Our Courage in 2020 and Beyond

— Some Words Written for FLIA’s Fifth Anniversary

FLIA Fifth Anniversary Poster

Five years is a milestone. As we celebrate FLIA’s fifth anniversary, it is particularly my job to assess and remind our teammates and myself how far we have gone in the past five years, how many international programs and events we have organized, how much work we have published, and how many people we have empowered or influenced along the way.

But beyond these achievements, I think it is more important to remind ourselves whether we are running closer to our believed vision. Just as in the past, we constantly ask ourselves who we are and what message we want to deliver to the world.

Our mission is to facilitate international scholarly activities, conduct high quality, independent research and policy analysis, engage in public education and awareness-building programs, create a professional network in the field, as well as amplify the voice of the rising generation. Our core vision is to empower professionals, especially young professionals, in the field of law and international affairs to achieve self-fulfillment and contribute to globalization and localization toward a more diverse, intelligent, and peaceful world.

As we are holding on to our mission and vision, I cannot help but ask myself a question – have we changed in the past five years?

Yes, and No.

FLIA is a team with over fifty established and young researchers from all over the world. We are a team of global citizens. The concept of a global citizen is first of all one of personal development. People who are viewed as global citizens usually have gone through a profound process of transformation and self-growth, during which they transcended themselves from self-abasement and self-conceit, accepted who they are and their past experiences, and believe that all individuals should be given the same attention and opportunities regardless of his or her gender, nationality, race, color, or faith.

This is a valuable and uncommon ability. It is how we became the global citizens we are by giving our attention, interest, and compassion not only to “me” and “us”, but also to “them” who even seem strange and irrelevant. Our lenses to view the world shifts from personal interests-centered, to society needs-centered, to the human development-centered. Every time when the shift happens, it means greater acceptance of ourselves and others – my thoughts are not the only thoughts in the world, my group is not the only group, my country is not the only country, my faith is not the only faith – we radically accept who we are and passionately shape who we want to become.

That is also why we are able to overcome the limits of binary opposition and provide solutions beyond the interests of only one group or one country. We live in a world where the theory and practice of binary opposition are taking over all kinds of fields – politics, law, international relations, gender and race equity, etc. It is easy to take a side, but not easy to stand in others’ shoes and try to understand the other party’s intentions and the reasons behind it. Even as global citizens, we perhaps are still suffering from not being able to fully understand the other groups due to knowledge gaps and cognition limits. But we try to develop thoughts and solutions that transcend binary opposition and reduce divisions and biases.

The coronavirus outbreak has made 2020 a very difficult time with more opposing forces. We are all frustrated. Calling it Chinese virus would probably make some people feel emotionally settled. But that really only makes the world more divided at a time when we need to come together and fight the challenges as a whole, and not let the egos of some individuals or groups prevail.

At the end of the day, it is easy to find someone to blame. But it is not easy to commit more compassion for the world and try to feel that we are all suffering from it. We live in a globalized world where the problems are globalized. We have to realize that we are actually one community with no borders. We are now all global citizens with no exceptions. During the pandemic, we surprisingly found that the NGOs, some enterprises, and many global citizens, such as artists and advocates, are playing such an important and positive role in fighting the pandemic by offering assistance to the actions of state governments and inter-governmental organizations. By doing this, they, and we, are promoting a globalized approach to the current crisis of the pandemic that is challenging the world, an approach that is so necessary at this critical time.

So, have we changed in the past five years?

Yes, we have changed, as we are constantly taking in new perspectives, re-learning the incomplete ideas, and gaining understanding of the unfamiliar.

No, we haven’t changed at all, as we are exhaustingly carrying out our mission, advocating for inclusiveness, and empowering the young generations to deal with the new challenges we are facing today.

As for the rest of 2020 and the future, on behalf of every FLIA member, I want to ask the rest of the world, do you dare to take in the entire environment and be responsible for its improvement (or worsening)? Join us, if you’ve got the courage!

Shaoming Zhu

Founder & President, Foundation for Law and International Affairs

shaomingzhu@flia.org