What is the shape of China Global? How do Chinese transnational investments in infrastructures and production facilities effect lives worldwide? Which historical experiences and normative concepts inform Chinese strategies of globalization? How can and should the humanities and social sciences explore of the emergent worlds of a new global China?
We take it that in the last 30 years China has transformed itself from the work-bench of the global economy to one of the centers of a new global order. Politically inward-looking and largely isolated at the end of the Maoist period, the country joined the WTO in 2001 ans its today championship a new multilateralism in international relations.
China transformed itself from an agrarian nation into an urbanized one, with an expanding middle class and an advanced knowledge economy that attracts business and talent from all over the world. Not only did North American and European industrial production move to China, Chinese companies and universities are today globally competitive. Its investments in agricultural production, the extraction of mineral, rare earths, and precious metals, and natural resources such as oil and gas have dramatic economic, political and social implications in most regions of the Global South.
The expansion of Chinese "spheres of exchange" has been accompanied by the creation of new political alliances, massive investments in transport infrastructure in the Global South (roads, harbors, airports, pipelines), as well as the establishment of a new Asian Infrastructure Development Bank under Chinese leadership. President Xi Jinping's "One Belt-One Road" initiative (OBOR), inauguration by in 2013, presents an encompassing strategy aiming at new global visibility and influence.
By developing transregional infrastructure projects within the transport, energy and telecommunication sector, OBOR shall eventually link up 65 countries, with 55% of the world's GNP, 70% of is population and 75% of known world-resources. Outside observers often see in OBOR China's answer to the US domination of global trade. China itself, however, represents OBOR as a project of transnational and regional cooperation for the mutual benefit of economic development and cultural exchange.
Social science research on the repercussions of a China driven globalization is still in the beginning. The term "globalization" refers to a multilayered and multifaceted phenomenon of a global change that is rooted in momentous economic, demographic, legal, and geopolitical processes and transformations. To study globalization, be it US or China driven, therefore, means to study economic, demographic, legal, or geopolitical phenomena to name but a few. This can be done from an economists or political science, or, indeed, any other disciplinary point of view. The approach that we will take in CHINA global is that of an interpretative anthropology and moral science perspective in the vein of Max Weber's Verstehende Soziologie.
We believe that a China-centered globalization will bring a different normative perspective to the world, one that has historical and philosophical roots in a Chinese world view of center and margins, in Chinese notions of justice, fair exchange and moral values, and in particular Chinese experience of modernity and models of development from the 19th century onwards. In other words, we believe that Chinese globalization will globalize, or, de facto, universalize values, ideas and practices particular to a Chinese perspective on the world. And in order to better understand a China-centered globalization, we need to understand these ideas, values, and practices.
In order to promote the development of innovative interdisciplinary projects in the field, we shall also get Chinese and German junior scholars and scientists from the respective disciplines involved and bring them together with the more senior participants in the project.
As regarding the institutional strategy of the University of Cologne, the CHINA global project will create linkages between the Competence Area "Societies in transition" and initiatives within the Global-South cluster project. The goal is to develop a Cologne centered research network CHINA global within the Global South Study Center (GSSC) into an internationally visible research platform.