Consistent with its growing economic, political and military might, China wants due recognition by and engagement with the global community of nations. This aspiration is complicated by the fact that Chinese political leaders and intellectuals continue to struggle with how “Chinese values” fit with “universal values”, and whether there is a single global modernity or whether there are multiple modernities and multiple — perhaps competitive — universal values. This lecture examines how some prominent Chinese philosophers and intellectuals are engaging with these issues, despite the fact that in 2013 the topic of “universal values” was prohibited as a discussion topic in universities on the mainland. Key Chinese intellectuals introduced include Chen Lai, Zhao Tingyang, Xu Jilin, Ge Zhaoguang, Guo Qiyong and a range of younger academics associated with the Kang Clique (Kang dang), as well as Confucian revivalists who self-consciously identify as so-called “Mainland New Confucians”. Attention is also paid to both advocates and critics of attempts to revive the idea of tianxia, “All under Heaven”. The lecture concludes with a short reflection on whether a new sort of tianxia world order might already be with us.
About the speaker
Professor John Makeham (FAHA) is Chair and Director of the China Studies Research Centre at La Trobe University, and Emeritus Professor at ANU. A specialist in Chinese intellectual history, he has a particular interest in Confucian thought throughout Chinese history and in the relationship between Sinitic Buddhist thought and the development of Confucian philosophy. He is a recipient of the Joseph Levenson Prize (2005) and the Special Book Award of China (2015). Principal publications include: Lost Soul: “Confucianism” in Contemporary Chinese Academic Discourse (2008); Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects (2003); Name and Actuality in Early Chinese Thought (1994); and translations of Xiong Shili’s New Treatise on the Uniqueness of Consciousness (2015), Xu Gan’s Balanced Discourses (2002), and, with others, the Treatise on Awakening Mahāyāna Faith (2019).
About the George E. Morrison Lecture series
The George Ernest Morrison Lecture series was founded by Chinese residents in Australia and others in honour of the late Dr G. E. Morrison (1862–1920), a native of Geelong, Victoria, Australia.
The objects of the foundation of the lectureship were to honour for all time the memory of a great Australian who rendered valuable services to China and to improve cultural relations between China and Australia. The annual Morrison Lecture is organised by a committee of ANU colleagues from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific.
The George E. Morrison Lecture Series is sponsored by the Australian Centre on China in the World.