Li Youmei: Social Governance in the Context of In-depth Globalization
Created On : 2017-12-25    Views : 314

On December 11, 2017, Li Youmei, President of the Chinese Sociological Association and First Vice President of Shanghai Academy attended the "Seventh World Forum on China Studies" and delivered a keynote speech entitled Social Governance in the Context of Deep Globalization. The following is the speech:

The in-depth globalization that I am discussing today is characterized by both "re-globalization" of "counter-globalization" and the globalization in which countries have walked out of "traditional alliance" “for the good of all." In the context of globalization where old and new mechanisms overlay and intersect with one another and reorganize, all regions and countries in the world are facing new challenges from social governance to varying degrees, and the formation mechanisms of these challenges have some common causes and similarities. To cope with these new challenges, we need not only a deeper insight into the global trends that impact the future but also the ability to move beyond the traditional framework of thinking, to enhance our judgment and capability to cope with challenges with more creative imagination.

I.New circumstances of social governance

Over the past few decades, globalization has profoundly changed the economies, social and natural environments and the relations between them, enabling the world to become interconnected in an unprecedented way, due to rapid technological changes and the accelerated flow of commodities, services, capital and labor. Interconnected "globalization", in an ideal sense, is the inter-connected and inter-dependent relationship formed by relying on co-governance and sharing between parties engaged in globalization and the basis to have access to productivity of world scale and continuous expansion of the world economy. However, while creating opportunities for world development, globalization has brought about such problems as unreasonable and unequal distribution of benefits and cost. The benefits of globalization fail to reach every country, which has had a significant impact on sustainable development of the whole society and communities all over the world.

At present, we are entering a new era when new trends, such as changes in production and the labor market, rapid development of science & technology, and further strengthening of trade, investment, and global production networks, may change and influence our future in an unpredictable way.

First, globalization has brought people closer and made human symbiosis the most fundamental theme. Some Western scholars have even proposed the question "Can we live together?" And the challenges posed thereby are likely to be directly related to the foundation of the governance of a state. Since the 1990s, the principle of the market economy and representative democracy as a government system have been used as the most important dimension to measure the social organization level in all parts of the world. However, the current series of changes in the political and social pattern of the world (such as Brexit and the migration crisis in Europe) show that the role of multiple factors in promoting sustained globalization is being increasingly blocked, and that regional entities have gained priority to countries as major players in global affairs. It is becoming more and more difficult to promote meaningful communication between different world views.

Second, while affecting the industrial and social structures of all countries, globalization has also put the "social integration capability" of each country under test. Nothing is automatic or eternal in the global contest for competitiveness and development. Now that we have seen a "new era of talent", the driving factor to adapt to this new era is the competition for human capital with imagination and innovation. Most countries in the world are facing a growing number of common problems. On the one hand, the need to upgrade surplus labor brought about by production transformation; on the other, the need to compete for global talents. At present, the rapid development and progress of new technologies, including information, transportation and artificial intelligence, is increasingly influencing the field of work. The phenomenon of machines gradually replacing human labor is not limited to the manufacturing industry or developing countries. Artificial intelligence substituting for the existing labor force will become more and more popular. All countries involved will face the pressing problem of labor transformation. Those that cannot get involved in the process of technological innovation and development may face the risk of being abandoned or marginalized. Globalization will have a great effect on many basic mechanisms of social operation, making it urgent to reform and innovate the traditional social governance model constantly. Therefore, we must think about the series of new institutional arrangements on which social reorganization is based, and how to achieve these institutional arrangements.

Third, the national state framework in which social governance is carried out is challenged by globalization. In fact, globalization is a process of mutual reinforcement and interdependence, where various social transformations occur almost at the same time. In this process, countries involved are facing more and more complicated challenges and uncertainties. Therefore, it is urgent to rebuild a new order of global social governance. Some Western scholars point out from the perspective of global populism that we are in a new era of humankind. It is a new era when the working class and the middle class from America, Asia, Europe, Latin America and Africa are united and have their destiny in their own hands. However, through what mechanism will this public governing system that the increasingly globalized political and economic situation need take shape? This is a new issue that needs to be addressed. At present, there is an important structural imbalance within globalization, which is that globalization at the level of social life is not synchronized with globalization at the economic activity level. To be specific, the rules and mechanisms for economic activities have achieved rapid globalization (for example, international organizations in the area of economic governance). However, social governance is still confined to a single country or is even lagging behind. There is a serious mismatch and disharmony between the two systems and rules from different spaces.

