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[Beijing Forum 2018] Keynote Speeches: challenge, collaboration, and creation
May 10, 2018

Peking University, May 5, 2018: On May 4, 2018, the Keynote Speeches of World University Presidents Symposiym and Beijing Forum 2018 were delievered in Peony Hall, Fanghua Garden, Diaoyutai State Guest House after the opening ceremony. This session was hosted by Wang Bo, vice president of Peking University. Lin Jianhua, Robert Zimmer, Makoto Gonokami and Jessica Rawson congratulated the 120th anniversary of Peking University respectively, and gave their speeches at the auspicuous conference.

Lin Jianhua, president of Peking University, first addressed the challenges confronting Chinese institutions of higher education and reflected on relevant reform measures which have been taken. After emphasizing the necessity of "Double First-Class" initiative to build world-class talent and practitioners so as to rejuvenate the society, Lin introduced the overall layout of top domestic universities and commented that with the majority of universities located on east coastal regions, the uneven distribution needs to be balanced. In addition, another challenge posed to the domestic universities was the trend that more and more high-school graduates prefer to study abroad rather than pursue their undergraduate education in China.

Lin believed that the “bottleneck” derived from the lack of diversity in educational mode. Since 1952, Chinese universities have been following the Soviet-style specialized education which, as Lin remarked, is less dynamic than liberal arts education. To resolve the dilemma, Lin proposed that there was no need to distinguish between specialized education and liberal arts education. Instead, universities should combine the strength of the two models and encourage interaction between students, faculty members and the society. He also spoke highly of the reform efforts of tenure track policy and multidiscipline academic system in recent years.

Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago, then aired his view that the 120th anniversary is not only a moment of celebration but a moment of reflection as well. He traced the history of Sino-American coorporation back to the 19th century when the University of Chicago was founded by John D. Rockefeller. Both the first President of the University William Rainey Harper and his successor planned to visit China and to establish a branch campus of medical science therein. During the great time of transition in the 21st century, the demand for bilateral corporation was greater than ever to enhance mutual understanding, to inspire new ideas, and to create a better environment which entails respect for different opinions.

Similar to Zimmer, Makoto Gonokami, president of the University of Tokyo, also adopted a historical perspective but laid stronger emphasis on current educational policies. He brought up the Japanese project of “Society 5.0” and appointed technological innovation, social system and economic mechanism as the three pillars of progress. Gonokami impressed the audience with his notion of “kyou-sou”, a Japanese word originating from two Chinese characters which mean “collaboration” and “creation”.

The last speaker Jessica Rawson, professor of humanities from the University of Oxford, elaborated upon the theme of “convention and continuity” of civilizations by drawing examples from tectonic changes on the PKU campus as well as traditional Chinese artwork of calligraphy and scriptures. She then cited the Belt and Road initiative as an example to echo Gonokami’s idea of “kyou-sou”, which highlighted corporation and creation based on national legacy. Rawson concluded the session by proposing that in the age of globalization, countries and regions ought to deal with emerging challenges by means of both collaboration and creation.

Reported by: Pan Xinchen
Edited by: Zhang Jiang