The Contemporary Value of Marx’s Practice of Civilisation

By Bao Zonghao

Karl Marx’s practice of civilisation was used as a reference to this article. However, this is not the full and systematic explanation like the original one authored by him. Rather it is about the judgment that “civilisation is a practical thing,” which supports the logical reason: why the building of culturally advanced cities has been long going on extensively nationwide over the past ten years. Furthermore, has become a cornerstone theory in China in the new era.

 

I. The Practical Nature of Civilisation

Marx made a systematic and complete analysis of civilisation. According to incomplete statistics, the term “civilisation” was used more than 2,600 times in volumes one to thirty of the Collected Works of Marx and Engels.3  His research on the origin of civilisation was based on the results of Lewis Henry Morgan’s research on differentiating civilisation and barbarity,4  but it is not limited to the history of the origin and evolution of civilisation. On the contrary, it exposed the origin of the human social civilisation by integrating history and logic based on the practice of human labor. It was believed that human civilisation originated in the biggest division of two kinds of labor—the division of material and intellectual labor; and that the division of labor was an important symbol of the era of civilisation and represented the exploitation of one class by another. Marx studied civilisation as part of the practice of it and based on the connection between the development of civilisation and certain production modes and between its development and the resulting class relations.5

1. In essence, civilisation is a practical thing.

Marx said, “Civilisation is a practical thing.” This means civilisation falls under the category of practice and is practical in nature. Practice is the material activity through which people transform the objective world. Labor is the fundamental form of practice. Without labor, there would be neither labor practice nor humanity and human social civilisation. Practice did not only enable humanity to create civilsation but also promoted the development of social civilisation. In their (labor) practice, there exists a dual – relationship interaction between subjects (humans engaged in practice) and objects (the objective world in the field of practice): The objects constantly turn into subjects, and the nature at ease becomes a humanised nature while the subjects keep becoming objects, leaving their prints on nature and turning into materialised objective targets. This dialectical unity between subjects and objects in practice shows that while transforming the objective world and creating the material world, people are also changing the objective world and creating a material world. The combination of these positive material and intellectual results are civilisation—a state of progress at certain stages of the development of human society. In this sense, civilisation is essentially the material and intellectual result of people’s essential strength becoming the target in the process of practice (labor practice, interaction practice and creation practice). This result reflects the state and tendency of civilisation. This is why in this sense; civilisation is essentially a practical thing.

 

2. Civilisation is the practice of everyday life based on different time and space.

Marx’s statement about civilisation and practice shows that:

First, as a concept of practical value, civilisation proves the turning of the essential human strength into the target and the value of practice. Humanity created civilisation in practice, and in turn, it proved the value of the practice of humanity and raised the level of civilisation. Civilisation also led humanity to evolve from the barbarous state of living, and improved the quality of human survival. Moreover, it paved the development through the process of constantly creating new production tools and promoting the progress of productive forces.

Second, civilisation is a concept of practical time and space. Civilisation is both diachronic and synchronic, that is, it has conspicuous regional characteristics—geographical civilisation. This is precisely because the time and space of the practice of civilisation differ from the East to the West; they have different civilisations and different cultures for different races and ethnicities.

Third, civilisation is a concept of practice of everyday life. Civilisation is a positive, progressive, and human way of living people have in a certain era and a given society. It includes specific living conditions, norms, customs, relations, content, concepts and other factors for civilised lives. These civilised lives distinguish humans from animals and tell the different levels, quality and degrees of development humanity has had in different times. Different practical living needs that result from different regions and historical conditions to give rise to the different needs of people for development and enable them to create different civilisations and cultures. The differences, conflicts and rivalries between different civilisations in the world reflect the long – term practice of lives in different regions.

Different civilisations and cultures developed by one generation after another based on their long-term living practice naturally exclude each other. It is natural for different civilisations to enter into rivalry. When rivalry involves the interests of peoples and nations and is affected by the needs of capital, it will reach an unprecedented level of acuteness. Therefore, when economic globalisation deepens, it is necessary to build a global community of shared future that would serve as the target and means for promoting the contact, exchange, and integration of different civilisations. In addition, this could minimise the negative impact that the rivalry and conflict of different civilisations may have.

