone completely blank. That was a sharp warning for me. I gradually came to realize that learning things from other people no matter how outstanding they, you can never win. I had no way of being like any of the other students as I had no knowledge of my own country, my motherland Taiwan and therefore felt extremely ashamed. This experience made me go back to Taiwan in 1975, and it led to a process of Taiwanese cultural soul searching.
 
Several years later, due to a job posting and because of my experiences whilst being in Europe, I was able to look at Europe in quite a different light, one outside the sphere of culture and arts. In the past, people had it in their heads this idea of a great, glorious Europe. This later changed, with the rise of America. People began to have quite a dim, bleak impression of Europe. In its endeavor to integrate, the EU once again wanted to demonstrate on the world stage its endeavors to create civilization, and this time Taiwan noticed.
 
By the 25th of March 2007, the European Union had been established for 50 years. In the 50 years Europe has developed from a common market to a European organization made up of different countries seeking similar goals, with a desire to realize common aspirations of the European people; freedom, peace and anti-war. At the same time the organization gradually became a common entity for the development of politics, economics, defense and environmental protection. After consolidation of the so-called ‘inflexible debate’ partnership, in the recent 20 years Taiwan has once again slowly drifted into educational, cultural ‘soft power’ policies. By 1992 the Maastricht Treaty fully endowed the EU with many new powers, one of which included ‘cultural policies.’ In fact a ‘cultural’ law (Article 128) was devised and became a basis for countries within the European Community to recognize and follow as a common goal in all aspects of arts and cultural collaboration.
 
Consequently we can regard the European Cultural partnership in terms of molding a ‘European label,’ Firstly, an annual proposal must be firmly established. Since 1985 the European Council have held ‘European Capital of Culture’ event. That is to say every year one or two cities with cultural touristic appeal is chosen, and performances, exhibitions and other cultural activities are held in that city. Later the EU supported and took over coordinating the entire campaign, letting these cities come to life through a colorful array of cultural and artistic activities, and as far as annual traveling goes, it became the best selling point.
 
Secondly, in the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty, Article 128 was revised and re-documented as Article 151. It emphasized the role of the EU in supporting all activities that are based on respecting and promoting European culture, this is also a legal obligation. From then on ‘culture’ became a very important issue for the EU. According to Article 151, a series of guiding cultural principals and schemes were initiated, including the 1996-1999 ‘kaleodoscope’ which was aimed at encouraging artistic and cultural creation and teamwork, the 1997-1999 ‘Ariane’ plan of book publishing and reading translations, and finally in 1997-1999 the ‘Raphael’ plan of initiating policies related to world heritage and European distinctiveness. All these activities achieved the peak of its objective by the Millennium, that is the ‘2000 Culture’ plan to reach a budget of 230 million Euros within 7 years. It provided sponsorship funds to all related cultural projects, and through advocating the sharing of different cultures, build and construct a big common cultural circle.
 
In the construction and convergence of European space for higher education, the so called ‘Bologna declaration’ received the most attention and was also the most ambitious. In 1998, Heads of educational departments in France, Germany, Britain, and Italy signed the Paris University declaration and decided on ‘academic diploma standardization’; and then in 1999 the heads of educational departments in 29 countries announced the Bologna declaration and established a common consensus for the establishment of a ‘European space for higher education.’ Later in 2000 in light of the challenges brought on by globalization and the intellectual society, EU heads of state, collectively announced in a summit their hope of completing the ideas set out in the Bologna declaration by 2010. Hence in 2001 leaders of the EU educational world discussed ways in which to initiate these plans. Not long after, heads of educational departments at the Jan Assembly made several resolutions, these include; carrying out and integrating a higher level education system, having mutual acknowledgement of each country’s academic diploma and placing special emphasis on the importance of a ‘European label’ and European dimension - in the hopes that the curriculum, and the culture on school campus can preserve and carry forward each country’s educational and strong points in learning, further demonstrating an overall distinctive nature of European culture.
 
