CISLI Fellow Lu Yang on the Doklam Standoff

We are excited to share a new column in the Indian Express written by one of our current CISLI Fellows Yang Lu. In her column Lu argues that despite the border tensions in the Doklam area between India and China, “something positive is also happening which would contribute to a better understanding of India in China.” Here is a brief excerpt from her article.

Alongside a very strong nationalist sentiment since the middle of June, Chinese official and social media have witnessed a soar of reports on India. The content of the reports are not only about issues related to the Doklam stand-off and geopolitical discussions, but also cover a broad range of topics about India including its political parties, history, nation-building, religions, ethnic groups etc. In China, India has been very under-studied in comparison with other industrialized countries such as the US, France, or Japan. The Chinese public has usually paid more attention to the developed world and to East Asian countries in China’s periphery. The emergence of a large numbers of articles on India in such a short period has reflected Chinese efforts to understand this giant neighbor.

In other words, the enthusiasm on India created by the success of Aamir Khan’s film ‘Dangal’ in May 2017 indeed suffered a sudden blow by the stand-off at the beginning, but in the long run the desire for a deeper understanding of India has been unexpectedly boosted against the crisis.

India-China relations are multi-faceted and have many components. Strategic and geopolitical issues are only part of the relations. Exchanges in culture, education, science, and business have been proved to be effective in bringing depth and vitality to India-China ties. It would be regretful if we understand relations only through the lens of security and if the development of relations in other areas are hijacked by the border dispute.

You can read Lu’s entire article on The Indian Express.

ICI Scholars on the India China Border Issue

 

We have already shared some of the recent articles by ICI Fellows and affiliated scholars on the developing story of the most recent border tensions between India and China. Today we offer several more recent articles from our ICI network, including Professors Nimmi Kurian and Mahendra Lama.

Kurian was recently part of the ChinaFile discussions hosted by the Asia Society titled “Why are India and China in a Border Standoff?” A handful of prominent scholars were invited to share their thoughts on the border dispute and what their take was on some of the underlying issues and concerns. In her piece Kurian argues:

Part of the reason it has ended up with a bad bargain with China is that India’s crisis diplomacy has often worked without a credible notion of what the endgame is. This could well be a problem of not knowing what the problem is. For instance, the confidence-building measures India has negotiated with China have by and large aimed at conflict prevention, content with only “managing” differences. This explains why the 1993 and 1996 agreements and confidence-building measures have not segued into a higher order goal of conflict transformation. By setting the bar of peace low by design, is it any wonder that India has ended up hitting lower?

You can read the entire piece from Kurian, as well as read the other contributions to the discussion, at the Asia Society website here.

The other piece comes from Professor Mahendra Lama. His Op-Ed on the topic appeared in the Nepali newspaper Kathmandu Post, “No One Wants War.” Lama argues there is already a history of cooperation that should be built on to restore the temporary rifts between the two countries, and that neighboring states need to also play a more constructive role as mediators. Here is an excerpt from the piece by Professor Lama:

It is critical for these two Asian giants to move towards cooperation and integration instead of a competitive-rivalry framework. This would result in a win-win paradigm of an Asian Century. The bilateral parleys that have been occurring over the last 30 years have been reinforced by exchanges between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there are a number of forces—rumour mongers, war jingoists and intolerant institutions—that are trying to drive a wedge between the two countries. These negative forces thrive in a situation of instability and conflict. A majority of the countries in South Asia share a common border with both China and India; as such they will have to calculate the costs of conflicts on societies, economies and geographies. Regional civil societies therefore, must come together to prevent conflict.

You can read the full Op-Ed on the Kathmandu Post website here.

What are your thoughts on the border issue? Let us know in our latest online poll.  Take Poll

 

Healing the India-China Border Trauma – L.H.M. Ling

 

We’re pleased to share another engaging and insightful post from former India China Fellow (2008-2010) and New School Professor L.H.M. Ling. In her latest piece for the Asia & The Pacific Policy Society, Professor Ling engages the renewed border tensions between India and China, and calls for a different approach to the traditional Western power politics and border securitization discourses as a solution to strengthen historic India-China relations. Here is an excerpt from her piece.

