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Innovative topics, concepts crucial to develop social sciences

Author  :  Zhang Jiang     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2017-06-12

Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed the irreplaceable role of philosophy and social sciences in the process of building socialism with Chinese characteristics, urging the incorporation of Chinese features into their development. He made the remarks at a symposium discussing the country’s work in philosophy and social sciences on May 17 last year. On the same day this year, Xi sent a congratulatory letter to the the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on its 40th anniversary, praising the role of CASS in boosting the Sinicization of Marxism and developing Chinese philosophy and social sciences in the past four decades. Xi’s remarks and letter offer encouragement to China’s social scientists and also serve as a guideline for how to further develop Chinese philosophy and social sciences.

Build academic discourse system

Top academic research and outcomes all focus on people’s needs, aim to solve major practical issues, grasp the pulse of the times and promote social development. Academic research does not exist in a vacuum. Its fruits are manifested in economic and social progress. China’s academic discourse is built upon the country’s own experience and is improved and enriched through solving practical problems. Xi called for researchers in philosophy and social sciences to innovate in academics through proactively proposing academic topics and signature concepts.

For one thing, putting forth innovative academic topics is the fundamental means by which Chinese academia can stay on the frontiers of research and lead the trends. Right now, China is still weak in academic innovation as well as in construction of disciplinary, academic and discourse systems. Some important academic viewpoints, trends and schools did not originate from China, and some research topics are not proposed by Chinese scholars.

To change this situation, philosophy and social sciences researchers should develop Marxism that fits into the 21st century and contemporary China while adhering to the basic principles of Marxist theories. Therefore, we can maintain innovation and set up localized research topics that are also of global significance rather than mechanically apply Western theories and standards.

For another, proposing signature concepts is essential to build philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics and to solve the country’s practical problems. We should uphold the scientific spirit and create new concepts to capture China’s latest practices and experiences, and then create China’s own system of academic concepts, which in turn can better guide future practice. One thing to note is that these new concepts are formed based on profound research on history and academic knowledge already gained.

Nevertheless, the act of proposing new academic topics and concepts should be an ongoing process that never stops. Focusing on these two aspects, researchers should grasp historic opportunities and make more achievements. In recent years, China has offered a series of signature concepts to the international community, like “Chinese Dream,” “economic new normal,” “supply-side reform,” “Belt and Road” initiative, and “community of common destiny,” which have gained wide attention and been well received around the globe.

Researchers should interpret policies behind these concepts, providing effective intellectual support for them and the actions of the government. Therefore, researchers are tasked with not only producing academic results in different disciplines but also innovating the academic system as a whole.

Boost international influence

Both China’s academic discourse system and its interpretation of China’s experience should contribute to the world, especially to global academic development.

The development of socialism with Chinese characteristics has become integrated into the progress of civilization as well as world history. As a rising major country, China must accelerate the development of philosophy and social sciences to provide intellectual support for its path while upholding China’s spirit and forging a strong bond of unity among all Chinese people.

At the same time, China must add its vision to the global development of philosophy and social sciences. It is not only the mission of academia but also the urgent task for Chinese theoretical development to expound upon China’s practice through which theories are advanced, innovating modes of sharing China’s experience, and enhancing international discourse power.

Global development is facing many risks and severe challenges, which must be met with the concentration of humanity’s wisdom. For example, increasing instability and uncertainty in the global economy coexists with political predicaments, such as regional conflicts, terrorism and refugee crises, as well as social problems, like poverty, unemployment and inequality.

There are also “black swan events” that are the byproducts of progress in information technology, global warming, environmental pollution and other pressures. Wisdom and thought are the cures for these problems. As contending ideas and cultures spread worldwide, China’s vision can contribute to the current historical transition in world civilization, allowing the world to see China’s academics and theories, especially Chinese philosophy and social sciences, as well as a developing China that is willing to open to the world and make contributions to the world civilization progress.

China now is undergoing the most magnificent and distinctive practice and innovation in human history, and China’s path is promoting world peace and development as well as human civilization.

Hence, Chinese philosophy and social sciences is tasked with the mission of interpreting rapidly changing China and world. Researchers should transform China’s experience into soft power in thought and culture for enhancing international influence through actively participating in international academic exchanges and communicating China’s discourse.

Conducting efficient research on major theoretical and practical issues of China’s own development and summarizing experience are the prerequisites for offering ideas and methods to solve world problems.

Implementing the “going out” strategy, Chinese philosophy and social sciences has the courage to build a community for common destiny for humanity. It increases people’s understanding and sense of inclusiveness and cooperation by the power of thought.

It should also be capable of demonstrating itself in confrontation of ideas and conducting equal dialogues with international academia. In addition to telling Chinese stories in the process of going global, Chinese philosophy and social sciences should strive to build platforms for international communication and exchanges, actively engage in formulating systems and standards for academic evaluation, and finally gain more discourse power in this regard.


Zhang Jiang is vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and editor-in-chief of Social Sciences in China Press.

Editor: Yu Hui

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