 

Different practical living needs that result from different regions and historical conditions give rise to the different needs of people for development and enable them to create different civilisations and cultures.

II. The Fundamental Characteristics of the Practice of Civilisation

Marx’s statement on the practice of civilisation not only reveals the nature of civilisation but also shows that the practice of it is geographical and explains the logic of the evolution of the practice of different civilisations. This logic exemplifies the cultural genes of the civilisations from different localities and common cultural genes determine the choice of the practice of civilisation and the logic of its evolution.

 

1. The geographical nature of the practice of civilisation

Practice is historical and regional, which determines that the practice of civilisation is geographical and varied. This is a fundamental characteristic of the practice of civilisation. The argument that practice of civilisation is geographical means a combination of specific geographical conditions and natural environments, including not only landforms and terrains but also climate and mineral resources. Just as French historian Fernand Braudel said, “Discussing civilisation means discussing space, land, terrain, climate, crops, animal species, and the advantages of nature and others.” Discussing civilisation means discussing how humanity makes use of these basic conditions. The values, way of thinking, customs and habits in a civilisation are all determined by geographical – natural conditions.6

This does not at all mean that the geographical environment determines everything; this is meant to stress:

First, civilisations in different localities generally originated in the same geographical world, or started from an intuitive space that is there for you to see and feel. For example, people from the Indian civilisation mostly lived in the South Asian Subcontinent. People from the Western civilisation lived in central and western Europe 1,500 years ago and started to move to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and southern Africa after 16th century. People from the Islamic civilisation mostly lived in a narrow yet large area from North Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan to Indonesia. People from the Orthodox civilisation mostly lived in east Europe and north Asia east of the Ural Mountains.

Second, civilisations resulting from the same geographical world are deeply affected by their common cultural genes. For example, Jewish civilisations (which are controversial) all originated in Palestine. In the first half of the 2nd century, the Jews lost their home in and around today’s Palestine. This led to the diaspora of Jewish civilisations to all over the world. On the one hand, the Jews living scattered in different countries share the same genes of the Jewish civilisation. In addition, while integrating themselves with the culture of their host countries and assimilating themselves with local culture and civilisation, they also developed Jewish civilisations with the cultural characteristics of their host countries. For example, the French and US Jews had a better sense of belonging with French and US cultures than they did with their own culture in the 18th century. This led to the differences between Jews in Ethiopia, Morocco, Germany, Poland, Russia and the United States. On the other hand, Jewish civilisations scattered across the world share the same cultural genes and beliefs of the Jews. As a result, the Jews away from Palestine pray toward Jerusalem every day and founded the state of Israel belonging to the Jewish civilisation in 1948.7

Obviously, the cultural genes reflected in the geographical nature of the practice of civilisation very much determine and affect the path of the practice of civilisation and affect the historical and present choice of the practice of civilisation. The process of choice of different civilisations is full of conflict, integration, transformation, and generation. The choice of paths for the evolution of the Chinese, Indian, Islamic, and Jewish civilisations was a natural and historical choice made by people living under different geographical conditions based on the cultural genes of their countries’ history. In the 5,000-year history of the Chinese civilisation, choices were also made based on its cultural genes that had been developed in the practice of civilisation over the same period. The choices based on the Chinese cultural genes took different forms and had different spirit in ancient and modern times. It is of particular note that the moving national spirit and culture that have been developed by the Chinese nation since modern times in its resistance to foreign aggression and enslavement have shaped the form and spirit of the Chinese civilisation in modern times that is different the ancient Chinese civilisation.

The Chinese civilisation in different times absorbed advanced foreign civilisations and generated different new forms of civilisation. In the present new era, millions of Chinese people are pursuing urban civilisation, which is developed based on the common choice made by these people based on the practice of civilisation in this era. It is a conscious choice made based on the historical logic of the practice of civilisation of the Chinese nation over the past millennia.

