The Universal Truth: An Internal Cause of Healthy Economic Development

January 14, 2022
About the author:
Jiang Bokui, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute


Background: On the 12th of January, 2022, the Vatican City State hosted an international development event entitled 'Building a regenerative, inclusive and sustainable economy.' The gathering, jointly organized by the Vatican COVID-19 Commission and Deloitte, was held with the patronage of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. Professor Jiang Bokui, Senior Fellow of Taihe Institute, was invited and delivered an important speech titled "The Universal Truth: An Internal Cause of Healthy Economic Development."
Sister Alessandra Smerilli, Head of the Vatican Covid-19 Commission, Father Fabio Baggio, Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Professor Stefano Zamagni, President of Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Mr. Punit Renjen, Deloitte Global CEO, and Baroness Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science, were amongst the attendees. Other experts and scholars from business, finance, development economics, and academia were also gathered for the event in Vatican. A key focus for the event attendees was on how societies are being transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the presentation of emerging models for economic development that emphasize the value of nature, people, and society. 
A translated version of Professor Jiang Bokui's keynote speech follows.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
China's Spring Festival is coming, which means vitality and beauty. I pray and wish you all happiness and health. Here, I give my heartfelt thanks to the sponsors and organizers of the conference, my friends Professor Dri and Mr. Riccardo Motta! I believe the noble spirit, which is embodied in the form of the spiritual power in ladies and gentlemen, is the best preparation for the future. 
Pope Francis proposes the idea of "Common Home" for human and elucidates what owning the universality of the "Way" and the "Instrument" means to human, the sum of all the social relations and existence. 
I am spiritually touched at three levels. First, the mutual learning and the sharing of culture and civilization endow a community with a shared future for mankind with great internal power. Second, the mutual transformation and support of motive power lie between matter and consciousness. Third, human can "work with each other toward the same end" under the lighthouse that is constructed with noble spirit and faith. 
It is widely acknowledged that the operation of human society relies on the universal connection and interaction among individuals, between human and society, and between human and nature.
By drawing inspirations from prestigious economists and pondering on the spirit of religion and the law of nature, we reveal the essence of human's supreme spirit at three levels: the personality of Summum Bonum that absorbs various cultures and civilizations (e.g. universal love, credibility, and integrity, self-command and modesty), the moral law of "self-cultivation and altruism" that prevails in various religions (e.g. non-violence, abstinence, anti-evil, anti-greed and goodness), and the principle of "conformance to natural law." Besides, we theorize them as "the Universal Truth" that transcends physical limit, religious difference and national identity and that human commonly accept and follow. 
Predictably, taking "the Universal Truth" as original aspiration and motive power, human will adhere to the behavioral model and norm of instinct, balance, justice, mutual benefit, share and sustainability so as to build the common beautiful home for human.
As a matter of fact, when human and social organizations that consist of human satisfy their needs or quasi-needs of survival, development, enjoyment, and innovation, their motives and behavior digress from "the Universal Truth," Subsequently, human society pursues and undermines economic development per interim, and pursues and destroys beauty per interim. In retrospect, the crises that occur in the development of the global economy illuminate two problems that digress from "the Universal Truth." One, the bigotry, plunder, unilateralism and short-sightedness in human's thoughts and behavior that arise from their blind pursuit of maximizing the benefit of Self. Two, the betrayal of healthy economic behavior, moral, and rules that results from the defiance of social justice. In history, prestigious economists explored abstruse theories. They unveiled the necessity to place "the Universal Truth" above economy. Adam Smith underlines that human behavior, including the pursuit of material interests that is seemingly egocentric rather than altruistic, are also restrained by moral values. John Mill also affirms that, "Once public happiness is recognized as an ethical standard, the natural emotional basis will become the source of the power of utilitarianism morality." Karl Marx observes that "political economy starts from human" and that "human's return to themselves means to return to social human that accords with human nature." Friedrich Engels argues that "when avarice and lust becloud their heart, none of human's spiritual activities remain untainted."
People were once perplexed about how to discriminate between materialism and idealism. Reading the records of religious canons and combining religious form, style, system, and ethic, we can easily discover that religious ethic, which gives human ultimate concern and promises human wonderful hope and pursuit with disciplines, fails to detach human from secular world or justify their taedium vitae
The Bible states that: "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again." "Give portions to seven, yes to eight…" 
Apparently, the view that economic freedom creates value and ordinary investment activity is supported in The Bible. Here, the "value" means to provide more convenient, more comfortable, and better life for human. 
Deuteronomy records that: "Do not move your neighbor's boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess." In Judaism, the pray for wealth accumulation or commercial prosperity tallies with the law per se, yet the rich men must bear the duty to help the poor men.
The Quran mentions: "And give full measure when you measure, and weigh with a straight balance. That is good, and better in the end." "Give full measure when you measure for others and do not cheat them." The Miscellaneous Agama Sutra indicates that: "One can earn a living by tilling the land, doing business, obtaining interest from raising cattle and sheep, and making the profit from running store." In Buddhist view on economy, karma constitutes the source of wealth, and one should amass his fortune by performing many good deeds and making many friends. 
Tao Te Ching upholds that: "It is the way of Heaven to take away from those that have too much and give to those that have not enough." The model of economic development that Taoism pursues tends towards win-win or multi-win relationship, with the social-behavioral function of altruism and private gain, mutual benefit, and solidarity. 
The spiritual guidance of various religions and philosophies on human's pursuit of materialism also closely relates to "the Universal Truth." Indeed, the various religions are the same in enlightening human that one can realize the secular arrangement with "the Universal Truth" as core values and original aspiration by practicing religious faith, doctrine, and rule.
Regrettably, today, it is an irreversible fact that global economy is alienated because human's economic behavior disaccords with "the Universal Truth." However, as it suggests, "The present crisis means an opportunity for human to reconsider the relationship between human and economy." Therefore, I would like to propose three ideas. 
Firstly, conducting academic research on the theory of "the Universal Truth" and the interpretation of its spiritual essence. With lifelong education in various forms, men can perceive, internalize, and practice "the Universal Truth."
Secondly, establishing an index-evaluation system to measure the actual effect of "the Universal Truth." Different alienation indexes will be categorized and established according to different attributes and practical features of various social organizations, by which human return to the practical state that agrees with the common spiritual attribute of "the Universal Truth." 
Thirdly, religion disseminating "the Universal Truth" as determined by the special spiritual attribute of religion in practice. Human can be directed to the right path under the guidance of the religious spirit Summum Bonum in order to reconstruct various economic and social behavior. 
"Green mountains at two sites see the cloud and rain simultaneously. Bright moon connects two friends afar." As it reveals in The Bible, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again." The world keeps developing and advancing, yet it suffers from chaos and turbulence. Presently, unstable landscape overlaps with COVID-19, and various organizations rise and fall, which intensify the unstability and unpredictability in the world. For human, it is a positive choice to release the continuous spiritual power of "the Universal Truth" as a common spiritual value (Summum Bonum) and to revitalize the tradition in contemporary society so as to boost the construction of a community with a shared future for mankind and "Common Home."
In 2021, Pope Francis and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiah Muslim religious leader in Iraq, met in Najaf. It was a great meeting and proved that human society, which is a "Common Home," a community with a shared future for mankind, can become "the land of milk and honey."
If all the saints and leaders in the world truly accept and practice the idea of "the Universal Truth," if people who pursue a better future fully understand and implement the core values of "the Universal Truth," a new beautiful world will certainly appear, in which human appreciate the beauty of other cultures, promote shared prosperity and love each other, with the idyllic scene and harmony between men and the nature. 
Thank you.
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