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China embraces opportunities to expand research on overseas anthropology

Author  :  Yang Zhiqiang     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2016-12-22

Today, our planet is home to more than 200 countries and regions. Spread throughout them are more than 2,500 ethnicities and 5,000 languages. Among these diversified cultures, China is playing an increasingly greater role on the international stage. However, at the academic level, China’s research on overseas anthropology is still lagging behind practical needs.

Since the reform and opening up, China’s anthropology has made great progress in terms of theoretical methods as well as research scope. However, it is still confined to domestic studies. With China implementing its “going out” strategy in these years, Chinese companies are encouraged to expand the overseas market, and universities are also encouraged to strengthen overseas studies through existing institutions or set up new ones. The Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University, the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University and the ASEAN Research Institute at Guizhou University are all newly established institutions for this end.

Now, China is promoting the “Belt and Road” strategy. We need to learn from excellent cultures from various countries and nations to build our own success. Based on my studies and thinking, I propose the following four suggestions for expanding the research on overseas anthropology.

The first one is to include it into the framework of the “Belt and Road” strategy. Medium and long-term plans with focus should be made for studies on countries, regions or nations around the globe. For example, we should establish or strengthen special funds for natural sciences and social sciences as well as humanities to fulfill the needs for enterprise investment, tourism and cultural exchanges and encourage scholars to go overseas to do research. The research emphasis should be firstly placed on countries in Central Asia, South Asia, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Pacific islands as well as other countries or regions along the route. Also, we should encourage enterprises to invite scholars in related areas to go to places that are rich in resources or have investment value, such as Africa and South America, to do preliminary investigation and seek advice from them.

The second is to develop anthropology and related disciplines as well as to build institutions in these areas. With the focus on studying foreign cultures, anthropology has incomparable features and advantages over other humanities and social science disciplines. In China’s current system for humanities and social sciences, anthropology is only a secondary discipline subordinate to ethnology and sociology. This classification harms the development of the discipline as well as the research on overseas cultures. Therefore, for many years, scholars have called for elevating the status of anthropology.

The third is to promote the investigation and research of overseas cultures within humanities and social science domains, taking the needs from the Belt and Road construction as the drive. Measures can include setting up new research institutions or disciplines in universities and colleges, such as anthropology and minority languages. Also, universities and research institutions in different regions should foster their own specialty areas and unique features in research. For example, those in southwestern areas may focus on studies of South Asia and Southeast Asia, while those in the South can concentrate on studies of Pacific islands.

The fourth is to establish investigation bases overseas to increase cultural exchanges with other countries. On the one hand, we should introduce Chinese culture overseas and on the other hand, we should learn and comprehend history and cultures of other countries. The Confucius Institutes now spreading in the world are just for such aims. For more mutual exchanges and learning, we should build more research institutions, through cooperation and joint efforts with target countries.


Yang Zhiqiang is from the College of Humanities at Guizhou University.

Editor: Yu Hui

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