Let lightning of thought spark light of civilization

By FANG JUN / 09-08-2022 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

With the joint efforts of all participating experts and scholars, The International Academic Forum in China 2022 hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) has successfully completed all its agendas and is to come to an end. On behalf of the organizer, Social Sciences in China Press (SSCP), I would like to express sincere respect and heartfelt thanks to all the experts and scholars for your hard work. 
At the two-day forum with the theme of “Civilizations Amid Profound Changes: China and the World,” more than 100 famous scholars from China and abroad conducted in-depth multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional, and multi-level discussions and exchanges in the fields of Marxist theory, philosophy, literature, history, economics, sociology, law, journalism and communication, political science, public administration, and international relations. From what the representatives of the five concurrent panels just introduced, participants exchanged ideas, identified and analyzed problems, discussed academic issues, and enhanced friendships. The forum has achieved fruitful results, allowing us to fully appreciate the beauty of intellectual creation, the beauty of mutual learning among civilizations, and the beauty of academic exchanges. 
Intellectual creation 
The forum showcases the beauty of intellectual creation. Focusing on this forum’s theme, participating experts put forward many original ideas, theories, and viewpoints, which greatly opened minds and advanced scholarship. This is the forum’s aim and major feature. French modern thinker Blaise Pascal once said, “Man is a reed, the weakest of nature, but he is a thinking reed. It is not necessary that the entire universe arm itself to crush: a vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But if the universe were to crush him, man would still be nobler than what kills him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage that the universe has over him, the universe does know nothing. All our dignity consists then in thought.” In today’s world, profound changes are intertwined with the pandemic of the century, weak economic recovery is overlaid with inflationary pressures, and the Ukraine crisis and regional conflicts are intensifying. The world is far from peaceful, and the theme of the times, peace and development, is facing a new major test. “What has gone wrong with the world?” “Where should humanity go from here?” The “questions of the times” and “the questions of the world” lie urgently before governments, people, and thinkers around the world. Mankind needs the power of ideas more than ever before, are more eager for original ideas to answer the topics of the times and the questions of the world, and call for the light of thought with penetrating and leading forces that can light up our way ahead. Needs mean deficiency, desires mean dissatisfaction, and calling means change and creation. 
The forum is willing to contribute to the creation and dissemination of ideas. 
Mutual learning among civilizations 
The forum highlights the beauty of mutual learning among civilizations. Experts and scholars from all over the world, with different skin colors and languages, focused on the same theme and conducted dialogues and exchanges on an equal footing online and offline. This in itself has been a grand event for exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations. Civilizations are enriched by diversity, highlighted through exchanges, and developed by mutual learning. Mankind has bid farewell to ignorance and barbarism, and to the law of the jungle, representing the greatness of mankind and the glory of civilizations. At the forum, Chinese and foreign experts have reached a consensus that the so-called “clash of civilizations” is neither a norm nor a path to progress for human civilizations. Historical experience inspires us that mutual respect replacing bullying and barbarism, equal-footed dialogues replacing confrontation and conflict, and mutual learning replacing arrogance are the only way for the prosperity and progress of world civilizations. The Chinese nation has a splendid civilization of more than 5,000 years, uninterrupted and innovating. The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is irreversible. This in itself is a major contribution to the progress of world civilizations. As ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius advocated “harmony in diversity,” the Chinese civilization has no intention and will not pose conflict or challenge to other civilizations and has never refused to learn from all the outstanding achievements of human civilizations. Every form of beauty has its uniqueness; it is precious to appreciate other forms of beauty with openness; and beauty represents itself with diversity and integrity. Advocating for mutual learning and common development is not only Chinese civilization’s attitude towards and vision of civilizations from other countries, but also a method and realm of advancing civilizational progress. It is the force driving civilizations to thrive. 
The forum is dedicated to mutual learning among civilizations and the progress of human civilization. 
Academic exchanges 
The forum demonstrates the beauty of academic exchanges. It is both the purpose and a distinctive feature of the forum that renowned Chinese and foreign scholars from different disciplines conduct in-depth academic dialogues on the same theme. Through dialogues and exchanges, it is widely felt that the long-standing excessive specialization, fragmentation, and academic demarcation of disciplines are increasingly unable to keep up with the pace of the times, which seriously restricts the development of thought, academic prosperity, and civilizational progress. Questions raised by the times are extremely complicated and comprehensive. The more important the questions of the times are, the more comprehensive, strategic, and systematic they are. Constrained by traditional disciplinary classification, we often feel helpless about these major questions of the times, or disintegrate these problems into too fragmented pieces for analysis, and are thus unable to interpret them, not to mention solve them. Discipline is not a private domain, and scholarship is not a “mountain stronghold” occupied by some. We need to speed up the construction of the philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics, build an independent knowledge system by China, actively participate in worldwide academic contention, and make China’s due contributions to international academia. To this end, it is urgently needed to break down the barriers of traditional disciplines, deepen interdisciplinary academic dialogues and communication, break out of “academic bubbles,” restudy basic theories, basic problems, basic concepts, and open up a new ground of academic development at the intersection of different disciplines. 
The forum is willing to make efforts for interdisciplinary academic dialogues and exchanges and for worldwide academic contention. 
Since the first forum last year, The International Academic Forum in China has been upholding the principles of “attending the forum with papers” and “making friends through scholarship.” The speeches of participating experts will be published in our publications, newspapers, and websites. We sincerely thank you for your trust and support! 
As ancient Chinese thinker Chuang Tzu said, “Things start simply enough, but soon become complex and confusing.” The forum has just been held for two consecutive years. The first step is always the hardest, and it is even more difficult to keep on. We are well aware that there is still much inconsideration in the organization of the forum, and your valuable suggestions are welcomed. As for the theme of the next forum, from now on, the global academic community is invited to contribute your wisdom. We believe that with the concern, help, and active participation of experts and scholars at home and abroad, the International Academic Forum in China is bound to enjoy its own characteristics, high level, and lasting influence. 
Fang Jun is deputy secretary-general of CASS and editor-in-chief of SSCP under CASS. This article was edited from his speech delivered at the Closing Ceremony of the forum.