On behalf of the Caux Round Table, let me welcome you all to this very important Global Dialogue on “A Value-Based Economy for Chin and the World – Charting the Path towards a New Platform of Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility”.
And let me say particular thanks to our partners and organisers of this round table conference the Center for International Business Ethics.
The CIBE has made an important place for itself in bridging not only Western styles of ethical analysis with Chinese ethical traditions but also philosophical reflections with practical business needs.
CIBE under the leadership of Liu Baocheng has proven its value and we look forward to many years of substantial achievements in productive collaboration.
The Caux Round Table began in response to confrontation and found that dialogue could overcome one-sided approaches to major global issues.
Then the issues were trade disputes between Japan and the west.
We have since discussed many issues – all important and most in dispute and we have learned that dialogue truly promotes deeper understanding and leads to new insights permitting solutions to what were previously deep divisions of interest and opinion.
We trust you find our dialogue approach as rewarding as we do.
These dialogues across cultures, nations, industries, have also shown that beneath differences - or perhaps above differences - are common visions and beliefs revealing often that many differences exist on a level of superficial disagreement only.
Thus the CRT has dedicated itself to seeking out and promoting the common core truths of human common sense.
In welcoming you to this Dialogue, I also want to appeal to your passionate interest in society - in all of its complexity.
We have very important issues in front of us and I want to draw on your concerns for what is missing, what can be done better, and what is being neglected.
In setting the scene for this Dialogue I want briefly draw on the beliefs of the great Chinese philosopher Mencius arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.
Mencius believed that human nature is intrinsically good, and each person should try to recover the original good nature.
By doing these things one is able to become a good leader.
Mencius had gone to see King Hui of Liang. King Hui said that he believed that Mencius had traveled the long distance because he would be able to profit the kingdom.
Mencius tells the King that the King’s thought was incorrect warning that “those above and those below will be trying to profit at the expense of one another and the state will be imperiled.”
Mencius went on to explain that explain that the only thing that matters in life is what is good and right.
Mencius said, “If righteousness be put last, and profit be put first, they will not be satisfied without snatching all.
'There never has been a benevolent man who neglected his parents. There never has been a righteous man who made his sovereign an after consideration.
'Let your Majesty also say, "Benevolence and righteousness, and let these be your only themes." Why must you use that word -- "profit?".
These are wise words and a reminder of the importance of standing up for values over power and raw self-interest.
As I said in my welcoming letter, there are only a few moments in history of significant transition from one era to another.
We are privileged to live through one of them
We are seeing the world steadily and relentlessly transitioning to one in which a society’s share of global wealth aligns more with its share of the global population – something the Lowy Institute in Australia calls the Great Convergence.
As part of this, a great nation is emerging on the world stage – China. Modern economic power and success that began with the industrial revolution in the West is now shifting to the East. And this is commencing a new and robust dynamism in global and human affairs.
As I see it, a great wave of change is building as part of this momentous shift in the distribution of power in world affairs. When you add demographics to the picture, it becomes even more dramatic.
We can stand still and let this great wave pass us by. Or we can ready ourselves to ride this great new wave to a position of higher standards of living and greater empowerment of individuals around the world.
Critical to successfully riding the wave to sustainable prosperity for all will be establishing a value based economy for China and the World. And charting the path to a rigorous platform of business ethics and corporate responsibility is a key enabler for this to happen.
Consequently, this Global Dialogue provides a remarkable opportunity to share insights and points of view with our Chinese colleagues as this great convergence evolves and the global order is being reshaped.
We have a valuable opportunity to influence how this new future is constructed and navigated. But we should be under no illusions as to the size of the shifts and the challenges ahead.
The world we are entering will see most of today’s rich countries in relative demographic decline and possible facing an economic and social future similar to that experienced by Japan over the last two decades.
The luxury the people in the West have had to simply consume more and pollute more may also no longer be readily available.
Added to this, the emerging dynamic engines of world economic growth - China, India, Indonesia, Brazil - have very different histories and cultures.
This means that the new powers will have very different perspectives on what’s important what needs to be changed and what needs to be preserved.
In seeking to understand and navigate this great convergence between societies’ proportion of world population and their contribution to global GDP, it is important to recognise that it is being driven by two big ideas.
First, the idea of human potentiality.
This means that millions of people who were locked - by fatalism - into traditional occupations and grinding poverty a mere generation ago are now being energized by the potential of their own self-improvement.
This sense of hope, dynamism and optimism is spreading throughout southern and eastern China and across India and elsewhere.
Factories of southern China are producing consumer goods of a quality and cheapness that has completely reshaped the world economy and it is bringing new opportunities to the people.
Second, the idea of globalisation.
The free flow of goods and services if done consistently and not exploited by structures of power and interest means that societies and people will concentrate on producing what they’re best at producing.
This is undoubtedly a dramatic transition they will lead to great change as it is reversing the global structure where a small proportion of the world’s population have produced the majority of its economic output.
And, less remarked on, this great convergence in the developing world is driving a convergence within the so called developed world.
It is making innovations and consumption patterns that were once the province of the wealthy and privileged minority accessible to nearly all.
Equally significant to the future and to our Dialogue is the idea of sustainability.
This is the idea, or should I say reality that the earth is not an infinite supply of resources that we can use to enrich ourselves at the expense of our children and future generations.
Nor is it an infinite receptacle for the harmful by-products of our way of life.
Which is why drastic action to limit or modify these activities is now so very important.
The concept of sustainability has spread to become a question we ask about most realms of business and human activity “how does what we do affect the circumstances of others, now and in the future?”
This brings me to this Dialogue and the four things we all need to do to ensure that it is a success.
First, we need to be courageous and even contrarian in openly sharing our thinking and ideas.
We all need to remember that ideas become influential because they disturb the intellectual ruts that human activity inevitably falls into. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Second, we need keep things simple and not find refuge in complexity.
The best ideas are typically simple and they are easy to grasp.
Third, we need to be practical.
The best ideas are practical and offer clear prescriptions for action.
Our real test of success will be if the outcome of the Dialogue helps others to suddenly see, advocate and act on new possibilities.
Finally, we need to be acutely conscious of the importance of cultural differences.
While the best ideas emerge in the open, subject to objection, critique and deconstruction from all comers cultural traditions and norms need to be respected in how things are implemented.
In particular, China brings to this new era values and cultural wisdom that have stood the test of centuries.
Importantly, the ethical standards articulated by Confucius and Mencius resonate with the Caux Round Table Principles for Responsible Business and are increasingly relevant for the vision of a harmonious society so important to China today.
I again thank you for joining us for this very important meeting and I look forward to a rich and rewarding dialogue towards our shared objective of a value-based economy for China and the world and a new and robust platform of business ethics and responsibility to guide us.