It can be said that globalization is standing at a new crossroads. Trade protectionism and isolationism on the part of developed countries have tended to aggravate the uncertainty of "re-globalization" that goes beyond "counter-globalization". The trend of economic and social transformation and upgrading of all emerging and developing countries has basically taken shape. Economic and social transformation is increasingly intertwined with the changes in the international political and economic pattern. The globalization that makes "for the sake of all" means both going beyond "traditional alliance" and also being deeply constrained by "traditional alliance." In a manner of speaking, deep globalization has enabled all countries and regions to participate in the forces of global governance and is simultaneously under the two-way influence of the new pattern of local social governance transformation and global governance. At present, it is still necessary to find a local source that focuses on the new challenge of social governance by finding inclusive rather than exclusive ideas to uphold the pluralistic evolutionary worldview in order to solve its own major problems of social governance and global governance.


II.  Local source of new challenges to social governance

With the development of globalization and informatization, the spatial structure of the world economic system is gradually established on the logical foundation of “flow”, connection, network and node, which result in creating “gateway cities” that are crucial to the world economic development, control centers connecting regions and world-class city agglomerations that are under the command of core cities. However, urban social governance all over the world has to face some new topics: how to properly rearrange the surplus labor brought about in the process of technological transformation; how to replace old rules with new ones; how to cope with the dominating power in the hands of cities that have surpassed nation states and visible space, new modes which may trigger industry and spatial conglomeration, new changes in social structure and new trend of adjustment of the interest structure. These new topics have brought fundamental new challenges to local social governance:

Challenge 1: How to reshape a modern local society with certain centripetal force and cohesive force in the context of increased mobility and reduced traditional dependence among the public. This remodeling process can be seen as a process of production of local social publicity under new conditions. When the social mobility of social members of a local society is getting more and more frequent while interdependence between them declines, their recognition of local society will decline and the formation of publicity will be confronted with difficulties. Without the support of publicity, it will be difficult to realize multi-variant governance.

Challenge 2: When social governance under the background of in-depth globalization has become a kind of higher demand for public services, through what institutional path shall we coordinate the power of the government, market and society so as to meet the public need? In short, it is the question of in what way we can provide social public goods up to a certain standard. Differentiated understanding of this issue will lead to the formation of different institutional arrangements for the integration of public service and management systems by local government departments. If a region places more emphasis on providing standardized public goods on a supplier-oriented (rather than on a demand-side basis) scale, it is more likely that the region will choose a strong institutional integration model. When the social governance system needs to provide flexible, differentiated and diversified public goods that are based on public demand, more emphasis will be put on a multi-level public service system and a multiple-subject cooperation mechanism. In other words, this will make the local public service system contain huge internal tension.

Challenge 3: How to find a balanced mechanism between risk control and cost in social governance in an uncertain situation. In reality, local governments in each region all have to face the problems of how to gain the resources they need and control the risks of governance when promoting innovation in governance. Behind these two issues is the contradictory claim: a higher level of risk control often means higher governance costs; and lower governance costs may come with a greater risk of uncertainty. Therefore, how to find an appropriate balance mechanism has become a deep-seated problem in local governance in the new round of globalization. In addition, it is worth thinking that the above three deep-seated challenges intertwining with each other may lead to bigger difficulties in social governance in the context of globalization. In particular, the following three questions will constitute the important foundation to understand the relative position of any country in the world system and in the international situation:

-The issue of cross-subject, cross-institution overall coordination;

- How to ensure effective connection between public feedback and the governance system;

- How to reshape the symbol, meaning, and identity system of governance;


III. Strategy and perspective of China’s social governance transformation in the new era

In today's world, there is a phenomenon: the boundary of the economic activities of nation states is getting increasingly weaker; community identity in traditional countries is on the decline; local governance transformation needs to rely on a systematic project featuring multi-dimensional coordination. In this systematic project, local affairs are not completely separated from international affairs that are full of uncertain and complex new changes. Faced with this situation, our imagination and coping ability have met with unprecedented serious challenges. In this regard, people have been aware of that to different degrees. China's new social governance pattern guided by the ideology of socialism with Chinese characteristics for the new era not only marks the beginning of a new journey China has embarked on toward further development but also shows China's acuity to the change in global order and its ability to turn itself from a recipient into a contributor. 

