Chinese Entanglements

Social science research in China fluctuates between freedom and restriction. The best way to deal with this situation is debated heavily in Europe – and in the new Journal of Current Chinese Affairs.

This issue of the Journal of Current Chinese Affairs presents two important topics. The first part of the issue reflects some strands of a recurring debate within the area of social science research on China. The conditions under which research in the People’s Republic of China can be conducted, primarily in cooperation with Chinese academic institutions, have been a meta-topic for critical discussions within the scientific community. Researchers must be aware of these conditions, and the limitations but also the opportunities that are inherent to this system, which officially requires every foreign scholar to cooperate with an official Chinese partner when conducting research in China.

A number of issues – including the integration of Chinese research institutions with government bodies and administra-tions, the widespread self-conception of Chinese colleagues as policy consultants, and the political agendas involved in many research in-terests – have caused some non-Chinese academics to refrain from collaborative research altogether. Other researchers have been accused by the mass media in their home countries for being biased and acting as propaganda tool for the PRC government for producing research results that have not replicated longstanding media prejudice.

It cannot be denied that research cooperation in China and with Chinese partners can be problematic. Certain central questions still frame our research reality in and with China, and should be reflected upon. These include formulation of acceptable research questions; access to data, documents, field sites and informants; sampling criteria, methods and interpretations; and, last but not least, (joint) publications.

However, it would be too simple to frame the necessary reflections and our academic debate on this topic in the same way as this was done back in the 1980s, for example. We cannot ignore the rapidly changing academic landscape within the PRC particularly over the past one or two decades. Factors such as the drive for international cooperation on the Chinese side, marketisation of academic education and research, or the introduction of academic evaluation systems, have had profound impacts on the conditions for doing research on and with China.

Taking some of the prominent earlier criticisms as vantage points, the individual contributions in this issue reflect upon these more recent developments within Chinese academia. In order to sensitise us for the challenges and opportunities that are inherent to research collaboration with China today, the authors present personal viewpoints and interpretations based on individual ex-periences and/ or the in-depth analysis of general reforms and developments within the Chinese academic system. We believe that this discussion adds important perspectives to the ongoing international academic debate on conducting research in and with China.

The second part of this issue focuses on the interplay between non-Han ethnic religions, state policies and development and sheds light on multiple actors engaged in identity politics. Within the framework of the revival of ethnic religions, the three contributions present case studies on the Zhuang, the Nuosu and the Tibetans. While the strength of each individual article is the richness of detail and the depth of analysis of each case study, the three articles combine to facilitate insights beyond the single case into more structural issues of the complex relationships in which multiple actors are entangled over questions of religion, politics, and ethnic identity. [...]

Read more: Karsten Giese, Editorial, in: Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, Vol 43, No 2 (2014)

Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, Vol 43, No 2 (2014)

  • Karsten Giese: Editorial

The Entanglement between Science and Politics


  • Sascha Klotzbücher: Western-Chinese Academic Collaboration in the Social Sciences


  • Heike Holbig: Shifting Ideologics of Research Funding: The CPC's National Planning Office for Philosophy and Social Sciences
  • Doris Fischer: The Impact of Changing Incentives in China on International Cooperation in Social Science Research on China
  • Josef Gregory Mahoney: Changes in International Research Cooperation in China: Positive Perspectives
  • Sascha Klotzbücher: "Embedded Research" in Collaborative Fieldwork
  • Christian Göbel: Let’s Not Go There: Coping with (Pre-) Selection Bias in Collaborative Field Research

Research Articles

  • Ya-ning Kao: Religious Revival among the Zhuang People in China: Practising "Superstition" and Standardizing a Zhuang Religion
  • Olivia Kraef: Of Canons and Commodities: The Cultural Predicaments of Nuosu-Yi "Bimo Culture"
  • Martin Saxer: Re-Fusing Ethnicity and Religion: An Experiment on Tibetan Grounds

To the issue

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