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Two Scholars, One Dialogue – Can Chinese and Western Cultures Stand Together?

ByGeorge Bao

Sep 11, 2016

By George Bao   Sept. 10, 2016


Two scholars, one dialogue on Chinese culture Photo by George Bao
Two scholars, one dialogue on Chinese culture
Photo by George Bao

LOS ANGELES – This is a dialogue between two established scholars, one from China and the other from the United States with the focus on major features of traditional Chinese culture, but the question is: can they solve problems that people are facing now?

Wang Meng, a renowned Chinese author and scholar who was also former Chinese Minister of Culture, held a dialogue here Saturday with Clayton Dube, Director of the U.S.-China Institute at the University of Southern California who is a also an expert on China in the U.S.

While making his keynote address at the 2nd Nishan International Forum, Wang Meng said the Chinese culture is rich and diversified, it is like the Chinese food. There are so many things being put together, pork, beef, lamb, fish and all kinds of vegetables, they have been put together to produce delicious food. It is hard for people to tell what are they – it is like different people live in harmony.

However, Western food, like French food, people can easily tell what they are. Beef is beef, now matter how it cooks, the beef is clearly visible and recognizable.

That is the difference between the Chinese culture and the Western culture – the combination of different schools and opinions have been mixed and melted together.

Wang explained that this is called TONG, or harmony, “all in one, one in all,” and also, the Chinese culture stresses that everything is changing, “new today, new tomorrow and new everyday.”

Wang said the United States has failed in solving the problems in Iraq, in Afghanistan and other places.

“Maybe you can learn from the Chinese culture and find a better way to solve those problems,” Wang suggested.

But Dube questioned whether the traditions of the Chinese culture have some thing to do with China’s soft power in the world. He also asked Wang why people in the West usually believe that there is evil in people’s heart by nature while Chinese would believe that people are good and kind by nature.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu attends 2nd Nishan International Forum Photo by George Bao
U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu attends 2nd Nishan International Forum
Photo by George Bao

Wang said everyone wishes to be praised and to say that people are good and kind by nature will please everyone. If you say people have evils by nature, no one will be happy.

Wang said one feature of the Chinese culture is “not to compete” among people. That is why Chinese are less competitive than Westerners. However, Dube disagreed.

No, it is wrong to say Chinese are less competitive, Dube said. From elementary school to high school, students are completing with each other to get good scores so they can go to good universities through strict entrance examinations, the competition is much tense than the American students, said Dube.

Dude said Chinese culture is appreciated here in the U.S. and Chinese food is very popular in the country with so many Americans like Chinese food.

He said almost all the Chinese he met whether in the U.S. or in Taiwan and Hong Kong feel very proud to be Chinese. However, in recent years, he found that some people in Taiwan want to call themselves Taiwanese and those from Hong Kong call themselves Hongkongnese, why?

Wang Meng said that all people in the world are humans, and some humans are Chinese, Americans or Europeans. Among Chinese, those from Shanghai are Shanghainese, from Beijing are Beijingness, and from Canton are Cantonese. In this sense, it is right to call them Taiwanese or Hongkongness. However, if they say they are not Chinese, there will be a big problem.

He said even those who do not want to call them Chinese still eat Chinese food, speak the Chinese language and write Chinese characters. They can not deny the Chinese culture they have inherited.

A book presenting ceremony was held after the forum for Yao Wenrui, President of Shandong Friendship Publishing House to present the book ANALECTS OF CONFUCIUS REVISITED to Los Angeles Public Library.

U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, Los Angeles City Librarian John Szabo, Chinese Deputy Consul-general Sun Lushan and Executive Director of Shandong Publishing Group Guo Haitao attended the forum.



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