11:00 am – 12:45 pm
- Organised by Christine Moll-Murata
- Christine Moll-Murata, “China’s Future as Anticipated by Economists and Financial Specialists in the Republic of China, 1911–1949”
- Laura Pflug, “A Radiant Future in East Asia? Gain and Risk Expectations in the Heyday of the Nuclear Age”
- Laura De Giorgi, “The Future in Human Hands. Chinese Approaches towards Artificial Intelligence”
- Jörn-Carsten Gottwald, Anna Caspari, “The Evolution of Financial Governance with Chinese Characteristics”
- Harriet Zurndorfer, Discussant
In this panel, historians and political scientists analyse historical and contemporary Chinese concepts of the future from the 1930s to nowadays. During the late Qing and Republican period, weilai (未來 remote future) and jianglai (將來 imminent future) were applied increasingly to legitimise particular policies. One example is the argumentation current in the 1930s for the introduction of the fabi (法幣) currency replacing the centuries-old silver standard, discussed in the paper by Christine Moll-Murata. The rise of the nuclear age in the 1950s and 1960s triggered perspectives on the future that oscillated between hope and fear. Laura Pflug’s paper looks at the rhetoric of future images in the conflict between the Republic of China on Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China from the 1950s until the detonation of the Chinese nuclear bomb in 1964. The contribution by Jörn-Carsten Gottwald and Anna Caspari shows how under the impact of the financial crisis of 2007/2008, new concepts of the future of financial transaction on a global scale were developed in the framework of big paradigms such as “Belt-and-Road” or “China Dream”. Laura De Giorgi’s paper focuses on Chinese attitudes towards Artificial Intelligence and offers an explanation of how “futurist” technology is turning to the past as a source of confidence and legitimation, thus echoing patterns of the nineteenth-century reflections on the future concept.
Christine Moll-Murata, “China’s Future as Anticipated by Economists and Financial Specialists in the Republic of China, 1911–1949”
As analyses of early twentieth-century newspapers and journals show, the terms weilai (未來 remote future) and jianglai (將來 imminent future) increasingly appeared in argumentation and pleas for legitimating political action. This paper takes a closer look at statements on the political economy and aims to identify the particular importance of the year 1933 in reflections on the future of that economy. In that year, a New Year’s supplement was included in the popular journal Dongfang zazhi in which more than a hundred intellectuals and figures of public life, comprising economists, entrepreneurs, and bankers, formulated their “dreams” both for China’s and their individual futures. The evidence shows that the desire expressed most firmly was to regain political sovereignty and to realise greater social equality. With regard to the economy, independence, but also integration into the world economy on equal terms were considered the most pressing issues. The paper will analyse how the future was deployed as a means to legitimate the political action of the ruling party Guomindang, including fiscal policies and the introduction of a new currency, the fabi 法幣. The disastrous inflation during the war years, probably the main reason for the demise and exodus of the Nationalist government, provoked many to look into a bleak, dystopian future and helped the Communist Party to succeed, again with a political agenda that was full of promises for the future but based on socialist principles.
Laura Pflug, “A Radiant Future in East Asia? Gain and Risk Expectations in the Heyday of the Nuclear Age”
In the heyday of the nuclear age in the 1950s and 1960s, prospects for the future oscillated between hope and fear. Expectations of peaceful progress on the one hand and dire destruction on the other were also present on both sides of the Taiwan Strait, and Cold War slogans insinuating a coming “nuclear war” or clamoring for “world peace” could be heard. When in 1964 the People’s Republic of China detonated its first atomic bomb and thus became a nuclear power, this permanently changed the strategic landscape of East Asia and aggravated Taiwan’s already tense security situation. This also became a turning point in expectations of the future.
The rhetoric of future images in the conflict between the Republic of China on Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China from the 1950s until the detonation of the Chinese nuclear bomb in 1964 is the topic of this presentation. It will address the questions of what hopes, plans and fears were expressed by both sides and what developments, in part contrary to propagandistic rhetoric, lay behind these images of the future. Recently, with the invocation of a “new Cold War” in some quarters, the nuclear aspect in the conflict between Taiwan and the People’s Republic has also reappeared in the international debate. The issues discussed are therefore highly topical again today, making us realize that history has by no means “ended”.
Laura De Giorgi, “The Future in Human Hands. Chinese Approaches towards Artificial Intelligence”
This paper looks at the reception of Yuval Harari’s book A Short History of the Future (in Chinese Weilai jianshi 未来 简史) in 2017 in order to analyse how the challenges to the concept of “human-driven” by the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are framed by official and social media discourse on the future in China. Harari’s book has prompted several reflections and comments on the topic in newspapers and websites, boosted also by the forecast of the rapid rise of the People’s Republic of China as a leading world technological power in this field. The topic of the impact of AI, which has also been touched upon by the philosopher Zhao Tingyang, draws on Harari’s historical perspective. Although Harari is sceptical about the meaning of the past experience for governing the future, Chinese readers seem to believe otherwise. Considering the broadly optimistic view which dominates Chinese approaches to technical singularity, the paper will investigate the place that has been given in China to historical imagination as a source of confidence in the capacity of humans to control future technological changes.
Jörn-Carsten Gottwald, Anna Caspari, “The Evolution of Financial Governance with Chinese Characteristics“
In 2016, the People’s Republic of China hosted the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hangzhou. The Chinese initiatives presented there linked domestic reform policies with the future G20 agenda and emphasised the leadership role of the PRC on the global stage. This paper aims to trace the emergence of Chinese reform concepts for financial governance both historically, and in view of current PRC policies on global financial governance. While the Republic of China had been a major participant at the Bretton Woods Conference which defined the basic pillars of the post-WWII order, the PRC remained outside and at the fringes of this predominantly trans-Atlantic system for more than thirty years. The first steps for China to enter the global arena occurred in the early Reform era but were dominated by domestic development priorities. However, once the global financial crisis of 2007/2008 shook the existing order and led to the establishment of the new G20 at summit level, an initially reluctant Chinese leadership found itself under increasing pressure to develop concepts for the future of financial governance. The paper identifies the emergence of key aspects of China’s ideas regarding the future of global financial governance with a theoretical approach to its key concepts, including the ‘China Dream’ (中国梦), ‘Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind’ (构建人类命运共同体), and recent policies regarding financial technology (fintech; 金融科技).
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