TAIPEI, TAIWAN – Media OutReach – 28 September 2020 – The Tang Prize Foundation joined forces with Taiwan’s National Taiwan University, National Tsing Hua University, National Cheng Kung University, National Chengchi University, the Experimental Biology of the US, Association for Asian Studies, and the Jane Goodall Institute to stage four Tang Prize Masters’ Forums on sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, Sinology and the rule of law on September 21 and 22. Latest and former Tang Prize recipients, together with leading experts in Taiwan, conversed with one another and interacted with audiences via videoconferencing to explore issues concerning ecological conservation, climate change, autoimmune diseases, treatments for COVID-19, identity crisis facing the Chinese overseas, the value of Chinese studies, a pluralist approach to Sinology, as well as human rights and environmental justice. Two days and four edifying conferences saw the laureates offering great insight without reservation, and the audiences asking thought-provoking questions without hesitation. The forum videos are available at https://reurl.cc/yg6Rv8.
To kick start the whole series, the first forum on the rule of law, titled “Exploring the Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in the Contemporary Civil Society,” featured three 2020 awardees, based in Bangladesh, Colombia, and Lebanon respectively, former Tang Prize laureates, as well as representatives of NGOs and advocates of social and environmental justice from Taiwan, who got together to shed light on NGOs’ responsibilities and challenges, helping the audience examine this topic from the perspectives of people living in different parts of the world. While the latest winners, to fulfil NGOs’ duties, have all vowed to stand up for ordinary people, advocate necessary political reform, defend environmental justice and improve judicial independence, they also expressed concerns about common obstacles many NGOs encounter, such as shortage of funding and governments’ attempts to curtail their capacity.
At the second forum, titled “Ecological Conservation and Sustainable Development of Human Society: the Impact of COVID-19,” past and present recipients of the Tang Prize in Sustainable Development reminded us that though the pandemic “can affect rich or poor alike, it’s having a more profound effect on the poor.” Unfortunately, we have ourselves to blame for the current health crisis because we disrespected the natural world. Should we continue down this path and disregard the fact that “climate change increases the range of pathogens and the threat of infectious disease,” it is very likely that disasters like COVID-19 will occur again. Moreover, we should not ignore the painful reality that the wealthiest 1 billion people are accountable for more than 50 percent of climate pollution, but it is the poorest 3 billion who have borne the brunt of climate disruption. These laureates urged us to recognize the importance of global interdependence and to see protecting our Mother Earth as our collective responsibility. Failing to tackle these problems collaboratively could mean “more global warming in the pipeline.”
Titled “Targeting the Hyperactive Immune System, from Autoimmune Disease to Cytokine Storms,” the forum on biopharmaceutical science was the third one in this series. In response to a pandemic that shows no sign of abating, Tang Prize recipients not only shared information about the ongoing clinical trials but also offered opinions about possible combination therapies for COVID-19. On the topic of how to regulate the immune system, the speakers stressed the importance of biological individuality, while comparing the delicate balance between releasing and inhibiting our immune cells to that between yin and yang to illustrate the point that the optimal results of cancer treatment can be obtained only when this balance is achieved. Asked to give some advice to young students sitting in the auditorium, all the laureates encouraged them to commit themselves to basic research and to stick to the project they choose. Don’t be deterred by setbacks and don’t give up easily, because they never know what nature has in store for them.
The final forum, “The High Road to Pluralist Sinology,” began with a speech from Prof. Wang Gungwu, the latest laureate in Sinology and doyen of Chinese overseas studies, in which he systematically analyzed the development of Sinology and elaborated on how it has always intertwined with the conflicts between Eastern and Western civilizations and with the vicissitudes of modern China. As a subject, Sinology was not only enriched by the various cultural and political forces it was exposed to but also nourished by ideas of different academic disciplines that were incorporated into it, especially the methodologies used in social science. However, Prof. Wang alerted contemporary scholars to the sensitive and difficult tasks they will be engaged in on this high road to pluralist Sinology. To take on these challenges, he asserted, “remains an unshirkable responsibility” for them.
The Tang Prize Foundation endeavors to make the world a better place and to foster universal values for a new era. To accomplish this mission, the Foundation organized these forums and invited its laurates to share their inspiring stories and their deep wisdom, in the hope that at the time when COVID-19 continues to rage across the globe and plunged every aspect of our life into chaos, be it social, economic or environmental, the advice offered by these masters can help people develop inter-disciplinary thinking and forward-looking vision so as to overcome the present difficulties together.
About Tang Prize
Dr. Samuel Yin, chairman of Ruentex Group, founded the Tang Prize in December of 2012 as an extension of the supreme value his family placed on education. Harkening back to the golden age of the Tang Dynasty in Chinese history, the Tang Prize seeks to be an inspiring force for people working in all corners of the world. For more information on the Tang Prize and its laureates, please visit www.tang-prize.org