 

Discussing civilisation means discussing space, land, terrain, climate, crops, animal species, and the advantages of nature and others.

2. The consciousness of the practice of civilisation

Another fundamental characteristic of the practice of civilisation is that the human practice of civilisation is a reflection of people’s free and conscious activity and is the humanity’s free pursuit of the practice of civilisation. The common pursuit of culturally advanced cities by millions of people in the new era under socialism with Chinese characteristics is the new need of the Chinese practice of civilisation in the new era as well as the conscious choice and idealistic pursuit of focusing the practice of civilisation on urban civilisation in the new era.

First, The conscious choice and creation of civilisation

The conscious practice of civilisation means the conscious choice and creation of civilisation made by humanity in certain historical conditions.

It is justifiable to say that cultural and ethical progress in the axial period was not there until after humanity had free and conscious practice of civilisation. In other words, the practice of civilisation was the driving force behind humanity entering the axial period and a cornerstone marking the difference between civilisation in the axial period and civilisation in the non-axial period. The different practice of civilisation in the East and the West led to cultural and ethical progress with Eastern and Western historical and cultural characteristics. The development of Eastern and Western civilisations today is still conditioned by the consciousness of the practice of civilisation. The features of this are: whether the practice of civilisation can be guided with the people and humanity as the center and guide determines the nature of the practice of civilisation under different systems. Under the capitalist system, the practice of civilisation with capital at the core and orientation will naturally conflict with the practice of civilisation with the people and humanity at the core and guide and will definitely be eliminated by the history of civilisation with the people and humanity at the core.

Second, The conscious pursuit of urban civilisation

From the perspective of the practice of civilisation of the people and humanity, researching the practical creation of culturally advanced cities in contemporary China is a theoretical reflection over the conscious pursuit and practice of the creation of such cities by millions of people in contemporary China. It is also an introspection and criticism of different kinds of inappropriate and unharmonious ways of urban development — a realistic choice made to abandon the misconceptions that lead to inappropriate and unharmonious urbanisation, and a realistic choice made to embrace a sustainable mode of urbanisation.

The practical means of urban development in contemporary China suggests that misconceptions leading to unsustainable urbanisation still exist to varying degrees. For example, urban transformation and expansion are taken as urban development. This results in the visual pollution in cities, and the loss of characteristics, cultural awareness, and cultural spirit of cities. This deviates from the value orientation of the practice of civilisation and the purpose and means for appropriate and harmonious development that put people first. During recent years, the unsustainable urban development in China, the different varieties of urban maladies, unexpected floods and other natural disasters have repeatedly warned that urban development must be based on the practice of civilisation.

Cities are the combined results of civilisation in different stages of the history of human society and the products of a certain stage of human civilisation. For the first time the civilisation era makes cities significant as such and enables them to start the chapter of urban civilisation. In the Urban model, people are at the center of the new era making them the target of the conscious practice and pursuit by millions of people. Culturally advanced cities are also an urban model because they are based on the practice of civilisation and are guided by the new development philosophy, as well as the worldview and methodology that features appropriate development. These are the values chosen by China in the said era to take up the challenges affecting the urbanisation. Moreover, these values are said to be strategic choices that would have major impacts on the urban lives in China.

 

Another fundamental characteristic of the practice of civilisation is that the human practice of civilisation is a reflection of people’s free and conscious activity and is the humanity’s free pursuit of the practice of civilisation.

III. The Value of Urban Civilisation Based on the Practice of Civilisation

On two occasions in 2015 on 2017, General Secretary Xi Jinping met with representatives of culturally advanced cities, villages, towns, and organizations from all over China and delivered major speeches. He chartered the course for creating culturally advanced cities in China. This has led to an unprecedented rise in the enthusiasm of China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government for building such cities and more cities and municipal districts have begun to work for the value of urban civilisation.

