On July 11th, the Tang Prize Foundation was given a wonderful opportunity to show hospitality to Professor Prasenjit Duara, incumbent president of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) and Oscar L. Tang Family Professor of East Asian Studies at Duke University. Accompanying him for this visit was Professor Chin-shing Huang, vice president of Academia Sinica, who invited Prof. Duara to Taiwan to give two talks scheduled on July 11th and 15th respectively
Founded in 1941, the AAS is the largest organization for Asian Studies with approximately 7000 members worldwide. While its annual conference is also the largest Asian Studies conference held in North America, one of its affiliated societies, AAS-In-Asia convenes annual meetings on a smaller scale and intends them to be a joint effort between the AAS and a local host university and committee, fulfilling the needs of those interested in research on Asia but for whom a trip to North America might be a tall order.
As the newly elected President of the AAS, Prof. Duara has long enjoyed high reputation as a historian of China. As early as 1988, he has earned international recognition when his book, Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942, was published and won him the Fairbank Prize of the AHA and the Levenson Prize of the AAS, USA. His subsequent research projects feature a broader scope of subject matters, encompassing investigations of other Asian countries in an attempt to map the new world order through the interpretation of Asia’s geopolitical importance.
In this first lecture, “Revisiting the Chinese World Order: Soft Power and the Imperialism of Nation-States,” taking place at the Academia Sinica on the afternoon of July 11th, Prof. Duara presented a macroview of greater Asia and offered a fresh take on the meaning of soft power by examining case studies of relationships between nation-states in conjunction with the rise of China. He began with Joseph Nye's conception of soft power lying in the ability to attract and persuade, a concept coined in the late 1980s, and further discussed its relevance in today's globalized world. In the process, he provided deep insight, pinpointing new factors at play, factoring in the rise of technology, and illustrating the importance of digital power. He noted when concluding the talk that in the advent of digital interconnectedness, besides the much-discussed areas of cultural and economic diplomacy, we must also pay close attention to a new front: digital diplomacy.
During his visit to the Tang Prize Foundation, Prof. Duara showed sound knowledge of the laureates as well as their contributions, while also expressing great enthusiasm for more detailed understanding of the prize and the foundation. Being an outstanding Sinologist himself, Prof. Duara nonetheless didn’t underestimate the significance of the other three award categories and especially emphasized the inextricable connection between Sinology and Sustainable Development and Sinology’s relation to Rule of Law. In addition, he explained how his recent research works have been focusing on the relevance of the humanities to climate change and environmental sustainability. The meeting with Dr. Jenn-Chuan Chern, CEO of the Tang Prize Foundation, highlighted the discussions on closer collaboration between AAS and the Tang Prize Foundation, with optimistic expectations of signing an MOA, hopefully leading to more direct involvement of the Sinology laureates in future AAS conferences.