The Beijing Olympics ‘coming out’ party gave a sharp focus to Western concerns about the awakening of the ‘sleeping dragon’; certainly the rise of China is the subject of much debate in the West.
With so much of the discussion filtered through the prism of Western preoccupations, however - from fear and loathing, to awe and envy - can we make a balanced assessment of what China really wants, and just what it’s thinking?
What does the dramatic rise of China as a world player mean to China itself? Rapid industrialization and urbanization represent undreamt of prosperity for millions of Chinese people, yes, but is it a dream billions can hope to share? Want to share? How is it that the Chinese today conceive of their project and imagine their future? How do they plan to relate to the rest of the world? Is it all harmonious global growth from here on in? Does that include Taiwan? The autonomous regions?
Is their dream that industrial modernity leads naturally to growing freedoms, democracy and public participation? As Western commentators debate whether or not liberal democracy is the best thing or not for China, we should start by asking, would the Chinese even vote for it?
Can we expect Enlightenment scientific rationalism to be an inspiring model, or is Confucius back with a vengeance? Will Chinese social networking sites break new ground that we have not even begun to tread, or just follow in well-worn Western footprints? Is China building the 21st century, or conforming to a Western blueprint?- Institute of Ideas
Duncan Hewitt is a former BBC China correspondent who currently writes for Newsweek and other publications from Shanghai, focusing on Chinese society, media and culture. Born in 1966, he first lived in China from 1986-7, while studying for a degree in Chinese at Edinburgh University. He later worked as a literary translator and editor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, before joining the BBC World Service.
He was BBC Beijing correspondent from 1997-2000, and, from 2000-2002, the BBC's first Shanghai correspondent. His book Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China was published by Chatto and Windus and is available in Vintage Paperback. It focuses on how Deng Xiaoping's decision to allow some people and regions to get wealthier than others, in order to help China develop economically, meant new opportunities for many but also spelled the end of traditional socialism, and paved the way for the startling changes which have turned much of China's society and its values on its head since the early 1990s.
Adrian Hornsby is a writer and editor of considerable diversity. He is a principal author and chief editor of The Chinese Dream an 800 page in-depth study of the forces shaping China and the world's greatest ever wave of urbanisation.
It is the product of collaborative research with the Beijing-based think tank the Dynamic City Foundation. He is also Head of Research & Analysis at Investing for Good, the UK's first FSA-regulated ethical investments specialist, and writes regularly on enterprise-driven development schemes around the world.
He is a Director of Kilometer Zero, an international arts and politics collective, and for several years co-edited the Kilometer Zero Magazine. He has written numerous plays which have been produced on stage in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Beijing, and on radio in London and New York.
Alan Hudson is director, leadership programs for China, University of Oxford, a university lecturer in Sociology at the University of Oxford, a fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford and of the Royal Society of Arts.
He was, until 2003, the Director of Social and Political Science at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education, teaching courses on the Politics and Government of the United Kingdom and the European Union, Social Policy and Research Methodologies, and Political Ideologies.
More recently he has conducted qualitative research on employer strategies for recruitment, training and promotion in the IT and retail sectors. Present work includes an investigation of changing models of lifelong learning. The first results will be presented at the Higher Education Academy (C-SAP) conference in November 2008. In the last year he has lectured in Shanghai, Qingdao, Guangzhou and Chengdu and in the UK on issues such as the role of the market in public sector reform and models of public policy in post-war Britain.
In the near future he will begin work on two comparative projects between the UK and China: the first is on the emergence and role of the knowledge or creative economy; the second is on the possibilities for the transfer of administrative processes, best practice and institutional forms from the UK to China.
Dr. Bingqin Li
Bingqin Li is a lecturer in Social Policy at London School of Economics. She is also a research associate of CASE (The Centre for Analyses of Social Exclusion) at LSE.
In the past five years, Li has collaborated closely with researchers from China, Korea, Japan, India and the United States to examine the social exclusion faced by rural to urban migrants, long term unemployed people and informally employed people.
Her research work has covered coastal and inland cities. She has been lecturing on International Housing and Social Economics. She has been given talks in universities in China and Japan regarding issues related to urban social exclusion.
Duncan Hewitt, former BBC China correspondent and author of Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China, explains teenagers in modern China are growing up in a much different environment than their parents and grandparents because the Communist Party is now less involved in the everyday lives of its citizens.