1. The consensus on pursuing the value of urban civilisation

Having entered the new era under socialism with Chinese characteristics, China is faced with deep economic and social transformation, reform is deepening, major adjustments are being made in interests, an array of views are coming up, and risks and challenges are cropping up. All these has helped bring about consensus on the value of urban civilisation from the practice of civilisation. This came in a tough course roughly divided into three main stages:

First stage: the development of the value of urban civilisation from 1996 to late 2004. In 1996, the Resolution on Certain Major Issues concerning Strengthening Social Culture and Ethics was adopted at the Sixth Plenary Session of the 14th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. This kicked off efforts to create culturally advanced cities nationwide. In addition, this helped curb the expansion of self – centered behavior and narrow the gap between collective awareness and individual awareness that resulted from the incomplete market economy, and as public awareness of urban development, the awareness of urban civilisation began to be fostered and developed.

Second stage: the formation of the consensus on the value of urban civilisation from 2005 to 2011. In 2002, work began to formulate the System for Evaluating China’s Culturally Advanced Cities (hereinafter referred to as the Evaluation System). In 2005, the first group of China’s culturally advanced cities were elected and 118 cities (urban districts) in China’s 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government began to create culturally advanced cities in accordance with the standards and measures specified in the Evaluation System for evaluating urban civilisation. In the evaluation of the second and third groups of culturally advanced cities in China in 2008 and 2011 respectively, requirements were raised for improving the cultural environment, the market environment, and other soft environments and strengthening people’s wellbeing projects. The initiative to promote civilisation and wellbeing made it possible for the force for promoting civilisation to strengthen public powers that were weakened at a point.

Third stage: the improvement of the consensus on the value of urban civilisation from 2012 to 2017. In 2013, in the campaign to heighten awareness of and implement the mass line of the CPC, criticisms and comments were made on some cities that were merely keen on being elected a culturally advanced city to save face without really working to get the job done. Criticisms and comments were also made on other cities that worked to please leaders to the neglect of the public, had a lop – sided approach to their performances, and merely went through the motions by building vanity projects.

From late 2013 to March 2014, leaders of the Civilisation Office of the CPC Central Committee made research in 35 cities in 12 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the central government including Shanghai, Shandong, Hubei, and Sichuan. They found all the leaders and lower – level officials of these areas agreed: The initiative to create culturally advanced cities gave cities targets and a direction. During the initiative, practical work was done for the good of the people and the initiative really had value and was cultural. Creating culturally advanced cities was the most important part of the initiative to promote cultural and ethical progress. It had the highest approval rating from the public and received the most attention from local CPC committees and governments. It was the leading project in promoting cultural and ethical progress. It significantly improved the urban and rural environment and public mentality. It made cities more intellectually, ethically sound, and develop a healthier culture. Through practice, the consensus on the value of urban civilisation became a value increasingly pursued by millions of people in cities of all sizes all over China in the new era.

 

Cities are the combined results of civilisation in different stages of the history of human society and the products of a certain stage of human civilisation.

2. The building of the consensus on the value of urban civilisation

The consensus on the value of culturally advanced cities reached based on the practice of civilisation over the past more than ten years is becoming the common value pursued by millions of people in the capital cities of provinces, prefectural and county cities, and districts of municipalities directly under the central government. The consensus on the value of urban civilisation in China in the new era is being built and improved in the following four respects.

First, The consensus on the convictions of urban civilisation

Conviction means belief and respect. One’s convictions determine all of his or her behavior; a nation’s convictions determine the future of the people and their country. The country’s prosperity cannot be achieved without intellectual support; a nation’s progress depends on the development of civilisation. Since ancient times, the notion “backwardness leaves the country vulnerable” has become the unbreakable truth of all countries and their people. However, what is worse to a country and its people is the people’s intellectual decadence and voidness. The 5,000-year history of China shows that a country and its people cannot afford not to have convictions. Xi Jinping stressed, “When the people have convictions, their country will have strength, and their nation will have a bright future.” “Ideals and convictions are as essential to Communists as calcium is to bone. Without them, or with them only in weak measure, we would be without the stuff of our strength and develop fragility of the bone.” Xi added, “This is already the case for some Party members and officials who have acted improperly due to weak convictions and uncertain faith.” This means it is necessary to work to foster and live by core socialist values, raise public ethical standards, enhance work ethics, family virtues, and personal integrity, and develop a social environment encourage people to esteem virtue and perform good deeds. To ensure that the people have convictions, every family and household should start to make an effort, you and I begin to make an effort, and it is necessary to start by improving Party conduct, government conduct, social conduct, and conduct in the home. To ensure that the people have convictions, everyone should become aware of the need to become culturally advanced and work to become model citizens. More importantly, you people should be encouraged to promote the traditional cultural genes of the Chinese nation and convictions should be made to become in full blossom from generation to generation.

