Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Text of Chomsky visit to China 2010

6:00pm - Admission
7:00pm - Ceremony for the Conferment of the Honorary Doctorate on Professor Noam Chomsky
7:30pm - Break
7:45pm - Public Lecture by Professor Noam Chomsky Title: Contours of World Order: Continuities and Changes
9:00pm - Question and Answer Session
9:30pm - End of the Ceremony

Noam Chomsky spoke at Peking University on Friday, August 13th. Chomsky, famous for his political activism and his significant contributions to the fields of linguistics, cognitive science and philosophy, is one of the leading public intellectuals of the past century. At 82, the combative professor of linguistics shows no signs of retreating from the limelight. He has published three books in the past year and will undoubtedly publish more in the year to come. Before his talk, Chomsky was presented with an honorary doctorate from Peking University.

Chomsky delivered a short lecture to an audience of around 2,000 composed of faculty, journalists, and a large contingent of students. The lecture itself offered few new insights. Vaguely titled: Contours of World Order: Continuities and Changes, he began his talk by identifying what he saw as the two dominant threats to human society: "nuclear warfare" and "environmental damage."

On the subject of nuclear proliferation, Chomsky discussed at length Iran's nuclear program and the consolidation of the US as a military and political leader in the twentieth century. On environmental degradation, Chomsky glossed the threat of global warming, and ended with a rather bleak, even ominous assessment of the human condition: universal "consumer prosperity" is ecologically impossible. That is, economic development in China and India must be counterbalanced by a decline in Western wealth if the earth is to survive. What was likely intended to be a condemnation of overconsumption seemed instead a preface to Armageddon.

However, it seemed that most of the students present were familiar with Chomsky's work and few appeared surprised by the content of his talk.

If enthusiasm sometimes ebbed during the speech itself, it was revived during the Q&A.

Particularly memorable was Chomsky's charmingly candid and thoroughly unpretentious account of his own success in the intellectual world. When asked about his experiences as an undergraduate at University of Pennsylvania, Chomsky replied that he spent most of his time "playing handball in the gym and attending graduate courses." He added, with a hint of rebellious pride, "I actually had no credentials...the reason I was at MIT was that MIT didn't require credentials." Chomsky's playful irreverence toward academic institutions was greeted by more than a few smiles in the serious atmosphere of Beijing University.

But the true highlight of the night was a simple but compelling question posed at the beginning of the Q&A: "What can we do to make the world a more peaceful place?" After a brief pause, Chomsky's response was clear and pragmatic: "You can't do very much about the crisis in Congo" but "you can have an impact on your own society."

Chomsky's humanist message appeared to resonate with the student audience. Despite anchoring his discussion in complex theories about world development, Chomsky returned to the core principles of political activism in his answer. Problems are complicated, but the demand for action is simple. Even in an era where "global" has become a nagging, indispensable appendage to every word, social change begins at home, through meaningful action in the community. It is, I think, this confidence in rational, committed activism that has earned him so many young admirers.

By the last few questions, the bleak "contours of the world" had acquired a silver lining. Despite believing that we are teetering on the brink of destruction, Chomsky still believes in the potential of individual agency and the possibility of progress.

Reflecting upon the positive changes in MIT over the past fifty years, he said: "That's how changes take place, helpless individual people who collectively are able to carry it out." As Chomsky reminds us, change is not given, "you have to work for it." And, if we are indeed facing nuclear proliferation and ecological ruin, the work at hand is even more demanding, more urgent than ever.

At the end of the night, a student asked Chomsky what he does when he is "under pressure." Appropriately, Chomsky replied, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, "I go to work."

On 13 August, Noam Chomsky delivered a speech at the Peking University in Beijing. Chomsky, one of the leading public intellectuals of our age, is famous for his political activism and contributions to linguistic and philosophy. The talk, titled Contours of World Order: Continuities and Changes, was mostly about two dominant threats facing humanity: nuclear wars and environmental degradation.

