The logo of the Macau Ricci Institute in Macau, as it is shared with its founding institution the Taipei Ricci Institute is a provocative one, a symbol with deep and multiple resonances in traditional Chinese culture. It shows a man standing on the back of a tiger, trying to ride the tiger, which is moving forward, apparently in the direction indicated by the rider. While we may be concerned about the folly of trying to ride a tiger, the website of the Ricci Institute has this to say about its meaning: “The image taken from a flat wine vessel in bronze dating from the time of the Han Dynasty, is of a Taoist Immortal riding a tiger. The Tiger, prince of the wild beasts of the mountain, is the animal in which resides the ‘Yin,’ the vital principle of Earth. The Tiger signifies the ‘Yin’ that calls forth the action of the ‘Yang.’” If the tiger symbolises “Yin” then the rider symbolises “Yang” (MRI, 2017). Riding the tiger, according to the MRI website, symbolises mastering the forces of the earth.

The gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening. A very small group has privileged access to vital resources while a growing number of people find themselves totally left behind. If we refer to the “wealth-gap” between top and bottom of the economic “pyramid” we usually focus on the disparity in access to financial resources. Those who seem locked in a vicious circle of poverty, violence and denial of rights quite often do not have proper access to education and adequate professional training. Hong Kong’s wealth gap, for example, has widened to a historic high, with the richest households now earning about 44 times what the poorest families scrape together, in spite of government efforts to alleviate poverty.

Education constantly opens the mind to new insights, skills, values and beliefs. However, the entrance to education seems to be more and more restricted to rivileged clubs to which large segments of society are unable to have access. The third issue of the Macau Ricci Institute Journal therefore explores a few perspectives on how education could be more oriented towards the benefit of the larger society rather than perpetuating a hermit kingdom where only status, power and money count. For example, the ratings and rankings of international universities and colleges seem to refer to a host of parameters, emphasising quality of teaching, financial resources and research strength. However, a key driver may be the all-too-common perception that an institution only gives access to an exclusive club mostly defined by networks of power and money. With their aspirations narrowed to power and money, students become focused above all on the initial salary they may anticipate after their graduation.

 

When we look at the sheer size and multiple dimensions of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its related projects we may often wonder how it is possible to come to grips with such a complex beast: Six new land corridors of the “Road” and the Maritime “Belt” throughout the seas, with new spaces around the globe getting more and more connected with each other. Beyond the vast expanses, what could turn out truly as innovative when the BRI was launched in 2013 is the call for reciprocity, peace and cooperation, mutual learning and mutual benefit within it. The most recent BRI summit which took place in Beijing in April 2019 insisted on the aspect of “openness and inclusiveness,” described in Mike Thompson’s opening essay, as a source of inspiration despite growing criticism from a number of countries related to a supposed “debt trap diplomacy” and an overreliance on environmentally harmful projects. Looking beyond such criticisms, our view of the BRI will focus on its spiritual nature or perhaps better the spiritual promise of the BRI. As Yang asks: what are the conditions for fulfilling the promise of a genuine “openness and inclusiveness”? He points toward a common ground of key values and institutions reflecting the Confucian principle of reciprocity (in Chinese “shu”, 恕), a principle that is at the core of mutually beneficial business relationships and technology transfers, which should benefit all stakeholders. So far 125 countries have signed 173 agreements with China in the period between 2013 through 2018, with a total Chinese investment into BRI projects of about $90 billion (People’s Daily Online, 2019).

Moral leadership begins with moral education. But moral education often is reduced to compliance and legalist approaches. This tendency to equate morality with a duty to follow the rules—judging from what we see around us nowadays—is highly ineffective, if not counter-productive. The whip of indoctrination coercing support for ideological creeds just seems to provoke greater and better organized resistance. When official textbooks for schools aim to infuse “patriotic values” following a similar logic, the predictable failure seems programmed in advance as most students are likely to resist such intrusions into their conscience.