Now with the second largest GDP in the world, China does not only continue to show its robust economic growth, but also boost its presence in the international community by actively developing strategic foreign policies and strengthening military muscles. On the other hand, the country also teems with domestic problems such as diverging income disparity, corruption, mammonism, deteriorating environment and food-safety, and unemployment. The number and scale of group protests by poor peasants and workers is getting larger and larger. Civil movements demanding all sorts of rights are also expanding. At the same time, the online “free space” has grown. However, political reform is not easy, albeit with incremental improvement. As China heads toward the roads of superpower, development and prosperity, its people and society are also filled with anxiety, dissatisfaction and absurdity. The society as a whole is under a “twisted structure”.
To understand a China as such, it is crucial for all researchers in the world to have comprehensive and objective perspectives. In addition, such correct understanding would be extremely important for us to build everyday relationship with China and its people and set the policy parameter of Japan’s strategic directions. As a neighbor of China, it is imperative that we obtain a comprehensive understanding of contemporary China’s culture, society, politics and economy.
Based on our achievements in the first term of the Contemporary Chinese Area Studies, in the second term we mainly aim to further strengthen the ties among the 6 network members and the two newly established partners in order to accumulate our research in the following four areas.
1.To revive and develop China studies as area study and systemize the so-called “contemporary sinology”. Although in the international academic sphere, area studies are losing ground in the U.S. and interdisciplinary studies are unduly downplayed, it is necessary to revive and develop China studies as area study that focuses on regional realities. No academic discipline could completely handle area studies. We must form a comprehensive methodology by utilizing our knowledge in civilization, culture, history, geography, political science, economics, sociology and anthropology.
To study contemporary China, we need to build infrastructure in the following areas.
(1)To create a mechanism that binds existing network research activities horizontally and organically. Horizontal themes and exchange of researchers would be necessary.
(2)To promote research cooperation with other area study programs (such as Islamic studies, India studies, and Japan studies), and share methodology and related research topics.
(3)To initiate international wide research activities in area study methodologies.
(4)To organize and digitalize documents and historical materials of contemporary China, and form a network that encompasses all partner centers.
2.To improve the quality of research based on systematic and organic themes in contemporary China studies. Instead of each individual centers setting their own research topics separately, we synthesize different topics and form an overarching theme.
Also, objectively speaking, the level of Japan’s contemporary Chinese studies is considerably high in the world. However, since most of the works are in Japanese, currently it is difficult for overseas experts to access them. Therefore, in order to overcome this difficulty, we 1 establish joint programs with overseas institutes to explore common topics, and 2 invite foreign researchers and issue English journals.
We must aim to construct an open research structure at the international level through these activities. Our collaboration with people doing research of contemporary China in the Asia Pacific region would be particularly strategically important for our country’s research originality in this area.
3.To promote social contribution of contemporary China studies. It would not be enough if our program just serves as a platform for researchers’ joint activities to improve the quality of contemporary China studies. We have to have more people in our society understand contemporary China. For that purpose, we plan to open seminars, symposia and enrich our homepage contents for general people. We would also always pay attention to provide suggestive messages regarding hot China related topics.
4.To foster the next generation researchers. Contemporary China studies are getting more and more important. Unfortunately, the number of Japanese researchers in this area is decreasing. It is imperative that we construct an educational system to foster the growth of a new generation. Meanwhile, we have to provide opportunities for young scholars to take the initiative in a variety of activities across the network. This may include opening international symposia and workshops, sharing information among member network centers, and competing and cooperating among peer researchers.