Michael J. Sandel has been named the “most influential” foreign figure of the year in China. The Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government was given the award by China Newsweek, a weekly magazine published by the China News Agency. Sandel’s online lectures on Justice have attracted millions of viewers in East Asia, and his teaching has inspired new courses and curricular reform in China and Japan. (The global impact of Sandel’s work is featured in “Justice Goes Global,” in today’s New York Times.)
A televised lecture series based on Sandel’s legendary Harvard course was shown on PBS stations across the U.S. in 2009. The series has since aired on NHK (Japan), the BBC (U.K.), and become an internet sensation viewed by millions around the world. (The series is available online at www.JusticeHarvard.org.)
The China Newsweek award reflects the huge popularity of Justice in China, where a corps of volunteer translators provided subtitles for the online lecture series. Editors of the magazine presented Sandel with the award last month in Beijing. The professor spent 10 days there promoting the Chinese-language edition of his recent book “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” During his trip, Sandel also gave public lectures at Fudan University in Shanghai, and at Tsinghua University in Beijing, which this year launched a new course called “Critical Thinking and Moral Reasoning,” modeled on Sandel’s Justice course.
“I’m astonished by the award, and overwhelmed by the warm response of Chinese students to the lectures and to my book,” Sandel said. “Most memorable for me is the searching, inquiring spirit they brought to our discussions of justice, ethics, and moral reasoning. I look forward to building on this educational collaboration between Harvard and China.”