This year March 2007, EU’s latest ‘Cultural plan: 2007-2013’ has already formally been put into action, with the slogan ‘Leap over boundaries, connect cultures’. At the same time it appropriated a budget of 400 million Euros, allowing European citizens to unite unanimously in the concept of Europeanism, and identify in each others cultures, and sharing the fruits of development.
 
The EU, in setting into motion cultural activities, most recently the inauguration of the Musee du Quai Branly in June 2006, has left a deep impression on many Taiwanese people, in other words ‘the importance and value of respecting and carrying forward diversified culture.’ There is in fact no good or bad culture, I used to say, when faced with cultural matters or related constructions one must use ‘addition’ and ‘multiplication’ to think. It is only in this way that the ‘soil of culture’ is not left barren and that ‘culture’s flower’ can bloom and flourish.
 
At the time when Taiwan ended the worlds longest martial law rule in 1987 (it lasted for 38 years), it still carried on its ‘Nativist movement’ of the 70s and the democratic human rights movement of the 80s, and did so to its full capacity. The development of Taiwanese society and Taiwanese culture created a huge upheaval; it was as if Taiwan wanted to let it all out, express all kinds of emotions and feelings concerning the past. This of course led to many conflicts, but I sincerely believe that if we have the right direction and a grasp of our core values then Taiwan can attain a positive leading force to guide it.
 
In terms of Cultural development 2000 was an important year for Taiwan. The Democratic Progressive party won the people’s support and ended Kuomintang’s 50 year long rule. Through this event the value and importance of cultural diversification became apparent. The four main ethnic groups began to have more equal treatment. In comparison Europe, in the recent ten years or so, has been in the process of seeking to share culture diversity while identifying with an integration process, I can see that Taiwan is also moving in a similar direction and I can’t help but feel very excited about this.
 
Many of those who are passionate and love this country have gone and unearthed, sorted out and rebuilt many things that were valued in the past. The government has also in terms of native language education, in national education, in developing ethnicity, and cultural activities done much for making up for all the sorrow and pain the former party had caused. Take my post as head of the Commission of Cultural Affairs of the Executive Yuan as an example. During my term there I supervised the establishment of approximately 200 local cultural centers in every county. The publications included history, literature, plays, fine arts, music etc. there were up to about 600 different kinds of historical and biographical books. These and building up Taiwan’s National literary centre, traditional art centers and Taiwanese historical museums allow Taiwan’s valuable cultural, historical relics, and archives to never again be lost, as we can preserve, protect and study them.
 
I myself feel lucky that I have the opportunity to go from a past where any discussion of ‘Taiwan’ was taboo, to the present where ‘studying Taiwan’ has now become a popular and international topic of discussion.
 
In the 80s, local historians and historical researchers in the scholarly and academic world set out to reorganize and establish a foundation for ‘Taiwanese research.’ Afterwards; elementary schools began to add native language education and native teaching materials on to the curriculum. Up until today, higher level education organizations have about 17 departments linked with the study and research of Taiwan. And I myself in 1995 wrote and published ‘100 years of Taiwanese music 1985-1995” and in 2004 after leaving a strenuous job as head of the cultural division I began to develop the discussion on “Diamond Taiwan”:
 
Taiwan only takes up 0.023% of the earth’s total area; despite this however 10 percent of the world’s distinct and diverse species reside on the island. Its unique geographic location creates wonderful natural landscapes and ecosystems. Wildlife habitat and climatic zone is first rate. Apart from that, Taiwan is home to Austronesian aborigines, who have developed their own Taiwanese mountain and sea cultures, in the past 100 years, due to a few accidental occurrences in history, they began to develop predominantly Chinese based cultural characteristics, and a blend of Western and Japanese features is also evident. This all makes Taiwan very much like a diamond, small yet beautiful and sparkly, an island not to be overlooked.
 
