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Tony Blair addresses students at PKU

Peking University, Dec. 1, 2012: Mr. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of United Kingdom, paid a visit to Peking University (PKU) and addressed the students at the PKU Hall on December 1, which was his 28th visit to China. The whole lecture consisted of 2 parts: a seminar with the student representatives from PKU, and a public speech.


Part 1: Seminar


Mr. Tony Blair first had a seminar with 14 student representatives from various departments in the meeting room of PKU Hall. He patiently answered questions from the students and had warm discussion with them. The topic was about religion and philosophy.


 “I feel religion is that I’m attached to my faith, but if you disagree, that’s your right too,” Mr. Blair said, “Some people I know say, ‘religion is just bad, and it’s the source of conflict’, but what I say is that the source of conflict is people, they misuse religions. Just like the people misuse politics. Do not make politics a bad thing, since the bad thing is, you know, people.”


When asked if he thinks that the spread of religion in china will affect diplomatic affairs of China, Mr. Blair put it, “To be frank, it’s very difficult sometimes to have this conversation about the religions in china. Because, on the one hand, I think that there’s a desire to have some sense of spiritual reality alongside prosperity. The country becomes better off; people also want to balance the material and spiritual. And that could be done in a number of different ways like the tradition of Confucianism was the way most popular. But some people will become Buddhist or Christians. So I think, in the end, this is going to make a difference about how China develops”.


He also held the view that China could help global development on this issue and people accept there are different religions or different understandings on religion even if it is a private issue for them. Mr. Blair put religion a very important place after talking about the situation while he was a young student in UK back in 1970s. He pointed out, “When I was your age, our society became more prosperous so religion disappeared, but in parts of the west, it hadn’t. And in the developing world, it hasn’t actually. So it is probably more people’s religious facilitation today started 40 years ago. So it is one of the reasons why it is important to study religion and its place in the world today.”


“The reason that I think it is such an important subject today is that the 20th century was very much a century where political ideology is very very important, like Communism, Capitalism, Nazism, and a lot more points, extremely political ideology, came up to our all sights. You look the world today; you talk about market-economy social characteristics or social-economy market characteristics. You have your own way of saying this is a market and a society, we have our own way of saying this is a market and society. Actually, this fundamental political ideology is 20th century not 21st century, but what easily could be 21st century ideology is about culture, and religion. So if you look at conflicts in the world today, over half of them are actually from the religious dimension. This is what important.” Mr. Blair finally said.



Part 2: Speech


Right after the seminar, Mr. Tony Blair delivered a public speech at Multifunctional room of PKU Hall, focusing on globalization and its challenges. Student representatives from different colleges and departments listened to his speech.


This is the second time that Mr. Blair pay a visit to Peking University, the first time was in the year of 2008, “I remember 2008, the time of the Olympics. This year is 2012, and we have Olympics in London. Cause you guys did so well in 2008, that we have to be some spectacular in 2012.” Mr. Blair said, “So it’s a wonderful thing to be back here again.”


The main topic of Mr. Blair’s speech today was globalization. “The world is driven by the force, which is called globalization.” Mr. Blair remarked, “Globalization is a fact and it’s only going to get stronger.”


Then Mr. Blair further explained the impacts of globalization, “First of all, it produces challenges that are also global in nature. “ Mr. Blair took the global economy as an example, “Today what happens to the RMB affects America; what happens to the dollar affects China, who got many reserves in dollar. So the point is the impact of China on America, or America on China, is big today. The impact of Europe on the world economy is also big. We have a situation today - the global economy is more interdependent and integrated than it ever be in human history. “


“And that we say migration, the movement of people across the world, again today is a result of globalization. This is happening in a way that is unprecedented. Immigration is a big political issue, because it is the process of the globalization, which is thriving. “



Mr. Blair stressed the development of social media as well. “When I was in your age, as a student, we didn’t have mobile phones. I know it sounds strange. It sounds like back to the Stone Age.” Mr. Blair said in humor. Therefore with the rapid development of social media, now people are mixing more with other people than ever before.


Facing the process and the force of globalization, it is evidently that we have to corporate and work together in the world more than ever before. In Mr. Blair’s eye, there are four areas that we should work together today in the way that is different from what we have done before, which are the economy, climate and the environment, security issues and cultural communication.


Mr. Blair takes China’s opening up as an example, “How does China come from where it was decades ago to where it is today? By opening up. By the way, what is happening in your country? It’s the symbol of the biggest advance in terms of lifting people out of the poverty; it’s the symbol of the biggest advance the human history ever knows. It’s extraordinary thing. In the year of 2000 we set a series of millennium goals called the United Nations Development Goals. One of them we met, is the reduction of poverty and we met because of China, etc. Not only China but mainly. And how would that happen? It happened because China opened up.” Therefore, it is of vital importance to keep the world trade open.


For the issue of climate and the environment, Mr. Blair regards it as a “very tough” problem, however, we need to cooperate and work on it. “I think it is increasingly clear that if this generation does not take strong action to protect our environment, then we will be acting in a way that is irresponsible for the generations to come.” To work on it, the development and the sharing of science and technology is a must, and global cooperation will be playing an important role.


In the era of globalization, the impact of a particular security problem is far beyond the particular region where any conflict is located. The impact spreads fast across national boundaries, and the new media and technology multiplies the impact. Therefore, Mr. Blair thinks that to cooperate on security questions is very important for us, because if we fail to cooperate, we get chaos and disorder that is fundamentally dangerous.


“The fourth area is one that my foundation focuses on and the reason for the partnership with this great university.” Mr. Blair said, “And that is this idea of how people with different cultures also understand each other better and learn to live with each other.” Mr. Blair stressed the importance of understanding the other people, “Where there is understanding, there is more likely to be harmony, because the knowledge about the other person reduces the conflict.”


Therefore, a platform on which people could have communication and dialogues and understand each other is of vital importance, luckily globalization offers us the opportunities to create the platforms. “So we actually have the means within our hands, to communicate with each other, and cooperate with each other, and work with each other, learn about each other, learn to live with each other. Challenge is for us to do it, and that has to be worked on. The reason why this partnership is important between my foundation and Peking University is this is a better place to do this here in China, and it’s no better way to do it. The university is the great tuition for learning, with yourselves students, you are going to be the future of our world. One day you’ll be decision-makers, like I was a decision-maker. It will be your responsibility and how your minds develop now, how you learn to think about the world will be an important part for the peace and harmony of our world.” Mr. Blair ended the speech with this final point.


In the Q&A session afterwards, the students raised questions focusing on the immigrants in UK, BBC and English literature and so on. Mr. Blair answered all the questions patiently and received warm applause, bringing Mr. Blair’s one-hour public speech to a perfect end.


Reported by: Gao Hongfei, Guo Caichen, Ji Fan

Edited by: Zhang Jiang