china’s green religion

James Miller attending the Laozi Conference in the Great Hall of the People

James Miller attending the Laozi Conference in the Great Hall of the People

I’m at the First Summit on Laozi and Daoist Culture, which is taking place this week in Beijing. The Summit is the work of Prof. Hu Fuchen, one of the leading scholars of Daoism, and a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. This morning, we had the opening ceremony, which was held in the Great Hall of the People. It was my first time in this magnificent building.

The purpose of the conference is basically to promote Daoism throughout China and the World. It is being funded by a wealthy donor, and has received backing at a high level from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. (More…)

china’s greatest contribution to sustainable development

This week I’m at a conference on eco-aesthetics at Shu Yen University in Hong Kong. Today we heard the opening speech from Prof. ZENG Fangren, the former president of Shandong University. He runs a research institute on aesthetics, and is one of China’s leading scholars of eco-aesthetics.

In his overview of the field of eco-aesthetics in China, the lasting impression that I received was how the government’s advocacy of “ecological civilization” has had a profound impact on the field. As a result of this leadership, more and more scholars are devoting attention to ecological issues.

What fascinated me about his talk was how fluent he was in Western scholarship regarding aesthetics and philosophy. It seems that so often dialogue between China and the west is one-sided, with all Chinese scholars mastering Western discourse and very few Western scholars mastering Chinese discourse.

As a result, in the discussions following his presentation, I asked the question of what China can contribute to the world in the areas of eco-aesthetics and sustainability.

His first answer was not what I expected. Rather than discussing Chinese wisdom, Confucian philosophy or Daoism, he made a very simple but powerful point. If China can manage its economic development without increasing too much its ecological footprint, it will have achieved something that everyone in the world can learn from.

This made me realize that the efforts to foster sustainable development will not ultimately depend upon what we in the West do or do not do. It will be developing countries like China and India that will, out of necessity, have to create ecologically sustainable forms of economic development. They will do so because they have no other choice. And when they have done so, they will be in a far more advanced position than us in the West. When that happens it will be we who learn from China and India, and not the other way round.

weekly news digest 2009-10-04

  • Confucius's birthday leads Google to doodle #
  • Conference on Daoism Today: Science, Health, Ecology, Los Angeles, June 2-6, 2010 #
  • Change in offing in China, prof says. – – An interview with me in the The Whig Standard — #
  • Conference on eco-aesthetics in Hong Kong with a keynote from me on Ecology, Aesthetics and Daoist Body Cultivation. #
  • 2nd Annual Arizona State University Graduate Conference on Asian Studies: Sustainability in Asia | #

china’s transition to sustainability

The following is reproduced from today’s Kingston Whig-Standard.


Change in offing in China, prof says


Behind today’s show of military might celebrating its 60th anniversary, the People’s Republic of China is undergoing significant environmental policy change, according to a Queen’s University professor.

“Economic expansion has been successful in terms of lifting people out of poverty and bringing economic wealth to China,” said James Miller, a professor of religious studies at Queen’s.

“They can’t keep on doing this for the next 50 or 60 years because the environmental and social costs are very high.”

Miller is part of a movement that believes religious traditions can be used to effect environmental change. (More…)

Weekly Updates for 2009-09-27

  • UN climate chief says China poised to lead the world on climate change. #
  • China in the green spotlight — a useful summary of China's environmental situation #
  • China Daily praises Confucius, the sage of sages #
  • Official calls for the promotion of Confucianism to aid "development and prosperity of country's socialist culture" #
  • Hu Jintao's carbon commitment marks new era for China as it recognizes its responsibilities as a leading power #
  • China must learn to talk to its religious leaders if it is to create a culture of ecological sustainability #

china must talk to its religious leaders to create a culture of ecological sustainability

Over the past sixty years China has achieved something close to a miracle when compared with other developing nations. It by and large manages to feed, educate, house and employ its own people. It is not involved in futile and costly military conflicts. It is a creditor nation, not a debtor. Its social and political system provides sufficient stability for the vast majority of its people to pursue their own livelihoods in a rational and predictable way.Yet all this will be lost if the world does not help China to embrace an ecologically sustainable culture. (More…)