Monthly Archives: December 2012

“The Religious Question in Modern China” by David Palmer

“The Religious Question in Modern China”by David Palmer

Nov. 30, 2012 – 12:30 pm, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University – Washington D.C

For my second D.C. event assignment I attended a conference at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. The Religious Question in Modern China it’s a book written by Dr. David Palmer, a professor at the Department of Sociology at Hong Kong University.

During the event, Dr. Palmer discussed the cultural movements and religion in China, and how these things have shaped the current secular state of China. He discussed the different religions in current day China such as Christianity Buddhism, Daoism, Muslim, and some other minor ritualistic religions. He further talked about how Daosim expressed local culture Buddhism expresses civilization and Christianity is the “Seed of Secularization” and how ritual traditions are different due to all the social forces in China. Moreover, Dr. Palmer also talked about his theory of the 3 scenarios:

  1. 1)  The 1st scenario = The Western Model: Which reflects the freedom of religion in
    which governments would allow their citizens more space for expression of religious beliefs. Foe ex. The privatization of Religion – by opening religious businesses in China.
  2. 2)  The 2nd Scenario = The Qing Dynasty Model: Which creates and promotes directly and indirectly Maoism, Buddhism, Daoism and the idea of “reincarnation” – as well as the new era idea of “applying for reincarnation.”
  3. 3)  The 3rd Scenario = Which talks about the Government going back to ritualistic religion and becoming a “Spiritual Utopia,” the resurrection of Maoism, Marcisist & socialist ideology. He explained that this scenario cannot come to a full circle because people don’t want the state to have full control of government.

Furthermore, the author talked about the issue of “western culture” in China and how “westerners” believed China had no religion because of the comparison made with the western experience of Christianity. Additionally, he talked about the “sacred” and the “traditional ritualistic” religions in the Villages of Southern China, as well as the “profane.” Also, the constant battle against the Chinese Government corrupting everything it touches and how is always trying to fall back on the “religion by the emperor” idea, in order to have absolute control of the nation. The closing remarks stated that the “Religious Question” is “Evolution.” Dr. Palmer explained that cultural creativity has been going on for sometime now due to the fact that nothing is cast in stone; therefore, the future of religion in China is wide open.

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Panama Beyond the Canal Conference: It’s a Safe Country for Investment

The Center for Strategic and International Studies held a conference, Panama: Beyond the Canal, with the following speakers: Juan Carlos Varela, Vice President of the Republic of Panama, Gerardo Solis, the magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal, Guillermo Adames, the president of the National Council of Journalism, Guillermo Chapman, the chairman of INDESA, and Frank de Lima, the Minister of the Economy.

In a brief introduction, the Vice President described the country’s status. He made emphasis on the poverty and the corruption within the government. The country faces 30% of poverty, and 12% lives in extreme poverty. Gerardo Solis, the magistrate of the Electoral Tribunal, indicated how the country’s leaders needed to refocus their priorities, and Guillermo Adames, the president of the National Council of Journalism, emphasized the people’s freedom of expression, and how the Panamanians defend their democratic system of government. “The will of the Panamanians will prevail,” said Mr. Adames. He also mentioned that the press is used to reveal the lies of politicians in power.

The Minister of the Economy described the country’s strategic position, and explained how that helps Panama’s economic growth. Panama’s tourism has been increasing the last years. Frank de Lima was able to show statistics of the percentages, and how they were expecting them to increase in the future. Some of the projects the country is working on is the expansion of their international airport, and the construction of a metro system.

At the end, the objective of the conference was to demonstrate that Panama, like any other Latin American country, faces poverty and corruption. Nevertheless, the country’s economy has been increasing, and this is proof that it is stable and foreign investment is safe.

Politics Of East Asia

This semester I went to two events in Washington, D.C. related to Asian politics, in general, and China, specifically.  The first event was a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “Beijing As An Emerging Power In The South China Sea,” and the second was Wilson International Center For Scholars event with former Secretary Of State Henry Kissinger and former United States Ambassador To China Stapleton Roy.

