Editorial”. Chinese Journal of Sociology 11 (2015): , 1, 1, 3-5. Print.


We are living through an extraordinarily interesting period, historically. The world has largely been peaceful since the end of the Second World War. The Cold War ended in the unambiguous victory of the West. Economic development and industrialization have been happening in many parts of the world, beyond Europe and Northern America. The world has become increasingly globalized, connected by internet technology, inexpensive air travelling networks, and English as the de facto international language. This is a fortunate time to be a sociologist. While technological advances and economic prosperity are sure to continue predictably, social issues studied by sociologists are becoming more prominent, requiring serious research, both for policy making and for public discourse. Let me mention a few: social inequality, education, health, culture, family formation and dissolution, fertility and mortality, social cohesion and collective efficacy, public trust, social organizations and institutions, neighborhoods, social networks, racial and ethnic conflicts, gender relationships, domestic and international migration, feelings of happiness and alienation, crimes and deviant behaviors, and intergenerational relationships. I mention these topics not only because they figure prominently in past sociological research, but also because they are unlikely to have solutions that are solely, or even mainly, technological or economic in nature. Take divorce as an example. We know that divorce rates have risen in many countries since the end of the Second World War, coinciding with a period of rapid economic development and technological advances, as well as the large improvement of women’s social status relative to men, especially in education. In short, divorce is a social phenomenon, and understanding of its causes and consequences requires sociological research. The same can be said of other social phenomena. This is a particularly exciting time to conduct sociological research on China. After a ‘‘century of humiliation’’ between the Opium War that began in 1840 and the end of the Second World War in 1945, the China unified by the Communist Party in 1949 stayed poor, undeveloped, and isolated from the rest of the world until 1978, when a new era of the economic reform began. Since 1978, China has been undergoing a social transformation whose scope, rapidity, and significance in impact are unprecedented in human history. I hold the view that China’s ongoing social transformation since its economic reform is a watershed event in long-term world history, comparable in significance to the Renaissance that began in 14th-century Italy, the Protestant Reformation in 16th-century Germany, and the Industrial Revolution in 18th-century Britain.

Last updated on 10/22/2015