Our Past

Professor Bountra trained at King’s College London and the University of Edinburgh before taking up a post-doctoral fellowship and college lectureship in Physiology at Oxford. He then worked for 19 years in the pharmaceutical industry, where he was involved in the development of candidate drugs for several diseases, including novel treatments for cancer chemotherapy and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

He returned to Oxford as Professor of Translational Medicine in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine and as an Associate Member of the Department of Pharmacology. Professor Bountra is currently working with nine pharmaceutical companies, eight disease foundations and more than 100 academic labs to develop new drugs for a range of common and rare diseases.

Professor Bountra was previously Vice President and Head of Biology at GlaxoSmithKline. He was involved in the identification of more than 40 clinical candidates for many gastro-intestinal, inflammatory and neuro-psychiatric diseases. More than 20 of these molecules progressed into patient studies and more than five of these delivered successful “Proof of Concept” data and progressed into late stage development. He was involved in the launch and development of the first treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (Alosetron) and was the first to show that neurokinin NK1 antagonists are anti-emetic in preclinical and clinical studies.

Dr. Leslie Liu is the Corporate Vice President of JD.com, and Head of JD Cloud Ecosystem. He joined JD Smart in 2014 where he served as VP of JD Smart and GM of smart enterprise division. He incorporated technology into the business platform and started innovative services on JD Cloud like EdTech, MedTech, MarTech, AloT. This new technology and business platform incorporates the capabilities from both JD’s BUs and its partners, extending the business reach of JD group.

Dr Liu focuses on the applications of cloud services, with which he is transforming the traditional industries. He works with industry partners to build JD+ ecosystem through corporate-level collaboration, investment, joint ventures, and sponsoring joint events. In 2018, he was awarded by Tencent Marketing Institute and Harvard Business Review the reward for innovations in business models in "30 People of Innovation in China"

Before joining JD, Dr. Liu served at IBM GMU Research Headquarters in Shanghai and Prior to that, at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he managed a global portfolio and led several strategic initiatives on Big data and mobile solutions. Dr. Liu is the author of nine patent applications and received the IBM Invention Achievement Award in both 2010 and 2011. He graduated from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in 2007 with a Ph.D. in Computer Science.

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Recent political events, such as the Sino-American trade war, demonstrate the rise of anti-globalization sentiments against the backdrop of increasing global integration. As an important actor in the international community and the champion of free trade and multilateralism, China’s role in globalization has become a salient topic in the discourse of international relations.

With an exclusive focus on international economics, we are dedicated to present a panel with international academics, a politician and a Chinese official to discuss the Chinese approach to the issue of our time from different perspectives. We will explore the roles of and relationship between protectionism and Chinese enterprises, as well as the impacts of the Chinese approach on China and the region, such as the economic consequences of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Public health is one of the most conspicuous global challenges. As Constitution of WHO states, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. It is a primary concern to many developing countries as to how to guarantee the physical and mental health of their populations while sustaining economic growth.

Public health in China regards the interests of nearly 1.4 billion population as well as the nation’s sustainable development. Chinese government has been making continuous efforts to deepen medical and health reforms and to promote departmental administrative integration in such fields as population and health. Meanwhile, however, new public health issues, such as hospice care, occupational diseases and poverty, and AIDS, constantly pose new challenges to the public health system. Public health as a public good, we believe, demands concerted collaboration among government, social organisations, and research institutions etc. to achieve synthesis of both resources and policies. The Public Health Panel therefore invites distinguished guests, who have contributed to public health development in their professional capacity in different sectors, to exchange their understandings of medical and health reforms and of prominent issues in public health in China.

Thanks to the continuous efforts of translators and academic facilitators, contemporary Chinese literature has gradually grown to be one of the major forces in world literature today. As the publishing industries continue to thrive in multiple Chinese-speaking societies, the variety of literary outputs has developed at an exponential rate, and the success of this expansion has been testified in recent years by the numerous international literary prizes awarded to Chinese writers and their translators. However, the male intellectual tradition from the Republican era still holds strongly in the contemporary Chinese literary scene and women’s issues and voices are often sidelined or given tokenistic treatment.

With these challenges in mind, our literature panel this year presents to you four excellent cultural workers from different backgrounds, including fiction, academia, journalism, and translation. In their works or experiences, women’s welfare and representation have always been some of the major concerns, and together they will discuss how gender affects the development of Chinese literature, especially in the years to come.

