Title: China’s Role in a Shared Human Future
Author: Martin Albrow
Foreword by Anthony Giddens
Press: New World Press & Global China Press
Professor Martin Albrow is one of the foremost sociologists in the English-speaking world and one of the greatest experts on globalization, perhaps the most significant driving force of our times. In his pioneering work The Global Age (1996), written when the term ‘globalization’ itself was quite new, he set out the main dimensions of the profound changes that had begun to transform world society. In its most fundamental meaning, ‘globalization’ refers to the intensifying interdependence of individuals, institutions and states across the globe.
One dimension is economic – the spread of a world marketplace, a massively complex division of labor between and within companies and their work forces, coupled with financial institutions of global scope. However, globalization is also political and cultural. Increasing globalization confers many benefits, at the same time as it opens up new stresses and strains. Think,for example, of the case of China itself which, when the country opened itself out to the wider world some three decades ago, traveled all the way from mass starvation to a level of prosperity that once would have seemed inconceivable.There are still many who live close to the breadline. Yet in China’s prospering cities today one of the main health issues is the very opposite: rising levels of obesity, a condition not of scarcity but of abundance.
Many in current times speak of globalization going into reverse. The reverberations
of the global economic crisis are still being felt, especially in Western countries. Whole segments of those countries have not shared in the rising levels of abundance experienced by the majority. There are significant cultural divisions too. Cosmopolitan values – a welcoming of cultural diversity, equality between the sexes and a comfort with geographical mobility – have flowered in many larger cities. In other regions,especially those that have not shared in rising prosperity, there has been a marked reaction against these values. Resentment against immigration, hostileor racist attitudes towards ‘foreigners’, and towards ethnic or cultural minorities, has again become commonplace. These are the attitudes that have helped fuel the rise of populist parties in the West, parties which explicitly
set themselves against globalization and wish to return to the more traditional nation-state. The most significant consequence in global terms is the ascent of Donald Trump to power in the United States, a leader who wants to reverse what he sees as America’s declining power and who blames globalization for the US’s problems rather than seeing it as the source of its relative prosperity.
Make no mistake, however: globalization has not gone into reverse and short of calamity there is no chance of its doing so. Whatever its stresses and strains, the world is more and more interdependent every day. One of the prime reasons is the rise of the digital revolution, which has moved globalization – i.e. interdependence - to a wholly different level. The celebrated Canadian thinker Marshall McLuhan, writing many years ago at the outset of the digital revolution, coined the term ‘global village’ to describe the trajectory of world society. How right he was, but even he could never have guessed how far that process would develop. Consider on the level of everyday life. Someone takes a plane to London. That trip takes only some ten hours or so, an everyday miracle which depends upon global
satellite systems circling high above the earth. On arrival she calls her parents on her smart phone. It is another everyday miracle. She can see them and vice versa; and they can talk almost as if they were in the same room. Moreover, they can do so almost for nothing. And of course political leaders and billions of other ordinary people can do the same thing.
The global village is what I call a ‘high opportunity, high risk’ world, where we do not know in advance how that balance of opportunity and risk will play out. The opportunities are everywhere, China’s rise to world influence, and probably world leadership, being among them. They are of a scale that human beings have not experienced before, as witnessed in myriad scientific and technological advances, moving faster than ever before precisely because of globalization. To take just one example, this could be an era of massive innovation in medicine, because of the capacity of scientists to collaborate across the world and be in instantaneous communication with one another. Yet the risks are also without precedent in previous periods of history, in some large part because they too are globalized – we just do not know at this point whether as a species we can deal with the combined threats of climate change,a world population approaching ten billion, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, mass migration and the potential for global pandemics.
In this book Albrow does a remarkable job of shedding light on these extraordinary changes and on the pivotal role that China is likely to have in shaping their further evolution. As the United States pulls back from its former global role, China not only can, but must, assume a pivotal position in shaping world society for the better. The progress of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative will be only one element in determining whether China’s new world role will help heal divisions and promote peaceful global cooperation. That initiative has to demonstrate that it is a vehicle for free cooperation, not an imposition of sectional power.
Albrow fruitfully deploys the thinking of Xi Jinping in showing how all this might be achieved, but links that thinking in an impressive way with Western traditions, old and new. Max Weber, who a century ago sought top in point the cultural origins of Western capitalism, at the same time was fascinated with Eastern religion and culture. His writings, the author shows,still provide core ideas for a rethinking of global cooperation today. We should reject the idea that our hyper modern world can be stabilized and pacified only by hyper modern concepts and technologies. Almost the contrary is he case. In rediscovering the deep roots of shared civilizational values, we can shape a global ethics that can be the foundation of a resurgence of global cooperation.
Foreword by Anthony Giddens 3
Author’s preface 5
Part One: China’s role in the globalizing world 11
Chapter One. The architectonic of ideas - Xi Jinping: The Governance of China 13
Chapter Two. Philosophical social science as a bridge from ‘Belt and Road’ to global governance 16
Chapter Three. Harmonizing goals and values: the challenge for Belt and Road 32
Chapter Four. Bridging the divides: China’s role in a fragmenting world 37
Chapter Five. Leadership for a people’s democracy 50
Part Two: Theory for the global social order 53
Chapter Six. Chinese social theory in global social science 54
Chapter Seven. The challenge of transculturality for the USA and China 58
Chapter Eight. Pragmatic universalism and the quest for global governance67
Chapter Nine. Can there be a public philosophy for global governance? 77
Chapter Ten. How do we discover common values? 81
Chapter Eleven. The “community of shared destiny” under conditions of imperfect understanding 86
Part Three: From Max Weber to global society 99
Chapter Twelve. Max Weber, China and the World: in search of transcultural communication – co-author Zhang Xiaoying 100
Chapter Thirteen. Weber and the concept of adaptation: the case of Confucian ethics – co-author Zhang Xiaoying 124
Chapter Fourteen. Max Weber, China and the future of global society 149
Postscript: A Chinese episode in the globalization of sociology 166
Publication History with Abstracts 185
Appendix: The Globalization of Chinese Social Sciences Book Series by Xiangqun Chang 193
About the Author 213