While Chomsky has re-emphasized his criticisms on the United States, he has also expressed his opinions on China. In Chomsky’s view, emerging countries like China and India still have a long way to go to challenge the America. Of particular concern is the environmental cost of China’s development model, and the many internal and social problems that China has to tackle. This week, the Southern Metropolitan Daily publishes an interview with Chomsky. An excerpt of the interview is translated below.

Noam Chomsky in Peking University

南方都市报:全球一体化已被多数中国人接受,在过去的三十年中,尤其是中国加入W TO以后,绝大多数的中国人都从中受益颇多。但你对全球化和W TO的评价似乎很低。

SMD: Most Chinese have accepted globalization. In the past three decades, especially after China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), many Chinese have benefited tremendously. But it seems that you see globalization in poor lights.

乔姆斯基:中国的发展和经济成就实质上与全球一体化没有太大的关系。这和贸易与出口有关,中国逐渐成了一个出口导向型国 家。没有人,包括我,会反对进出口,但那并不是全球化。事实上,中国已经成了东北亚地区生产系统的一个装配厂。如果你看一下整个地区,会发现这是一个非常 有活力的地区。中国出口量非常大,但这里头有些误解,中国的出口在很大程度上是日本、韩国以及美国等国的出口。这些国家给中国提供零部件和高科技,而中国 则将它们组装起来并进行出口,而这就被称之为“中国的出口”。

Chomsky: China’s economic achievement has little to do with globalization. It is related to trade and export. China has gradually become an export-oriented country. No one, myself included, is opposed to exports. But this is not globalization. In fact, China has become a factory in the Northeast Asian production system. If you look at the whole region, you will find it very dynamic. China’s export volume is enormous. But there is something we have overlooked. China’s export relies heavily on the exports of Japan, Korea and the US. These countries provide China with high-tech components and technologies. China is just doing the assembly, and labelling the final products as ‘Made in China.’

中国依靠其明智的政策的确发展得很好。但事实上,数百万人摆脱了贫困,但却也付出了很大的代价,而许多代价会转嫁给下一 代,如生态成本。经济学家不会考虑这些,但代价就是代价,总要有人来偿还,可能由你的孩子或孙子来偿还。这些真的和全球一体化没什么关系,和世界贸易组织 也没有什么关系。

China has developed rapidly by following wise policies. But while millions of people were lifted out of poverty, costs such as environmental degradation are high. They are merely transferred to the next generation. Economists will not worry about them, but these are costs that someone needs to pay for ultimately. It may be your children or grandchildren. These have nothing to do with globalization and the WTO.


SMD: Do you think the rise of China will change the world order? Will China play the role that the US is playing now?

乔姆斯基:我不这样认为,也不希望这样。你希望中国在全世界有800个军事基地,到处侵略别的国家,推翻政府,实施恐怖行 动吗?这就是美国在世界上的角色。我不认为这样的情况会发生在中国身上,也不认为能够发生,当然也不希望发生。中国的存在已经改变了世界秩序。中国和印 度,这两个国家占了世界人口的几乎一半,他们在增长,在发展,但相对西方来说,他们的财富只是一小部分。中国和印度都面临非常严峻的内部问题,所以他们还 有很长的路要走。我希望会有所改善。因此要把他们对世界的影响力与富裕国家相比较,没有任何意义。我希望他们能对世界产生良性的影响,他们也许能够。但是 必须仔细观察。

Chomsky: I don’t think so; neither do I hope so. Do you really hope to see a China with 800 overseas military bases, invading and overthrowing other governments, or committing terrorist acts? This is what the America is doing now. I think this will not, and cannot, happen on China. I do not wish it to happen neither. China is already changing the world. China and India together account for almost half of the world’s population. They are growing and developing. But relatively speaking, their wealth is only a small part of the world. Both countries still have long ways to go and face very serious domestic problems, which I hope will gradually be solved. It is meaningless to compare their global influences with those of rich countries. My hope is that they will exert some positive influences to the world, but this has to be watched carefully.

