Sociologists delve into integration of Yangtze River delta

Source:Chinese Social Sciences Today 2024-03-22

A forum on sociological contribution to the integration of the Yangtze River Delta in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province Photo: ECUST

SUZHOU—The Sixth Yangtze River Delta Sociology Forum recently convened in Qidu Town, Wujiang District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu Province, under the theme of “The New Role of Sociology in Facilitating Integration within the Yangtze River Delta.”

Historical profundity

Since the dawn of the 20th century, Chinese society has undergone substantial transformations, catalyzing the remarkable development of sociology. In 1922, Yu Tianxiu spearheaded the establishment of the Chinese Sociological Association in Beijing, marking the inception of the first academic institution in the Chinese sociology community. In 1928, Sun Benwen and others founded the Southeastern Sociological Society in Shanghai, which was renamed the “Chinese Society of Sociology” in 1930. Zhou Xiaohong, a professor from the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Nanjing University (NJU), reviewed the contributions of the first generation of Yangtze River Delta sociologists, such as Sun Benwen, Chen Da, Wu Zelin, Pan Guangdan, Wu Wenzao, and Fei Xiaotong, highlighting the pivotal role these scholars played in advancing Chinese sociology.

Qidu Town holds a profound connection with Sun Benzhen and Fei Xiaotong. Sun, born in 1892, hailed from Qidu Town. In 1935, Fei completed his field research in Kaixiangong Village, Miaogang Town (which merged with Qidu Town in 2004), and immediately wrote the seminal work of Chinese sociology Peasant Life in China. “Qidu Town is famous for the first generation of Chinese sociologists as well as the development of Jiangcun [which refers to Kaixiangong Village in Fei’s work] sociological practice bases, possessing deep sociological relevance,” said Jin Wei, Qidu Town Party committee deputy secretary.

Contemporary research

Numerous debates have arisen regarding the shift in Fei’s thought in his later years. Wang Junmin, a professor from the School of Social Sciences at Soochow University, clarified Fei’s academic philosophy, which revolves around the development of anthropology on the principle of enriching the people and integrating with society. Both Fei and his mentors, Bronislaw Malinowski and Radcliffe-Brown, emphasized the importance of “seeing people” within sociology, but “whom to see” and “how to see” warrant further consideration.

In his sociological inquiry into “seeing people,” Li Yu, a professor from the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University, examined the intergenerational mobility and urban-rural differences of Chinese women from 1992 to 2021. His research reveals a pronounced urban-rural divide in the role of education attainment in the intergenerational mobility of women. After the 21st century, women have exhibited a gradually higher rate of upward mobility compared to men, with urban women facing greater rigidity in mobility compared to their rural counterparts. Broadly speaking, education serves as a pathway to upward mobility in rural areas, while in cities and towns, education has become an important tool for maintaining family dominance.

Zhao Yeqin, a professor from the School of Social Development at East China Normal University, conducted a comprehensive review of existing research pertaining to primary-level community governance, community consultative governance, and international community governance. She suggested interpreting the specific effectiveness of international community through a three-dimensional framework of cross-cultural consultative governance, building a community governance pattern in which the multiple forces of property management, social organizations, and Chinese and foreign residents participate in consultation.

Chai Xiangnan, an assistant professor from the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at NJU, analyzed the intra-generation stratification of health, intergenerational differences, and transmission in lifestyles. He advocates for health education and intervention strategies beyond far-end and near-end factors, as well as orientations rooted in structuralism.

Regarding the phenomenon of intergenerational co-parenting in Chinese families, Ji Yingying, a professor from the School of Sociology and Political Science at Shanghai University, found that the current dynamics of child-rearing relationships are characterized by a complex interplay between traditional and modern ethics and within modern families consisting of urban and rural residents. She identified three distinct states: “the rupture of cohesive generational concept,” “recognizing the rupture,” and “strengthening the rupture.” In the absence of support from modern childcare service systems, the bearing and resolution of modernization pressure is almost completely dependent on the adjustment of the family relationship of urban immigrants and the efforts of preceding generations. Ji emphasized the need to continually improve the system and related policies to safeguard the spirit of Chinese family ethics.

The forum was hosted by the School of Social and Public Administration at East China University of Science and Technology (ECUST).

Editor:Yu Hui

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