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The Int’l Academic Forum in China 2021 explores multiple modernization paths

Author  :  TANG HONGLI,DUAN DANJIE,et al.     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2021-10-22

The Opening Ceremony of The International Academic Forum in China 2021 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 14 Photo: Zhu Gaolei/CSST

The International Academic Forum in China 2021 was convened Oct. 14–15 in Beijing, under the theme “A New and Uniquely Chinese Path to Modernization.”

Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, attended the forum’s opening and delivered a keynote speech.

Over the past 100 years, the CPC has led the people in pioneering a new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization and creating a new model for human advancement, Huang said, according to Xinhua News Agency.

China will follow its own path, strengthen exchanges and mutual learning with other countries, and make greater contributions to the world with the new achievements of modernization, the official said.

Noting that the forum is an important platform for the promotion of philosophy and social sciences exchanges between China and the world, Huang said he hopes global thinkers and specialists will have in-depth discussions and offer insight into the development of China and the world at large.

Hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and organized by Social Sciences in China Press (SSCP), the forum was attended by more than 100 domestic and international scholars in person or via video link.

This year’s forum marks the very start of the annual International Academic Forum in China.

“In the future, we will conduct annual forums, each year themed on a major topic of great relevance, launch batches of high-quality academic research, and strive to forge ‘The International Academic Forum in China’ into an influential brand in the world,” said CASS President Xie Fuzhan at the Opening Ceremony.

The convening of The International Academic Forum in China 2021 is of great significance to the practical exploration and theoretical innovation of the new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization, Xie said. The new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization is a great creation of the Chinese people led by the CPC; it is an unprecedented initiative. The path has provided a brand-new example and alternative for the modernization process for the vast number of developing countries.

Tremendous achievements

In his video speech, 93-year-old Nishihara Haruo, former president of Waseda University in Japan, recalled China in the 1980s. China was still very poor back then, he said. “I still remember Chang’an Street [in Beijing] in the morning, filled with crowds of people riding bicycles slowly.”

Starting from 1982, Nishihara has visited China 89 times and been to 34 cities. Compared with four decades ago, “it is so obvious how happy the Chinese people are today.”

Bert Hofman, director of the East Asian Institute at the National University of Singapore and the World Bank’s former Country Director for China, Mongolia, and Korea, has been studying China since 1992. He said that since the late 1970s, China has lifted some 850 million people out of poverty. In 2021, China completely eliminated absolute poverty. China’s poverty reduction work has “truly global significance.”

On its own way of modernization, China has not only lifted so many people out of poverty, but also become “a positive driving force for the world economy,” said Karina Batthyány, executive secretary of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences. China’s economy has continued to grow in the past four decades, with an annual growth rate of 9.5%, while the world average is 3%, she said.

As its economy develops, China has become a “more sophisticated and complex country,” said Evandro Menezes de Carvalho, head and professor of the Center for Brazil-China Studies at the Getulio Vargas Foundation.

Key to success

Han Zhen, a professor at Beijing Normal University, said that the key to the success of the new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization lies in the fact that the CPC has held high the banner of Marxism, and truly united and organized the Chinese people in revolution, construction, and reform. The Party has pioneered the new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization in the exploration of socialism with Chinese characteristics.

Robert Lawrence Kuhn, an American expert on China, has a profound insight into this issue. He is committed to telling the world of the real China, with particular attention to China’s reform and opening up. Over the past 30 years and more, Kuhn has visited more than 100 cities in China. In his video speech, he summed up twelve important principles that have created the miracle of China’s development.

Ever since it was born, the CPC has adapted the basic tenets of Marxism to China’s specific realities and its fine traditional culture, said Wu Zhicheng, deputy director of the International Strategy Research Institute at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC. The Party has led the Chinese people through hardships with hard work and unremitting struggle.

Xulio Ríos, director of the Chinese Politics Observatory in Spain, noted that a key experience of China’s modernization is that it is necessary to “proceed from our own reality,” and each country must “find its own development path.” While promoting modernization, cultural renaissance and the revival of Chinese identity also go hand in hand.

“China’s modernization process is aimed at the well-being of the entire Chinese community,” de Carvalho said. The cornerstone of the entire country’s governance model is the CPC’s leadership, which influences state administration and the construction of the socialist legal system.

Multiple modernization paths

China’s modernization does not repeat the Western path, but combines the country’s own history and reality, said Zhang Yi, director of the National Institute of Social Development at CASS.

The new and uniquely Chinese path to modernization has enriched the world’s modernization models, providing more practical and feasible references for other countries to explore independent modernization paths.

Batthyány compared the paths to modernization in China and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). LAC’s modernization is “exogenous, dependent, and centered on Europe.” That means the development of the primary economy, the loss of government and national capacity, the decline in per capita GDP, unstable labor relations, and increased inequality, she noted. In contrast, China has solved a series of difficult problems on its own path of modernization, with great achievements.

“We must acknowledge and respect the multiple paths toward and through modernization and the different responses given to similar problems. At the same time, we should learn from each other’s experiences and best practices,” noted Alberto Martinelli, a professor emeritus of Sociology and Political Science at the University of Milan in Italy.

Zhou Hong, director of CASS’s Academic Division of International Studies, said that although countries embark on their paths to modernization in different time sequences, and countries can learn from each other in terms of modernization, there is no distinction between superior and inferior, nor is any path “single” or “exclusive.” The paths to modernization, bred in different national conditions and historical and cultural contexts, must be rooted in the local area to gain inexhaustible vitality, although they are more or less encouraged and inspired by the outside world.

Zhang Taofu, executive dean of the School of Journalism at Fudan University, said that the biggest highlight of the forum is that Chinese and international scholars’ understanding of modernization is no longer limited to “fixing the modernization theory proposed by the West.” They bid farewell to the “single” modernization theoretical path and ideological traps dominated and manipulated by the West. Instead, they have turned to the research approach of “plural” modernity.

“The curtain call of the forum is not the end of a journey of thought, academic research, or civilization, but a new starting point and continuation,” concluded SSCP Editor-in-Chief Fang Jun at the forum’s Closing Ceremony.

Editor: Yu Hui

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