Chou Wen-chung

The Yunnan Initiative

In 1999, the Center and its Chinese counterparts cosponsored the Leadership Conference on Conservancy and Development. The conference resulted in a comprehensive policy statement, “The Yunnan Initiative.”

From September 13 through 18, 1999, more than 180 experts and observers from China, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the United States, Australia, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam participated in the Leadership Conference on Conservancy and Development jointly convened by The Center for United States - China Arts Exchange and Yunnan Provincial Association for Cultural Exchanges with Foreign Countries, in Kunming and Lijiang, Yunnan.

By means of briefings, exhibits, demonstrations, site visits, and presentation and discussion sessions, a wide range of topics were investigated in areas such as the current condition of Yunnan’s culture, ecology, economy and society, and its potential for change; how culture and nature conservancy complement each other and influence economic and social development; strategies for comprehensive and sustainable conservancy while promoting economic growth; and whether Yunnan, in view of its great cultural and ecological diversity, offers appropriate conditions for conceiving globally applicable strategies; and above all, how these deliberations will improve the quality of life and sustain the heritage of each of the 26 nationalities of Yunnan. A rich tapestry of ideas and recommendations emerged from dynamic exchanges between Chinese and international participants and among experts in different professions and with diverse concerns. The following conclusions were reached at the end of the five-day dialogue:

  1. 1That the coordinated and balanced development of culture, ecology and the environment, economy, and social development is the most promising avenue for interactions between humanity and nature.
  2. That we value the Yunnan provincial leadership’s general policy of developing Yunnan into “a great province of nationalities cultures.” This policy identifies the Province’s diversity in nature and culture as the basis for development, making Yunnan “an economically prosperous, culturally and ecologically vibrant, ethnically integrated, and a socially hospitable modern province.”
  3. That this is a farsighted policy for such a large region and is well designed for Yunnan because of the high level of cultural and ecological diversity in the Province and because the outcome of the policy could provide the answer to many questions raised globally as well as locally. However, the implementation of the policy requires a high degree of commitment from all concerned.
  4. That the process of dialogue, so fruitfully begun at the Conference, should continue in a format that encourages international collaboration with the participation of Yunnan’s authorities, the private sector, scholars, artists, and professionals, as well as cultural leaders and representatives from communities of all the nationalities.
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