Asia Future Conference in SGRA
Bingyue Dong “Future of Asia from Two Places for Debating”
The 2nd Asia Future Conference was held in Bali, Indonesia on August 22-23,2014. Atsumi International Foundation, sponsor of the conference, declared “the purpose of the conference is to give a place for discussion about the future of Asia to the scholars who have studied in Japan and are interested in Japan”.
What is the “Place” here? If you think it just as the place or the site of the conference, it would be too good. The place where the conference was held is also the “place”. According to such understanding, Bali Island is important and has another meaning in the conference. The sponsor gave two places (dual meanings) to the participants. “Asia” was discussed as an object of our study and, at the same time, the participants at could have personal experiences in Asia. I greatly appreciated it.
I, as a participant from Beijing, began to think differently when I heard about “the rise of China” from participants from the Philippines and Singapore. I understood they look at China differently from the outside or from the inside. Then, what is a “rise”? Did China really rise? We can say China is rising economically. It may be true, but, on the other hand, there are a lot of social problems which came from economic and rapid growth, such as environmental pollution, corruption of governmental officials, disparity in wealth, depravity of morality etc. etc. Given these negative aspects, I do not think China has risen yet. I like to say there are a lot of things for China to study, not only from Japan but also from Bali. I think China has to pursue its “rise” in a manner which can contribute to the general well-being of Asia.
I also learned a lot from the second “place”: “Bali”. When I checked-in the hotel in the evening of August 21, I was enchanted by a music coming from the corridor of the hotel. How lonely and romantic! I learned later that it was local music which was played from a small flute and bamboo koto. I can enjoy the music now in Beijing as I bought a CD in Bali. As I like Japanese enka (a popular song), folk songs of Okinawa and Khoomei (a ongol folk song by special vocalization), I can now enjoy more “Asian music”, with the Bali music added to my collection.
As I am a scholar of social science of humanities, I learned a lot from my observation of the life style in Bali. After the conference which ended on 23rd August, I joined a field trip on 24thAugust. To my surprise, there were many shrines of the Hindu religion everywhere I visited. Total building area of the shrines seems a quarter of the total area of the town. According to our tour guide, people visit the shrines at least twice a day. In other words, the people in Bali have their own religion, belief and life-style, distinct from those of the other inhabitants of Indonesia. How are ordinary Chinese people or intellectuals interested in Bali (and Indonesia)? I think they are not so interested as they are in America or Europe. England is called “British Empire” or “Great Britain” in China. If we call Indonesia, where the total area and population are far more than that of England, as “Great Indonesia”, we would be laughed at.
In China, where people concentrate their thoughts on their economic development, it will be difficult to understand the high “value” of life-style of the Balinese people. Modern oriental history is said to be an invasion from the West and the resistance of the East against the West. On the other hand, however, the East accepted ethics and values of the West. We have to look frankly at both these aspects. There is a word “勢利” (pronunciation “shi-li”) in China, which means “an attitude to be influenced by money and authority” .
Both, modern Japan and China today are in the “勢利” It is not only Japan but also China which have been taken ill by a sickness called “Western inclination”. Both of us pursue “development” in terms of”the wealth and military strength of the country”. Bali Island taught us that “development” and “the wealth and military strength” are not absolute but just relative values.
The Asia Future Conference was held at the beach in the southeastern part of Bali Island. There is no building except our ten-story high Hotel. After the construction of the Hotel, it was prohibited to construct buildings taller han the palm trees. This prohibition was initiated and adopted by the peoples’ movement. I have become increasingly disgusted with the high-rise buildings in Tokyo and Beijing after observing low buildings amid green flora in Bali. Ourlocal tour guide explained that the people of Bali “plant rice plants and trees as much as possible and never plant “cement”. I thought he was like a philosopher. He expressed the values of Bali beautifully. The economic development of Bali may be behind that of the Chinese coastal areas. But, we cannot say people in Bali are not always happy. Or rather, their life-style is more “reasonable” than that of ours who live in big cities.
It is indeed fortunate that the sponsor of the conference selected Bali Island as venue, but I think the appreciation and understanding of general theme “Diversity and Harmony” was greatly enhanced by holding the conference at Bali Island. Hundreds of participants from several counties enjoyed the “Shi-shi-mai” (Japanese Lion Dance) and Indonesian Barong Dance in Bali Island, where people adhere to Hinduism, with Indian and Chinese cultural influences.
I thought this is just wonderful manifestation of “Diversity and Harmony”. What I thought to be more important is the realization by the participants that the idea of “Diversity and Harmony” is highly desirable. I thought the objective of the sponsor who gave “two places” dual meaning, (though I think it may be more than two) to the participants from several countries was fully accomplished. The Asian Future Conference has established a community of values. Though the participants came from various countries and were engaged in various fields, they had or began to have “common values”. Common values include concern and sympathy about Asia and respect for the others. I believe the future of Asia will be certainly bright if such a community which have common values become bigger. There are many wealthy people in China now. I hope they contribute to cultural exchange across borders, modeled after the Atsumi International Foundations.
(Professor, Institute of Literature , Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito