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06 / 07 / 2004
Sean Golden, specialist in asian studies: “We need to encourage ethno-diversity”

The Forum’s “141 Questions” (58): “East-West: is it the distance or the topics that separate us?” Sean Golden, director of the Center of International and Intercultural Studies (Autonomous University of Barcelona), stated that “Europe is not concerned enough with offering people from other cultures the education that should provide a mutual knowledge.” He assured that the Chinese government only has a moral authority based on prosperity, “The population will accept the lack of political reforms as long as no financial crisis is declared.” In this sense, he reminded us that China “absorbs world production” and explained that 10% of the Chinese population, some 130 million people, “is richer than we are, which means that we consume more.”

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Sean Golden, professor of Eastern Asian studies, stressed today at the Haima stage that “we need to keep an open attitude to get closer to other cultures.” He recognized that admitting to the cultural difference and questioning ones own values is harder than it seems, “To do so, we have to acquire the conscience from the start that our vision of the world is a product of a historical process.” This professor of Chinese thought emphasized “we have to encourage ethno-diversity” and said that Europe is not concerned enough with offering people from other cultures the education that should grant a mutual knowledge.” He was referring to European businessmen who ask for help from their governments to become established in Asia when, in reality, the businessmen on this continent just know how to move around in Europe.

After living and working in China for three years, Sean Golden stated this evening that “someone who spends three weeks in China could write a book; if someone has been there for three months, he or she could write an article; if this person has stayed for there for three years, he or she wouldn’t know where to begin.” He admitted that Asian cultures are significantly different than Western ones, and emphasized that this is where many misunderstandings come from, such as in the expression, “Their social psychology is much more communal. First the group, then the individual. People, for example, hold back their expression of sorrow and anguish so as not to harm others. They smile relaxed, and so, this is positive.”

During his participation, he commented that “the systems of thinking such as Buddhism and Confucianism are tolerant” and he reaffirmed this by saying that a fundamentalist Buddhism isn’t possible. He denied that there could be a clash of civilizations “because civilizations don’t make war; to declare war you need reasons, and people are the ones who propel these reasons.” He also stated that “China has never been expansionist” and reflected that, in the Chinese government’s opinion, “in the West, the figure of the Dalai Lama is manipulated and used to criticize or exclude their country when they want to.”

For Sean Golden, the Chinese government has moral authority starting from prosperity, “The population will accept the lack of political reforms as long as there is no financial crisis.” In this sense, he explained that 10% of the Chinese population, some 130 million people, “are richer than we are, which means that we consume more.” He also contributed figures in relation to rural migration, “In the past 20 years, the rural population has decreased 15%. We are talking about half of the European population. According to predictions, between the year 2015 and 2020, 50% of the Chinese population will live in cities, some of which don’t exist yet.” In the end, this makes the main concern of the Chinese focus on quality of life, “The new generations do know much about their own culture,” he concluded.

He reminded us that China, “absorbs the world production and for this, for example, the price of oil rises,” and he explained that this Asian country has a monopoly on the purchase of wheat from the United States, “If all of a sudden they bought from Canada, this would cause a huge source of problems for the North American administration.”

Sean Golden, who is of Irish decent, lived and worked in China from 1980 to 1983. He is currently the director of the Center of International and Intercultural Studies (CEII) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, with which he has been linked to since 1984. He directs the Asia Program of the CIDOB Foundation of Barcelona, and the seminar on Asia at the Consortium of the International University Menéndez-Pelayo of Barcelona. He is also an advisor at the Casa Asia.

Aside from publishing articles and chapters of books about China, his international relations, and his social changes, Sean Golden has translated several classical works of Chinese thought.