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  • Second Enlightenment by Wang Zhihe (王治河) and Fan Meijun (樊美筠)
  • Franklin J. Woo (bio)
Wang Zhihe (王治河) and Fan Meijun (樊美筠). Second Enlightenment 第二次启蒙. Beijing: Peking University Press, 2011. 478 pp. Paperback 59 yuan, ISBN 978-7-301-16690-1.

In August 1998 the Center for Process Studies, Claremont Graduate School of Theology, California, sponsored an international conference on Process Thought and the Common Good. Among the more than three hundred participants from twenty different countries at this twenty-fifth anniversary of the Center, seven were from the People’s Republic of China. Two of the Chinese delegates, Wang Zhihe and his wife, Fan Meijun (coauthors of the above volume), decided after the conference to identify with its sponsoring Center. With a master’s in philosophy (Peking University), Wang was an associate at the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS, established in 1977). His special focus and research was on Western philosophy. Fan has a master’s degree in Chinese traditional aesthetics (Peking University) and a Ph.D. in history and Chinese thought, Beijing Normal University. For two years, she taught at the Southwest Normal University, Chongqing, followed by a professorship in the Department of Philosophy of Beijing Normal University (1987–2002). She is the author of six books on Chinese aesthetics and its relation to education.

When Deng Xiaoping emerged as the paramount Chinese leader in late 1976, the central goal of his remaining life’s mission was to continue the disrupted modernization process of the People’s Republic. His strong emphasis was on science, which he regarded as the most crucial factor in the modernization process. To [End Page 420] accomplish this gigantic task, Deng advocated sending tens of thousands of China’s brightest and best abroad to gain the science and technology that the country needed so urgently. Even for those who do not return to China but remained abroad, he confidently predicted, they would, in the long run, still be an asset to China.1

How true was Deng’s prediction, especially with regard to both Wang and Fan as assets not only to China but to the United States as well. Since the Claremont conference, Wang completed his doctoral studies in religion in 2007. Fan had returned to China to finish her teaching obligations. In 2002 she and their son rejoined Wang in California. Along with others, Wang was instrumental in the establishing the China Project of the Center for Process Studies. In 2005 Wang and Fan expanded the Project into the Institute for Postmodern Development of China for more programmatic activities with the PRC. Wang assumed the role as the latter’s executive director.

Through these two channels, Wang and Fan have been working indefatigably for more than a decade in U.S.-China intellectual relations under the rubric of constructive postmodernism (建设后现代化). They have overseen publications of the work of the Project and Institute, translations of articles and books on process thinking, especially the writings of Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947), John B. Cobb Jr., David Ray Griffin, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, and others. They have worked closely with their natural contacts in China in bringing individual and groups of scholars to Claremont and opening doors for their American counterparts to enter China on lectureships, scholarly symposiums, and conferences where East-West exchanges happen. The first international conference in China on process thinking, Whitehead and China in the New Millennium, was held in June 2002 at the Beijing Normal University (Fan’s alma mater). Since then, more than twenty networks on process thinking have been established in universities throughout China, where articles, papers, and PhD dissertations were and are appearing. Fan and Wang have successfully organized fifty symposiums or conferences, with representative names such as Toward an Ecological Civilization—the Perspectives from Marxism and Constructive Postmodernism.

Second Enlightenment is a distillation of more than a decade of interaction between Chinese and American scholars in which Fan and Wang were the facilitators. The book is a virtual diary, an annotated bibliography, and a dynamic kaleidoscope of the new modes of thinking between and among scholars in East and West toward a viable earth, our common home in a postmodern age, fraught with uncertainties and dangers with humanity at the...


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