There are two basic bases on which we can judge China has entered a new era: on one hand, new characteristics have appeared in the initial stage of socialism with Chinese characteristics; on the other, historic changes have taken place to the principal social contradictions. The report to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China pointed out that “we must recognize that the evolution of the principal contradiction facing Chinese society represents a historic shift that affects the whole landscape”.That we have realized the historic shift not only determines the fundamental changes in the content, methods and motivation of development, but also the more general significance of social governance. 

China has already started a new journey of building a modern socialist country in an all-round way. However, the current problems China is confronted with are "complex." On the one hand, it is necessary to solve the most basic and oldest problems in human society, like poverty and employment; on the other hand, we must cope with the most "modern" issues, such as the quality of life and aesthetic standards, and governance participation. This necessarily calls for a change in thinking and a global, strategic and forward-looking program of action that proceeds from the big picture of "a slight move in one part may affect the whole situation."

It is under such conditions that the Chinese communists have taken the initiative to cope with world multi-polarization, economic globalization, cultural diversification, pluralistic governance and the rapid development of modern information technology, among others. At the same time, the Chinese Communist Party has formed the new thinking of social governance transformation in China for the new era and come up with the new strategy of "establishing a social governance model based on collaboration, participation, and common interests”. Social governance was written into the party constitution, which shows that social governance led by Party building will creatively promote effective linkage between the administrative system and social forces with Party and political mechanisms, and mobilize and enhance the overall governance practice led by the ruling party.

The transformation of China's social governance model is a complex of multithreaded reforms including optimization of the government operating mechanism, working for the goal of "five in one" balanced development with economic construction at the center, as well as the shaping of a pluralistic governing structure involving Party committees, governments and multiple social forces under an open and mobile social form. This gradual transformation of social governance in China is aimed to effectively evade systemic risks in governance innovation, and to continuously promote innovation in risk control mechanisms. China's social governance practice based on its actual conditions provides not only a new practical example for social governance innovation in the context of in-depth globalization, but also unique experience in social governance as a contributor to the global governance order.

Under the background of deep globalization and the fact that China is in a new period of social transition, China put forward the concept of "building a community of shared interest for mankind" for the first time in 2013. Following this, China advocated and initiated the "Belt and Road" Initiative in a bid to forge a new type of international cooperation mode that will help us to achieve common development and win-win results. The “Belt and Road" Initiative, upholding openness, tolerance, sharing, and balance. is an open initiative based on the achievements of China's reform & opening up and domestic governance. It carries an important mission of advancing new globalization. Not only that, it implies China’s effort in promoting communications and exchanges between different countries and regions in terms of values, benefits distribution, ways of action, lifestyles, and institutional arrangements. 

As a reaction and response to governance practice, the actual operation of the new pattern of social governance in China in the new era will provide a practical basis for the innovation of social governance theories. Produced and tested by practice, social governance transformation in China is a representation of the scientism of Chinese social governance theories. The resulting new achievements will infuse new meaning into the development of global human civilization.

Therefore, when we stand today at a new historical starting point for the transformation of relations between China and the rest of the world, we must update our thinking mode when thinking about the lessons we have learned from social governance transformation in China and its theoretical construction. In fact, we need a new theory of governance, but this theory can transcend not only the thinking inertia of the existing governance theories but also the dualistic thinking logic of the West and the East. From the speeches delivered by foreign researchers at the opening ceremony yesterday, it is not hard to find out how they want to see how China analyzes and interprets its new role in the world, how China analyzes its own global and world outlooks, and hope that this analysis can help people understand more clearly how China practices its "five in one" concept and new ideas of development, and how this practice is linked to the multi-dimensional and multi-level spaces between nations, and regions all over the world. Especially in terms of governance theories, it may be more necessary for us to seek and play the role of building a community with a shared interest for mankind on the basis of the understanding of a "pluralistic world outlook," and by going beyond the mentality of “for its own good”. In this regard, an important test will come from “Whether China's social sciences can make breakthroughs in social governance in the context of deepening globalization and provide the world with an understanding of China's understanding of 'I am part of the world.'”