Just a mere decade ago, the thought that China could even come close to the technological forefront would seem outlandish. Not anymore. Home to two world-class tech giants Tencent and Alibaba, equipped with the world’s largest online payments market, and as the only country to record a double-digit growth in patent applications as well as accounting for 20% of total world R&D expenditure, China’s sudden technological rise has left the world in awe. What has caused such a dramatic transformation? Are there any potential pitfalls in China’s continued growth? And finally, is China on its way to becoming the next tech leader?

Through engaging Chinese and Western tech entrepreneurs, alongside policy researchers and scholars in a round table discussion, this panel aims to shed light on the past and future of China’s path to technological dominance.

Today, the rapid development of technology and the internet become increasingly influential in the field of art. The large amount of data and information broaden horizons, injecting new possibilities into artistic creation and diversifying the ways in which we engage with art, indicating infinite potentialities for the future. The distinguished guests on the art panel will share their lived experiences in the internationalization of art, across the geographical, institutional, and cultural boundaries.

Through this forum, we can discuss ideas and engage in an exploration of contemporary Chinese art on the international stage; the shifting roles for art practitioners in reaction to rapid changes and developments in the art world; the diversification of conceptual and artistic expressions for art of the future.

The slogan ‘women hold up half the sky’ propagated by Chairman Maoundergirded the construction of women in the Mao era and still lingers today in theimagination of socialism with Chinese characteristics. In the digitalagewith the popularization of wechat public accounts that profit fromcouchingwomen to “achieve their full potential”, netizens, patriarchy defendersand “real feminists” alike, have constructed a new discourse of “Chineserural feminists中华田园女权” criticising those who oscillate between utilizingfeminism and patriarchy in order to gain most material benefits. Asarguedby Li Xiaojiang(2004), rather than situating Chinese feminism in anantagonisticstance against the state and market, it shall be put within the contextof development.

However, how shall we understand Chinese feminism in themesh of socialism, market economy and the digital age which augmentsconsumerism,self-construction, and surveillance? From a micro perspective, we wishto understand the obstacles and struggles facing women in China andlearnhow they tackle, mingle, subvert or perceive male-dominance.

Mr. Xu Xiao-Ping is the Founding Partner of ZhenFund (真格基金),a leading earlystage fund which has been ranked first in “Top 30 Early-stage Firms of the Year” by Zero2IPO Group for 4 consecutive years. He is known as one of China’s pioneering angel investors. Prior to founding ZhenFund, Mr. Xu was a Co-Founder of New Oriental Education & Technology Group (NYSE: EDU), the largest provider of private education in China.

The Founder Magazine named Mr. Xu as “2010 Most Respected Angel Investor” and “2013 Best Angel Investor”. He was also named “2014 Best Angel Investor” by CV Source and given the “2014 Chinese Business Leaders Award” by Phoenix TV. Forbes Magazine listed Mr. Xu as one of China’s “Top 100 Celebrities” in 2004.

Mr. Xu has a bachelor’s degree from China Central Conservatory of Music and holds a Ma s ter degree from University of Saskatchewan, Canada. He is currently the President of China Angel Club, China’s top angel investor organisation, President of China Angel Committee by CSRC (China Securities Regulatory Committee).

Globalisation faces mounting pressure from all sides. The US used to champion the idea of a global village but now pursues an “American First” approach under the Trump administration. The world today is witnessing insufficient drive for economic growth, a widening wealth gap and the spread of nonconventional security threats like terrorism, and cybercrime. These challenges require global solutions.

It is widely believed that China has become the most important advocate and practitioner of globalisation in the world. The phrase "building a community with a shared future for mankind" is a concept constantly mentioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping both at home and abroad. In 2017, it was written in the report of the 19th CCP party congress and became part of the guideline for Chinese diplomacy. The Belt and Road Initiative is one way of putting the concept into practice. President Xi believes that the initiative will become a significant platform for countries concerned to realise their common development through cooperation.

How should we interpret the concept of "building a community with a shared future for mankind”? To what extent will the concept influence Sino-European relations? How will Sino-European relation develop in the context of transnational crises in Europe?

The modern history of China is marked by strenuous efforts on the part of Chinese intellectuals to recover a strong and prosperous China out of poverty and corruption. One of the central questions in the debate is how to deal with the legacy of Confucianism. In their confrontation with the West, the Chinese indeed tried a wide range of social experiments including Qing China’s ‘Eastern Ways, Western Technologies’ and Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Culture Revolution, which brought about devastating effects on Chinese society.

After four decades of reform, China is still struggling to accommodate and learn from Confucianism, a living legacy that has, over hundreds of years, seen China’s ups and downs. Confucian moral values continue to shape the hurly-burly of daily life in China and the ideal of finding a benevolent leader governing the country still hovers around Chinese politics. Confucianism, however, also needs to confront many challenges issuing from the modern era—the challenges of the rule of law, of democracy and of human rights.