Second, The consensus on the ethics of urban civilisation

The consensus on the ethics of urban civilisation is generally referred to the moral consensus reached on how to make cities more culturally advanced and the civility of their residents. In the course of building culturally advanced cities all over China in the new era, the consensus on the ethics of urban civilisation has cultivated and rebuilt three types of spirit and three types of awareness:

The rebuilt of three types of spirit: (1) The rebuilt of cultural spirit. In accordance with the Evaluation System, cities have made in-depth efforts to carry out the program “Our Festival.” They have conducted education in core socialist values based on patriotic education centers and moral lecture rooms. They launched the initiative to improve everyone’s awareness of science. They also worked to ensure that intangible cultural heritage was passed on and strengthened the protection of sites of historical and cultural interest, artifacts, and traditional villages. (2) The rebuilt of moral spirit. The cities did the following in accordance with the Evaluation System. Carry out through the media — Moral China program to publicize moral paragons, work to develop fine conduct, home education, ensure that officials promote family integrity (as well as improve party spirit), hold exhibitions about the deeds of moral paragons, and lastly, have these paragons give lectures at the community level.  Since 2008, the government has elected and commended 173 national moral paragons on a yearly basis, and listed 6,819 people as Morally Advanced People in China. (3) The rebuilt of volunteer spirit. The Evaluation System requires not only that to become a culturally advanced city, the number of its registered volunteers must account for 13 percent or more of the permanent residents in its districts, but also that 70 percent of its total registered volunteers must have provided in volunteer services. In addition to that, these registered volunteers must provide 25 hours or more of volunteer services a year per capita.

The cultivation of three types of awareness: (1) The cultivation of awareness of rules. In accordance with the Evaluation System, the cities not only extensively conducted education in the residents’ conventions, industrial norms, and occupational rules, but also strengthened education in villagers’ conventions, students’ rules, and articles of association for organisations. All this was designed to improve everyone’s awareness of rules. (2) The cultivation of awareness of integrity. In accordance with the Evaluation System, the cities extensively implemented the “Integrity for All in the City” initiative, developed integrity demonstration streets, integrity demonstration shops, integrity organisations, and integrity industries, and promoted every aspect of China’s integrity ethics. (3) The cultivation of awareness of the need to be culturally advanced. In accordance with the Evaluation System, the cities worked to create culturally advanced communities, organisations, families, villages, towns, and websites to ensure that families, communities, villages, towns, and organisations are well aware of the need to be culturally advanced, and disseminate this awareness online. In addition, the cities organised the campaigns to improve social conduct in light of the CPC and the Chinese government’s major work and activities and China’s major festivals and celebrations. Based on newspapers, broadcasting stations, TV stations, smart phones, the internet, and other media, great efforts were made to publicise and universalise etiquettes and encourage everyone to live by them.

