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September 8, 2008

Third World Forum on China Studies

On September 8-9, 2008, the 3rd World Forum on China Studies was held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center in Shanghai, China, cosponsored by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) and the Shanghai Municipal Information Office, in cooperation with the State Council Information Office of the People's Republic of China. At the behest of SASS, Daisaku Ikeda, an honorary professor of the academy since December 2002, was appointed as an advisor to the forum and invited to give a lecture. SGI Vice President Lee Kong Sau of Hong Kong read Mr. Ikeda's remarks in proxy.

The forum, with its theme of "Common Challenges, Common Efforts: Working Together for a Better World," brought together some 400 scholars from around the world for discussions on a broad range of primary research fields within China Studies.

September 8, the day on which the conference opened, marked the 40th anniversary of Mr. Ikeda's 1968 proposal for the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan. Mr. Ikeda's address was read during the opening session. Guest speakers former German Federal Minister of Economics and Labor Wolfgang Clement and Professor Lawrence J. Bau, president of Chinese University of Hong Kong, also delivered addresses.

Mr. Ikeda began his message by referring to historian Arnold Toynbee's keen interest in the potential contributions of East Asian wisdom to the creation of a human civilization based on peaceful coexistence. He went on to outline eight essential aspects of Chinese civilization relevant to this concern. These include in part China's experience of sustaining an empire for over two millennia, the Chinese people's spirit of globalism, the pragmatism of Confucianism and Buddhism, and the humanism of the Confucian world-view.

Describing an Asian ethic of seeking mutual happiness and prosperity, Mr. Ikeda quoted the words of Confucian philosopher Zhang Zai (1020-77) who wrote in The Western Inscription: "That which fills the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe I consider as my nature. All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions." This ideal, he remarked, resonates with the Buddhist concept of "dependent origination," which explains that everything comes into being and maintains existence because of mutually sustaining relationships.

With regard to his 1968 proposal for the normalization of relations between China and Japan, Mr. Ikeda stated that he was motivated by his conviction of the vital importance that friendship between the two countries would have for peace in the region and the world, and by his appreciation of the significance of the spiritual legacy of Chinese civilization. Such spiritual and philosophical heritage, he concluded, can play a valuable role in nurturing and sustaining global cooperation for peace.

Following Mr. Lee's reading of Mr. Ikeda's paper, SASS President Wang Ronghua emphasized the historical significance of Mr. Ikeda's 1968 proposal for the normalization of Sino-Japanese bilateral relations, remarking on his courageous and conscientious action at a precarious juncture in the relationship between the two countries.

[Adapted from an article in the September 11, 2008, issue of the Seikyo Shimbun, Soka Gakkai, Japan]

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