Questions about things | Zhou Wen: Why is the world more and more “looking eastward” and what is “seeing”? -Chinanews

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  (Question about things) Zhou Wen: Why is the world “looking eastward” more and more, and what is “seeing”?

China News Service, Beijing, October 31st, title: Zhou Wen: Why is the world more and more “looking eastward” and what is “looking”?

China News Agency reporter Nie Zhixin

What is the secret of the rise and fall of great powers? Based on reality, why is the world more and more “looking eastward” today, and how does the eastern catch-up happen? Looking back in history, why did modern China lag far behind, and why did the West become the center of the world?

Zhou Wen, a distinguished professor of Fudan University, recently pointed out in an exclusive interview with China News Service that China’s revival today is an economic surpassing of the West from the perspective of the phenomenon, while at the essential level it is the surpassing of the West by national governance capabilities; The “Rise of the West” benefited from the integration and mutual learning between the East and the West. Similarly, the revival of China today can also “use one lamp to light another lamp” with the West.

Data map: Night view of Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai.Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhang Hengwei
Data map: Night view of Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai.Photo by China News Agency reporter Zhang Hengwei

  China News Agency reporter: For a long time, world development has been deeply influenced by the “Western-centrism”. With the rise of China, Western public opinion has repeatedly mentioned that “it is time to face China squarely.” When did the world “look eastward” phenomenon go back and what are the landmark events?

  Zhou Wen:It is inevitable to fall into “Western-centrism” by Westerners from taking a Western standpoint and telling stories about the rise and fall of the country from the perspective of Westerners. “Western-centrism” uses the wrong method to find answers in the wrong place, which leads to more wrong conclusions.

Since the reform and opening up, China’s development has shaken the voice of Western economic development and economic governance. At the same time, the uncertainty and sluggish development of the West has made the world look eastward more. From the perspective of the time point of the world’s “looking eastward” phenomenon, it should be from 2010 that China surpassed Japan to become the world’s second largest economy. Especially since the outbreak of the new crown epidemic, China has quickly controlled the epidemic and restored its economy, which has brought the world’s attention to China.

Shi Jingqian, a well-known American expert on Chinese history, said that one of the conditions for a country to be great is that it can attract the attention of others and retain this attention. China is already the “China of the world”, the Chinese problem has become a world problem, and the Chinese phenomenon is even more a world phenomenon. Therefore, whatever happens in China, it is very important to the world and even affects the world’s direction.

Data map: Shandong Port Qingdao Port fully automated terminal.Photo by Zhang Jingang

Data map: Shandong Port Qingdao Port fully automated terminal.Photo by Zhang Jingang

  China News Agency reporter: From the logic of political economy, how did the world “look eastward” happen? How to understand China’s catching-up with the West at the essential level?

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  Zhou Wen:Since the history of human civilization, whether it is the rise of the Western world or the catching-up of the Eastern world, economic development has always been driven by the state as the mainstay. The secret of a country’s poor and rich countries lies in the country’s governance capabilities and governance systems.

The market economy is a spontaneous exchange economy, but its formation depends on a set of specific political and legal systems, and the national governance capacity is positively correlated with the development of the market economy. Throughout history, the development of a country also has a “Tolstoy’s law”. Successful countries are similar, and failed countries have their own failures. In most successful countries, the government can play a better role.

This explains why China and the West have shown two completely different paths in their economic development after the 15th century.

The backwardness of China in modern times is not because of the underdeveloped market economy, but because of marketization without a strong government, that is, a “weak government.” China’s revival today is a phenomenon that is economically catching up with the West, and in essence, it is the surpassing of the West by the country’s governance capabilities. The success of China’s roads is based on a series of special and important systems. To a certain extent, the Chinese government has found a way to actively play the role of “helping hand” and avoid the influence of “grabbing hand” as much as possible.

At the same time, the current crisis facing the West is not only a crisis of development, but also a crisis of governance system and governance capabilities. Historically, the French statesman Tocqueville and the American school established by Hamilton have affirmed the important role of government power. It is the active control of the government, not the free market, that has contributed to the economic rise of Western countries. However, the liberal economic propositions in the West today are far from the policy practices in history, and the governance of the country is too obsessed with neoliberal economics. Human history and reality show that the market is not an “angel” and it is impossible to have such “magic power”.

Data map: Public train from Jinhua, Zhejiang to Moscow, Russia.Photo by Hu Xiaofei

Data map: Public train from Jinhua, Zhejiang to Moscow, Russia.Photo by Hu Xiaofei

  China News Agency reporter: The world “looks eastward” implies that China’s position in world coordinates has changed. Regarding China’s revival, the West feels uncomfortable and fears that China will challenge the West. How does the West “digest” this discomfort?

  Zhou Wen:The West has long been accustomed to a condescending, self-centered perspective and worldview. Therefore, it has all kinds of discomforts and worries about China’s development. The Sino-US trade friction can be said to be an outbreak.

