Asian Values

Power and values: A Rohingya survivor of genocide in Myanmar pleads for food, and Hungary’s rightwing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán finds common cause with China’s Premier Li Keqiang

Countries that join together through multilateral organizations, whether the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or the United Nations, must determine the values required for pursuit of common goals. Yet there is stark contrast between Asian and western values – with Asia generally focused on order and the collective interest and the West traditionally emphasizing democracy and individual rights. Asia’s many governments – caught between two rivals, China and the United States – could have some influence over which ideals prevail for the continent: “if Asia cannot define its values more clearly, it risks a replay of the Cold War, where it suffered in confrontation between superpowers with deeply opposing ideologies,” explains journalist and author Humphrey Hawksley. A charter on Asian values could provide guidance on a rising China, prevent polarization and reduce hypocrisy of democratic nations failing to respect human rights. A united and thoughtful voice would strengthen Asia. Hawksley urges the continent’s leaders to forge a path in articulating values that contribute to reducing tensions and increasing prosperity. – YaleGlobal

Rethinking Belt-and-Road Debt

Transport trouble: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticizes China’s “new colonialism” at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, and Chinese-built railway connects parts of Africa

More than 75 nations participate in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 to develop trade and connect Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe with ports, roads and railways. But some countries worry about adding to already heavy debt burdens, and some projects have become an issue in local politics. Among the most vocal critics is Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who has warned about a “new colonialism,” explains veteran journalist Philip Bowring. Mahathir questions infrastructure costs and strategic purposes relating to contentious issues like control over the South China Sea. Many emerging economies can certainly benefit from the infrastructure investment, explains Bowring, but cautious leaders also recognize the value of assessing project purposes and priorities. China, wanting to avoid heavy losses or criticism at home about wasteful spending, has launched a publicity campaign to promote benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative. – YaleGlobal

Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949 – 1989

9/17 | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | Baker Hall, Room 434 | 100 Tower Parkway

The popularization of basic legal knowledge is an important and contested technique of state governance in China today. Its roots reach back to the early years of Chinese Communist Party rule. Legal Lessons tells the story of how the party-state attempted to mobilize ordinary citizens to learn laws during the early years of the Mao period (1949 –1976) and in the decade after Mao’s death.

Examining case studies such as the dissemination of the 1950 Marriage Law and successive constitutions since 1954 in Beijing and Shanghai, Legal Lessons traces the dissemination of legal knowledge at different levels of state and society. Archival records, internal publications, periodicals, advice manuals, memoirs, and colorful propaganda materials reveal how official attempts to determine and promote “correct” understanding of written laws intersected with people’s interpretations and practical experiences. They also show how diverse groups—including party-state leadership, legal experts, publishers, writers, artists, and local officials, along with ordinary people—helped to define the meaning of laws in China’s socialist society. Placing mass legal education and law propaganda at the center of analysis, Legal Lessons offers a new perspective on the sociocultural and political history of law in socialist China.

Jennifer Altehenger is a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Chinese History at King’s College London. She is the author of Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949 –1989 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018) and has also published on the history of propaganda production, information, lexicography, political satire, and on Communist China’s links to other socialist countries before 1989. Funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council leadership fellowship, her current work examines the social, economic, and cultural history of everyday material culture and industrial design in China after 1949.

Lunch will be served.

Yale Club of Hong Kong: “Song of Praise for a Flower” Meet the Author – Charlene Chu (Yale MBA/MA)

Meet the Author

Evening Presentation
Drinks Reception 6:30pm
Presentation 7:00pm
Close 8:00pm

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For nearly two decades, a family manuscript lay hidden in a Chinese bank vault until a long-lost cousin from America inspired the 92-year-old author, Fengxian Chu to unearth it. Fengxian’s story begins in the 1920s in an idyllic home in the heart of China’s rice country. Her life is a struggle from the start. At a young age, she defies foot-binding and an arranged marriage and sneaks away from home to attend school. Her young adulthood is thrown into turmoil when the Japanese invade and ransack her village. Later her family is driven to starvation when Mao Zedong’s Communist Party seizes power and her husband is branded a ‘bad element’. The book traces a century of Chinese history through the experiences of Fengxian and her family, from the dark years of World War II and China’s civil war to the tragic Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution and beyond. It is a window into a faraway world, a sweeping epic about China’s tumultuous transformation and a harrowing yet ultimately uplifting story of a remarkable woman. Join co-author of Song of Praise for a Flower, Charlene Chu as she discusses her unearthing of this hidden family manuscript.

Fengxian Chu was raised in Hunan Province, China, spent most of her life living and working on a farm. She briefly attended college, but her education was interrupted when the Japanese army invaded her village in the 1940s. A writer and poet from a young age, she is unique among her generation of rural Chinese women, the majority of whom never attended school and are illiterate. Song of Praise for a Flower is Fengxian’s first work to be published, and among the only known first-person accounts from a woman of her generation about life during China’s turbulent past century. Now in her 90s, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She resides in Shenzhen, China.

charlene chu mug

Charlene Chu, Fengxian’s first cousin, grew up in the United States and wrote the English rendering of Song of Praise for a Flower. A financial analyst well-known for her work on China’s economy and financial sector, she is quoted widely in the Wall Street Journal, Financial TimesBloomberg, Business Insider and other media outlets. She holds an MBA and MA in International Relations from Yale University. Song of Praise for a Flower is her first book. Charlene splits her time between Washington, DC and Hong Kong.

Chinese leaders attend Advanced University Leadership Program on campus

Group photo: Chinese university leaders pose with Yale President Peter Salovey.

This week and next, 23 Chinese university leaders are on campus to participate in the Advanced University Leadership Program.

The program, established in 2004 in close partnership with China’s Ministry of Education, provides an opportunity for Chinese university leaders to gain an in-depth look at the administrative practices and education philosophies of Yale and of American universities in general. Program activities include a combination of discussions, site visits, and case studies to illustrate the goals and operations of important administrative functions at leading U.S. research universities like Yale and the University of Connecticut, giving participants an opportunity to consider alternative models and approaches that may be applied to and benefit world-class Chinese universities.