Top 10 academic focuses of 2022 unveiled

By DUAN DANJIE / 01-12-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

FILE PHOTO: Books on common prosperity published in 2022 

A list of the top 10 academic focuses in China in 2022 was released on Dec. 30, 2022. 

The top 10 trends in Chinese academia include: adapting the basic tenets of Marxism to China’s specific realities and its fine traditional culture and adapting Marxism to the Chinese context and the needs of our times; studies of Chinese modernization; scientific connotation and institutional embodiment of whole-process people’s democracy; common prosperity research from a multidisciplinary perspective; reconstruction of the international economic system amid profound changes unseen in a century; studies of primary-level society in the Qin (221–207 BCE) and Han (202 BCE–220 CE) dynasties; organization and application of historical materials of modern and contemporary Chinese literature; cross-disciplinary construction of area studies; social governance innovation in the new development stage; and new narratives of the metaverse and digital survival.

Selected through a combination of expert review and data analysis, and through such processes as reader surveys, scholar recommendations, and expert reviews, these 10 academic trends were jointly unveiled by the Information Center for Social Sciences at Renmin University of China, the theory department of Guangming Daily, and the editorial department of the Academic Monthly

These hot topics involve not only innovative theories on the development of causes undertaken by the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the state in the new era, but also the development of basic theories in philosophy and social sciences research, as well as new research progress on practical issues related to economic and social development. They cover multiple fields including politics, economics, culture, and society.

Innovating Party theories

Since General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping proposed adapting the basic tenets of Marxism to China’s specific realities and its fine traditional culture in his speech at a ceremony marking the centenary of the CPC, this proposition has drawn close attention from academia. In 2022, Chinese theorists referred to the CPC’s 100-year history to study the phased characteristics and innovative achievements of adapting the basic tenets of Marxism to China’s specific realities and its fine traditional culture through different historical periods, and refined and developed the theoretical wisdom of both Chinese contemporary and 21st century Marxism.

Chinese modernization results from long-term practices and explorations of the CPC and the Chinese people. Wu Zhongmin, a professor from the Teaching and Research Department of Social and Ecological Civilization at the Party School of the Central Committee of C.P.C. (National Academy of Governance), recalled that in 2022, the theory community paid particular attention to the significance of Chinese modernization to the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and clarified the features and advantages of Chinese modernization in comparison to that of the West. 

The Chinese path to modernization is rooted in the fertile soil of refined traditional Chinese culture, with profound historical and cultural heritage, Wu noted, adding that Party leadership provides the fundamental guarantee for Chinese modernization. 

Whole-process people’s democracy is the defining feature of socialist democracy, crystallizing the CPC’s promotion of theoretical, institutional, and practical innovation concerning China’s democracy. The concept is an important achievement in the academic construction of Chinese discourse on democratic theory in recent years. 

“In 2022, Chinese scholars conducted in-depth research on the theoretical connotation, characteristics, and advantages of whole-process people’s democracy, and its relationship with the development of China’s socialist democracy, producing many outstanding works,” said Sang Yucheng, a professor from the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University. 

Common prosperity is the essential requirement of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and Chinese modernization is the modernization of common prosperity for all. Li Shi, a professor from the School of Public Affairs at Zhejiang University, said that in 2022, academics fully discussed ways to achieve common prosperity and put forward a variety of paths, including establishing coordinated and supporting institutional systems for primary distribution, redistribution, and tertiary distribution, implementing the rural revitalization strategy, promoting urban-rural integrated development, and narrowing the income gap. 

Broadening humanities, social sciences

Since the 18th CPC National Congress, especially since Xi’s delivery of an important speech at the Seminar on Philosophy and the Social Sciences in 2016, philosophers and social scientists have embraced unprecedented opportunities. Rooted in China, scholars have brought forth the new through the old, using multidisciplinary theories and methods to broaden research approaches in the humanities and social sciences from multiple dimensions.

