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  • Citizenship and Citizenship Education in a Global Age: Politics, Policies, and Practices in China by Wing-Wah Law
  • Yingjie Guo (bio)
Wing-Wah Law. Citizenship and Citizenship Education in a Global Age: Politics, Policies, and Practices in China. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2011. xx, 259 pp. Paperback €23.20/ £20.90/us $35.95, isbn 978-1-4331-0801-3.

This book, as Wing-Wah Law explains (p. 24), is organized as a broad survey of citizenship, citizenship education, and social change in China. What is meant by “China” in the title of the book is primarily the People’s Republic, which is the subject of four of the book’s eight chapters (chaps. 4–7), although the two preceding chapters focus on the imperial past and the republican period. Two of the four chapters on the People’s Republic of China provide historical overviews while the rest include case studies of the Chinese government’s promotion of citizenship and citizenship education during the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the Shanghai Exposition in 2010. The organization of the book makes it easy for the reader to follow the text chronologically and thematically.

The historical analysis and case studies in the book speak to three broad themes where Law believes it has a unique contribution to make: the impact of globalization on citizenship and citizenship education, the role of cities in the development of local identities and national citizenship, and the use of international events in promoting citizenship education. Law spells out these themes at considerable length in the introductory chapter in tandem with a concise literature review. He proceeds to propose a multileveled multidimensional model that consists of four dimensions: global, national, local, and personal-social. Each dimension in [End Page 517] this model can intersect with all the others and cover numerous human activities, ranging from civics to economic, political, social, cultural, and environmental areas. The preferences, choices, and identifications of citizens depend on their needs and capacities for involvement on global, national, local, and personal-social levels.

On the subject of globalization, Law concurs with theorists who no longer take the nation-state to be the exclusive source of legitimacy for political activity. He identifies three models of global citizenship education. The first is geared toward preparing young people for life and work under globalized conditions. The second is characterized by multiculturalism or cosmopolitanism in that it is intended to enable the young to adapt to increasingly diverse communities and an increasingly interdependent world. The third is a multidimensional framework that encompasses personal, social, spatial, and temporal dimensions. His own multileveled multidimensional model combines the second and third.

When exploring the local dimension of this model, Law highlights, in particular, the new roles and functions of the city in global competition and nation-building and in fostering local identities and promoting national citizenship. In chapter 6, he analyzes in detail the dynamic and complex formation of multileveled identities and the effects of nation building and globalization on various domains of citizenship among school students in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Law’s conclusion is that students’ increasing exposure to the outside world does not necessarily translate into greater awareness of their localities or a better sense of global citizenship, as many believe. Much depends on the contents and emphases in the educational curricula for multileveled citizenship in response to the demands for education and the contexts of citizenship and civic education. This conclusion is hard to dispute.

The analysis of citizenship and citizenship education in Shanghai and Hong Kong is followed by a case study of international events, which are city-based and, therefore, closely related to the former. The latter centers on two questions that Law believes have not been answered satisfactorily in the literature on the subject. One is how and why the Chinese state used the events for political socialization and as large-scale projects of multileveled-multidimensional citizenship education. The second question is how and to what extent these international events affected students’ perceptions of their global, national, local, and personal-social dimensions of citizenship. Law’s finding is that international events reinforced students’ global citizenship and Chinese citizenship by positively...