From October 27-Nov. 4, Dr. Cobb took a trip to China. Dr. Carol Johnston, Dr. Evaggelos Vallianatos,
Christina Lee Brown, Yi Luo, and I joined in this trip. Carol has worked with us in China before.
She teaches at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. Evaggelos worked for the EPA for 25
years. He is the is the author of several books, including Poison Spring, published in April 2014 by
We were very lucky to have Christina and Yi to join us. It is Carol who brought Christina to us. Christina is currently serving on the boards of the Sustainable Food Trust in England and The Land Institute in Kansas. She is a co-founder of Kentucky\'s new Berry Center. Yi Luo is a senior student in environmental studies at Claremont McKenna College. On this trip, she often played the role of interpreter. In past years, she has helped us with our forums on ecological civilization.
Here is my report on a short but productive trip.
Drs. Cobb and Vallianatos left LA on October 27 and arrived in Beijing on October 28. Dean and Prof. Fubin Yang and his staff met them with flowers. Dr. Yang, is the director of our Beijing Process Center II. He is also a translator of Process and Reality by Whitehead. Now he is Dean of the School of Law and Politics at Beijing International Culture Studies University. Dinner was waiting for them in Friendship Hotel where they stayed.
In the morning, John visited the Madam Sun Yat Sen Museum and donated a letter to his mom from Madame Sun. The whole museum staff felt excited about his donation because this letter is the only original letter they have received thus far. They held a ceremony to honor the occasion.
At 11 am, Dr. Cobb met with Chen Zhongxing, a leader of the Chinese National Bureau of Religion. Mr. Chen asked him for advice for China’s ecological civilization construction. Dr. Cobb contributed his suggestions, especially emphasizing the important role religion can play in creating an ecological civilization. Mr. Chen treated Dr. Cobb to lunch.
At 7 in the evening, Dr. Cobb delivered a lecture on indigenous culture and civilized society at Minzu University of China. This is the No. 1 university training minority students in China. The audience showed very strong interest in the lecture and asked a lot of questions. The event was scheduled to end at 9 but actually continued until 10.
Dr. Cobb delivered a morning lecture on Organic Marxism at Beijing Normal University, where our Beijing Process Center I is located. Beijing Normal University is a top University in China. Mei used to work there and our 2002 Whitehead Congress took place here. Prof. Chengbing Wang and Prof.
Xiaoting Liu who are in charge of the Process Center hosted the lecture and treat In the afternoon, Dr. Cobb lectured on China’s unique opportunity at China Agricultural University, the top university in agriculture in China. The event was scheduled from 2 to 4, but interest was such that discussion continued to 5. During the dinner, Prof. Yuegao Hu of China Agricultural University told me that this was the most profound lecture he had ever heard. A female professor named Pan Luo, told the audience that she could hardly sleep the night before since she knew Dr.
Cobb, such a big figure in process thought and constructive postmodern movement, was coming to lecture at her school. She said she fully agreed with what Dr. Cobb had said and just wanted to sing for Dr. Cobb in order to express her respect. She became John’s No.1 fan in China, following wherever he went. We called her Dr. Cobb’s Goddaughter.
She told us she found the sense of belonging to the process community.
We visited Whitehead Kindergarten and had a workshop on how to cultivate ecologically sensitive children with compassionate hearts. John, Carol, Christina, Evaggelos, and Zhihe contributed their opinions. Beijing Whitehead Kindergarten may be the first Whitehead Kindergarten in China as well as in the World. From Soft ware to hard ware, it implements Whitehead’s ideas about education. In the evening, John, Carol, Christina, Evaggelos, Yi Luo and Zhihe participated in their Halloween party with the children and their parents.
The Conference entitled “The Resurgence of Rural Civilization and a Modernization with Roots” was held at Chinese Academy of Governance. The Forum is cosponsored by Center for China Rural Civilization Studies, The Institute for Postmodern Development of China, and Center for Ecological Civilization Studies of Chinese Academy of Governance. Chinese Academy of Governance is a party school that trains high government officials such as governors, ministers and mayors.
The Chinese government is making vigorous efforts to promote ecological civilization. However, the large-scale expansion of modernization, industrialization, and urbanization, is in danger of wiping out rural civilization in China as it has done in much of the world. How should we revalue rural civilization from the perspective of ecological civilization? The purpose of the Forum was to contribute fresh reflections on this question from various perspectives, including constructive postmodern point of view. More than 300 persons took part, including almost all of the leading figures in rural reconstruction. There were also representatives of revitalized villages and local governmental officials. The IPDC delegation was warmly welcome at this forum.
