British scholar Martin Albrow releases his new work on a global-oriented China
By Yuan Yuan  ·  2022-04-12  ·   Source: NO.15 APRIL 14, 2022
China's ambassador to the United Kingdom Zheng Zeguang speaks at the book launch ceremony held via video link in Beijing and London on April 6 (COURTESY PHOTO)

British sociologist and professor Martin Albrow recently released his second literary undertaking themed on China and the shared human future.

The new book China and the Shared Human Future: Exploring Common Values and Goals is the brand new sequel to his 2018 book China's Role in a Shared Human Future: Towards Theory for Global Leadership. "The inspiration for the two books comes from the rise of China as a key actor in world events," Albrow said while speaking at the book launch on April 6. The event was held via video link in Beijing and London.

In 1996, he published The Global Age, making him the first to use the term "global age" as a book title. In 2001, its Chinese version was released in China and ever since the name Martin Albrow has been generally associated with globalization and the global age in Chinese academia.

The original intention of this new book was "to draw a line under a personal period of intense concern for China and its place in the world," the scholar revealed.

A bridge of words

Albrow was born in 1937 and during the launch on April 6, he recalled events he'd experienced in his lifetime, including World War II (1939-45), the founding of the United Nations, the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"The sense that the global age has a paradoxical conflicted unity has prompted my own reflections," Albrow said, noting that these reflections are recorded in his recent two titles.

China's Ambassador to the United Kingdom Zheng Zeguang revealed at the launch that not long after he'd arrived in London, he read Albrow's 2018 book and had since invited him to speak at several events hosted by the Chinese Embassy. "My colleagues and myself have benefited immensely from his insights," Zheng said.

"Albrow's study on China's governance model and using sociological theories to interpret President Xi Jinping's thoughts on governance and the vision of a community with a shared future for humanity have helped the British public and the international community better understand China's development path," Zheng said.

During the event, Chang Xiangqun, who has been working with Albrow over the last decade on establishing the Global China Academy and promoting a series of seven Global China Dialogues, introduced the new release's three sections.

Part One contains this social theorist's latest views on a community with a shared future for humanity and a selection of his essential work on global studies. Part Two brings together work focused on global governance and China's exploration, practices and experiences of governance, dating from the last decade of Albrow's academic career. Part Three presents large numbers of examples of Albrow's attempts to explore the "globalization of Chinese social sciences."

According to Chang, Albrow's two books "not only include the academic voices of Chinese scholars in the English-speaking world, but also serve as a research model and a starting point to help more Chinese scholars refine social theories with Chinese characteristics."

Liu Bogen, Vice President of China Publishing Group, believes the book will help overseas scholars gain an objective understanding of China's governance and development. "In the book, Professor Albrow objectively analyzes concepts including 'socialism with Chinese characteristics,' 'a community with a shared future for humanity,' and 'the Belt and Road Initiative,'" Liu said. "He compares them with traditional Western views such as 'globalization' and 'global governance.'"

The significance

At the event, David Ferguson, Honorary Chief English Editor of the Foreign Languages Press, said it's a pity the book had been written before the onset of current events in Ukraine as "these have an enormous bearing on the subject of the book."

He commented that neither Ukraine nor Russia could benefit from the war, but there is one group that is benefiting—the U.S. military industrial complex. This group always benefits from war and conflict, "either its own government buys weapons and feeds them into the war, like in Libya and Syria and Ukraine, or other people buy its weapons to use them in the war," he said.

His sentiments were echoed by Martin Jacques, Senior Fellow at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge. "The declining hegemon is no longer able to exercise its authority and command allegiance in the old way. Faced with uncertainty, countries respond in new ways," Jacques said. "The Ukraine war is the latest example. Whatever happens next, we cannot predict, but major unexpected events are now a certainty."

Jacques compared the view of the world between the West and China. "Ever since the Peace of Westphalia in 1642, the West's view has been defined by the nation-state and the division of the world into nation-states," he said. "By contrast, China's starting point is tianxia—all under heaven, a world that is open to all and not defined by boundaries or discrimination."

For Jacques, President Xi's ideas of a community with a shared future for humanity draw on the concept of tianxia, rather than a concept of the world divided into over 190 nation states. "Two of the most important questions of our time—the pandemic and climate change—demonstrate how, in a globalized world, this kind of thinking is fundamental to the future of humanity. Indeed, our very futures depend on it," he said.

According to Albrow, When Xi first used the term "a community with a shared future for humanity" at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in March 2013, it was to expand on the meaning of living in the global village—a much loved Western idea.

"Any nation that saw itself committed to the safety and welfare of the whole of mankind could qualify as a global nation," Albrow said. "And it was in that sense that we set ourselves the objective of changing the discourse from one of East versus West, sometimes even of clashing civilizational states, into one where every nation can make its unique contribution to the global collective good." 

(Print Edition Title: Reading the Times)

Copyedited by G.P. Wilson

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