The cultivation of these three types of spirit and three types of awareness is designed to turn intellectual and cultural content into unified norms, requirements, and evaluation standards and integrate them with the day – to – day work of every city across the country and the everyday life of their residents. In the activities to rebuild cultural and ethical progress that millions of people can feel, participate, repeat, revise and improve, city residents will gradually become aware of the need to reshape themselves intellectually and culturally and do so in their everyday life. Thus, the institutional arrangements will be made under which the government and these residents work together to promote cultural and ethical progress and share the results.8

The process of cultivating and rebuilding these three types of spirit and three types of awareness is also a process of rebuilding the city spirit of a city. For example, during the process of promoting cultural and ethical progress, Beijing developed the city spirit of patriotism, dedication, justice, and inclusiveness, while Shanghai developed the city spirit of inclusiveness, excellence, wisdom, and generosity. The spirit of different cities is an epitome of the contemporary spirit of China and reflects different aspects of the city dream and the Chinese Dream. The city spirit is the intellectual strength sustaining residents’ value orientation, ways of behavior, and psychological orientation and is the soul of a city.

 

In the course of building culturally advanced cities all over China in the new era, the consensus on the ethics of urban civilisation has cultivated and rebuilt three types of spirit and three types of awareness.

3. The consensus on the institutions for urban civilisation

Today, there is an outbreak of urban maladies in large numbers. Traffic jams, high property prices, ecological degradation and environmental pollution, soaring social risks, and aggravated disparity between rich and poor are all inexplicit or explicit manifestations of the incivility of cities. The root causes of them are often a lack of institutions and their improper implementation. Historical experiences show that a transition society is often exposed to risk and conflict. During their nearly 200 years of urbanisation, Western countries were also laden with crises and risks. China has been urbanising quickly for only a little more than 30 years and is faced with the pressure from the goal of reaching the urbanisation rate of 60% by 2020, so it is necessary to take an urbanisation path with Chinese characteristics and institutions must be used to resolve conflicts. The consensus on urban civilisation that was achieved in creating culturally advanced cities contains complete and systematic institutional arrangements and is an institutional arrangement that promotes the sustainable urbanisation with Chinese characteristics.

The institutional arrangements for the evaluation items, indexes and measures of the Evaluation System completely and systematically reflect and integrate the cultural progress in the cities’ appearances, functions, and qualities. By completely and systematically reviewing and evaluating the level of sustainability of urbanisation based on the evaluation of more than 380 items including the city’s software and hardware, facilities and management, people and activities, standard and guidance, education and development. It is of particular note that the evaluation of the soft environments for developing urban civilisation including the three modules as well as the twelve evaluation items guide cities in creating a social and living environment for people’s lives and work. Thus, promoting the civilisation and harmony of cities in the process of changing and improving the soft environments such as political affairs, rule of law, market, culture, security, and stability. Therefore, about 95 percent of the more than 500 cities that had run for nationwide culturally advanced cities since 2005 enjoyed their support of their residents.

 

The spirit of different cities is an epitome of the contemporary spirit of China and reflects different aspects of the city dream and the Chinese Dream. The city spirit is the intellectual strength sustaining residents’ value orientation, ways of behavior, and psychological orientation and is the soul of a city.

The Evaluation System makes soft indexes compulsory requirements, reinforces the social foundation for modernising urban governance systems and capacity, provides something that can be held on to for meticulous urban management and points the direction for the practice of civilisation. For example, the community – level cultural facility index in the Evaluation System has specific requirements for building a modern public cultural service system, that is, “every neighborhood must has at least five fitness centers for morning and evening exercise and the per capita sports area must be more than 1.08 square meters.” These institutional constraints get the government to put finds, space, and resources into the programs of immediate interest to the people. In addition, the environment management and environmental quality index in the Evaluation System has quantitative requirements for improving polluted waters, disposing household garbage, and improving urban air quality. These required institutional arrangements, which were formerly optional requirements, not only give government the targets, driving forces, and direction for its social governance, but also work with the urban management systems. This is further achieved through the administrative assessment, public evaluation, getting the institutional arrangements, improvisation of the urban governance system (and its capacity), and lastly, creation of social environment in which residents live by the core socialist.

The Evaluation System has been proved by practice to be an institutional design and framework that can promote the appropriate and harmonious development of cities.

