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Panel 3: Centers and Margins: History of Ideas

Chair: Wilfried Hinsch, Cologne 


Bai Tongdong (Philosophy, Fudan): A Confucian New Tianxia Model of National Identity and Global Governance - And Why Is It Superior to the Nation-State and Liberal Models 

An assumption of this paper is that China’s Zhou-Qin transition is a modernization, and the pre-Qin Chinese thinkers already addressed issues of modernity.  On the issues of national identity and international relations, early Confucians developed a tianxia model.  According to this model, state identity is based upon a Confucian conception of universal but unequal compassion and the distinction between the civilized and the barbaric.  It recognizes the legitimacy of sovereignty, but allows it to be overridden under certain conditions (“humane (ren) responsibility overrides sovereignty”). I will argue in this paper that, on the aforementioned issues, an updated tianxia model is superior to two models developed in the West, the nation-state model and the liberal cosmopolitan model.  The new tianxia model offers a coherent theory of the peaceful rise of China, and implies a hierarchical world order that is to replace the UN.  It also addresses various ethnic issues in contemporary China. 


Iwo Amelung (History, Frankfurt)Dealing with environmental determinism in Republic China

Explaining the Chinese development by means of considering the natural environment has been – and to a certain extent still is – a popular means of historical, economic and social analysis. This was true for scholars in traditional China and it was even more so with Western scholars beginning with Montesquieu. It is well known, that in the early 20th century environmental determinist explanations became very popular, and they did not fail to exert an influence on China herself. This in particular is true for the ideas of Ellsworth Huntington relating to the effect of climate on social and economic development. In this preliminary paper, I will discuss the impact of environmental determinist ideas in Republican China. I am especially interested into the question of how Chinese scientists reacted to the challenge of environmental determinism and how they attempted to counter arguments, which seemed to deny China and her citizens the capacity for modern development. I also will show that the discussion of environmental determinism sparked research in historical meteorology, which greatly contributed to meteorologists understanding of climate change and thus can be considered as a particular interesting example of localized science.


Christoph Harbsmeier (Chinese Studies, Oslo)Self-Construal in China: Historical and Comparative Perspectives 


In this lecture I shall compare some characteristic ways of construing one's Self in ancient Greece and in Rome with those in pre-Qin China. I shall try to link styles of self-construal to the various literary traditions of authorial self-presentation and intended readership in later European and Chinese traditions.