What varieties of Confucianism can we render intelligible in the contemporary Chinese context? And what can China learn from the social and political experience of the pan-Confucian world such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore? In addressing these questions, the philosophy panel will deliver insights from top political theorists and Confucian philosophers in the world today.

This year, the Rural China Panel will focus on the topic “Rural Chinese Society: The Future of the Next Generation”. We would like to explore how urbanisation and modernisation have affected the diminishing rural population and what challenges the new generation of rural China faces. We have always believed that the discussion on rural Chinese society should be a significant theme in the narrative of modern China. On the one hand, rural Chinese society is a link to the past Chinese traditions and culture. On the other hand, rural China is also the source of potential problems and change.

Following the open-up of the Chinese economy and the marketisation in late 1980s, various social issues surge forward. Urban migration, aged population in the countryside, education for children in rural China, transportation safety are all imminent problems waiting to be solved. The future developmental path of rural China will crucially influence a number of socio-political concerns, such as urban-rural inequality, political freedom, democratic elections, etc. Bearing all these in mind, we hope that through our panel discussion we are able to find a way which can lead rural Chinese society to a prosperous future.

For the first time in Oxford China Forum’s history, we are offering a literature panel. China’s literature today face unique challenges. The proliferation of new social media platforms combined with the old censorship regime invites the question of how we can build and sustain literary high culture in China. Globalising Chinese literature is oftentimes barred by difficulties in achieving precise and elegant translation.

Is accessibility for the audience overseas a concern for Chinese writers in their writing today? Are media adaptations of literature distracting or attracting the audience in terms of sustained interest in quality reading? How relevant are topics in identity politics in today's China? Is the country really at the forefront of the postmodern marketisation of culture? We invite you to explore these questions with our distinguished guests from the academia and literature related industries.

The Art & Culture panel will be themed around ‘Reinvention and Revival’. This panel is specially designed for interdisciplinary discussions on Chinese art and culture, from the perspective of all kinds of artists, including dancers, calligraphers, writers and painters. The multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary backgrounds of our distinguished guests will hopefully inject the discussions with vibrancy and refreshing ideas. The last one hundred years saw art and culture in China challenged from multiple fronts. Whilst the influx of Western art and aestheticism stimulated change and adaption, the growing economy and expanding market raised the issue of commercialisation. Attempts were made to recovered the lost tradition, while reinvention was also actively sought.

In this panel discussion, we will be exploring the transformation of Chinese art in the last century, the way it echoes with Western culture, and the underlying social current that influenced the realm of art profoundly. We will also look into the tension between materialism and idealism, and between westernisation and the traditionalist approach.

This year the technology panel will be exploring the topic ‘Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work’. AI is in the news almost every day. It has been described as ‘the new electricity’, which will revolutionise industries from automotive to manufacturing to healthcare. Cities are getting smarter, cars are driving themselves, online customer service robots can answer questions and artificial intelligence is helping doctors to detect disease more accurately. China has been taking a leading role in the development of AI. Last year China received one third of the world's AI funding, published more articles on deep learning than the US and grew to host 23% of the world's AI companies. Innovative products such as mobile payments, e-commerce delivery, autonomous cars and the sharing economy are shaping China's economy and driving rapid growth.

We do not yet know how AI will affect the workforce or the extent to which AI will come to shape our lives. Should we worry about technological unemployment, the way John Maynard Keynes did in the 1930s or the Luddites did in the 19th century? History would suggest that such concerns are foolhardy. What we do know is that there is a stark difference in the Western and Eastern attitudes to AI which affect the way AI is governed. An increasingly bipolar AI landscape will also have implications for geopolitics. In this panel, we will discuss the frontier of China’s AI industry, attitudes to AI in China and how AI might affect the global economy and balance of power.

Ever since China’s economic reforms in the 1980s, the private sector has been playing an increasingly crucial role in the country’s economy, resulting in a tremendous boost of its GDP and immense transformation in Chinese people’s life. However, as manufacturing – the main engine of China’s growth – seems to approach its ceiling, innovation now becomes the new crux of entrepreneurship. While entrepreneurs embark upon this new stage of their long march, not only need they keep up with technological development and changes in consumer mentality, but they also have to deal with international competition, market rules and their social responsibility.

With speakers from backgrounds of venture capital, biotechnology, asset management and media industry, the Entrepreneurship Panel will be looking into difficulties that fledgling Chinese companies face in common and factors that contribute to their innovation. The panel will also examine the role of entrepreneurship in social reforms and resources allocation, especially in the light of the Chinese economy’s ‘new norm’.