'I like the inclusiveness and flexibility of Chinese civilization,' says Baik Young-seo, winner of 2023 Award for Distinguished Contributions to China Studies
Published: Nov 25, 2023 01:46 AM
Editor's Note:

The World Conference on China Studies - Shanghai Forum on Friday announced the winners of the 2023 Award for Distinguished Contributions to China Studies. They included Timothy Brook, professor emeritus at the Department of History, University of British Columbia, Baik Young-seo, professor emeritus at Yonsei University, and Kishore Mahbubani, distinguished fellow of the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.

The Award for Distinguished Contributions to China Studies recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to the development and global exchanges of China studies, as well as the promotion of Chinese civilization. Since 2010, 22 scholars have won the award.

Brook and Baik participated in the Friday forum offline in Shanghai and delivered acceptance speeches. Prior to that, the two scholars on Thursday shared with the media their observations and thoughts on China studies, Chinese civilization, as well as China's role in promoting mutual learning among civilizations.

This installment is about Baik, a South Korean historian who has been focusing on analyzing the global issue of China's rise from an East Asian perspective.

Baik Young-seo talks to the media on November 23, 2023. Photo: Huang Lanlan/GT

Baik Young-seo talks to the media on November 23, 2023. Photo: Huang Lanlan/GT

Looking through Baik Young-seo's books and academic papers, "East Asia" is probably one of the most frequently mentioned terms. As the first South Korean scholar to win the Award for Distinguished Contributions to China Studies, Baik adds a valuable South Korean perspective to the world's current China studies, many of which are based on observations from the West.

"Compared with countries in other areas like Latin America or Europe, countries in East Asia share more common ground among civilizations," Baik said on Thursday, in response to a question raised by the Global Times.

East Asian countries enjoy some common civilization assets, Baik said. Nonetheless, "[we should] not only explore which of the assets can be shared, but also make greater efforts in analyzing and researching which of the assets can help the actual development of this area," he told the Global Times.

Baik recalled that after 1992, when China and South Korea established diplomatic relations, exchanges between the two countries became increasingly frequent, which enhanced regional thinking about East Asia. Since then, Baik has studied the history and reality of China from an East Asian perspective.

Baik has served as president of the Korean Association for Contemporary Chinese Studies and the Korean Association for Studies of Modern Chinese History. His major books, including Returning of East Asia and East Asia as Intellectual Thought, have had a wide influence in the academic community of China studies in both China and South Korea.

"What I like most about Chinese civilization is its inclusiveness and flexibility," said Baik. East Asian countries should "respect each other's differences, eliminate contradictions, and enhance their ability to listen to each other," he told the Global Times.

"In the early 1970s, I became interested in China mainly because I wanted to reflect on South Korea by learning from China," he said in fluent Chinese in an acceptance speech at the forum on Friday. Nowadays, China studies need mutual learning and reference to related countries including South Korea, he added.

Having been to China many times, Baik has built good friendships with Chinese scholars in recent decades. He said that in China, he sometimes enjoys hotpot and Chinese liquor with Chinese historians such as Xu Jilin, who was also present on Thursday.

"I do not study China's history and modern reality from the perspective of a 'spectator,'" Baik said. "I'm a participant."