Fang Ning:Two Development Trends of China's Political Science in New Era--Scientification and Internationalization
Created On : 2017-11-01    Views : 16

It is pointed out in the report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC that "We will work harder to study and develop Marxist theory, work faster to develop philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics, and develop new types of think tanks with distinctive Chinese features". In the new era, in the face of the new situation and new tasks, Chinese political science scholars should bear the historical responsibility. To do that, we must enhance the professional level of political science research. At present, China's political science is in urgent need to elevate the degree of specialization of political science research.

It is mentioned in the report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC that "The world is undergoing major developments, transformation, and adjustment." In such an international situation, countries become increasingly interconnected with and interdependent on one another, and China's development and progress is drawing more and more attention from around the world. Under this circumstance, China needs to re-examine and re-study Western theories and re-judge their value and function on the basis of our own experience. We should stop copying Western political theories blindly and secure the capability of applying Western theories selectively, eliminating the false & retaining the true and adapting foreign things for Chinese needs.

The report stated that "Socialism with Chinese characteristics has crossed the threshold into a new era. This is a new historic juncture in China's development." Now we are at a critical time that decides whether we can succeed in building a well-off society in an all-round way and a modern socialist power in an all-round way. In the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics, Chinese political science bears an important historical task: How to understand and research the rule of state administration and enhance the state governance system and the modernization level of governance capability?; How to promote the construction of socialist democratic politics with Chinese characteristics?; How to construct the theory, discipline and discourse systems of China's political science? All the above are the long-term tasks on the shoulders of Chinese political science scholars.

The Institute of Political Science (IPS) under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) is an important political science research institute in China. It is committed to political research, such as research on political construction, political development and political system reforms, as well as policy consultancy and theoretical research. This year, the institute also undertook multiple important research projects assigned by the central government and relevant ministries centering around the 19th National Congress. Since 2011, the IPS has implemented a philosophical social science innovation project. Years of practice has made us realize that one of the important significances of the innovation project is that transformation of social science means switching from ordinary political research, with inheriting political civilization as the keynote, to think tank research, mainly involving studying realistic problems, and providing strategy & policy planning consultancy. This is a key evolution and an expansion of the research vision and research fields of political science research. Years of scientific research and practice also prompted us to think about some issues, such as political science research subjects and methods. We have gradually realized that we are exploring and building Chinese political science in a new era, which is the basis for building Chinese political theories and disciplines from an academic perspective.

In years of research and practice, we have come to realize that there are two trends in the study of political science in our country, or that the times and tasks put forward two objective requirements for political science. We would like to summarize them as two words, which are scientification and internationalization. This is the experience we have gained from scientific research and practice in recent years. 


Differentiate political philosophy and political science.

The focus is the development of political science.

Political philosophy is the dissertation about political values. Hence, it comes under the category of political ideology. From the perspective of methodology, political philosophy is about goal setting and argument. It is abstraction and generalization of a historical process, and speculative and logical solutions to problems existing in the process.

Political science is knowledge about political phenomena, causal link and correlation between political things. It is objective and verifiable. From the angle of methodology, political science is exploring and summarizing the rule of politics in the process of solving practical problems, as well as extracting theories out of empirical facts.

Political philosophy and political science are both linked to and different from each other. From the perspective of the development of political science, political philosophy and political science are two basic clues and paths of political science development. In modern politics, political philosophy and political science are two parallel lines that are either close to or far from each other or that get close to or far away from each other from time to time. 

