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[Beijing Forum 2014] Allen Turner: the newest Silk Roads of culture and economy

NOV . 24 2014

Peking University, Nov. 24, 2014: It is common knowledge that there is a famous Silk Road in the history. Then, are there any Silk Roads existing in the 21st century? At Beijing Forum 2014, Allen M. Turner, former Chairman of Columbia College Chicago’s Board of Trustees and a partner in the Pritzker Organization, offered his response through a keynote speech entitled "The Newest Silk Roads in the 21st Century."

In his speech, we could conclude that “21st century’s newest Silk Roads” refers to the “rapid exchange of information.” From perspectives of culture and economy, Allen Turner elaborated the similarities and differences of information exchange in antiquity as well as the contemporary age.

At the beginning, Allen Turner briefly introduced the history of the traditional Silk Road. “For 2000 years, the 4000 mile land routes between China and nations to its west were a principal means of exchange among cultures, governments and peoples.” Allen Turner also gave praise to the role of Silk Road, “There are many opportunities for cultural, goods and philosophical exchange. Silk Road is crucial.”

With the opening of the 21st century, there come many complications that people are faced with. Allen Turner pointed out that in modern times, our future could not be accurately forecasted on grounds of imperfect information. However, there are some self-interest stabilizing factors that reduce potential conflicts and these factors were elements embedded in the newest Silk Roads.

Then, from the perspective of culture, Allen Turner mentioned that the progress of technology has made an easier access to information.  Substantial benefit could be gained from the exchange of information and ideas, such as the reduction of misunderstanding.

Also, Allen Turner did not ignore the potential problems: the inaccuracy of information and the homogenization of cultures. To solve the former one, we need learn how to separate fact from fiction, fair-mindedness from opinion; for the latter one, “uniqueness” is the precious quality of modern society and international fashion sometimes may not be the best choice.

When it comes to economy, Allen Turner expounded that the trade among nations was increasing much more exponentially than ever before. “Capital goods, agriculture, nature resources, labor, technology and expertise move across all national borders with ease. We are in a trading economy.” And when individuals were put together, Allen Turned concluded it as “a functioning, interdependent trading network.”

In order to avoid the threats to world’s economy, “we all recognize our best interests are served by compromise and cooperation.” At the end of the speech, Allen Turned said, “This is the way we will preserve harmony among nations and prosperity for all.”

Reported by: Meng Yiran
Edited by: Li Ruiqi