I have been considering the issue of the foreign scholar in China--and especially in the context of the development of Chinese law and jurisprudence. That is understood, in the Chinese context as both a legal and a political engagement that has a long and turbulent history--on both sides. From the West one can discern a pattern of "types" of Western scholar engagements in China.: Missionary, Expert, Sycophant, Colonizer, Expatriot, Entrepreneur, and Company Official. On the Chinese side, the "useful stranger," the "invited influence," the "friend of China," and the "enemy of China" (HERE).
I presented a preliminary version of these ideas earlier this summer at Tsinghua University (see 中国，法律与外国人：国际舞台上的相互交往 (更新版本) Transcript of Remarks: "China, Law, and the Foreigner: Mutual Engagements on a Global Stage"). And I was delighted to have a chance to refine those ideas on September 27, 2016 at a Seminar on The Role of Foreign Scholars in the Study of Chinese Law, sponsored by the Confucius Institute, the Università degli Studi di Napoli L'Orientale and the Instituto Confucio Napoli.
This post considers an unexplored wrinkle in the development of the mapping of the terrain of engagement between China and Western scholars--and that is the quite distinct emerging interactions between Western engagements with China on its internal development, and Western engagement with China in the context of global norm making.
The Chinese context requires respect but no deference as global norms are created and managed. At the same time, in matters of global engagement, China must resist the temptation to fall back into an easy nationalist transnationalism. That approach would treat global actors, both within and outside China, as suspect and potentially dangerous outsiders--to be managed or suppressed. Yet at the same time China appears poised to project its own state power through civil society elements that are created by or operate to further government objectives (e.g., The Internationalization of Chinese NGOs). The time has long past when a state can effectively control global communities--especially global communities that are important legal, political, societal and economic actors. The issue for this century is how to square that non territorial power with the operation of territoriality based states (e.g., here). That poses a significantly complex and distinct problem for Marxist Leninism. But a return to a politics of outward nationalist expansion and inward closure to the outside world is unlikely to be helpful in the long run, especially to the project of socialist modernization. Nor is it likely to be effective in China's efforts to become more influential on the world stage.
There are areas in which these distinctions will prove decisive in the effectiveness of global discourse. One is the area of human rights and economic activities. The substantial differences in fundamental perspective between the West, and China (along with even greater differences among certain regions where theocracy may pull in an even more distinct direction) require a form of discussion toward harmonization that is quite different from that of the role of the Chinese or Western views within their own territories. The role and management of religion poses a similar problem. But then so does the role and control of state owned enterprises, and the power of states to project their agendas through private or public entities operating abroad. These are the sorts of issues that, in the area of international norms, there is likely to be respectful disagreement, but also the need to move toward consensus. The failure of that consensus in the face of severe enough contradiction, may well isolate the state to seeks to stand on its old nationalist line rather than expanding the mind and conforming to suit the historical context in which networked operation is necessary--even for the most powerful states.