The House Foreign Affairs hearing focused on China’s policies and influence, but it examined U.S. policy in the region, as well.  The Committee began the hearing by marking up H.R. 6313 about a peaceful and collaborative resolution to maritime territorial disputes, and, while the room was full of interns with copies of the bill, they put them away almost immediately because the hearing continued just as immediately.  The Chairwoman, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), opened with remarks not only about her intolerance of Chinese aggression but also about the terrorist attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, which occured late the previous day.  A dozen or more congressmen and women went around the room making remarks of their own by order of seniority, and they probably pertained to Benghazi as much as they did about China, especially with the Republican congresspeople.  After the remarks, the witnesses were introducted: Toshi Yoshihara, Chair of Asian Pacific Studied at the U.S. Naval War College, Bonnie Glaser, Chair in China Studies at the Center For Strategic And International Studies, Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow of National Security Affairs at the Heritage Institute, and Richard Cronin, Director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Stimson Center.  The witnesses gave remarks of their own and took questions from the congresspersons, once again by senority.  As the representatives asked their questions, the room began to empty until the chairwoman herself left, and someone else took her place while the most junior members of the asked their question before the hearing was adjourned.

The Wilson Center event focused on U.S.-China Relations as they related to the Eighteenth National Congress of China.  Former Secretary Henry Kissinger is a very humorous man, and he got a lot of laughs from the panel and the audience alike.  The panel included Melissa Block, the host of NPR’s All Things Considered, Jane Harman, the President and CEO of the Wilson Center, David Lampton from the School Of Advanced Internation Studies’ China Studies Program, Cheng Li, a Senior Fellow and Director of the Brooking Institution’s China Center, and, of course, the former ambassador.  Even as distinguished as everyone was, all seem to be honored to be in the presence of former Secretary Kissinger.  After breif remarks from Secretary Kissinger, the floor was opened for questions.  There was one, in particular, about the disappearance of Xi Jinping and how it may affect Chinese succession in the future.  There was a lot of talk about the new leaders of China and their experience with the U.S., along with a lot of their experience that were uniquely Chinese and how it would affect their policies.  However, the general consensus was that no one really knew or even could know so all they were doing was speculating, especially in regards to Xi, but one thing everyone agreed upon was the China would be changed.  It just depended upon which faction of the Communist party won the internal struggle that was undoubtably going on.  Althought, David Lampton highlighted the fact that he believed no surprises would ever come out of the Party Congress, but he could see the changes on the horizon.  There were remarks to the effect that the U.S. does not affect Chinese policy as much as it once did, as well, and that might be a result of the new leadership within China.  They want to create a legacy for the Party, but change is still possible from the provincial level.   After all, China has reformed from the dictatorial government it once was.

Overall, both events were very informative, and I feel as if I’ve learned a lot from some of the great minds of our generation.

GW- Chinese leadership transition

For my second DC event I went to George Washington for a discussion on China’s leadership transition. The speaker was Christopher Johnson, a chair of China studies at CSIS and a former analyst at the CIA. After a brief introduction he started his discussion. He started off simply discussing the apparent result of the most recent party congress. He addressed some of the more widely discussed topics, especially the influence of Jiang Zemin. He also discussed the lack of reformists on the standing committee. While he acknowledged that this sent discouraging signals he made the counter argument that since the committee does not seem to have any major ideological fault lines it means it has a greater opportunity accomplish its goals.

After discussing the transition itself he moved onto the effects the personnel changes would have on China’s policy. In terms of economic and political reform the latter is less likely to occur. If anything changes it is likely to be in the form of some intraparty democratization or some small tweaks to the system. With economic reforms he argues that as a princeling Xi Jinping may have the credibility to tackle some of the most egregious forms of corruptions such as land grabs by local officials. Later Johnson discussed some of the problems with provincial and local authorities. Afterwards he talked about the changing status of the PLA and the extent of military corruption.

After discussing the military he segued into foreign affairs. Here he discussed the difficulties of Sino-Japanese relations in recent years and the reasons for their decline. Johnson also tried to explain why the Chinese government has been moving to embrace the North Korean government more since 2008. He then finalized his analysis by discussing the future of relations between the US and China. While the Chinese government was slightly relieved with Obama’s reelection there is a degree of uncertainty as many administration officials leave. However, he did not predict any major changes in the near future.

After he was done speaking Johnson opened up a question and answer session. The first questions dealt with perennial issues such as Taiwan and Tibet. On the former he felt not much would change soon since the current KMT government has overseen a relatively stable period of cross straight relations. On Tibet he was surprisingly optimistic since Xi and his father have had a history of being fairly moderate on this issue. The remaining questions mostly regarded specific officials or certain details of the transition such as Xi’s brief disappearance. After these had been addressed the moderator made some closing remarks as the conference wound down.