From June 24 to June 27, our institute's Prof. Andreas Gruschke attended the world's largest Asia scholar conference in Macau – the 8th International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS 8, 第八届国际亚洲学者会议). More than 1200 scholars met in 350 panels to discuss topics related to various aspects of Asian cultures, economies, societies, and politics. ICAS is a dynamic Asian studies network, bringing together scholars of the humanities, social sciences, economics, and even technology – currently with China as a major focus, if not the major focus.
Founding members of ICAS, the professors Paul van der Velde and Wim Stokhof, gave talks in which they pointed out that they “want to make Asian scholars more aware that they are part of the dialogue and that they should know more about each other’s areas of interest. It’s about how to find knowledge“ and“to get people in Asian studies together.“ Such an event definitely calls for a presence of researchers from China’s numerous Insitutes of Western China Development Studies, as Sichuan University’s Prof. Andreas Gruschke made clear. Major issues related to his research were discussed in several panels about social security, energy and environment, resettlement in China, cultural and economic developments in China's western regions, and dispute resolution options in what western sources tend to call the “Tibetan question“.
Presentations of the panels «Constructing a Comprehensive Welfare System in China: Opportunities and Challenges» and «After 10 years, Looking at the Three Gorges Experience» unfolded China's successful efforts in initializing and establishing basic social security not only in urban areas, but in the countryside as well. However, one presenter's comparison with an “umbrella full of holes“ made clear that the welfare system has yet to overcome major shortcomings. During the discussions, Prof. Gruschke, while relating to impressive progress in this sector even in pastoralist societies in Tibet, he could also elucidate that economic development and the construction of a social security system need urgently be accompanied by what he calls “cultural security“, a notion already stressed by Prof. A. Tom Grunfeld during a former talk in our institute. In order to establish a harmonious society and ensuing political stability, local communities in China’s west need „cultural security“.
Andreas Gruschke further exemplified this relating to discussions in the panels on «Changing Idioms/Changing Practices: Ethnicity, Minority, and Culture in China» and «Discourse for Tibet-China Problem Solving through ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)». While the latter promised to offer new ways of addressing issues of conflicts in Tibetan areas, Prof. Gruschke needed to make clear that although a better understanding of Tibetan culture - and notably religion - may be a precondition for more political stability in Tibet; however, he also pointed out that many conflicts in Tibetan areas are much less related to political issues than many people in western societies assume. Like elsewhere, at their basis we also find problems related to global issues like influences of the world market, global warming etc. Furthermore, local transformations like demographic change, change of life styles, and the desire to share in economic development accompanied by the wish to preserve traditional culture create a complex of problems that need to be addressed separately and in detail. They cannot be regarded as elements of the much repeated “Tibet issue“.
Similar thoughts were expressed by others. Prof. Tashi Rabgay of the University of Washington 华盛顿 大学 exchanged ideas with Andreas Gruschke about how more communication between scholars and policy-makers could improve development policies and outcomes of state interventions. Further discussions with Australian Prof. Colin Mackerras 柯林•麥克拉斯 of Griffith University 格里菲斯大学 unfolded the opportunity for strengthening our academic exchange on issues of cultural security, social stability and development in western China. Notably Prof. Rabgay and Prof. Mackerras, both major discussants and lecturers of the panel «The Dynamics of the China’s Frontiers in Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong» and true experts of China and western China studies, expressed their will for intensifying cooperation with Prof. Gruschke and our institute.