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Dr. WANG Daohan

62nd Congregation (2005)

Dr. WANG Daohan
Doctor of Laws

Shanghai today is impressive for its wealth and prosperity. Throughout the bustling city one finds delightful walks along tree-lined boulevards and avenues, in the shades of the foliage. But it had not always been so, certainly not in the 1980s, when Shanghai was just emerging from the devastations of the decades before. It was Mr Wang Daohan, Mayor at the time, who ushered in changes and reforms that gave the metropolis its new, glorious face, and prepared her for a period of unsurpassed growth and magnificence. Mr Wang Daohan is the President of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS). He was born in 1915 and his native place is Jiashan in Anhui Province. Under the influence of his father, he developed at an early age an interest in classical poetry and with his sharp intelligence quickly mastered the ancient art. At the age of eleven he left home for Nanjing, where he enrolled at the secondary school attached to Southeast University. Upon graduation he was admitted to Jiaotong University in Shanghai, where he started in Mechanical Engineering but, on the basis of his high academic results, was later transferred to the Physics Department. When the war against Japanese aggression began, a strong sense of duty called him to arms and he enrolled in the New Fourth Army. He served in a number of military and civic capacities, seeing action in northern Jiangsu and southern Huainan. After 1949 he was successively the Director of Finance of Hangzhou, the Director of Finance and then of Commerce of Zhejiang, and the Director of Industry in Eastern China. Later he was appointed as the First Deputy Minister for Mechanical Industries, the First Deputy Chairman of the Council on External Economic Relations, Member of the National Import and Export Council, and the Deputy Director of the Foreign Investment Regulatory Board. During this phase of his public service he undertook many overseas trips as the head of various delegations, visiting countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. With his immense experience, outstanding capabilities and exemplary virtues, Mr Wang Daohan was appointed the Mayor of Shanghai in 1981. During his term he put his heart and soul to the opening up of the city and the necessary reforms. All his measures were designed for the greatest benefit of his citizens, and he was quick to accept wise counsel whenever offered. A master planner, he bought in advanced technology, with spectacular results. Mr Wang is a visionary. He believed that as the new millennium dawns, China must set her eyes on the future and move with the times in all spheres: political, economic and cultural. Hence he was among the first to recognize that the Chinese economy had to be a part of the global system. He took the initiative to seek opportunities for national economic development and drew up a blueprint for municipal progress in Shanghai. He was receptive to views expressed in open forums, and invited his citizens to freely comment on issues important to the city. He picked the brains of scholars and experts from outside China, whom he enthusiastically invited to contribute to his projects on development and reform. Under his meticulous supervision the grand plan for Shanghai gradually took shape, for example the opening up of Pudong and its elevation to a financial centre. The city also sought advice from the Japanese experience in order to secure an international expo in the near future. These projects, set in motion in the 1980s, are now splendidly bearing fruit. Mr Wang Daohan did not limit himself to grand plans; he also paid attention to the many practical and technical aspects of his reform programme. When he first became Mayor, the blight left from the previous decade caused him considerable headache: housing, food supply, schooling and environmental damage, to cite only a few. All these problems weighed heavily upon the office of the Mayor, but its incumbent likened the burden to a heavy pack put on the back of an athlete – a challenge to test his ability and resolve. So he tackled the problems with determination. His indefatigable will and relentless efforts eventually led to effective solutions: the Suzhou River was improved, the first ecological office in the country was established, a large number of research centres were set up for development policies, the Shanghai Airlines Company Limited was founded, and four major international hotel chains were brought in, just to name a few of his achievements. Mr Wang’s completed his term as Mayor in 1985. He became an advisor to the municipal government in 1986, and in the same year was appointed Director of the Shanghai Economic Planning Office under the State Council. He has been a member of the Central Advisory Committee since 1987. He followed the time-honoured Chinese tradition that every person has responsibility for the nation’s welfare; with matters of state always on his mind, Mr Wang selflessly and tirelessly offered his service and wisdom to the country. His own scope and perspective were considerably broadened during this phase of his career through frequent contacts with representatives of various industries and professions as well as business leaders from overseas and from Taiwan. In 1991, the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits was inaugurated in Beijing, and Mr Wang, the most senior member and the most highly regarded for his wisdom and learning, was elected its President. Mr Wang’s achievements as President of the ARATS are illustrious, and the “Consensus of 2nd September” and “Meeting on 3rd September” are particularly well known. Mr Wang has an enlightened mind and his views and opinions are always distinguished. In a speech on “the Civilization of Southeast Asia and Global Trends”, he sought to explain the origin of modernization from the perspective of zhongyong – the Confucian concept of the way of the mean. He then went on to invoke the Confucian ideals of “creating peace for posterity” and “harmony between heaven and man”, and suggested that all human civilizations must “seek dialogue on an equal footing, and pursue enterprises that complement and benefit each other.” In peaceful pursuit of mutual benefits, Mr Wang held talks with the late Mr Koo Chen-fu, Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation of Taiwan, in Singapore on 29th April 1993. The historic meeting resulted in four agreements, which have been significant in promoting economic cooperation across the Strait. These talks were clearly defined as “non-governmental, on an economic level, practical and utilitarian” at the time, and were truly reflective of the desire of people on both sides of the Strait for contact, negotiation, cooperation, joint economic development and greater prosperity for the Chinese people as a whole. Mr Wang recently said that “people on both sides of the Strait are Chinese, of the same flesh and blood. Between brothers no past conflicts are beyond reconciliation, no preconceived ideas are so sacrosanct that they cannot be set aside.” These comments show Mr Wang’s lofty ideals and his utmost concern for the welfare of the country and the people. Over the years he has laboured untiringly to promote the cause of cooperation across the Strait, wholeheartedly devoting his time and energy to it. In 1998, as a sequel to the Singapore talks, Mr Koo Chen-fu headed a delegation on a visit to Shanghai. In 2005 both Dr Lien Chan, President of the Kuomintang, and Mr James Soong, President of the People First Party, called on Mr Wang when their delegations visited Shanghai. These facts testify to the very important role that Mr Wang has played in bridging the gap between the two sides. Mr Wang Daohan is an avid reader who regards visiting bookshops as his best pastime. And he once observed that “reading is life.” To this day reading is still his favourite hobby after work, and there are books everywhere in his office and in his residence. He has a personal library with over a hundred thousand volumes. He reads extensively on a wide range of subjects, from the classics and literature to science, technology, economics and management. He reads quickly but retains all that he has read in his excellent memory. He is now over ninety; yet his mind is quick and creative as always. He is stern with himself as a superior and a father, but generous to his subordinates and children. He is a scholar with the highest moral integrity and often says that “let us just do our best in what we have to do and leave the judgment to history.” Such is the way of this modest gentleman so worthy of emulation. Mr Wang Daohan is a visiting professor at a number of leading universities including Peking University, Fudan University, Tongji University, and Jiaotong University in Shanghai. In 1985 he received an honorary doctorate in public administration from Tufts University in the United States, and in 2002 was made an honorary Doctor of Laws by the University of Hong Kong. Mr Wang Daohan is a renowned scholar and a remarkable statesman. As Mayor of Shanghai and the President of ARATS he has contributed substantially to the economic development of China and mutual understanding between the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. Over the years Mr Wang has been very supportive of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and has facilitated academic links between the Chinese University and tertiary institutions in Shanghai and elsewhere in the Mainland. In recognition of his illustrious achievements, Mr Chancellor, may I present Mr Wang Daohan for the award of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.