The inaugural Yenching Global Symposium (YGS) officially began today, with distinguished guests and delegates from over fifty different countries gathering in the Qiulin Hall of the School of International Studies for the Opening Ceremony yesterday.
Laya Maheshwari, Chairman of the Symposium, opened the event with an eloquent speech in which he expressed his gratitude to all those who helped make the Symposium a reality, and highlighted the significance of the event for all those involved. He stated that “understanding is the greatest need of the hour” and hoped that the YGS would “foster a dialogue between people in different fields and from different generations.” Following this, Professor Yuan Ming, Dean of the Yenching Academy, remarked on the fact that the event is “being shaped and brought together by the students themselves” and imparted upon the participants her hopes for them to lead and innovate in their selected fields.
Afterwards, Vice-President of Peking University Li Yansong spoke about how programmes such as the Yenching Academy represent an opening up of Chinese universities, and he communicated how impressed he was with the first cohort of the Academy, especially in their ability to organise something as ambitious as the YGS. Finally, Deputy Director-General of International Cooperation and Exchanges of the Ministry of Education Fang Jun spoke highly of initiatives taken by the Ministry to encourage foreign students to study in China, and emphasised that China is now shifting its focus to developing “strong people-to-people mechanisms”.
After a short coffee break the delegates welcomed the first keynote speaker to the stage, Professor Wang Jisi, who gave a frank and enlightening speech about “The International Order: China’s Role and Place”. He was followed by the second keynote speaker Andrew Yan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of venture capital fund SAIF Partners, who gave a speech entitled “Three Life Stories”, or “三个故事” (san ge gushi), which outlined the importance of Belief, Choice and Persistence in everyday life.
Kaiser Kuo, head of Baidu International Public Relations, held a talk titled “The Great Firewall of China: Perspectives on Internet Censorship”. During this talk, moderated by former CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz, Kaiser Kuo offered up nuanced insights on the current and future Chinese cyberspace and answered a wide range of questions posed by the delegates concerning different perspectives on internet censorship.
Professor Yan Se from the Peking University Department of Applied Economics gave a thought-provoking talk titled “China’s Economy in 2016: A Rebalancing Act”. During this he held a lively discussion with journalist Martina Fuchs, CCTV Host and Business Reporter, where they shared valuable insights as expert observers of the transformation of Chinese economy.
Guillermo Pulido, head of the Center for Mexican-Chinese Studies of the National University of Mexico in Beijing, spoke about “Friendship across the Pacific: Research between China and Latin America”. He talked about bilateral cooperation between Latin America, specifically Mexico, and China and stressed the similarities, as opposed to the differences, between the two cultures. Lou Jianbo, an associate professor at the Peking University Law School and co-director of the Centre for Real Estate Law, gave a talk about “Contesting Private Land Rights in China: Historical experiences.”
Professor Alexander Storozhuk, head of Chinese Philology at the Saint Petersburg State University held a talk titled “From Frontier to Foreign Policy: The Influence of Buddhism on Tang Dynasty Relations”.
After another break for coffee and snacks, delegates returned to Quilin Hall for the second round of keynote speeches. The first of these was given by the Ambassador of Chile to China, His Excellency Jorge Heine. His speech was titled “From Club to Network: The Changing Nature of Diplomacy in the New Century” and it highlighted how diplomatic relations have become much more transparent and more focused on building networks than they were in the past.
The second keynote speaker was The Honourable Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, who spoke about a wide range of topics related to China’s economy and its future development, and fielded many questions from the audience.
The last event of the day was a series of pop-up presentations held by the delegates themselves. These were short ten minute presentations where delegates were encouraged to talk about their fields of research and share their academic interests with each other, allowing some time for questions and discussion.