First, the Evaluation System not only has evaluation items and content concerning the political, economic, cultural and social development of cities, but also contains quantitative evaluation standards for the level and quality of economic and social development of cities. It not only specifies clear targets for evaluation in terms of the cultural progress in the cities’ appearances, functions, and qualities, but also holds government bodies accountable for these targets. The 2005–2017 Evaluation System of the Central Guiding Committee for the Promotion of Cultural and Ethical Progress incorporates the indexes of the general offices of 40 ministries and commissions including the General Office of the Central Guiding Committee for the Promotion of Cultural and Ethical Progress, the Central Committee for Improving Every Aspect of Law and Order, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Housing and Construction, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs. This ensures that the index requirements of these general offices for the appropriate, harmonious, and sustainable development of cities are met by the relevant committees, general offices, and bureaus of cities. This is an institutional design that has the evaluation indexes as a bridge and integrates national and local resources in a joint effort to create culturally advanced cities and promote sustainable urbanization.

Second, as an institutional design, the Evaluation System is identical with the administrative management model of the Chinese government. As I said above, the index system and model has been formulated and revised to incorporate the indexes of the general offices of China’s 40 ministries and commissions and the revised indexes have all been approved by the general offices of relevant ministries and commissions. The evaluation indexes require that the government must do solid and effective work to promote the creation of culturally advanced cities and sustainable development urbanisation. They are an effective test of how well the government promoted the creation of culturally advanced cities and sustainable development urbanisation; they are also the best test of the performance of the government in urban construction and management. More importantly, they provide an all-around oversight of how the government promotes the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects and a harmonious society.

 

By showing concern and evaluating public space, demand, morals, services, management, and security, the Evaluation System materialised the consensus on the value of urban civilisation in order to raise the level of urban civilisation and the civility of residents.

4. The consensus on the evaluation of urban civilisation

From 2005 through 2017, the Evaluation System was expanded from the original eight evaluation dimensions (items) to three modules with 12 evaluation items. Reductions and additions were made to the Evaluation System’s evaluation items, content, indexes, and standards to keep up with the Party and government’s requirements for the development of urban civilisation and reflect the latest demands and results in urbanisation in China and elsewhere. However, an evaluation consensus was reached on the fundamental framework and structure and the measures and path for comprehensively evaluating urban civilisation in cities based on collecting data through field investigations, questionnaires and material reviews. By showing concern and evaluating public space, demand, morals, services, management, and security, the Evaluation System materialised the consensus on the value of urban civilisation in order to raise the level of urban civilisation and the civility of residents.

First, the evaluation of public space. If urban public space is given more cultural sentiments and concern, then the city will make everyone feel better. How to solve the lack of space in the process of urbanisation and modernisation and give more cultural concern to public space? The Evaluation System evaluates the public space for the residents of a city or a municipal district through the quantitative evaluation of the city’s public space such as parks, squares, scenic spots, and community sports facilities.

Second, the evaluation of public needs. To be sustainable development, urbanisation and modernisation must be based on meeting public needs. One is the need of a living environment. The Evaluation System determines how well residents’ public needs are met by evaluating public services such as the neighborhood facilities and community living environments. The other is the need of public cultural services. The Evaluation System evaluates how well culture centers, libraries, and museums meet the needs of the residents by evaluating the supply of public services.

 

A city’s public service capacity and level is the key to attracting and keeping human resources and becoming the livable city; it is the symbol of the city’s urbanisation and modernisation.

Third, the evaluation of public morals. The cultural and moral quantities the residents have in the public areas in a city constitute that city’s public morals. Public morals are the common cultural and ethical qualities residents progressively develop through their activities and exchanges in urban public areas and are the requirements for the cultural and ethical quantities that residents must have in their activities and exchanges in public areas. They are also an important symbol of the civility of a city and a country.

The concern for and the evaluation of public morals are fundamentally designed to develop the public morals of the residents of a city and the citizens of a country. The Evaluation System examines the morals a city’s residents have in public areas by evaluating appropriate conduct, observance of traffic rules, and comity. The process of ensuring the people of a city and a country develop their public morals is both a process of improving the residents’ cultural and ethical qualities and the level of urban civilisation and the process of improving the soft power of a city and a country. More importantly, it is a process for improve the soft environment for the development of a city and a country.

