Skip to Initiative for U.S.-China Dialogue on Global Issues Full Site Menu Skip to main content
Hands holding a globe


This background report provides a general overview of the evolution of cosmopolitanism in U.S.-China relations and its wider implications for world affairs.

PDF Download
February 15, 2022

Cosmopolitanism: Eastern and Western Perspectives

In recent decades, the term cosmopolitanism has re-emerged as a focus of heightened interest in the humanities and social sciences. The concept has been championed by philosophers East and West, ancient as well as contemporary, and its value seems especially suited to address certain pressing challenges in today’s world of divided national interests and intensified ethnic hostility. The word “cosmopolitanism” is derived from the Greek word kosmopolitēs (“citizen of the world”), and its nebulous sense, shared by all cosmopolitan views, is that every human being, regardless of political affiliation, is (or can and should be) a citizen of a single, grand community. While many scholars have been inspired by and traced the origin of cosmopolitanism back to classical resources in the Western tradition, our central argument in this report is that versions of cosmopolitanism can be found in other world traditions, and in particular the Chinese tradition. These diverse traditions offer us valuable alternative resources for developing modern views about what cosmopolitanism can and should be.

View Publication