Research themes

The Center has four initial research themes for which we are planning international conferences to develop these themes, support the dissemination of knowledge, and provide opportunities for students and policy practitioners to engage with world leading experts in the field. These themes are described below.

Political meritocracy

Numerous analysts and commentators have noted that China’s political system may be viewed as a political meritocracy, and that elements of this may provide some alternative potential constructs to Western-style democracy. Together with Professor Pan Wei of Beijing University, we are organizing an international conference on the topic of political meritocracy in March 2012 (following an initial workshop in Singapore). The conference will lead to an edited book on the philosophy and history of meritocratic thinking in politics. The book will be Chinafocused but with a comparative angle (United States, France, Germany, United Kingdom, India, Japan, and Korea). Daniel Bell also subsequently plans to write a book on the topic.

Political theory of cities

Cities are often the focus of identity and collective self-determination, yet consideration of city life has generally been neglected in contemporary political thought. We plan to organize an international conference on the political theory of cities to explore this topic. Avner de-Shalit (Hebrew University) and Daniel Bell have also written a book on the topic that will be published by Princeton University Press in September 2011, and they will co-organize a conference on the topic in May 2012.


The theme of harmony is one of the major features of Confucian philosophy. It is particularly influential in the language and thinking of China’s political leaders, and in their dialogue with China’s population. We plan to organize an international conference on this topic, comparing Confucian ideas about harmony with similar ideas in ethical traditions in Africa (Ubuntu) and Scandinavia. The conference will also lead to an edited book on the topic.

Traditional values and foreign policy

Chinais now a major player in foreign policy, with recent diplomatic and economic gatherings highlighting China’s importance in international governance. As with other societies, China’s traditional values have a large influence on foreign policy perspectives and approaches. We therefore plan to organize an international conference (co-organized with Yan Xuetong and Jean-Marc Coicaud) on the theme of traditional values and foreign policy. We will discuss comparative accounts from countries including China, India, Japan, United States, Israel, and France.

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