On 20 October 1962, Chinese and Indian forces exchanged fire in Ladakh and across the MacMahon Line in the Himalayas. A month later, the war ended as mysteriously as it had begun, yet has shadowed Sino-Indian relations ever since. A ‘trust deficit’ keeps tabs on a series of mutual grievances: the disputed borderlands of Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang; China’s support of Pakistan and presence in Kashmir; India’s ‘Look East’ policy (that is, closer relations with the United States) combined with its unswerving support of the Dalai Lama and his exiled Tibetan community in Dharamsala.

These tensions have flared again recently. Both India and China have been upgrading and expanding their military presence in the Indian Ocean. As two of the world’s fastest-growing economies, they compete fiercely for crucial energy resources in Asia, Africa and Latin America. With one-third of humanity living in these two nuclear powers, a mere skirmish between them could destabilise the region and affect the security of the entire globe.

Still, conventional analysts of international relations would shrug: what’s new? After all, isn’t the international arena just like Hobbes’ state of human nature: “nasty, poor, brutish, lonely, and short”? And doesn’t this kind of power politics apply to everybody and everywhere, regardless of history, culture, language, religion or worldview?

In this view, non-Hobbesian, not to mention non-Western, ways of thinking and doing, relating and being, do not matter. At best, India and China can expect a third, more powerful actor – that is, the US – to intervene and enforce a temporary salve. At worst, war breaks out.

Read the full article by Professor Ling on the APPS Policy Forum website.

Chinese FDI in Latin American Extractive Industries – Adriana Abdenur

 

We are excited to share an upcoming publication from former India China Fellow (2008-2010) and Postdoctoral Fellow Adriana Abdenur, currently at the Fundação Getulio Vargas in Brazil. Professor Abdenur’s article on Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in Latin America and the Caribbean looks at the growing role of China as an investor in extractive industries, and how Chinese actors are engaged in these sectors. The full text of the article, “Skirting or Courting Controversy? Chinese FDI in Latin American Extractive Industries,” will be available soon from the International Development Policy | Revue internationale de politique de développement.

Here is the abstract for Professor Abdenur’s article.

China has become a key player in the development sector in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), not only due to trade but also because of the growing scope and visibility of its foreign direct investments (FDI). However, Chinese investments in the region are far from homogeneous, not only oscillating over time and space, but also varying across modes of incorporation into LAC economies. In the extractive industries, Chinese actors rely on a wide gamut of strategies to open up markets and to help ensure access to oil and minerals. This chapter breaks down the concept of FDI into three umbrella categories—greenfield projects, mergers and acquisitions, and joint ventures—to analyse how Chinese capital enters LAC extractive sectors. The chapter argues that, faced with a relatively unfamiliar landscape and new sources of uncertainty, Chinese companies tend to ‘test the water’ through mergers and acquisitions, as well as joint ventures, before delving into greenfield activities like direct mining or drilling. This cautious approach signals a degree of institutional learning on the part of Chinese stakeholders, as well as the desire to avoid charges of neo-colonialism, imposed dependency, and lax adherence to formal regulations.

More information about Professor Abdenur’s article, and the full text once released, can be found on the International Development Policy website.

 

Review of ICI Fellows Publication

 

We’re pleased to share a recent review of a new book out by our 3rd cohort ICI Fellows titled Environmental Sustainability from the Himalayas to the Oceans: Struggles and Innovations in China and India (Springer 2017). The book is edited by Shikui Dong, Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Sanjay Chaturvedi. Along with Nidhi Shrinivas, Victoria Marshall and Lo Sze Ping, this group of scholars from India, China and the US were part of the final cohort of India China Fellows working on the topic of Social Innovation for Sustainable Environments (2010-13).

Here is a brief excerpt from the review in PrimePost by Vithal Rajan titled India, China Collaboration Needed To Protect Ecology.

While general public anxiety over our fast degrading environment has produced a plethora of books, none is better than this one, written with so much attention to detail, and history, making complex scientific facts easily accessible as much to the lay reader as to the scientist. The book is delightfully illustrated with carefully drawn maps and charts, and beautiful photos, which all aid the reader in understanding the threats to the fragile ecology of the Himalayan region, affecting both India and China.

A phalanx of authoritative scientists have authored this book, Indian, Chinese, and international. In the present cacophonous political atmosphere, the authors refreshingly argue, repeatedly throughout the book, for joint international action and joint regional bodies between India and China to help reverse ecological degradation in the Himalayan region, which is drastically eroding the quality of life for millions north and south of the mountain range.