At the end of May 2006, the national cultural association organized a ‘the whole world loves Taiwan’ historical international seminar. Over 3 hundred years ago Taiwan was Holland’s colony, now her representative sits amongst other international scholars as an honored guest to share amongst themselves the ‘study of Taiwan.’
 
I have a French friend, she is quite an ardent student of Taiwanese anthropology, she came to Taiwan 20 years ago under the guidance of her professor. She spent years and months on a field study about the belief and social organizations and practices amongst people of Southern Taiwan. She told me things about Taiwanese religion, customs and ceremonies that I had no idea about; this made me feel deeply ashamed, and I was determined to understand and learn more about my birthplace The National Cultural organization published ‘new life water magazine’, in Jan and March 2007 also saw the publication of ’10 major Taiwanese folk rituals’ ’The 10 major rituals of Taiwanese Aborigines” This enabled me to look at Taiwan in a different light and allowed me to appreciate, understand the beauty and allure of Taiwanese culture on a more deeper and meaningful level.
 
Due to political imprisonment in the past I was unable to complete compulsory classroom ‘Taiwanese credits.’ But these past several years, private and public efforts have given me a good opportunity to make up for the loss I had incurred, and have also made me value and cherish Taiwan even more - a rare gem, a country exceptionally rich in natural resources, and a diverse cultural history.
 
To start off with I had said that Europe’s contributions to the development and rise of civilization is exceptional, from philosophy, literature, the arts, science and even the influence of most recent history’s democratic stream of thought. Europe has always been the vanguard in writing history. The EU had exerted greater efforts in recognizing and valuing the importance of cultural diversification, and has even created a new magnificent vision and plan of action, in the attempt to once again head start a new era of convergence of European values.
 
However at the same time, I deeply believe that Europeans and their knowledge and understanding of Asia, especially Taiwan is not enough. When I was young, studying in France, many classmates the same age as me told me, when they were in middle school they had never studied anything to do with Asian history, Asian thought, religion, art or ancient civilizations, it was simply not a part of their curriculum. If they wanted to know about it they had to find a way to get a hold of information. We of course know that over a half of the world’s population live in Asia, The fact that teaching materials in European schools neglect to mention Asia, means that at the time the education bureau were neglecting any dialogue between other civilizations and cultures. What is more in October 2004, I followed the Taiwanese foreign office to Britain, France, Germany, Belgium to call on governments and congressmen, and discovered that a lot of people have a very hazy impression and lack of understanding about Taiwan. But I also found that if we use the subject of culture and art to initiate communication and sharing, we would very quickly draw in the distance between us, and perhaps at the same time leave an impression and an interest in Taiwan.
 
When Europe, through education and culture reached a common understanding, established a sense of cohesiveness and identification amongst its citizens, Miles away in Taiwan; the world’s tiniest island, after experiencing political and economic reform was also seeking similar goals, and in the major process of integrating a national identity, at the same time it was also utilizing its rich cultural and artistic treasures to internally mould a common vision amongst its people, and externally to open up to the world.
 
In 2008 Taiwan will once again be electing a new president; I would like to use this opportunity to sincerely express my expectations and deepest hope that Taiwan’s future development will place culture as its core value and the importance of education as its main project. Through these elements a new vision of Taiwan can be created. In this respect we must follow in America’s footsteps and establish our own developments. At the same time we must pay attention to and observe the methods and practices that the EU take, and examine carefully not only their strategies but the philosophical background and thought, the logic and procedures that are needed to carry through their major projects, and what is more recognize its everlasting values.
 
I also deeply hope and wish that Taiwan, which has already set an example amongst the world’s overseas Chinese societies in its ability for democratic reform and cultural coherence, will be able to have more active and substantial interactions with Europe and generate greater accomplishments on the world’s cultural atlas!
 
Speech pronounced at the International Conference on "Cultural Diversity and Sustainable Development, a Dialogue between Taiwan and Europe", Kaohsiung, 25, 26 may 2007
 

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