China and the Shared Human Future:
Exploring Common Values and Goals
Author: Martin Albrow
Hardcover, 445 pages
Published by Global Century Press
British sociologist Martin Albrow’s latest book – China and the Shared Human Future: Exploring Common Values and Goals – was recently launched in Beijing, which coincided with the three-day London Book Fair 2022. The book has much to commend, as “a constructive provocation, making us look at culture and human relations in a new way,” said Tony McEnery, council member of the Academy of Social Sciences, and founding fellow and chair of Global China Academy Council.
Albrow, founding honorary president of the Global China Academy, is one of the foremost sociologists in the English-speaking world and also an influential scholar on globalization. His previous book China’s Role in a Shared Human Future: Towards Theory for Global Leadership explores China’s readiness to assume a global leadership role.
The new book, he said, was inspired by the rise of China as a key actor on the international stage. It aims to emphasize the wisdom of the Chinese in balancing commitment to values with setting goals that match the unique circumstances of different periods.
The book is divided into three parts: Theoretical Exploration, Practical Themes, and Globalization of Chinese Social Sciences. Part one contains the author’s views on the idea of a community with a shared future for humankind and a selection of his essential work on global studies. It lays a solid theoretical foundation for the book and gives it classic reading and collection value. Part two brings together work focused on global governance and China’s exploration, practice, and experiences in this field, dating from the last decade of Albrow’s academic career. Part three presents examples of his attempts to explore the globalization of Chinese social sciences.
The author has done an excellent job in shedding light on the extraordinary changes that have happened in China and on the pivotal role that China is likely to play in shaping the future of the world. The nine chapters cover a wide range of topics, from building a community with a shared future for humankind to the theory and practice of globalization, global governance and China, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and China’s poverty alleviation. The author also expounds on the global fight against COVID-19 and Chinese practices in this regard.
Albrow indicated that the term “governance” once had a relatively safe but obscure place in the scholarly world of the West. It became more contested in the late 20th century with the idea of “global governance.” “But it is China that has made the greatest contribution recently by bringing it out of the shadows of academic discussion and into the limelight of public discourse,” he wrote.
The three volumes of Xi Jinping: The Governance of China demonstrate the richness and vast scope of the Chinese governance that encompasses justice, law, principles, rights, responsibility and much more, said Albrow. “Governance” has become a dynamic concept with China’s unique approach, based in culture, ideology, and practice, he pointed out.
He has some concrete examples in the book. In President Xi’s speech titled “A Deeper Understanding of the New Development Concepts,” Xi pointed out that the policy of “multidimensional opening-up” made China, in his words, “the biggest driver of global trade liberalization.” The results, he said, were positive changes in power structures and a change of political landscape. The changing context and China’s increasing role in the world economy and global governance, combined with its emphasis on the people, leads naturally to a “people-centered” development philosophy, fulfilling their expectations for a better life. The antecedents of this understanding in Chinese history, as “moderate prosperity” and “great harmony,” which the country has emphasized in its contemporary governance, were also described in The Book of Rites. “Wealth distribution, fair shares, gathering the wisdom of the people, practicing democracy, and inclusive development are all China’s answers to the fragmentation associated with globalization in the West,” said Albrow, adding that, “Multilateralism has been a core principle in China’s engagement with global governance.”
In the book, the author also gave an answer to the thought-provoking question: has COVID-19 brought globalization to an end? He argued that the coronavirus pandemic has shown to perfection that it is imperative for human beings to work together to meet global challenges and build a community of shared future.
According to the author, the concept of a community of shared future for humankind is the joint fruit of the Chinese traditional culture (common destiny of Taoism, mutualism of Confucianism, and shared karma of Buddhism) and that of other nations. In his understanding, the concept means that China’s peace and harmony (he-he) culture is adapting Marxism to conditions in China and the current world. And this concept has upgraded the spirit of globalization, replacing the win-lose zero sum game with the “all win or all lose” model.
“China, by virtue of its continuous history over millennia, by its population size and its economic progress, is now obliged to be a truly global nation,” Martin said, expressing the hope that the book could “add even the tiniest extra encouragement to China to realize its spirit as a truly global nation.”