The two principal authors, Jayanta Bandyopadhyay and Shikui Dong, go into the early histories and theologies of the two great Asian civilizations to highlight the ecological sensitivity embedded in their cultures. Shikui Dong starts his exposition of the present state of play in China with a conventional bashing of the Mao period in the 1950s and 1960s, a period when all governments were equally ignorant and irresponsible.

You can read the full review online here.

New Book by Former ICI Fellow Jonathan Bach on Shenzhen

Learning from Shenzen

The India China Institute is excited to announce a new edited book from former ICI Fellow Jonathan Bach, along with Mary Ann O’Donnell and Winnie Wong: Learning from Shenzhen: China’s Post-Mao Experiment from Special Zone to Model City. The book is published by the University of Chicago Press (2017) and is available now. Here is the book description from the publisher:

This multidisciplinary volume, the first of its kind, presents an account of China’s contemporary transformation via one of its most important yet overlooked cities: Shenzhen, located just north of Hong Kong. In recent decades, Shenzhen has transformed from an experimental site for economic reform into a dominant city at the crossroads of the global economy. The first of China’s special economic zones, Shenzhen is today a UNESCO City of Design and the hub of China’s emerging technology industries.

Bringing China studies into dialogue with urban studies, the contributors explore how the post-Mao Chinese appropriation of capitalist logic led to a dramatic remodeling of the Chinese city and collective life in China today. These essays show how urban villages and informal institutions enabled social transformation through cases of public health, labor, architecture, gender, politics, education, and more. Offering scholars and general readers alike an unprecedented look at one of the world’s most dynamic metropolises, this collective history uses the urban case study to explore critical problems and possibilities relevant for modern-day China and beyond.

To learn more about this book, or to read excerpts and purchase a copy, visit the publisher’s website here.

The authors will be doing a book launch in Shenzhen on January 14th, so if you are in China near the city, check out the event in person. Details in the poster below and here.

Former ICI Fellow L.H.M. Ling on New World Making by China

 

We are pleased to share another new post from former ICI Fellow L.H.M. Ling (2008-2010) in the Huffington Post. In her latest piece, “New World Making: China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ Policy”, Ling looks at China’s ambitious new “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) policy and what it means for the future of Asia.

It’s another Great Game!, critics charge. OBOR retells an old story: a newly muscular China is contending for hegemony with other great powers like the US, Europe, and Russia. Central Asia and the Indian Ocean constitute the “pawns,” “rooks,” and “knights” on the board. Local “kings” and “queens” may mark the game but only the Great Powers can play it. China’s claim of “mutual complementarity” and “win-win” scenarios under OBOR covers for a Sino-centric division of labor. China acquires what it lacks while selling what it has – none of which helps local development. In fact, critics imply, OBOR is repeating what the West has done to the Rest since the 15th century. We’ve seen this movie before.

But hold on. Why the Silk Roads? What’s the significance of these ancient, segmented trade routes for massive, contemporary investments of labor and capital, concrete and steel? What does it mean for China to revive, both economically and politically, those areas of the globe that have fallen into dusty neglect since medieval Europe re-routed the spice trade?

The Silk Roads, after all, lasted more than a millennia. They represented more than a strip of geography, a venue for commerce, barter and trade from long ago and far away. They also enriched our world-of-worlds with exchanges and flows, languages/religions/goods, despite frequent conflicts and contestations. The Roads brought merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, and nomads in contact with princesses, nuns, shamans, scribes, and settlers. The long, arduous, scenic, adventurous, death-stricken, awe-inspiring routes mandated interdependence, and perhaps reverence for wisdom and insight, learning from the signs and the esoteric, and a basic degree of humility and adaptability that led to a non-individualistic, non-predatory approach to living.

You can read the full article here.

ICS-HYI Fellowship for China Studies – Apply Now

 

We are pleased to share some information from ICS and HYI about a new doctoral fellowship for Indian students they are offering. Applications are due by Feb 20th.

Applications are invited from Indian citizens for a multi-year doctoral fellowship in China Studies sponsored jointly by the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi (ICS) and the Harvard-Yenching Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts (HYI). The Fellowship encompasses substantial support for developing language and pursuing research in India, China and Harvard. The applicants will be either already registered in a PhD programme in an Indian university or in the process of applying to a PhD programme in the social sciences or humanities including anthropology, archaeology, cultural studies, economics, geography, history, international relations, language and literature, legal history, philosophy, political sciences, religion, and sociology, and would have adopted a specific China focus in their studies.

