Message From The Dean

Established in 2012, the School of Social Sciences of Tsinghua University has built upon the splendid history and profound influence of the social science research conducted at Tsinghua. The social science disciplines were first established in the early days of Tsinghua following its founding in 1911. A strong social science research tradition arose in the 1920s, led by a multitude of renowned faculty and talented students who made extensive contributions to China’s social progress and development. Their legacy inspired outstanding improvements in the social sciences since the 1990s, making Tsinghua University the dynamic academic center in China it is today. In 2012, Tsinghua established School of Social Science to reinforce that dynamism, build upon Tsinghua’s tradition of excellence, and lead social science research forward for the next century.

In the pursuit of exploring modern social science theories and methods, my colleagues at the School of Social Sciences of Tsinghua University integrate the ancient with the modern by combining arts and science to tear down antiquated disciplinary boundaries. They have always proudly upheld the banner of Tsinghua’s social sciences, and actively seek empirical, scientific solutions to issues facing human society. Their pursuit connects seemingly distinct disciplines as sociology, economics, psychology, politics, science of international relations, and philosophy of science and technology. What unifies these is a dedication to scientific development, and a responsibility for social sciences to realize the Chinese Dream: a prosperous, revitalized, and happy China.

What is social science? It is the study of human activities using objective, scientific methods. Society consists of people, so the nature of people is central to societal concerns. Human thoughts and activities, such as demands, values, faith, judgment, decision making, cooperation, conflict, and playing games, make life rich yet complicated. Amid those complications, social scientists see patterns, and then build theories to explain those patterns. They then test those theories in hopes of clarifying any complications. Scientific analysis of this style provides a tool to understand our social lives rationally, and leaves us with useful guidance and advice. This guidance and advice contains great utility, and is the fundamental reasons for the rise of the social sciences worldwide.

Before the 17th century, human perception of society lingered at a superstitious, instinctive level guided only by personal experience, hearsay, or religion. The progress of modern science has enabled great thinkers to use methods of reason, observation, comparison, control, and experimentation to study the social issues faced by mankind. The 18th century marks the first time the concept of “social science” appeared in mankind’s knowledge base and the first time that society used insights from social sciences to reorganize governments, policies, laws, and public affairs.

Bold changes in modern Chinese society pose numerous urgent questions for Chinese social scientists. How should we govern our society? How do we promote innovation? What is the nature of the commonly shared national consciousness of the Chinese people? What aspects of Chinese culture are being transmitted to future generations? What is being lost? Should we save some of it? Many seemingly superficial yet surprisingly challenging questions bear answering, such as “are you happy”? Could some aspects of society be changed to make many people happier without making others worse off? Questions like these necessitate input from the social sciences. Methods from the social sciences that proved useful in the past will be even more useful in the future. This is the historical responsibility placed upon the School of Social Sciences of Tsinghua University by the people of China, and we have the confidence to bear this responsibility and live up to people’s expectations.

With devotion in our hearts and scientific spirit in mind, the School of Social Sciences of Tsinghua University looks forward to your understanding, care, and support!

Prof. Peng Kaiping,

Dean of School of Social Sciences, Tsinghua University