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Global Responsibilities & Conflict Resolution - Chinese and European Perspectives

by Dr. Peter Hefele

Panel discussion at Fudan University Summer School

The topic of this year's FU Berlin-Fudan University Summer School was “Global Responsibilities & Conflict Resolution - Chinese and European Perspectives”. In the framework of this two weeks course, the KAS office Shanghai hosted a panel discussion on: “Different Patterns of Conflict Resolution: China & the EU”. What can Asia learn from the experiences of the European communication and integration? Which role do remembrance and reconciliation play?

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Even nowadays or again, many conflicts within societies or between states are still caused by unsolved conflicts of the past. Current examples like the Ukraine conflict or the territorial dispute on South China Sea prove that. East Asia lacks an open and critical reappraisal of its own historical experiences. This provides the basis for a rather harsh nationalist and populist rhetoric. There is still no mechanism established to facilitate mediation and dispute settlement.

Dr. Peter Hefele, Director KAS office Shanghai, outlined in his introduction that the lessons from the two World Wars show that we cannot take peace granted for ever. The efforts to install a peaceful international order failed after World War I, whereas the European integration after World War II is considered to be the most successful project of reconciliation and peace in history so far. This example could serve as a model for other regions.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Segbers, Director of the Center for Global Politics at the Freie Universität Berlin, pointed to a lack of awareness for present conflict potentials: never has the danger of regional and global confrontation been greater since the end of the Cold War. Also World War I hadn’t been seek for or planned by any nation in advance. In fact, the participants acted rather like “sleepwalkers” . Such a scenario could also happened these days.

The following panel discussion with historians and journalists focused on perspectives of comparative reconciliation and conflict research and the role of the media.

Ms. Dr. Ren Lin, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Beijing, argued that one could find variables through historical analysis that can be used for the development of conflict resolution mechanisms in cross-border clashes.

Wei Xing, Director International, News Department Oriental Morning Post, indicated that – not only Chinese – media often function as mere transmitters of political rhetoric in essential political questions rather aggravating tensions than calming down conflicts. Basically, media were well aware of their responsibility. Existing prejudices and narratives among people should be overcome by more direct dialogue with the audience, e.g. on social media.

Dr. Martin Chung, political scientist from Hong Kong, focused on the different remembrance culture in Europe and Asia. He illustrated the tension between socio-economic and political factors and their effects on the historical of a society. As he sees it, one fundamental difference between Asia and Europe is that societies in Asia are still in a nationalist state, whereas societies in Europe have already entered a post-nationalist stage.

Subsequently, a lively discussion developed between the experts and the participants from China, Asia and Europe. Especially how to deal with one's own guilt and which role should play. The discussion revealed how important and valuable an open debate on this topic within and among Asian societies would be. Unfortunately the reappraisal of a country's wartime memories and colonial past does not always lead to a critical reflection of the own history and dealing with one's own guilt. It can also be the source for new conflicts.

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