Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan trip highlights need to reset global thinking
- The US House speaker’s visit to Taiwan left many wondering what had been gained, with China’s neighbours resigned to Beijing indulging in a protracted sulk
- Instead of viewing US-China conflict as a clash of civilisations, it might be more useful to be attuned to philosophers of harmony and compassion
In other words, for the time being Beijing will behave a bit more like parochial Pyongyang than globalist China.
But is another big sulk in China’s genuine interests? Its leaders are smart enough to know the answer, but domestic pressures cannot be ignored and tend to dumb-down foreign policies. Just as Pelosi would never have been elected to represent the Taiwan-diaspora-dense San Francisco if her platform endorsed unification, Chinese President Xi Jinping must watch his step too. As the late former US House speaker Tip O’Neill was known to emphasise, “all politics is local”.
Translated from the original 2021 Chinese language edition, the institute’s book Intelligence and Wisdom brings together 10 experts on technology, artificial intelligence, Confucianism and Daoism in essays that go beyond the usual Sino-US commentary. The notable lead essay, “How Chinese philosophers think about artificial intelligence”, makes the case for questioning conventional dialogues and approaches that don’t seem to get us anywhere.
World harmony is achievable only through an understanding that opposites must act in concert. Music composition, for example, requires harmony that superficially seems impossible to achieve (punctus contra punctum), yet can be done by blending independent musical lines rather than viewing them as inherently disruptive.
As Bing Song, director of the Berggruen China Centre, argues, “without addressing the root cause of the world’s problems – ignorance and indulgence in egoist pursuits by human beings – all other efforts would be like ‘drawing water with a bamboo basket’ … in vain”.
Giving global thinking a thorough reset before it is lost in new world conflagrations will require listening more to philosophers of harmony and compassion, rather than buying the sales pitches of the gunrunners of August. Each wanting to have our own way is no way forward. We must create a saner global mind through collective self-control. We do get that by now, don’t we?
Veteran columnist Tom Plate is distinguished scholar of Asian and Asian-American Studies at LMU, a Phi Beta Kappa university, and vice-president of the Pacific Century Institute, both based in Los Angeles