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Philosophy and social sciences facilitate decision-making

Zhou Qun | 2014-04-24 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

 Photographed by Zhu Gaolei

Zhao Shengxuan, CASS vice-president and deputy-secretary of the Lead­ing Party Members' Group


Zhao Shengxuan, CASS vice-president, deputy-secretary of the Leading Party Members’ Group of the CASS (ministe­rial rank). Previ­ously, Zhao served as deputy director and director of the Inves­tigation and Research Office at the General Office of the Central Committee of the CPC (CCCPC) from 1991 to 2007, and deputy director of the General Office of the CCCPC from January 2007 to April 2013. From July 2011 to April 2013, he served as secretary of the Institution’s Party Committee of the General Office of the CCCPC.  


Zhao is a member of the Standing Com­mittee of the 12th National People’s Congress (NPC) and was previously a member of the Stand­ing Committee of the 11th NPC. He is also a member of the Legis­lative Affairs Office of the Standing Commit­tee of the 12th NPC.


Philosophy and the social sciences are significant tools to understand and change the world. They are an important force for promoting histori­cal development and social progress, and provide a crucial basis of support for decision-making. At present, the major task of Chinese scholars in philosophy and the social sciences is to figure out how they can channel their research toward philosophy and social sciences, firmly embrace the in­sistence and development of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and bet­ter serve the Party and government’s policy-making. CSST’s reporter talked with Zhao Shengxuan, vice-president and deputy-secretary of the Leading Party Members’ Group of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) on these issues.


CSST: Karl Marx elaborated, “Theory is fulfilled in a people only insofar as it is the fulfillment of the needs of that people.” In the historical process of realizing China’s great rejuvenation, philosophy and social sciences should play a significant role in understand­ing the world, inheriting civilization, innovating theory, providing guidance and education to the people, and serving the society. They supply the theoretical and intellectual support for so­cialism with Chinese char­acteristics. How can they act as a guide for helping to determine policy?


Zhao: I think philosophy and social sciences are a collective body of thought, investigation and knowl­edge. Its vital task is to pro­vide appropriate solutions and suggestions for decision-making. This is how to realize their full value. Whether this decision-making is right or wrong is key to China’s develop­ment. Making the correct decisions is a precondition for success; making the wrong decisions could be the biggest mistake. Now, we face an extremely complicated situation, and the con­tradictions and weight of the tasks we need to accomplish are only increas­ing. To guarantee that we are making the right decisions, our decision-mak­ing process needs scientific rigor—we can’t just depend on subjective experi­ence. Moving forward, we have to base our decisions on complete informa­tion, rich experience, a broader vision, innovative thinking and scientific methodologies. In order to achieve these goals, we cannot thrive without theoretical and intellectual support from philosophy and social sciences and the active participation and con­tributions of their practitioners. The decision-making mechanism in China is currently undergoing fundamental changes. It is moving toward a more institutionalized, democratic and sci­entific process, so there are going to be higher standards for the academic support provided by the philosophy and social sciences. This is a precious opportunity for these disciplines.


CSST: It is clear that the goal of re­search on philosophy and the social sciences is to serve the Party and government. Does this pose any con­tradiction to the goals of serving the people and socialism?


Zhao: By no means do these goals contradict one another. On the con­trary, serving the decision-making of the Party and government is an effective way for philosophy and so­cial sciences to serve the people and socialism. The latter is a critical foot­hold of philosophy and the social sciences. Masterpieces in the field can both serve the people as well as the Party and government. Our Party is a Marxist ruling party who serves the people wholeheartedly, and our government is the people’s government. By putting the findings of scholars in philosophy and social sciences into action through laws, regulations and policy measures, scholars’ discoveries will very quick­ly have an effect, serving society and benefiting the people. So there is clearly no contradic­tion: serving the decision-making of the Party and government is serving the people and socialism as well.


CSST: Often academe has the repu­tation of being confined to its ivory tower and having little applicability in the real world. What are philosophy and the social sciences’ actual influ­ence in governance?


Zhao: This sort of skepticism of scholarship is misplaced. In fact, as­sisting with policy-making is the mis­sion and strength of philosophy and the social sciences. Its development closely linked with the nation’s devel­opment. Fully developing their role as providing knowledge and thought is an important and sacred mission. At this point, China has established a relatively comprehensive array of different disciplines in philosophy and the social sciences. Research top­ics cover every aspect of economic and social development. We also have a nationwide team of thousands of researchers and teachers in the field. This includes not only national research institute like CASS, but also every provincial and municipal acad­emy of social sciences, universities and colleges, Party schools, adminis­trative institutes, military institutes, and research institutes at all levels. China has cultivated an extraordinary amount of talent in philosophy and the social sciences, gathering many world-renown masters and high caliber junior scholars. This body of talent is a significant force for making the decision-making process more democratic and scientific. They can infuse it with strong dialectical rea­soning, strategic thinking, big-picture analysis and creativity.


CSST: How can we bridge the goals of conducting scientific research and informing decision-making?


Zhao: For philosophy and the social sciences to guide and inform decision-making, their development has to fol­low the principles of these fields. Their practitioners have to channel their focus toward doing research that truly brings out the advantages these disci­plines have to offer to the people mak­ing the decisions. Of course, a large part of this depends on how we train and shape the experts and scholars themselves—we have to build their enthusiasm, stimulate their initiative and foster their creativity. If we cover these bases, we can transform excel­lent research into policy suggestions.


CSST: What components do we specifically need to focus on or bring together to achieve this dual function?


Zhao: We could break it down into several important relationships.

Firstly, we need to understand the relationship between research on the­ory and research on application and appropriately nurture and make use of this relationship. These two areas of research are ultimately very closely linked.


Taking a step back, we should make sure we have a firm understanding of how personal academic interest and social responsibility relate to each oth­er. Research in philosophy and the so­cial sciences brings together personal academic interest and social activity. It is a realization of personal values and simultaneously a fulfillment of social responsibility. Researchers are only contributing value and helping the Party, nation and the people if they are aligning their academic interests and pursuits with the destiny of the nation.

Another important concern within what we are producing academically is the relationship between special­ized research and comprehensive re­search. Scholars need to conduct more interdisciplinary and comprehensive research.


A related issue at the downstream side is the relationship between pro­viding specific suggestions versus pro­viding general thought, theories and ideas. Serving the decision-making and building an influential body of knowledge and go-to resources for policy makers requires scholars not only to give operationally specific suggestions and strategic advice on how to deal with problems, but also to propose an innovative vision and instructive theories and ideas.


The last relationship we need to clarify is that between academic works and references for decision-makers. How the ideas of researchers within academic works reach the de­cision-makers depends on how well the latter can extract the essence of the former and turn it into something clear, concise and actionable. Simply put, all experts and scholars need to work on simultaneously being gener­alists and dealing with multiple tasks at the same time.


The Chinese version appeared in Chinese Social Sciences Today, No. 581, April 9, 2014

                                             Translated by Zhang Mengying

                                              Revised by Charles Horne

The Chinese link: