General Preface to the ‘Understanding China and the World’ book series
By ZHENG Hangsheng and Xiangqun Chang 1
The idea of compiling a series of books in English and Chinese versions originated in 2010. The ‘Understanding China and the World’ book series was directly inspired by an important international academic event titled ‘Understanding China, Engaging with Chinese people’, held at the London School of Economics on 5-8 December of that year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Fei Xiaotong, an eminent Chinese sociologist and anthropologist. The event was jointly sponsored by the Asia Research Center, Department of Anthropology, the China in Comparative Perspective Network (CCPN), the Confucian Institute for Business in London (CIBL), at London School of Economics, and the School of Sociology and Anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University in China, the Zhejiang and UK Association (ZJUKA), and the Sino-UK Education Service Center.
As conference organizers and participants, we were well known for promoting and disseminating Chinese social science and sociology around the world. With the help of Professor Stephan Feuchtwang, the distinguished China studies expert, sociologist and anthropologist, the conference papers will be compiled as a book, entitled Fei Xiaotong’ Studies (three volumes), in both English and Chinese editions. These books contain the works of more than 40 authors, all of whom have heavy commitments, so it is very difficult to publish all the content in both languages. In 2013, the establishment of the China in Comparative Perspective Network Global (CCPN Global, now Global China Academy) and, in particular, the birth of Global China Press (now Global Century Press), a subsidiary company to Global China Academy, enabled us to put our desire to publish the series into practice. In order to promote Chinese social scientific work Fei Xiaotong’ Studies have been included in the “Globalization of Chinese Social Science book Series”.
The theme of commemorating Fei Xiaotong’s academic activities “Understanding China” became a title of another book series, namely this series of books. The English translation of ‘理解中国’is ‘understanding China’. In 2001, Dr John Brian Starr of Yale University published Understanding China, with the Chinese characters ‘了解中国’ on the cover, representing the subtitle, ‘A Guide to China’s Economy, History and Political Culture’. This opened the door to further studies aimed at understanding China. We are now making a case of renowned Chinese sociologist and anthropologist Fei Xiaotong for a starting point to a comprehensive and in-depth understanding of China.
The 21st Century Council held a forum titled ‘Understanding China’ in Beijing on 2 November 2013. This time, the phrase ‘understanding China’ was translated into ‘读懂中国’ by the media, and it has since become a hot topic in current international academia, politics, business and among the public. President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech while meeting the foreign representatives who attended the forum. He pointed out that, ‘China persists in peaceful development and will not walk the path of seeking hegemony. With China’s development, China will assume more international responsibility and more actively participate in international affairs and reformation of the international system. China is a constructive strength in promoting world peace and development. We will, with all due modesty, continue to learn advanced concepts and development experience from other countries, and will inclusively walk along a harmonious and symbiotic road to development with other countries’2. These sentiments happen to be precisely in line with Global China Academy’s ideals. Therefore, we add ‘and the world’ to the phrase ‘understanding China’: ‘understanding China and the world’ puts China in the context of globalization. Taking China and other countries and regions as a mirror, we undertake comparative studies to help ourselves and others to understand China and the world.
We sincerely invite experts and scholars at home and abroad to participate in the compilation of this series, so that we can justly claim to speak in the discourse on ‘understanding China and the world’ and promote the symbiotic dream of mankind while also realizing China’s dream.
8 April 2014
Slightly revised in December 2018
1 ZHENG Hangsheng (1936-2014), was the founder of Chinese sociology in the new modern period. He was an Honorary President of the Chinese Association of Sociological Association (CSA), Vice-President of Renmin University of China, and Director of the Center for Studies of Sociological Theory and Methods, which became the National Key Research Base for Humanities and Social Sciences of the Ministry of Education. He held longstanding leadership roles at the top of the CSA and other state-run sociological planning and governing organizations. He summarised his theoretical contribution to sociology as consisted of ‘five theories’: social operation, social transformation, social mutual-construction, practice-structure theory, and localization of the sociological discipline. His published intensively, output numbered amount to some 400 articles, and nearly 100 books, including monographs, co-authored editions, and textbooks.
Xiangqun Chang is President of Global China Academy, Editor of Journal of China in Global and Comparative Perspectives (JCGCP), Editor-in-Chief of Global Century Press, Honorary Professor at University College London (UCL), UK, and holder of professorships and senior fellowships at Peking, Renmin, Fudan and Sun Yat-sen Universities, China. Her publications amount to two million Chinese characters/English words, and include Guanxi or Li Shang Wanglai: Social Support Networks, Reciprocity and Social Creativity in a Chinese Village (English and Chinese editions, Scholarly Publishing Business, Airiti Press, Inc.)
2 ‘Xi Jinping: to solve the developing problems and improve the livelihood of the people is still China’s first priority’, Beijing Morning Post, 3 November 2013. See: http://www.chinanews.com/gn/2013/11-3/5456607.shtml .