Kang Han, the vice president of Chinese Academy of Governance (his position is equivalent to a minister) met with Dr. Cobb and took pictures with the process delegation. Dr. Cobb was invited to deliver remarks at the opening ceremony.
In the evening, there was a plenary session at which John, Carol, Christina, Evaggelos, Sheri Liao, and Xiaode Zhang spoke. I chaired this session. This was one of the most important moments on this trip.
Dr. Cobb pointed out in his speech that China’s chance to develop what is still a largely traditional society directly into an ecological civilization gives it a great opportunity, one that is unique to China, to lead the world. To seize this opportunity will be the choice of life. To impose on rural China the patterns of modernity would be the choice of death. He besought China to choose life!
Dr. Carol Johnston’s speech first challenged the notion of economic person because it reduced all human characteristic to creating wealth. Accordingly she stressed that real progress should be measured in terms of health rather than wealth. For her, this new approach comes from process or postmodern philosophy which is different from mainstream modern philosophy. Process philosophy gives priority to healthy relationships. In her eyes, healthy environment, healthy community, healthy relationship are central to life itself. However, if China develops modern agriculture based on petrochemicals, not only is the land harmed, but so are the people and their food. China will suffer another Opium War.
In his speech, titled “Roots of ecological civilization”, Dr. Evaggelos Vallianatos emphasized that peasants and small family farmers are the roots of ecological civilization. In contrast to the ruthless treatment of both land and rural communities by industrialized farmers and agribusiness, peasants and small family farmers raise food in ways that enrich the land and create strong rural society. They bring democracy and food and control over technology to countless millions. They are our best defense against predatory plantations. Like Dr. Cobb, he besought China to say NO to industrial farming and to choose life by supporting the viability and prosperity of peasants and small farmers.
Ms. Christina Lee Brown urged that “there is no healthy people without healthy food”. She first expressed her deep appreciation of China’s effort to revive rural and ecological civilization. “You are not alone,” she stressed. She showed three letters she brought to China. One from Wes Jackson, Land Institute, Kansas; one from Patrick Holden CBE, the Sustainable Food Trust, the third from Mary and Wendell Berry. The three supportive letters were heartwarming to the Chinese.
Christina convinced people that the movement to revive rural civilization in China will be part of a global movement of recovering healthy food. For Christina, there is no healthy thought without healthy food, there is no healthy soul without healthy thought, and there is no healthy person without healthy soul. She emphasized that our water, our air and our land are as divine as human beings. Failure to protect them is a kind of self destruction. However, Christina has faith in love. It is love for the earth and for others that brought people here together to work for reviving rural civilization; it is love that will drive us to continue building a healthy world.
Many media, including Xinhua News, reported this event. During the conference there were also more personal connections. On Nov. 1, Tiejun Wen, the recipient of John Cobb Common Good Award treated Dr. Cobb to lunch. In the evening John dined with Zeng Bing of Puhan Rural community which has 20,000 farmers doing organic farming, and Mr. Jinglei An, the noted “Zen Farmer.” On Nov. 2 in the morning, Christina, Carol, Zhihe and Yi visited the Danish Ambassador, Peterson, who has been a strong supporter of organic farming. In the afternoon, John, Evaggelos and Zhihe visited Global Village of Beijing and had a meeting with Sheri Liao about the June 4-7 Claremont conference where Sheri Liao will be one of the plenary speakers. In the evening, the Beijing process family people met for dinner, with more than thirty people in attendance. John spoke briefly, encouraging the Beijing process family to join with the Claremont process family next June.
In the morning, Christina and Yi Luo left for the US. In the afternoon, John, Carol, and Zhihe lectured at Chinese Academy of Governance. Xinhua News published a report on this event. Below is a draft translation of this report.
Chinese-Foreign Scholars Dialogue on China’s Path to Ecological Civilization Weifeng Xu A dialogue themed “Seizing the Great Opportunity for China to Walk toward Ecological Civilization” took place in Hong Kong and Macao Training Center of the Chinese Academy of Governance. Dr.John B. Cobb, Jr., president of the Institute for Postmodern Development of China, well known constructive postmodern thinker and Whiteheadian philosopher, first expressed his great appreciation the efthe fort Chinese government is making to create an ecological civilization. He asserted that the prospect of building an ecological civilization is more promising in China than anywhere else. He emphasized the importance of protecting land and organic farming. Qing Dong, director of the International Department of Chinese Academy of Governance argued that we should not repeat the mistakes the West by walking the old way: destroy first, protect later. We should not encroach on the interest of farmers and land in the name of urbanization.
