On the 9th of May 2021, the Yenching Academy of Peking University held a Bai Xian Alumni Talk: From Jingyuan to the World. The session featured three guest speakers talking about their unique stories. They include Ng Junyang from Singapore, Kazuki Miyazaki from Japan, and Pham Thi Thuy Duong (Han Young) from Vietnam, constituting Bai Xian and Yenching scholars from the 2017, 2018 and 2019 cohorts, respectively. Also, 2020 Bai Xian and Yenching scholars, Joshua Fung Sze Kiun, and Tan Yuan Zeng (Ashley), moderated the talk.
Junyang delivered the first talk themed “Bridging East and West or Old and New?” Drawing from his experience as the head of Wenli Academy’s European Languages and Literature and the Asia Representative for the AVN (Accademia Vivarium Novum), Junyang emphasized the need to shift from recouping East and West towards recouping the old and new aspects of both regions. Likewise, he shared eight lessons from his Bai Xian experience, including being (somewhat) impractical, seizing opportunities, gaining acknowledgement, gathering the like-minded, building institutional relations, and educate and inform. He epitomized these perspectives in 倾盖如故 (to meet like before), encouraging the scholars to connect for future engagements.
Kazuki gave the second talk focused on “Fostering More Stable and Peaceful Relations in Asia”. Growing up in Japan, he witnessed the anti-Chinese sentiment in Japanese society. This experience raised his curiosity about conflict and peace. Through studying abroad both in the U.S. and China, working to resolve issues in East Asia, he identified the correlation between public opinion and tourism. This revelation led him to start his journalistic travelling project called “The Middle Kingdom Adventure”. The project is about visiting every Chinese province and China’s UNESCO World Heritage sites, sharing his discoveries and thoughts across various social media platforms.
Young, co-organizer of the “Asian Solidarity Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic” webinar and a PhD candidate at the University of California, delivered her talk on “From the Forbidden Land to the Forbidden Palace: Some thoughts on ‘single stories’ and international relations in Asia.” Young reflected on her perspective on single stories with the South China Sea dispute. She expressed her awareness of and displeasure with the anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam. So, in her fight against single stories, she pursued her academic career at Yenching, believing that cross-cultural communication and education lie at the heart of peace. Anyone could be both victim and creator of “single stories.”
A Q&A session followed the three presentations. Responding to a question regarding future career paths, Kazuki observed that a job was relatively less critical if it allowed him to pursue his passion since he has clearly outlined what he wants to achieve in the future. In addition, Young talked about creating an environment, possibly as a professor, for youngsters to freely share their single stories.
Answering a question about their favourite memories as Bai Xian scholars, Young expressed that hers was the trip to the Great Wall, organized by YCA during the 2019 Peking University Asian Future Leaders Scholarship Program orientation. For Junyung and Kazuki, theirs was the trip to Osaka and Kyoto for the BXAI Summer Program 2019. The trip offered an opportunity to discover the sites and meet and network with scholars from all over the world.
All the speakers shared their final thoughts on the future dynamics of East Asia relations. Kazuki stated his pessimism given high tensions like the South China Sea dispute but affirmed his hopes for better relations given the ease of connecting and knowing different countries. Young corroborated Kazuki’s observation, adding her optimism for increased collaboration among middle and small states in the region. Finally, Junyang articulated China’s century and the revivalist movement of the Chinese culture. He further said that he hopes to facilitate this revival by involving other cultures and civilizations to reawaken every nation.
Written by: Minwoong Hwang