“World Civilizations” Conflab Held in China

From China Today:

The Third Nishan Forum on World Civilizations was held in Ji-nan in Shandong province over three days last week. The conference, with a theme of “common human ethics amid different beliefs,” attracted some 130 experts and academics on philosophy, theology, religious and cultural studies from different cultural backgrounds.

…Xu Jialu, president of the organizing committee, says the root cause of the crisis shared by human beings nowadays is the distortion of moral values and overlooking of the importance of ethics.

…Fred Dallmayr, a US professor from the University of Notre Dame and co-chair of the World Public Forum, says that since the Renaissance, there has been a tendency in the West to emphasize individualism.

Meanwhile, in Confucian teaching, there is no isolated being, and people live in all kinds of relationships. This sense of interaction can foster the merits of tolerance, generosity and respect, which can help people overcome their hostility toward others, Dallmayr suggests.

Dallmayr and the World Public Forum have featured on this blog a number of times: the organisation was co-founded by Vladmir Yakunin, a devoutly Orthodox member of Putin’s inner circle and the head of Russia’s railways. As I’ve noted previously, the WPF has made links with an extraordinary array of top-tier academics, religious leaders, and emeritus politicians (along with some rather more eccentric figures), who have spoken at conferences in Rhodes and Vienna and written for WPF publications. Dallmayr and other figures associated with the WPF recently signed a letter calling on the USA to rescind sanctions against Yakunin.

The WPF’s full name is the “World Public Forum: Dialogue of Civilizations”, and the “Nishan Forum on World Civilizations” seems to serve the same kind of “soft power” purpose for China as the WPF does for Russia. An article by a China scholar named Andrew Chubb and Fairfax Media’s Asia Pacific editor John Garnaut notes an unexpected overlap with an NGO called the China Energy Fund Committee:

The “NGO” was granted Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council which, in turn, enabled it to segue away from oil and war in order to co-host a “dialogue between Confucianism and Christianity” at United Nations headquarters in New York, in November 2012.

CEFC’s partner in that venture, the Nishan Forum on World Civilizations, is another new and mysterious Chinese organisation that describes itself as an NGO.

Its personnel and aspirations overlap with those of CEFC.

The interests of the Nishan vice chairman, Xing Yunming, reach far beyond Confucius and religion and might provide a clue to what lies behind the CEFC think tank.

…Mr Xing is in fact a lieutenant-general in the People’s Liberation Army and, according to isolated, and perhaps inadvertent, reports in provincial media, he is director of the military’s secretive political warfare agency – the Liaison Department of the PLA General Political Department (GPD).

In 2011, according to the authors, the CEFC caused some alarm when its “strategic analyst”, Colonel Dai Xu (using the pen name Long Tao) wrote a newspaper op-ed suggesting that China ought to wage war against Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea in order to scare away the USA. The CEFC is headed by a certain Ye Jianming; Ye is also CEO of the China Huaxin Energy Company, which “came from nowhere in 2010 to claim revenues of more than US$30 billion last year [2012].” Further, “Huaxin’s English name, China CEFC Energy Co, is almost identical to that of the CEFC think tank and until recently it listed the think tank as one of its charitable ventures.” One nice detail:

Despite his tender years, he has won the admiration of global statesmen from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to Henry Kissinger, who apparently addresses him as “Chairman”.

A post by Russell L.C. Hsiao on Nottingham University’s China Policy Institute Blog places the CEFC in the context of “political warfare”:

In general, political warfare in the Chinese context seeks to undermine the legitimacy of Taiwan, challenge the liberal democratic order, shore up CCP authority domestically, challenge international rules of the road, and promote alternatives to widely accepted universal values.

…The CEFC recently hosted a high-profile Sino-U.S. colloquium, which was billed as an “intercultural dialogue” between China and the United States, at the heart of the nation’s capital in Washington, DC. The title of the conference was “Core Values and World Order” A panel in the conference presented arguments from Chinese academics who called for a paradigm shift from the Westphalian nation-state system to a civilizational system to avert a potential “clash of civilization.” 

This it a very nice fit with Yakunin’s grumblings about “hegemonic ideology and unipolar power”; it looks to me that Ye and Yakunin are made for each other.

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