Zhihe Wang, a noted Constructive Postmodern thinker, pointed out that there are a great many problems with modernization. We should promote ecological civilization by deep cultural communication and learning from the wisdom of both China and the West. For him, China is a process nation in its essence. Its emphasis on change and interconnection has deep convergence with Whiteheadian Process Thought. Therefore, it is very likely that China will bypass the mistakes the West made, and develop ecological civilization directly, as Dr. Cobb has stressed.
Xiaode Zhang, Director of Ecological Civilization of Chinese Academy of Governance, said that China has reached a crossroad: Should we continue the old way of Westernized industrialization or create a new civilization, namely, ecological civilization. This issue involves not only China’s future but also the world’s development. The ecological civilization Chinese government is trying to advocate represents a tide to cure the diseases of modern civilization.
Regarding the relationship between individuals and society, Dr. Cobb stressed the flourishing of local communities in which individuals and communities can nourish each other. American democracy is not an ideal model, because people don’t really know who presidential candidates are. It depends who has more money and does more advertising. This is not the democracy process thinkers appreciate.
Carol Johnston, adviser of the Institute for Postmodern Development of China and author of The Wealth or Health of Nations: Transforming Capitalism from within, explored the relationship between individual well being and economic development from a postmodern economic vantagepoint. She criticized “rational man” and proposed to replace “rational man” with healthy man. For her, to develop healthy individuals, healthy family relationship, healthy community, and a healthy relationship between humankind and nature is crucial to human society.
Zhihe Wang argued for the second Enlightenment which holds an appreciative attitude toward tradition and community and emphasizes respect for others. Qing Dong appreciated the second Enlightenment approach. In her opinion, China has a long history of collectivism and the appreciation of community and family flows in the gene of Chinese culture. Part of the reason China has develop so fast and achieved so much is its strong community spirit. Therefore, it is very possible for China to walk a way that is both fitting to Chinese tradition and truly sustainable rather than coping the modern Western way.
After the speakers contributed their opinions, the audience felt very excited and raised many questions such as the guiding meaning of postmodern thinking to China’s future development? “How to deal with the relationship between urbanization and agriculture?” Foreign scholars fully responded to these questions.
The Audience felt very satisfied with this dialogue because it not only made them gain a lot of new knowledge, but also challenge them to reflect deeply on China’s development.
In the evening Carol and Evagellos lectured at the Chinese University of Politics and Law, the top
Chinese university in this field. Here is a report published in their official website:
Nov. 3, 2014, Invited by Professor Xiuhua Zhang,Ph.D. Supervisor of our school, Dr. Carol Johnston and Dr. Evaggelos Vallianatos, Constructive Postmodern scholars and Research fellows of Institute for Postmodern Development of China shared their insights at our school respectively on “Wealth or Health of Nation: Transforming Capitalism from Within” and “Environmental Politics in Global Crisis Age”. The two Constructive Postmodern scholars accompanied Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr., a member of American Academy of Art and Sciences, to visit China on this trip.
Starting from the Constructive Postmodern point of view, facing the survival crisis of the modern world, they used process philosophical thinking to criticize modernity, especially capitalist logic and the so-called “Green Revolution” They promoted ecological civilization and pursuit of health, harmony and the common good of all human beings in order to save the world by learning from tradition and developing ecological agriculture.
Their lectures were very well received by the graduate students who attended. In addition, Mr. Yiwen Chen, advisor of China Disaster Prevention Association participated in this event and played interpreter. He is the person who accompanied Yongyuan Cui, the famous CCTV host to Claremont to interview Dr. Cobb, Dean Freudenberger, Evaggelos Vallianatos, Angela Donnelly, Lynn Juarez, and Charlene Tschirhart about GMOs.
During the week there were many conversations that are likely to bear fruit. Jinlei An, the noted Zen Farmer mentioned above, is talking about establishing the “Constructive Postmodern Agriculture Experiment Base” in his village in Heibei. Jing Li, chief editor of Jiangsu Journal of Social Sciences, talked about the publication of the lectures on process thought. Shulan Yan, director of Peking University Press, hopes to publish Universal Feeling by John Buchanan. Xiaoyuan Xue, Central Bureau Press, is planning to publish For the Common Good by Daly and Cobb, and Organic Marxism by Philip Clayton and Justin Heinzekehr. Xujie Yang, publisher of Science and Technology Press, is considering the publication of The Liberation of Life by Birch and Cobb.
Nov. 4 our dream of ecological civilization: Is it possible? by Dr. Evaggelos Vallianatos