The Theory of Contemporary Chinese Civilization
A Theoretical Study of Civilization and Civilized City
By Bao Zonghao
On March 27, 2014, president Xi Jinping visited UNESCO and delivered an important speech. He firstly proposed “New Concept of Civilization” for “exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations”. He emphasized that “Civilizations have become richer and more colorful with exchanges and mutual learning. Such exchanges and mutual learning form an important drive for human progress and global peace and development”. President Xi Jinping’s speech is viewed by international public opinion as “a declaration on civilization of historical significance”, in which he scientifically perceives the general trend in the progress of human civilization, profoundly elucidates the concept of civilization with “diversity, equality and inclusiveness”, sincerely advocates the principle of “harmony in diversity” for exchanges and mutual learning of civilizations, and solemnly declares China’s concept of mutual respect and harmonious coexistence. This signals a new path for the peaceful development of the world and builds new consensus for forging a community with shared future for mankind among diversified and harmonious civilizations.
Based on the comprehensive understanding of the laws of exchanges and mutual learning among civilizations and deep thinking on the problems of civilized development common to the world, president Xi Jinping launched an important initiative to hold Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations two times at 2014 Shanghai Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia and Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2015. On May 15, 2019, Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations was solemnly held in Beijing. In his keynote speech at the opening ceremony, president Xi Jinping not only expounded the brilliant achievements of civilization created by Asian people in the course of thousands of years of Asian development, but also proposed four ideas to consolidate the humanistic foundation for an Asian community with a shared future. In particular, he emphasized that “We need to come up with new ideas to add impetus to the development of our civilizations” and that “Chinese civilization has evolved and grown by drawing on its past achievement and adapting to changes”. Today, the world becomes more and more open. We must be broad-minded to embrace the essence of the achievements of human civilization, integrate the strengths of various styles, perceive the trend of the times, combine national dream with the future of the world and promote the innovative development of Chinese civilization. Besides, we must stand on the “practice of civilization” of millions of people in contemporary China and theorize the “construction of civilization” in various cities and regions in China to promote the coordinated development of material civilization and spiritual civilization and to realize the wisdom-based achievement that social modern civilization pursues.
The Theory of Contemporary Chinese Civilization establishes a new theory and system of contemporary Chinese civilization by progressing with the times and innovating Chinese civilization based on the needs of exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese civilization and world civilization. Meanwhile, although the theory maintains and inherits the gene of excellent Chinese traditional civilization, it is different from the civilization of Chinese traditional agricultural society or of the agricultural era. It maintains and extends the spirits and achievements of our revolutionary predecessors and Party members in arduously and vigorously advancing industrialization and improving industrial civilization in China’s democratic revolution and socialist construction & socialist industrialization prior to the reform and opening-up in order to realize the great rejuvenation of Chinese nation. But it does not display the achievements of industrial civilization that have been made in China’s industrialization with the development of heavy industry as the basis.
The major features and logical structures of The Theory of Contemporary Chinese Civilization are reflected in the following six aspects. Firstly, it pioneers the idea of studying “urban civilization” which is fulfilled and pursued by millions of contemporary Chinese people, as well as the common understanding of the value of “building civilized city”. Besides, it reflects and displays the achievements of inheriting Chinese civilization and improving contemporary Chinese people’s civilized quality and the level of social civilization in nearly 1,000 cities all over China after the 4th Plenary Session of the 14th CPC Central Committee. Secondly, it stresses the important role of “civilized city” as a sustainable “urbanization model” with Chinese characteristics, in implementing the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, guiding China’s new urbanization, and achieving sound and sustainable development. Thirdly, it demonstrates China’s urban spiritual culture shaped through more than 20 years’ practices of building civilized city. In addition, it guides cities to maintain and pass on their unique historical culture and urban character and build their own “urban spirit”. This will help extend their cultural traditions and styles, carry forward contemporary China’s urban spirit, and promote the coordinated development of urban material civilization and spiritual civilization. Fourthly, it expounds the implications of “civilized development” as an internal logical requirement for the “practices of civilization” in contemporary China, in deconstructing “growthism” in China’s economic development and social transformation & process, and realizing high-quality development. Fifthly, in the critical period of the rise of Chinese civilization and the new historical turn of contemporary world civilization, it goes beyond the debate over “modernity” and “post-modernity”, but rather guides China to eliminate the drawbacks of traditional “economic modernization” and study and pursue the modern civilization of society. The latter may not and should not be “eliminated” and “transcended” in a capitalist system with capital as the cornerstone and core. In this sense, the book’s research on “social modernization” goes beyond the context of China’s agricultural civilization and industrial civilization. It also firstly reveals the various problems encountered by human after they enter the new era of “social modernization” and improve the level of social civilization. Sixthly, the study of social modernization and social civilization in contemporary China involves not only new changes taking place in Chinese urban lifestyles in social modernization , but also new features of “social modernization” in the era of information and big data. The former is a “downward” study, aiming to reflect the civilized lifestyles of modern Chinese people in four aspects, namely, new pursuit of urban spiritual life, new ideas in social interaction, new changes in consumer lifestyles and new ways of leisure and entertainment; while the latter is an “upward” study, aiming to use big data to reveal the civilized level of social modernization with Chinese characteristics.
Meanwhile, the research on the practice of modern civilization in contemporary Chinese society finally comes down to the construction of civilization context in the era of globalization, since social modernization actually takes place in a globalized context. Therefore, the “social modernization” with modern Chinese characteristics should not be confined in China. By taking the opportunity of the Belt and Road Initiative and building a community with shared future for mankind, it should contribute to the construction of a global “civilization context” of modern civilization. In turn, only by taking the opportunity of comprehensive and thorough globalization to build such a globalized context of civilization of “harmony in diversity”, can China and human society upgrade to a higher state of civilization and the pursuit of sustainability by people all over the world be realized.
