2010 Bartlett Lecture to focus on Chinese just war theory

Ping-cheung Lo, associate dean and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at Hong Kong Baptist University, will deliver the 2010 Bartlett Lectures at Yale Divinity School on the topic “The Art of War Corpus and Chinese Just War Ethics Past and Present.” The lecture, free and open to the public, is scheduled for Jan. 26, 5:30-6:30 pm, in Niebuhr Hall on the YDS campus, 409 Prospect St., New Haven. A reception will follow the lecture in the Sarah Smith Gallery.

LoAccording to Lo, much has been written on the Just War tradition in the West, and work on the analogous tradition in world religions and civilizations, especially Islam, has been rapidly catching up. However, research into the Chinese traditions has not been developed at the same pace, and his lecture will attempt to fill the gap.

“The term ‘yi zhan’ (usually translated as ‘just war’ or ‘righteous war’ in English) was renewed by Mao Zedong and is still being used in China today,” he said. “The best place to start exploring this Chinese idea is in the enormous Art of War corpus in premodern China, of which The Seven Military Classics is the best representative. This set of treatises is the military Bible in premodern China since 1078 C.E. It has a long history of interpretation and is still being studied by the military universities/academies both in the People’s Republic of China and in Taiwan.”

According to Lo, the modern Chinese discussion of just war grapples with the concepts of just cause and right intention but neglects to deal with important components of just war theory dealing with principles of discrimination and of proportionality of means. It is desirable to revive discussion of these principles, contends Lo, “so that China’s future use of military force can be restrained by native Chinese military ethics.”

In addition to his role as dean and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at Hong Kong Baptist University, Lo is also a professor in the Department of Religion and Philosophy. He has been a visiting scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University and an international visiting scholar at The Hastings Center in Garrison, NY. He is co-editor of the Journal for the Study of Christian Culture. His publications are mainly in bioethics, religion and morality, and he is currently working on two books: Confucian-Christian Dialogue from Matteo Ricci to Contemporary Political Confucianism; Confucian Ethics and Contemporary Moral Issues.

The lecture will be webcast live on the YDS multimedia site.