Why should we differentiate political philosophy from political science? Because this is the requirement of reality and development. At present, Chinese political science research tends to ignore the differences between political philosophy and political science, which has led to mutual interference of two different kinds of research work. On the one hand, empirical and empirical research on the issue of value and the value of philosophy is usually carried out by enumeration. The outcome is that the list is far from being complete and hence it cannot prove the problem at once, nor can it prove the problem logically. It only ends up with a far-fetched explanation and futile effort. What is a philosophical proposition? What is the pursuit of value? The precondition is that these propositions and concepts only exist in logic rather than reality. The truthfulness of philosophical propositions and values can only be proved by practice, instead of synonymous repetitive logical proofs. To prove concept with logical reasoning and concept is not scientific. On the other hand, much of the work about and a large number of papers on Chinese political science just give an explanation of a scientific problem, which is too general. For example, as we can often see, when proving the rationality of a key national policy, some researchers do not base their argument on the actual situation or results of the system or policy, but on possibility. It is logic reasoning, at best, rather than proving based on facts. Such a conclusion is not convincing. Paradigm confusion like this is a massive waste of academic resources. It even has a disturbing effect on political science research in the real sense, and Chinese political science research is separated from the reality, unable to cut to the chase. Hence it becomes a self talk.

Methodological confusion and flaws directly affect the social function of Chinese political science. Politics is a practical science that should be able to play a practical role in social and political life. However, we tend to stand on points, unable to reach a proper level or build an original discourse system. When departments of practical affairs need political scholars to study specific issues and come up with solutions, what we can offer is usually something general and meaningless, instead of a research result that is pragmatic and feasible. The confusion between political philosophy and political science often puts the Chinese political science circle in an embarrassing situation.

In reality, there are two forms of political development, or two stages that turn up alternately in the process of development. We can describe it vividly as "at the intersection" and "on the road." "At the intersection" is the period when we need to choose a political road; "on the road" is the stage of practice and development after we choose a particular political road. Political development "at the intersection" must be a period when political philosophy thrives; while political development "on the road" is the time calling for political science. At the historical moment when systems and development roads are available for choice, we need ideological emancipation, a variety of theoretical assumptions and philosophical thinking. Even those that will be proved wrong later have some inspirational value. At a moment of historical choice, it is bound to be a period that can be based on no practice. Political philosophy can open our mind and has an indispensable historical role. Historically, in the era of social development and change, advanced political philosophy once played a great role. For instance, the Enlightenment had a significant impact on the French Revolution and the American independence.

The historical road will not always be in a state of choice. When the development direction and road is chosen, we must follow the road and go forward steadfastly. We must solve all problems and overcome all obstacles standing in the way. To overcome these difficulties on the road, we cannot rely on concept but on experience, science and knowledge about the objective law of development. Now, the Chinese road, theories and system are basically established. What we are confronted with is fully implementing these theories & systems and improving the modernization level of national governance system and capability.

The report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC proposes that "We will work harder to study and develop Marxist theory, work faster to develop philosophy and social sciences with Chinese characteristics, and develop new types of think tanks with distinctive Chinese features". In the new era, in the face of the new situation and new tasks, Chinese political scholars should bear the historical responsibility. To do that, we must improve the professional level of political science research. Currently, Chinese political scholars urgently need to enhance the professional level of political science research. The so-called professionalization is relative to generalization. A large number of theories that are now used in the field of political science in China belong to political philosophy. They are a general statement of the development road & direction, ideology and values and cannot be applied to solve specific problems, which must be solved by applying political science knowledge. Political philosophy is more about arguing, while political science targets solutions. At present, to promote the "four-pronged comprehensive strategies" in a coordinated way and comprehensively push forward modernization and political construction, we must increase efforts in political science research. At this stage, political science should be our main research tool. We must develop Chinese political science through solving practical political problems and carry forward socialism with Chinese characteristics with political science.


Vigorously strengthen comparative political research.

Understand China by comparisons.

To a certain extent, politics is the study of countries. Research of countries cannot be based on only one country. A foreign politics scholar once said the study of only one country is actually equivalent to no study at all. He is reasonable. At present, comparative study is drawing increasing attention from domestic political scholars. This is a good thing. China's development is inseparable from the world, and it has never been like that before. The development road and system that China has chosen each have their own nature and characteristics. However, the Chinese road and system is also universal. China's industrialization and modernization process will follow the general law that is also applicable to the rest of the world. The experience and lessons that other countries have learned are worthy of our research and reference. We have come to realize that the difference between China and other countries, especially that between China and the West, lies in the state nature, development direction, or stages of development. That means what other countries have encountered today may be the problems we will meet tomorrow. Therefore, their experience can give China enlightenment.