The development of the East and the West are two parallel development routes. China has continuously promoted economic development through opening up to the outside world and internal reforms, without the colonization, war, and plunder that the West feared. The West always wants to include China in the “Western schema.” Such a mentality is not good for China and the West itself.

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Montesquieu’s “Spirit of the Law” mentioned that, generally speaking, all countries have the same goal, which is to preserve themselves. However, each country has a special goal. Rome’s goal is expansion, Sparta’s goal is war, and China’s goal is stability.

China’s development achievements shock the world and influence the West, but China has no intention of changing the West in the past, present and future. The rise of China only means that the world has to reconsider whether the current pattern and system are reasonable. It also means that China has gone out of the path of “a strong country must hegemony” in the West, and it also means that global governance must be readjusted.

The world has entered the new century, and there is a formula in the new century, which is to learn to share. The West must learn to share from now on.

  Reporter from China News Service: People are accustomed to thinking that the center of the West—the fringe of the East, the progress of the West—the backwardness of the East. Is this really the case? In your new book, you emphasize that the “Rise of the West” comes from the integration and mutual learning of the East and the West. How to understand?

  Zhou Wen:Modernization started in the West. This is a historical fact. However, modernization is not Westernization. In the past, there was a prejudice. When it comes to advancedness and modernity, it is often unconsciously equated with Western painting; when it comes to traditional culture, it is directly equated with Eastern culture, and Eastern culture often becomes synonymous with rigidity, stagnation and backwardness. China’s success today has actually broken such a simplistic mindset, and has also shown other developing countries that the relationship between the West and the East is no longer an eternal and fixed center and edge.

Some countries have declined, and some countries have risen. Ebb and flow is normal. It is impossible for any nation to stay at one point in time forever, and the West has not always been at the forefront of the world in history. The great divergence between China and the West has only occurred in modern times, and the development of the West also broke through the darkness of the Middle Ages before it has come to this day and realized its own modernization.

The East (more advanced than the West from 500 to 1800 AD) played a major role in promoting the rise of the modern West. For example, after 500 AD, advanced Eastern ideas, systems, and technologies were spread to and absorbed by the West; Western overseas expansion after 1492 seized various economic resources in the East and promoted the rise of the West. It can be seen that without the contribution of the East, the rise of the West is unimaginable.

Data map: Offline exhibition of the 20th China International Equipment Manufacturing Expo.Photo by Yu Haiyang

Data map: Offline exhibition of the 20th China International Equipment Manufacturing Expo.Photo by Yu Haiyang

  China News Agency reporter: 100 years ago, Russell mentioned in the “China Issue” that China will play its due role in the world and bring a new hope when mankind is in urgent need. Do you think Russell’s prediction has been fulfilled?

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  Zhou Wen:The scene of China’s economic development has become the world’s largest scene theater, and China’s contribution to the world economy needless to say. China has also injected “Eastern power” into the world in terms of values, national governance, modernization roads, and global supply of public goods. Whether it is the proposal and practice of the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind, or the actions in international cooperation against the epidemic, it shows that Russell’s prediction 100 years ago is being realized.

China’s revival is not an abrupt accident, but a reflection and progress in the long history of backwardness since modern times. From the perspective of a grand historical perspective, this is a major reversal of world history. It has not only profoundly changed China, but also means that emerging countries have increased their voice and made world development more fair and reasonable. As the British political thinker Hobson said: “History cannot be written as the history of a certain group of people. Civilization is gradually established, sometimes because of the contributions of this part of people, and sometimes because of the contributions of other people.”

The Chinese world and the world’s China are not mutually conflicting and mutually exclusive relations, but mutually integrated and mutually reinforcing relations. Western scholars have long proposed that “the rise of China will reshape the meaning and model of modernity” and that China and the West can cooperate and win-win, and “use one lamp to light another lamp”.

  China News Agency reporter: The world is increasingly “looking eastward”. In this regard, what kind of mentality should the Chinese hold?

  Zhou Wen:Today, “China can already look at the world head-up.” To look at the world head-up is to emphasize the self-confidence and backbone of the Chinese people. Self-confidence does not mean complacency. China has made great achievements in development, but China has not yet achieved the strongest development. Huntington’s evaluation is quite objective, “The West is and will remain the most powerful civilization in the coming years. However, its power relative to other civilizations is declining.”

The world is increasingly “looking eastward”, but it does not mean that the East has surpassed the West. After all, the modernization of the West has gone through more than 200 years, and it has accumulated a foundation for development. Some useful and advanced things are still worth learning from the Chinese. (over)

  About the interviewee:

  Zhou Wen is a distinguished professor of Yangtze River Scholars of the Ministry of Education, a distinguished professor of Fudan University, and a doctoral supervisor. He is currently the deputy dean of the Institute of Marxism at Fudan University and the vice chairman of the Chinese Association of Political Economy. His new book “Why the Rise and Fall of the Country: The Chinese Road in History and World Vision” was published at the end of September this year.

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