The Chinese Century? Perspectives from the Social Sciences

Have we entered a “Chinese Century”? The past decade has witnessed an outpouring of scholarly and popular discussion regarding China as an emergent hegemon. The discursive mix of anticipation and anxiety, both in the west and the south, steadily preceded the benchmark point in 2010 when China finally surpassed Japan as the world’s second largest economy, and was poised to surpass the United States in only a few decades at most. Assessing a process that may still be emergent and contingent however is different from declaring that a definitively new era has begun. The “American Century” was not only the economic, political, social and cultural dominance of the United States, but a complete rewriting of the international system along its terms, a process that emerged much from the particularities of American history. The concept of a “Chinese Century”, therefore, requires a critical and rigorous examination of the processes in China’s development that are still emergent, yet closely linked to issues global in their scope.

This series included Dru Gladney (Professor of Anthropology at Pamona College) , Mary Gallagher (Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan), and Ho-Fung Hung (Professor of Sociology at John Hopkins University). Additionally, the series included a special symposium on the China-India security relationship.These speakers discussed how diverse processes in China both reflect and challenge our ways of thinking about this century’s global transformations and China’s positioning within it.