Will China eventually become the first world nation?
"There is free research and discussion here"
L.I.S.A .: When China is reported in the West, mine gets the impression that it is a country that is - roughly speaking - economically liberal and politically authoritarian. With a view to intellectual life or social discourse, publicly controversial debates are not possible, for example on the history and the consequences of the cultural revolution. Can you confirm that from your experience? Is science, also understood as the pluralism of thoughts, results and opinions, even conceivable in such a climate? Are there debates across society in China?
Dr. Bartosch: In terms of population, China is almost twice as large as geographic Europe from Portugal to the Urals. The country is enormously diverse in every way. It's old and modern at the same time - almost like a world in the world, with all conceivable facets and cultural influences. This is also reflected at the university. On campus, for example, there is a very central building with a golden dome that resembles a mosque, the Zayed Center for Arabic and Islamic Studies. The many Muslim students, for example from Indonesia, China or Arab countries, can even fall back on their own cafeteria, which everyone else likes to visit.
From my work experience at the university, I can say that there is free research and discussion here. In addition, you can see new posters from speakers from all over the world and announcements of public international symposia all the time. German professors often come. A few weeks ago, for example, the medical historian Prof. Dr. Alfons Labisch, who was rector of the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf from 2003 to 2008, was here at the BFSU for several lectures and discussions. In these contexts, the latest world problems are always discussed openly, intensively and with foresight, e.g. topics such as the refugee crisis in Germany, the EU crisis, Brexit, China-USA relations, etc.
My experience is that my Chinese colleagues here are all cosmopolitan, at the same time have a good command of their own cultural and historical background and know other countries well. A young Chinese student with excellent academic and ethical attitudes told me that she had already been in Mozambique for a year on her own. Many of my courses are themselves interculturally situated. In some of my seminars, students from Asia, Europe and Africa, i.e. from three continents, got into scientific discussions. Despite their young age, the students usually have a good understanding of things and relationships.
China, as I experience it not only here at the university, is enormously diverse: It is interested in the development of the most modern technology, at the same time it would like to connect with all other cultures in the long term in the sense of a mutual learning process and for the common good, ultimately there is a great interest in the revived and, to speak with the cultural philosopher Ernst Cassirer, in its own new Chinese cultural tradition, which has experienced a break in the 20th century.
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