Global China is the global theme for the Center for academic year 2015-2016

August 31, 2015

By Lisa Rofel 


In recent years, there has been avid interest in China’s increased presence around the world, as scholars, journalists, pundits, non-governmental organizations, and activists examine China’s rapid transformation and raise questions about whether China will eclipse the United States as the next global superpower. For the most part, however, these studies tend to focus on China’s economic investments and its search for energy and other natural resources.  They also tend to have a unidirectional model of power in relation to economic development.

We will focus on Global China, through a graduate seminar, a mega course, and a summer field school in Latin America.  We will convene at least one conference to bring together scholars working on China’s new presence in various areas of especially the global South and put together a volume and an interactive website.  This conference will be in the model of the Santa Fe School of American Research, in which scholars meet for one week to discuss their new and emerging work and then develop a collaborative volume out of those discussions.  Our questions will include the most basic one of whether we see a new kind of world order emerging as a result of China’s growing involvement especially in the global South in extending its access to resources, including land, its investments in infrastructures, and its cultural/educational/ideological investments.

It is time to reflect more carefully on the human and cultural dimensions of Chinese interactions, especially with regions in the Global South, including Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. We focus on the Global South because of the long history of Chinese engagements with countries from these regions, and we will examine cultural and social encounters as well as economic relationships that are producing a set of “emerging worlds.”

While many writings on China’s growing expansion around the world appear to assume that this presence has little or no relationship to previous histories, we contend that these histories are in fact crucial to an understanding of contemporary interactions and the new worlds that they may help generate.