What is comparative study of political science? How should we do this kind of research? Comparative study can generally be divided into two types: first, direct learning and imitating. Second, understand the development course of things from practical experience of others, and know about their internal problems, difficulties and contradictions so as to understand the inherent rule of development and obtain inspiration, which is the main content and major value of comparative study. Direct learning and imitating does not happen very often as that calls for identical or similar conditions, which is hard to obtain. To know about the difficulties and setbacks that the object of study has experienced in practice via comparative study, is where the greatest value of comparative study lies. The simple and superficial result of comparative study is knowing about the reasonable practices that the object of study has done to achieve success, that is, to understand the correctness of the object of study. Failure is the mother of success. It is through learning from a large number of mistakes and setbacks that we can succeed. Success is the result of overcoming and solving problems. If we only know the correct results and conclusions, and not the errors and mistakes the object of study has made in the effort to find out the right solution, this kind of understanding is superficial and of little value. It is more important and meaningful to know about what is wrong than what is right. Knowing about what is right is knowing "what it is", while knowing what is wrong is knowing "the reason why". That is to say, we know not only the correct conclusion but how we reach that conclusion. This is a deeper understanding. Understanding the frustrations, failures, experience and lessons of predecessors will help you avoid mistakes when you are in trouble or difficulties. That is because we can gain enlightenment from what they have experienced, which will help us overcome conflicts and difficulties.

The internationalization of Chinese political science has another implication, which is understanding and evaluating Western political science and drawing on experience from it in a scientific way. Contemporary Chinese political science research started late and was based on a weak foundation. A lot of academic resources come from Western political science. In the recent 40 years of reform and opening up, Chinese political scholars made a comprehensive and systematic introduction of foreign political theories, especially those from the west, and attempted to use the methods & theories of Western politics to study the political problems of contemporary China. Introduction and application of Western political science, on the one hand, supplied academic resources to China's political science research and broadened the academic horizon of Chinese scholars. On the other hand, introduction of a large amount of Western political science has also brought a negative effect. Western political theories originated in the Western history, social & cultural background, and are based on the political practice of the West, which is quite different from that in China. Blindly applying Western political theories to China and even using them mechanically may involve the risk of misunderstanding and will inevitably lead to misleading practice. This phenomenon was once so serious that it affected localization of Chinese political science and hindered efforts from domestic politics scholars to study Chinese problems on the basis of the national condition of China.

Since the reform and opening up, China has achieved leapfrog development in industrialization and modernization. With economic and social development, China has also made great progress in political construction and political development. It has formed a socialist political system with Chinese characteristics, and embarked on the road of developing socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics. Our national and social governance system has been improving constantly, and we have made continuous progress in national governance capability and level. The report to the 19th National Congress of the CPC proposed that "The world is undergoing major developments, transformation, and adjustment." In such an international situation, countries in the world become increasingly interconnected with and interdependent on each other, and China is drawing more and more attention from around the world to its development and progress. Under this circumstance, China needs to re-examine and re-study Western theories and re-appraise the value of Western political theories, and function according to our own experience. We should stop copying Western political theories blindly and secure the capability of applying western theories selectively, eliminating the false & retaining the true and adapting foreign things for Chinese needs.

We cannot understand China in the real sense if our eyes are only on China itself. We should widen our horizon and go global. Studying the development roads, systems, experience and lessons of various countries by using comparative study can help us find problems in the differences between China and other countries and the law in repetition. That can help us better know about, understand and develop China. We should have a global vision in the effort to optimize the political development road of China, and push forward its development by studying the experience that other countries have gained from success and the lessons they have drawn from failures. This is the late-mover advantage that China has.


(The author is President of the Institute of Political Science, CASS and a member of the Academic Committee of Shanghai Academy)