Planetary Thinking

From climate change to biodiversity loss, science has exposed deep fractures in the relationship between humans and the Earth. Swissnex for the Planet is an initiative to explore a new form of diplomacy focused on rebalancing human and nonhuman interests on this planet.

Swissnex for the Planet

Swissnex for the Planet, is an initiative to explore what we call “planetary diplomacy” across the global Swissnex network. The objective is to pioneer a novel form of science-based diplomacy aimed at recalibrating the relationship between humans and the Earth.

The idea is inspired by a growing intellectual movement questioning the human-centric character of our most influential traditions of thought and narratives of progress. Instead of seeing humans as detached from nature, it emphasizes our profound embededness in the biogeochemical system that supports all interdependent forms of life on this planet, including ours. Leveraging science and technology, planetary diplomacy would focus on balancing human and nonhuman interests, searching for an equilibrium in the relations between our species and the other living and nonliving entities and processes that make up the Earth system.

Swissnex for the Planet will serve as a global laboratory for planetary diplomacy. The initiative will feature an online group of experts developing the concept, as well as a planetary campaign of activities organized by different Swissnex locations, each exploring humanity’s relationship with the planet through the lens of locally relevant nonhuman stakeholders. 

Swissnex for the Planet will serve as a global laboratory for planetary diplomacy.

Chinese Explorations

China’s involvement in restoring our planet’s health is crucial. Often, in our perception of China, we tend to overlook  the surprising, creative, and out-of-the-box elements that are part of this vast country.


At Swissnex in China we decided to combine the Western concept of planetary thinking with the ancient Chinese concept of Wuxing to demonstrate that concerns about the planet’s health are deeply rooted in contemporary China.


We will emphasize local perspectives and compare them with global understandings, shedding light on how planetary thinking is approached in China. Additionally, the campaign can be connected to other global initiatives, such as featuring the planetary fellows. This campaign will be aligned with any additional events we organize in China or globally.

Wuxing (五行)

Deeply embedded into Chinese culture, Wuxing represents the Five Elements or Five Phases. These non-human protagonists will serve as the foundation for exploring Planetary Thinking in China.

Wuxing is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy, traditional medicine, and cosmology. It represents five dynamic processes or energies that are believed to constitute the natural world and govern its changes. The five elements are Wood (木), Fire (火), Earth (土), Metal (金), and Water (水). Each element interacts with the others through cycles of generation (e.g., Wood fuels Fire) and control (e.g., Water quenches Fire). Wuxing is used to explain a wide range of phenomena, from the body’s health to the universe’s natural rhythms, emphasizing balance and harmonious relationships among the elements.

These five elements provide a logical starting point for studying planetary thinking and the interactions between human and non-human entities through a distinct Chinese lense. They represent the fundamental concepts of how nature organizes itself and hold special significance in Chinese culture notably in understanding the balance and dynamics of the natural world and therefore the planet itself.

What's next?

What happens when we look at contemporary discourses around sustainability or environmentalism, top-end research on biodiversity or smart nutrition, Sustainable Development Goals, or COP negotiations through the prism of Wuxing?

Swissnex in China will launch events, a communication campaign, and more in the coming months to explore Sino-Swiss Explorations of Planetary Thinking.