拿中国来说,你应该问问自己中国在世界的角色到底是什么。幸运的是,中国现在的角色不是侵略其它国家,巨大的军事开支等 等,但中国确实在扮演着某种角色。中国在消费资源,这有积极的一面也有消极的一面。如果巴西向中国出口,巴西经济会从中受益,但另一方面巴西经济也受到损 害。对巴西、秘鲁和其他一些资源生产国来说,发展问题之一是他们的经济主要依靠初级产品出口。这不是一种成功的发展模式。他们要改变经济模式,首先是解决 巨大的内部问题。同时变成生产者,而不仅仅是为其他生产者出口初级产品。

China should ask itself what role it wishes to take in the world. Fortunately, China is not assuming the role of an aggressor with a large military budget, etc. But China does have a role to play. It is am enormous consumer of resources, and there are pros and cons. For example, Brazil will benefit economically if it exports to China. On the other hand, its economy will also be damaged. For countries with abundant resources like Brazil and Peru, one problem is their reliance on exports of primary resources, which is not a good development model. To change their mode of development, they first need to solve their domestic problems and transform themselves into producers, not just exporting primary products to other producer countries.


SMD: Is the success of China a challenge to Western democracies?

乔姆斯基:让我们做一个历史的比较。对英国的民主来说,美国的发展是威胁吗?美国是从奴隶社会发展起来的,是从灭绝土著人 和奴隶制中发展起来的。这个模式适合其他国家吗?你希望中国学习这个模式吗?美国的确发展成为在很多方面领先的民主国家,但它的民主不是以这个模式发展出 来的,这个模式任何一个理智的人都不会愿意学习。

Let’s make a historical comparison. Was the rise of the United States a threat to democratic Britain? The United States was founded on the slaughtering of indigenous population and the slave system. Is this model suitable for other countries? Do you want China to learn from this model? It is true that the US has developed into a democratic country which is strong in many respects, but its democracy is not developed from this model, which any rational person would not want to imitate.


China is developing, but there is no evidence to prove that its internal development is causing a threat to the West. What is challenging the US is not China’s development, but its independence. That is the real challenge.

你能每天从报纸的头条看出来。现在美国外界政策的主要关注焦点是伊朗。2010年在外交政策界被称为“伊朗年”,伊朗被认 为是美国外交政策的主要挑战,世界秩序的主要威胁。美国对伊朗实施了单边的、严厉的制裁政策,但中国没有这样做。中国遵守联合国的制裁,但联合国对伊朗的 制裁轻到遵守与否无所谓,而中国没有遵从美国对伊朗的单边制裁。在我启程到中国来之前几天,美国国务院以一种非常有趣的方式对中国发出警告,他说中国要承 担起国际责任,也就是要遵守美国的命令。这就是中国的国际责任。

You can tell from every day’s headlines that the current focus of US foreign policy is Iran. The year 2010 is called ‘The Year of Iran.’ Iran is portrayed as a threat to US foreign policy and the world order. The US has imposed harsh, unilateral sanctions, but China has not followed suit. China has never followed the US lead. Instead, it supports UN sanctions, which are too weak to matter. A few days before I left for China, the US States Department warned China in a very interesting way. It said China has to bear international responsibilities, i.e. follow US orders. This is China’s international responsibilities.

这是标准的帝国主义,其他国家有责任按照我们的要求行事。如果不这样做就是不负责任。我想中国外交部的人听了一定都笑了。 但这就是帝国主义强权的标准逻辑。事实上,这也是伊朗为什么是威胁的原因,因为它不服从美国的命令。中国是个更大的威胁,因为如果一个大国不服从命令,麻 烦就大了,这就是美国面临的挑战。

This is standard imperialism, which is that other countries have to act according to our requests. If not, they are irresponsible. I think officials from the Chinese Foreign Ministry must laugh when they hear this. But this is the standard logic of imperialism. In fact, Iran becomes a threat because it does not follow US instructions. China is a bigger threat, as it is a big problem when a major power refuses to obey orders. This is the challenge that the US faces.

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posted by u2r2h at 6:16 PM


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