More details about the HYI program and how to apply can be found on their website here.

Chapter Three: How We Accidentally Wandered into an Urban Village

 

After 17 grueling hours of flights and about another 5 of struggling to get our hands on a hotel room key, we had finally made it to our (temporary) new digs in Luohu, Shenzhen. By the time I laid my head down onto the feather and rice filled pillow it was 4 AM—or 4 PM in New York, where I had just travelled from. When I finally woke, I found Jordenn on his phone and light peering in underneath the curtains into an otherwise dark room. “Oh good, it’s still light outside,” I mumbled to Jordenn. “Yeah…those are streetlights.” It was 9 PM. Waking up to realize I had been asleep for 17 hours was one of the weirdest feelings of my life.

Jordenn and I spent the rest of the evening wandering our neighborhood in search for vegetarian-friendly dining, which lead us to a mango pizza lounge. Don’t ask. Afterwards we continued on our journey throughout Dongmen Subdistrict, a pedestrian street for shopping, without any destination in mind. We eventually came to an alleyway that seemed much more lively than the street we were on, so we naturally followed that path. In doing so, our night took a turn as well.

 

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Instead of being surrounded by lightless H&M’s and unidentifable billboard advertisements, we found ourselves immersed in the vibrant night life of a busy Shenzhen side-street. As the road winded, the buildings inched back from the street little by little, eventually lending the sidewalk space to become full-on plazas consumed by small markets. People selling food from carts and live fish from tanks seemed to be the urban motif of the given area.

As we continued, Jordenn and I never asked each other which way we should walk—we just moved naturally through the space. The street got increasingly smaller as more and more food vendors set up shop in front of businesses that were closed for the night. The formal establishments may not have been serving anyone, but the urban space sure was.

Narrower and narrower the street shrunk, eventually becoming a corridor that packed just as many people, lights, and food as the wider part could. Vinyl canopies enclosed the space at a claustrophobic height, which, at 6’2″, I of course hit my head against a metal pole—not a single person winced or showed any sign of empathy. (A common theme for Jordenn and I thus far has been our ability to attract an incredible amount of attention, but hardly any sustained interest.)

After just a few minutes of walking along the smaller path, everything changed when we reached a fork in the pedestrian-road. The walls seemed to close in even more but the ‘ceiling’ finally opened up. There was no longer any room for food stands or even for more than a few people to stand shoulder to shoulder in the width of the space. Upon reaching an intersection, Jordenn and I stood still and consciously examined our surroundings for the first time. The buildings suddenly appeared more residential in nature with just a small shop selling convenience items every few yards.  It was much quieter—almost too quiet. Windows curtained from within and barred from the outside seemed to tell me something, but I didn’t know what. I looked for an answer further up the facade until my eyes met the top of the building, and suddenly I knew exactly where we were.

I had been reading about this urban condition for months in advance, which makes me quite embarrassed that I didn’t immediately recognize it. The ‘thin line sky’—a single streak of vastness created by two facades that nearly touch—revealed itself between the ‘handshake buildings,’ (named such for obvious reasons). By wandering Shenzhen, we had naturally and quite fluidly found ourselves in the middle of an urban village.

 

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Contemporary History

The city of silk and beauties, Suzhou has a similar storyline to Hangzhou. Yet, I find it more serene than the latter. Probably because it is also easier to get around with the absence of a lake puncturing the centre of the city. I must acknowledge that I have an almost insensible fondness for Suzhou.

Indeed, with a museum crafted by I.M. Pei, one of my most respected architecture masters, it is quite understandable why it has an exquisite hold over me.

The museum exists harmoniously with its context. The structure reciprocates the rich history of Suzhou, looking to local architectural elements of 粉墙黛瓦 Fèn Qiáng Dài Wâ, (Pastel Walls, Ink Roofs). At the same time, its exhibits modernist characteristics with its sleek silhouette.

Prof. Pei considered the Suzhou context in his design and synthesized it with his creativity. It proves to be very successful, and the Suzhou Museum is an unmistakable, original Chinese landmark.

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