Tianxia in Comparative Perspective: Alternative Models of Geopolitical Order

April 24, 2021

1pm Virtual

In the midst of the great transformations of the 21st century—a global pandemic, climate change, increasing income inequities, and so on—we are experiencing the effects of a dramatic and accelerating reconfiguration of economic and political power in the world. The rise of Asia, and China in particular, has ushered in a new geopolitical order, demanding a reassessment of the prevailing cultural order long dominated by a powerful liberalism. In the ensuring decades, what impact will Confucianism— a philosophy that begins from the primacy of vital relationality—have on the evolving world culture and how will its values play into the ongoing transformation of the geopolitical order?

The idea of tianxia 天下—conventionally translated as “all-under-Heaven”—is a familiar term in everyday Chinese parlance that simply means “the world.” But tianxia is also a geopolitical term found throughout the canonical literature that has a deeper philosophical and historical meaning. Over the past few decades, the meaning of this technical term—sometimes referred to as “All-under-the-World System” (tianxiatixi 天 下体系)—has been much debated, primarily but not only in the Chinese literature, as a possible Chinese framework for thinking about a new and evolving world order and a new model of world governance.

In March 2018, the Peking University Berggruen Research Center, hosted its first conference exploring this framework in regards to the influential and exponential rise of East Asia on the world economic and political order: “What is tianxia? The East-Asia Context.” At this conference, the core invitees were primarily representatives of the East-Asian Confucian cultures in which the shared notion of tianxia is understood in importantly different, but interconnected, ways. 

The second conference on the topic convened at the Qingdao campus of Shandong University from May 18-19, 2019 with the intention of complementing the initial cadre of East Asia colleagues with an additional group of international scholars representing different cultural traditions doing research in alternative models of geopolitical order, including tianxia. The upcoming virtual webinar, the third conference in the series, will continue that work.

Some subthemes that will be explored include:

1. What are the comparable ideas/ideals to tianxia within the context of other major cultural traditions? 

2. What are the alternative visions of global justice that inspire the Western, Indian, Islamic, Buddhist, and African cultural traditions? 

3. Is tianxia one Chinese model of cosmopolitanism among many?

 

Presentations:

(Please click on the link to register for the Zoom webinar)

Session 3: (click here to register)
Time:  April 24, 2021: 12:00 – 1:00 a.m. PDT | 15:00 – 17:00 CST
Moderator:
Chengdan Qian, Professor, Peking University

Tianxia and Global Distributive Justice
Sor-hoon Tan, Professor, Singapore Management University

John Dewey and a Confucian Family ‘Idea’ of Internationalism
Roger Ames, Humanities Chair Professor, Peking University

Possessing All Under Heaven in Nineteenth Century Vietnam
Liam Kelley, Professor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam

Tianxia and Islam
Mustapha Kamal Pasha, Professor, Aberystwyth University


Session 4: (click here to register)
Time:  April 25, 2021: 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. PDT | 02:00 – 04:00 CST
Moderator:
Roger T. Ames, Humanities Chair Professor, Peking University

Rethinking Universality: Tianxia and Beyond
Viren Murthy, Associate Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Spheres of Global Justice and Tianxia Theory
Binfan Wang, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto

Veiling Ideology or Enabling Utopia? On the Potentials and Limitations of the Debate about Tianxia as a Model for a New World Order
Christian Uhl, Professor, Ghent University

“We Choose the Moon” for Truth, Justice and Peace: a Dialogue between ubuntu and pu jen
Mogobe B. Ramose, Professor, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University


Session 1:
Time:
  April 17, 2021: 10:00 – 11:00 p.m. PDT | 13:00 – 15:00 CST
Moderator:
Karl-Heinz Pohl, Professor, Universität Trier

Does Tianxia Need the Nation-State?
Ban Wang, William Haas Professor, Stanford University

Virtuosic Relationality and Ethical Diversity: A Buddhist Revisioning of International Relations Beyond Anarchy and Hierarchy
Peter Hershock, Director, Asian Studies Development Program, East-West Center, Hawaii University

Global Justice without a Center: Hong Daeyong’s Reappraisal of Tianxia
Jun-Hyeok Kwak, Professor, Sun Yat-sen University

Without War and Conquest: The Idea of a Global Political Order in Asoka’s Dhamma
Rajeev Bhargava, Researcher, Center for the Study of Developing Societies


Session 2:
Time:  April 18, 2021: 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. PDT | 08:00 – 10:00 CST
Moderator:
Peter Hershock, Director, Asian Studies Development Program, East-West Center, Hawaii University

Tianxia: A Complex Process of Relations
Yaqing Qin, Distinguished Professor, Shandong University; Professor, China Foreign Affairs University

Heavenly Governing All-Under-Heaven: Reconceptualizing the Confucian Daren (大人) Idea
Xinfeng Kong, Professor, Shandong University

Comparing the Ancient Chinese Tianxia Order During the Spring Autumn Period and the Modern International Order: Prospects and Problems
Qingxin Wang, Professor, Tsinghua University

Universalizing Tianxia in East Asian Context
Takahiro Nakajima, Professor, The University of Tokyo


Language: English

Panelists:
Tingyang Zhao
, Professor, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Chunsong Gan, Professor, Peking University


Host: Berggruen Research Center, Peking University | Ideas for a changing world

The Berggruen Research Center is a hub for East-West research and dialogue dedicated to the cross-cultural and interdisciplinary study of the transformations affecting humanity. Intellectual themes focus on frontier technologies and society—specifically in artificial intelligence, the microbiome and gene editing as well as issues involving global governance and globalization.