Over recent years, the need to strengthen and expand people-to-people contacts, intercultural dialogue, mutual understanding and long-term cultural cooperation has taken a more prominent place in EU-China relations.
These developments have been encouraged by both sides, at the highest level, and under the support of Transcultura International Institute. During the 12th EU-China Summit in Nanjing, in November 2009, Premier Wen Jiabao and President José Manuel Barroso agreed on the importance of holding an EU-China Forum on Culture.
Bringing together leading intellectuals from both the European Union and the People’s Republic of China, the High Level Cultural Forum hold in Brussels on October 6th and 7th 2010 has been one of the most important supporting events of the 13th EU-China Summit.
Transcultura : over 20 years experience
The scientific direction of the forum was entrusted to the Transcultura International Institute, founded in 1988 by Umberto Eco and Alain le Pichon.
For the last 20 years the Institute has developed – along with its Chinese, Asian, African or Indian partners –an approach to reciprocal understanding and the methodologies that such understanding provokes. This involves considering the reality of the cultural strengths and resources available and suggesting scenarios of cultural and artistic exchange based on this principle of reciprocity.
“May reciprocity between cultures be a basis for political and economic cooperation”
Pr. Zhao Tingyang
The EU-China High Level Cultural Forum will be an unprecedented platform for comprehensive communication between Chinese and European influential scholars.
The Forum is designed to be the framework for an open dialogue on the ancestral values of two civilizations, on their models of society, their different patterns of knowledge, epistemological, ethical and aesthetic. It has to be forward-looking, taking into consideration the changes in the world.
By being a critical and constructive academic exercise, the Forum aims to provide a common ground for further enhancing the mutual trust between the EU and China, as they are addressing their shared responsibilities in a globalised world.
This critical approach proves to be essential in observing, in the perspective imposed by globalization, the diversity of the European and Chinese patterns and concepts. Consequently, it will focus on establishing semantic and methodological references, conditions of a shared conceptual field and a common language, while respecting and valuing their own nature and spirit, in the wide diversity of their expression. It must also suggest in a creative and critical way, based on the recognized concepts, the possible ways to renew the patterns of knowledge, and as a consequence, the projects of society. This is a long-term endeavour that challenges the whole field of human sciences and anthropological knowledge.
Academic introduction to the forum’s subject
Civilizations of different origins are based on different histories and natural environments, and they all have contributed to a colorful world of multiculturalism. Although differentiated by historic background, social system, ideology, cultural tradition, mode of thinking, and value system, China and Europe share the common ground of pursuing beauty. And, no matter how the world changes, people from both China and Europe have been, differently but unremittingly, pursuing, respecting and adhering to the common tradition and universal value system, naturally shared by all human beings, such as to cherish life, to love people and nature, and to look forward to a world of peace and harmony, even if, on another hand, they have both been repeatedly committed in violence and war episodes.
In spite of those repeated disorders, and also perhaps because of the consciousness of it, both China and Europe have been trained in their different historical experiences in discovering and respecting cultural diversity, encouraging conversations between different civilizations, and protecting cultural identity and sovereignty. As the cultural exchanges between China and Europe continuously strengthens, the Chinese culture has more and more become part of lives of the European people and vice versa. Such mutual readiness to respect, to learn and to accept each other is a driver of social development and the basis for a more harmonious world with more cooperation, less misunderstanding and less conflicts. As two origins of human civilizations, China and Europe, on a basis of a better mutual understanding and communication, should consequently play an active role in promoting peace, harmony and social progress in the world.
In history, China and countries of Europe made great contributions to both social progress of human beings and development of civilizations; and they are birthplace of many eminent thinkers, philosophers, and artists whose great achievements had become part of the spiritual wealth of human society. Some of their achievements are still playing a fundamental role of great importance in the development of society and evolution of critical thinking even nowadays. Over thousands of years since the Ancient Greece, Europe has continuously been the birthplace of great thinkers who influenced human history, Socrates, Aristotle, Dante, Descartes, Darwin, Newton, Leibniz, Kant, Marx, Einstein, Tocqueville, and we can say that such tradition of great minds is what European countries can boast about. This is also true in China. A great country with also a history of thousands of years, China enjoys a tradition as glorious as Europe. Confucius, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Mencius, and Zhu Xi, ... and so many others, the influence of these great minds, along with those litterateurs, poets, and artists, played a key role in shaping East Asian Civilization. As these two civilizations develop, two distinctive but somewhat integrated systems of civilizations have developed as well, which lays a solid foundation for more significant communication and exchanges in the field of humanity between China and Europe.
Among the abundant and diversified cultural exchange programmes between China and Europe, the EU-China High Level Cultural Forum will stand out as being of worldwide significance and having the following uniqueness:
- It is an unprecedented platform for comprehensive reciprocal and “hypoleptic” communication between European and Chinese elite scholars in the circles of culture and thoughts.
- It has a theme jointly designed by top institutes for transcultural studies from EU and China. The sub-themes comply with important concerns of European countries and China.
- It is focusing on studies of cutting-edge key concepts and topics among circle of thoughts.
- The results of the Forum will be published and made available to the European and Chinese public.
The forum was in many respects conceived of as a Cultural Davos. Thus it was intended to be durable and to take the form of annual meetings that could be held alternately in China or in Europe. The stakes of the cultural and political future are indeed high.