Citations and Speeches


163rd Congregation (2002)

WANG Daohan
Doctor of Laws

The Public Orator Dr. Elaine Ho Yee Lin, B.A., M.PHIL., PH.D., wrote and delivered the following citation:

As we enter Shanghai from the west, the new Nanpu bridge joining Pudong to the old districts of the city rises against the skyline, the landmark of a rejuvenated Shanghai, and a statement of the city’s determination to rise to the challenges of the twenty-first century. As Party Secretary, Deputy Mayor, and Mayor of Shanghai from 1980 – 1985, and then as Advisor to the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, and Director of the Planning Office of the Shanghai Economic Zone, Wang Daohan stood at the forefront of the city’s second project of modernity in the last century, one aimed not only at recapturing the splendour of its earlier days, but to seize the opportunities of the present in order to create a future as a leading Chinese city and a world city.

In 1915, the year of Wang Daohan’s birth, China was struggling in its troubled relations with the west, relations dominated by tumultuous upheaval, erosion of national sovereignty, and damage to its cultural infrastructures. Amidst the turmoil, there was a growing desire among the Chinese people for modernization and a vision of a new and modern China that would engage the west on equal and harmonious terms. As a man of his time, Wang Daohan shared the hopes of the Chinese people, and throughout his distinguished career of service to China, he strove to make the vision of China’s modernization and reality. In the process, he has had to build many bridges – to connect with the faint-hearted and the recalcitrant, his leaders and peers, sympathizers and enemies, and above all, with the ordinary citizens of China.

Mr. Pro-Chancellor, the great Roman philosopher and statesman, Cicero, speaking of what motivated him in public life said, “Salus populi suprema est lex” – “The good of the people is the chief law”. Writing in 1989, Wang Daohan remembers the couplet of the Qing dynasty Commissioner, Lin Tse-hsu: “When the benefit of the country is the effort of life and death, against fortune’s vagaries there can be no hesitation of retreat” (苟利國家生死以,豈因禍福趨避之). There is a connection, across space and time, between ancient Roman wisdom and the devotion and determination of the man we honour today.

In 1939, Wang Daohan enrolled as a science student at Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. As a student, he read widely, often spending long hours in the city’s bookshops reading about politics, economics, culture, technology, and history: a love of books that continues today in his visits to the Shanghai Library. In 1938, he joined the Chinese Communist Party. The war against Japan disrupted his studies, and at the age of twenty-three, he left with his father, Wang Yuxiang, for Yenan. Soon, he was sent by the Party back to his home county of Jiasan, and among his many activities as wartime county chief, he launched a literacy campaign in the winter of 1941, and organized classes where people could learn to read and write.

Education continues to be one of Wang Daohan’s main passions. Currently, he is Professor of Economics at Peking, Fudan and Tong Zi Universities, sharing his wide knowledge and experience with a new generation of Chinese students. In his long career as a minister of state since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Professor Wang is distinguished for his expertise and contribution in economics, finance, and trade. Between 1949 and 1952, he was Minister of the East China Industry Department, and worked to rebuild the industrial base in the region around his home province of Anhui and the urban centres, Shanghai and Hangzhou. In 1952, at the age of thirty-seven, Wang Daohan left his familiar home-ground for Beijing, and he was not to return to Shanghai until almost thirty years later. His first office in Beijing was as Deputy Minister of the First Ministry of Machine where he remained until 1965. He also became, in 1955, Director-General of the Mechanical Engineering Society of China, a post he held until 1981. Between 1965 and 1979, he was Deputy Minister of Communications for Economic Relations with Foreign Countries, and in 1979, he became Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Economic Relations with Foreign Countries and of the Import and Export Administrative Committee and Foreign Investment Committee.

During these years, in the performance of his ministerial duties, Wang Daohan embarked on many visits to foreign countries – in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. He played crucial roles in the negotiations with these countries for transfers of scientific knowledge and technology and economic co-operation. His journeys abroad continued after Mr. Wang’s return to Shanghai in 1980 when he led delegations to Britain, North Korea, Japan, and the United States. The framework of these negotiations was an assumption that while economic development best flourished within stable political conditions, economic co-operation can also help to build friendship and better cultural understanding between different nation-states which will, in turn, be conductive to peaceful co-existence among them. Throughout his ministerial career, Wang Daohan worked tirelessly to situate China at the centre of global networks of relations between economics, culture, and politics.

Drawing upon his profound knowledge of Chinese history and culture, Professor Wang is inspired by what the best of our traditions can offer the world. At the same time, in his journeys to foreign countries as economic minister, he developed special insights into the historical and cultural differences that underpin the different economic systems of the nation-states of the world. It is his belief in the enduring bonds of affiliation which China’s long history and tradition guarantee, and his appreciation of the crucial requirement, for the sake of peaceful co-existence, of an accommodation of difference that Wang Daohan brings to his present role as Chairman of the Association for Relations across the Taiwan Straits.

Mr. Pro-Chancellor, in 1998, Professor Wang delivered a speech entitled “East Asian Civilization in the Currents of the World” (東亞文明與世界潮流) in which he fully revealed his horizons to be both Chinese and global. These are the words, in translation, of Professor Wang himself:

The starting point of relations between eastern and western civilizations was clash and conflict. Under pressure, the ancient eastern civilization gathered its energies in order to catch up with the west, and through modernization, to bring itself into the contemporary age… Now in the second half of the twentieth century, modernization has reached many places of the world. In this process of extension, the benefits of western civilization have been absorbed into local cultures, and become indigenized. And because of this indigenization, modernization has taken root differently in different nations and societies, and now displays a pluralisation never seen before… In today’s world, globalization has emerged clearly as a financial direction. The interests of nations, nation-states and the world are inevitably implicated in each other. Under these circumstances, every one, as they think about their own interests, have to think for others as well… It is also my firm belief that as different civilizations engage with and involve themselves in each other, their contracting geographical distance will also bring them closer in heart and spirit, and tomorrow will be a better world.

In these words, Wang Daohan crosses the boundaries between past and present, east and west, fully showing the breadth of his historical vision, the magnanimity of a great statesman and the quality of heart and mind of a true global citizen.

Mr. pro-Chancellor, in the Roman Republic which Cicero served, one of the greatest honours was election as pontifex maximus. The pontifex was a leading citizen, chief magistrate and was in charge of ritual, but his title means the bridge builder. In working indefatigably to bring the citizens of China closer together and closer to their leaders, in fostering relations between different Chinese communities, and in bringing China closer to the world and the world closer to China, Wang Daohan is indeed pontifex maximus, the master bridge-builder. Mr. Pro-Chancellor, it is my honour and privilege to present to you Professor Wang Daohan for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.