The Theory of Contemporary Chinese Civilization, a book chiefly composed of selected academic articles published in Shanghai Social Sciences, Academic Monthly and Tianjin Social Sciences since 2005, came out in August 2019 by Oriental Publishing Center under China Publishing Group. Looking back on these articles today, some views and data are found beyond the needs of the times. However, contemporary China lacks the study of “the theory of contemporary Chinese civilization”, which prevents the broad, profound, distinctive and admirable achievements on contemporary Chinese civilization from being incorporated in the exchanges and mutual learning among contemporary world civilizations. But relying solely on the achievements of China’s thousands-of-years agricultural civilization to interact with other countries in the world, the power is not strong enough to explain China’ current high level of “modernity” and “post-modernity”. Therefore, we must keep pace with the times, makes innovation in the research on Chinese civilization, guides China’s urbanization and social modernization with “the theory of contemporary Chinese civilization”, and influence the world’s pursuit of social modernization.
The Theory of Contemporary Chinese Civilization serves as a spearhead in trying to put forward some essential issues, expound the thoughts on contemporary Chinese civilization and construct a framework of contemporary Chinese civilization on the basis of meticulous summaries of the practice of contemporary civilization and the pursuit of social modernization in today’s China. It is no doubt that there are still some immature and imperfect viewpoints. What needs mentioning here is that Chapter 12 of this book was originally a paper for a journal, a co-work between one of my students Professor Li Zhen and me. In finalizing the draft, the paper was put in the end, serving as the last chapter to summarize the status quo of the research on contemporary Chinese civilization. However, this kind of summary only serves as a question on how theoretical research on civilization can facilitate the formation of a “globalized civilization context”. It still needs further research and exploration.
Chapter 1 New Perspective of Research on the Theory of Contemporary Chinese “Civilization” 9
1.1 Philosophical Foundation of Research on the Theory of Contemporary Chinese “Civilization”10
1.2 “Practice of Civilization” in Contemporary China and Urban Civilization 20
1.3 The Practice of Building “Civilized City” and Sustainable Urbanization 27
Chapter 2 A Comparison of Chinese and Western Urban Civilizations37
2.1 Origin of Chinese “Urban” Civilization37
2.2 Origin and Development of Western “Urban” Civilization47
2.3 Historical Dimensions of Civilized City in China and the West 54
2.4 Historical Value of civilized city in China and the West66
Chapter 3 The Nature of Civilized City69
3.1 The Meaning of Civilized City69
3.2 Features of Civilized City76
3.3 Civilized city & Material Civilization and Spiritual Civilization79
3.4 Civilized City and the Construction of Harmonious Society82
3.5 Civilized City and Building a Well-off Society in an All-round Way88
Chapter 4 The Essence of Civilized City94
4.1 Spiritual Culture of Civilized City94
4.2 Urban Form and Urban Spiritual Culture100
4.3 Urban Style and Urban Spiritual Culture106
4.4 Urban Institution and Urban Spiritual Culture109
Chapter 5 The Meaning of Order in Civilized City113
5.1 Inner Order of Civilized City113
5.2 The starting Point of the Order of Civilized City: a Practical Perspective117
5.3 Three-dimensional Path for the Order of Civilized City121
Chapter 6 Deconstructing “Growthism” with ”Civilized Development”127
6.1 The “Growth” Logic of “Growthism” 127
6.2 Predicament of “Growth” in “Growthism” 130
6.3 Can “Degrowth” Deconstruct “Growthism”? 136
6.4 How Civilized Development Deconstructs Growthism138
Chapter 7 “Civilized Development” Establishes the Cornerstone for People’s Happiness144
7.1 “Civilized Development” Establishes the Cornerstone for People’s Happiness: a Choice of Practice144
7.2 “Civilized Development” Establishes the Cornerstone for People’s Happiness: a Choice of Path148
7.3 “Civilized Development” Establishes the Cornerstone for People’s Happiness: a Choice of Institution153
Chapter 8 The Pursuit of Civilization in Social Modernization157
8.1 From “Modernization” to “Social Modernization” 157
8.2 Problems on Social Modernization that New Normal of Development Highlights161
8.3 The Value of Social Modernization with Chinese Characteristics165
Chapter 9 Urban Lifestyle in the Context of Social Modernization172
9.1 New Perspectives Concerning the Research of Contemporary Urban Lifestyle172
9.2 New Changes of Urban Lifestyle in Contemporary China175
9.3 Evaluation of Contemporary Chinese Urban Lifestyle184
Chapter 10 Social Modernization in the Era of Big Data190
10.1 Big Data Changes the Research on Social Modernization190
10.2 Feature and Approach Concerning Big Data of Social Modernization 193
10.3 The Level of Social Modernization with Chinese Characteristics in the Era of Big Data196
Chapter 11 “Cloud Governance” in the Era of Big Data201
11.1 New Challenge to “Social Governance” Posed by Big Data201
11.2 Value-orientation of “Cloud Governance” in the Context of Big Data 204
11.3 Social Application of “Cloud Governance” 210
Chapter 12 Constructing “the Context of Globalized Civilization” 215
12.1 The Formation of “the Context of Globalization” 215
12.2 Multi-form of “the Context of Globalization” 223
12.3 The Limitations of Analysis of “the Context of Globalization” 225
12.4 Five Levels Concerning the Transformation into the Context of Globalized Civilization229
Civilizations Have Become Richer and More Colorful with Exchanges and Mutual Learning, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, March 28, 2014.President Xi Jinping’s Keynote Speech at the Opening Ceremony of Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations, Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, May 15, 2019.