Spring 2014 Dædalus
What challenges confront twenty-first-century China, and how might their resolution influence the country’s (and indeed the world’s) trajectory? The Spring 2014 issue of Dædalus considers China’s problems as the growing pains of a still developing country, not necessarily as the death pangs of a Communist state doomed to imminent extinction. Through exploration of the complex domestic issues facing contemporary China, the contributors to the issue form a nuanced vision of the rapidly changing country, drawing global lessons from both its failures and accomplishments.
The issue is guest edited by Academy Fellow Elizabeth J. Perry, the Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government at Harvard University and Director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute. In her introduction, Perry notes that through three decades of “reform and opening,” China has transformed from one of the globe’s most impoverished countries to owner of the world’s second largest economy. But China now faces the consequences of this growth and the policies that spurred it, including environmental devastation, health and income inequality, a declining workforce, and widespread grassroots protest that bespeaks the tension between an authoritarian state and its market economy.
Perry argues that while China is in many ways unique, scholars and policy-makers can benefit from comparisons between China and the developmental states of East Asia, late developers like India and Brazil, and economic powerhouses, including the United States. As Perry writes, “We would be foolhardy to disregard or discount China’s efforts to resolve global problems simply because we predict that its political system is some day destined to disappear.”
Among the issue’s fifteen essays, Guobin Yang (University of Pennsylvania) examines how Internet activism continues to grow and adapt to the changing forms of state control. Robert P. Weller (Boston University) explores the remarkable growth of religious practice in China and outlines the political challenges of increasing religious diversity. And William C. Kirby (Harvard University) considers China’s potential for leadership in global higher education, asking, “Can ‘world class’ universities – however they are defined – exist in a politically illiberal system?”