In 2022, Chinese historians specializing in the Qin and Han dynasties re-examined primary-level society in these two dynasties from the perspective of state governance, exploring the relationship between social evolution at the primary level and state governance models, and comparing the differences and impacts of primary-level governance models in the Qin and Han dynasties from different angles.

Bu Xianqun, a research fellow from the Institute of Ancient History at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that a large number of bamboo slips and other documents from the Qin and Han dynasties were continuously archived and published [in 2022], with most of the content involving social issues and social governance at the primary level. 

In addition, the actual need for investigating the historical background and reference of China’s state governance [in the contemporary era] prompted scholars to delve into primary-level social governance models under the great unity of the Qin and Han dynasties. This is an active interaction between the needs of the times and academic research, Bu said. 

In recent years, there has been a “turn to historical materials” in the study of modern and contemporary Chinese literature. Academic conferences themed on research of historical materials regarding modern and contemporary literature have been held frequently. Meanwhile, government funds at different levels, such as the National Social Science Fund and the National Publishing Fund, have tilted towards projects on historical material studies for funding. In addition, important literary research journals have seen an increasingly larger proportion of articles related to historical materials.

Cheng Guangwei, a professor from the School of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China, said that in periodical catalogues, author chronologies, explorations of anecdotes, literary systems, and many other areas, the fever for sorting historical materials of modern and contemporary literature has led to further differentiation between “literary history” and “literary criticism” in the field. This added differentiation has laid the foundation for constructing historical materials to bolster the study of modern and contemporary literary history. 

The growing attention to the construction of historical materials can not only consolidate and enhance the discipline’s academic competitiveness, but also helps to compensate for the deficiency of rich literature-related historical materials as compared to sociology and contemporary history in the overall narrative of the new era, Cheng said. 

As China assumes increasingly important responsibilities in international and regional affairs, strengthening the comprehensive understanding of other countries and regions has become a major research topic. In 2022, Chinese theorists conducted in-depth discussions on core issues such as which forms of area studies are needed in China, and how to establish a theoretical framework, research methodology, knowledge pedigree, and discipline system for the field in the country. Experts explained the theoretical and practical significance of area studies as a primary discipline and clarified the paths and approaches to the discipline’s construction. 

Combining theory and practice

In the new stage of development, dramatic changes have taken place in China’s development environment, presenting new challenges and opportunities to social governance, and fostering new characteristics and trends in the field. In 2022, academia offered theoretical explanations for and summaries of practical innovations in social governance transformation and related responses in the new development stage, digital and intelligent transformation of social governance, and primary-level social governance in urban and rural areas.

The world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century. The complicated international situation, characterized by instability, uncertainty, and insecurity, has profoundly affected the underlying logic of the international economic system. Quan Heng, Party secretary of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, emphasized the need to reflect on the profound changes and dynamics in world economic growth by combining theory and practice. 

It is first essential to thoroughly analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy from shocks to both the supply and demand side and their mutual relationship, Quan said. Moreover, he suggested using new methods and perspectives to analyze the new and endogenous trends of world economic growth under new rules. 

Quan added that it is important to carry out in-depth research and understand the internal relationships between economic globalization and world economic growth, and between regionalization, peripheralization, and world economic growth, thereby creating new approaches to economic growth analysis under the comprehensive spillover effect of macroeconomic policies and the policy synergy among countries around the world.

The metaverse has greatly stimulated the imagination of all walks of life on the internet and has become a common focus of attention for enterprises, universities, and research institutes. In 2022, metaverse research extended reflections on issues such as man and technology, the virtual and the real, the body and the mind, and freedom and order. 

Zhao Xing, a professor from the Institute of Big Data at Fudan University, noted that the metaverse represents humanity’s far-reaching imagination of future digital survival. Going forward, metaverse-related disciplines need to further refine a logically consistent theoretical foundation to form an agile governance mechanism in the era of digital intelligence, Zhao said.