The Yenching Academy Holds the Yenching Global Symposium 2024

The 8th annual Yenching Global Symposium officially kicked off on April 12, 2024 on the historic grounds of Peking University in Beijing. Since its establishment in 2016, the Yenching Global Symposium has established itself as one of the most competitive and influential conferences for diving into China-related topics in the world. Organized by students from the Yenching Academy of Peking University, the forum aims to empower young leaders from all around the world, showcase China’s transformation and development, and provide a platform for interdisciplinary discussion on China-related themes.

   

The world today exists in a delicate balance amidst dynamic and ever-changing forces. Climate change poses an existential threat for human society, while providing us an opportunity to think about sustainable and inclusive futures. Technological innovations such as artificial intelligence can enhance economic and social development, yet they also pose challenges in the realms of governance and social cohesion. How societies respond to contemporary challenges are dependent largely on local cultural, economic, and political contexts. Finding equilibrium in light of changes in technology, the natural world, and human culture is key to promoting shared prosperity in the 21st century. In light of this, the Yenching Global Symposium 2024 explored the theme “Equilibrium: Our World in Balance.” Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yenching Global Symposium 2024 was the first to be completely in-person. With over 10,000 applications and an acceptance rate of 0.8% this year, the Yenching Global Symposium welcomed 196 delegates from 51 countries and regions to engage in dialogue with experts, leaders, and practitioners from various fields.

Anne Wen, Co-Chair of the 8th Yenching Global Symposium and Yenching Academy Scholar from Guam, USA, hosted the opening ceremony. In a world of increasing uncertainty and complexity, Anne expressed her hope that the Yenching Global Symposium 2024 might clear up “much of the misunderstandings that comes with China and its relations with the world.”

Next, Dong Qiang, Dean of the Yenching Academy, delivered a welcoming speech. He reflected on the establishment of the Yenching Global Symposium as the flagship event of the Yenching Academy and reiterated the importance of the conference as a global platform for young scholars and leaders to focus on some of the most pressing issues in today’s world. Dean Dong Qiang emphasized the critical nature of this year’s theme by demonstrating the need for balance in a world of uncertainty.

Finally, Janos Pasztor, Executive Director of the Carnegie Initiative for Climate Governance and former Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations for climate change issues, delivered a keynote speech. Mr. Pasztor examined the effects of intensified human consumption and its impacts on the global balance, noting that global development has resulted in greenhouse gases, severe pollution, wealth imbalances, and demographic concerns, among many others. He concluded with a statement of hope, asking delegates to actively participate in discussion through the Yenching Global Symposium to create a new Equilibrium in society together.

The conference discussions began following the conclusion of the opening ceremony. Throughout the first day, delegates explored topics related to the intersection of technology and culture, the Symposium’s first sub-theme. Day one hosted two panels: Engineering AI’s Future: Collaborations Between China and the World and Revolutionizing Wellness: China’s Healthtech Landscape. Notable speakers included Professor Zhao Hong, Ms. Eleanor Jiang Yuchen, Mr. Cao Fei, and Ms. Roberta Lipson. Following the academic panels, delegates also engaged in a misinformation workshop hosted by Hector Macdonald, who trained delegates to better recognize and resist misleading truths. This was coupled with a trip to Shougang Industrial Park, where urban revitalization has combined old industry with modern architecture.


On the second day of the Yenching Global Symposium 2024, delegates explored the second sub-theme: the intersection between culture and nature. This day explored how human society interacts with the local environment to learn about different cultures’ insights into topics like climate change mitigation and local environmental protection. Panels included Going for Gold: the Lives of Professioal Chinese Athletes, On China Studies: how to Approach Studying China in the Modern Age, Nature as Artistic Expression, and Insights into Climate Change Leadership. Prominent speakers included Ms. Deng Linlin, Professor Zhang Longxi, Ms. Ao Dingwen, and Mr. Neeshad Shafi. Following the panels, delegates participated in a wide range of cultural activities, including wushu, Chinese calligraphy, and dragon boating. The day concluded with a traditional kunqu opera performance.

The final day of the conference explored the intersection between nature and technology, the final sub-theme. Panels included Designing China’s Eco-Cities, Green Horizons: SMEs Driving Sustainable Energy Transition, and Following the Electric Vehicle Supply Chain. Notable speakers included Mr. Liu Daizong, Ms. Xiong Shuyuan, and Mr. Michael Go.

Reflecting upon the panels at the Yenching Global Symposium 2024, delegates had a lot to say. After attending the panel on AI governance, Jean Kostrzewski was “amazed by the very constructive and result-oriented comments of all the panelists.” Majduleen Al Ali remarked that the Yenching Global Symposium makes it clear that more exchange programs that send students to China are needed for a more comprehensive understanding of complex topics.

To conclude the conference, delegates attended the closing ceremony. To begin, delegates Michael Clayton-Jolly and Nooshin Pourkamali delivered speeches reflecting on this year’s conference. Both noted that the Yenching Global Symposium 2024 gave them an unparalleled opportunity to be fully immersed in China, meet a diverse group of global leaders and scholars, and interact with experts, industry leaders, and renowned scholars from around the world.

Co-Chair Jia Ziqun, a Yenching Academy Scholar from China, delivered the closing remarks. She reflected on the delegates’ journey throughout the past three days, pointing out the multiple ways in which Equilibrium was explored throughout the forum. Not only was Equilibrium explored through the academic panels, but also through the activities and shows hosted by the cultural workshops and performances. Finally, Ziqun drove home the importance of finding equilibrium in both our daily lives and in the world, noting that “our Symposium may be ending, but our journey towards Equilibrium is just beginning.”

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