Institute for Postmodern Development of China
NPR Affiliate interview with Zhihe Wang,
The Mission of IPDC
The aim of the Institute is to create and promote new modes of development in China and the West. Using ideas that integrate classical Chinese philosophy with constructive forms of Western thought, the Institute will address practical problems associated with economic growth, social change, globalization. It will also promote socially responsible business practices. The ideas and principles derived from this interactive process will not only assist China in its development process but also offer Western scholars new approaches to old policy enigmas. Thus, the mission of the China Institute is to promote a two-way exchange of ideas that can help solve concrete problems across cultures.
Rationale for IPDC
China is rapidly absorbing ideas and technologies from the West. Chinese universities, research institutes, and government agencies have adopted Western textbooks and models of analysis, organization, and management.
China cannot uncritically adopt Western practices. Models that emerge from Western theories are often one-sided and subject to systemic failure. For example:
1. The Green Revolution treated hunger as a technical problem and raised output of certain grains, but it did so at a cost of increasing rural inequality and ecological problems.
2. Macro-economic models have been in intellectual disarray for twenty years and have left economies in tatters when national governments apply them. By following their own course, the Chinese set an unprecedented record for economic growth.
3. When American business had a crisis of confidence in the 1980s, their CEOs turned to East Asia for more flexible models of organizational management, implicitly recognizing the limits of Western models of management.
4. Even engineering failures, such as the disasters in the U.S. space program, have been due to an inability to see that system design must take into account humans and their motives.
The West is facing an intellectual crisis, as the systems and technologies that are supposed to save time, provide more information, improve lives, or promote democracy often lead to paradoxical results. Managers and planners are understandably reluctant to admit the possibility that these anomalies represent fractures in the foundations of their thought. Nevertheless, every case of system failure raises questions about the basic premise on which modernization is based: the assumption that biological and social systems are governed by interactions that are similar to the laws of motion in Newton's physics or Darwin's principle of natural selection. The arrogant belief that it is possible to 'end hunger' or 'transplant democracy' through some simple, mechanistic processes derives from the reductionist principles of 19th century science that are still being applied to social thought.
The Institute for Postmodern Development of China does not claim to have an off-the-shelf solution for the intrinsic problems of modernization. We simply believe that it is important to begin addressing fundamental problems at the root by understanding and seeking to revise the worldview that is responsible for systemic malfunctions. As Einstein said, 'No problem can be solved within the framework that created it.'
Thus, unlike most organizations, which are dedicated to solving problems within an established framework, IPDC was founded on the assumption that no existing approach is adequate to deal with the problems that are rapidly overwhelming the capacity of governing systems. Because of the complementarities between Chinese thought and modern Western thought, we believe that continuing dialogue between Chinese and Western scholars in the humanities and social sciences can generate new frameworks that can overcome some of the blind spots in existing models. The future of humanity depends on the capacity of every society to learn from the deep structures of thought in other cultures. The next major phase in the development of civilization seems likely to result from a synthesis that encompasses the best of Western and Eastern thought and avoids some of the negative aspects of their respective histories.
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