Fourth, the evaluation of public services. A city’s public service capacity and level is the key to attracting and keeping human resources and becoming the livable city; it is the symbol of the city’s urbanisation and modernisation. The Evaluation System evaluates the 38 service industries of a city to see if it meets the standard for “Proper and Honest Services” in order to promote its public services.

Fifth, the evaluation of public management. Thanks to the development of economic globalisation and the application of information technology, traditional social management is being replaced by new urban public management and social governance. Public management stresses public affairs at society and seeks to realise public management of the public affairs of cities by advocating public spirit and achieving public leadership. Therefore, the concern for and evaluation of public management reflect the good governance of society with multiple entities (the government and the market, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, etc.) interacting with each other, and reflects the good governance of urban public affairs by public leaders with public spirit.

Therefore, in the institutionalisation of volunteer services and volunteer service activities, the Evaluation System evaluates how well volunteer service culture and community volunteer service culture are cultivated to guide residents to participate in urban governance. It also evaluates the cities’ public management level by reviewing their food and drug security administration and response to public emergencies.

Sixth, the evaluation of public security. Public security is an important social issue of great concern to both the government and the public. It is one of the major functions of the government. By evaluating public security guarantee, drinking water safety, and law and order management, the Evaluation System integrates the urban social public service system with the public security system, in order to mobilize all positive factors to participate in urban social public security services, safeguard law and order in society, and protect public security.

 

The Chinese people have a sense of belonging in the development of urban civilisation, in the people’s wellbeing, in the CPC – led path of urbanisation and modernisation with Chinese characteristics, and in the 5,000 – year history of the development of the Chinese nation’s civilisation as well as their nation and country.

The consensus on convictions, ethics, institutions and evaluation mentioned above constitute the four – pronged value system for urban civilisation. The application and improvement of this system means that the conscious awareness of the ethics of urban civilisation in the new era has been formed. It also means that the Chinese people have a sense of belonging in the development of urban civilisation, in the people’s wellbeing, in the CPC – led path of urbanisation and modernisation with Chinese characteristics, and in the 5,000 – year history of the development of the Chinese nation’s civilisation as well as their nation and country. All this is based on the practice of urban civilisation with Chinese characteristics and the practice of China’s sustainable urban civilisation. It is also the creative practice for the city dream based on the notion “better city, better life” and for the Chinese Dream, made by millions of people. It will also continue improve and develop as the practice of urban civilisation deepens. 

About the Author

Bao Zonghao is professor of philosophy at the School of Humanities, East China University of Science and Technology; president of Shanghai Academy of Huaxia Social Development Research; distinguished research fellow at Urban Culture E-institute of Shanghai Higher Education.

References

1. The mid-term result of the major project “Research on Promoting the Balanced Development of Material Progress and Cultural and Ethical Progress: The Theory, Practice, and System of Culturally Advanced Cities over the Past Ten Years” (Approval Document No. 15ZDC007) funded through NSSFC.

2. About Author: Bao Zonghao, Professor of East China University of Science and Technology,  President of Shanghai  Academy of Huaxia Social Development Research

3. Collected Works of Marx and Engels, Chinese ed., People’s Publishing House, Beijing, vol. 1, 2009, p. 97.

4. Lewis Henry Morgan, Ancient Society, Chinese ed., The Commercial Press, Shanghai, 1977, p. 28.

5. Collected Works of Marx and Engels, Chinese ed., People’s Publishing House, Beijing, vol. 3, 2009, p. 258.

6. Bao Zonghao, “Research on Civilization in Contemporary China from a New Perspective,” Academic Monthly, No. 5, 2011.

7. Bao Zonghao and Xiang Kun, A New Model of Urban Civilization in Contemporary China, Xuelin Press, Shanghai, 2015, pp. 40–41.

8. Bao Zonghao and Xiang Kun, The Civilization Index of Chinese Cities, Xuelin Press, Shanghai, 2015, p. 31.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.