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Report on the National Seminar on ‘Understanding China: Indian Perspectives’

C3S Paper No. 0054/ 2015

The National Seminar on ‘Understanding China: Indian Perspectives’ was organized by Nelson Mandela Chair for Afro-Asian Studies, Mahatma Gandhi University, in association with, Chennai Centre for China Studies & Institute for Contemporary Chinese Studies, MGU on 27-28 February, 2015.

The Seminar was inaugurated by Dr. Babu Sebastian, Hon. Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University. Mr. Venu Rajamony IFS, Press Secretary to the President of India delivered the Keynote Address. Dr. K.M. Seethi, Director of School of International Relations & Politics, chaired the session and Dr. V. Suryanarayan & Dr. Raju K. Thadikkaran felicitated on the occasion.

Inaugurating the Seminar, Dr. Babu Sebastian, Vice Chancellor, MG University, said that the University will soon launch foreign language courses including Chinese. He also extended wholehearted support of the University in the future ventures of the Nelson Mandela Chair for Afro-Asian Studies. Mr. Venu Rajamony, Press Secretary to the President of India, who served the Beijing Embassy twice in the 1990s, said that his experience with the common people in China clearly showed that they had no ill-will towards India in spite of the 1962 war. He also opined that China’s civilisational relations and cultural contacts with India, extending over thousands of years, continue to be a critical factor in sustaining a friendly and positive image of India in the Chinese popular perceptions. While Buddhism emerged as the first prime mover of the cultural diplomacy of India thousands of years ago, trade and commerce continued to be the driving forces of contemporary relations.

The Seminar was divided into seven Academic Sessions.

The first session was held in the forenoon on 27th February, 2015. Dr. A.M. Thomas,                 Co-ordinator of Nelson Mandela Chair for Afro-Asian Studies, welcomed the gathering and Mr. Hormis Tharakan, IPS (Rtd.), Former Member of National Security Advisory Board, Government of India chaired the Session. He emphasized the need for out-of-the-box thinking to resolve the border disputes between India & China instead of International arbitrations. Dr. Madhu Balla, Professor of Chinese Studies, University of Delhi, remarked on the need for the inclusion of social scientists in bilateral dialogues.

Academic Session II (11.15 am to 1.00 pm): Dr. Madhu Balla chaired the Session. Dr. Srikanth Kondapalli, Professor in Chinese Studies, JNU spoke on ‘Strategic Significance of China Silk Road Initiative’. He said that China’s leaders have sought to revive the centuries old Silk Road both in the continental and maritime domains with a view to participating in the infrastructure connectivity programmes across Asia, Africa and European continents. Dr. Raju K. Thadikkaran presented a paper on ‘China & India in the 21st Century: Scope for Learning from Each Other’ and said that internationalization of higher education in China added pace and imparted sustainability in growth but the pursuit of quality has not been reflected in ensuring equity and access. While presenting the paper ‘A Chinese Observation: Indian’s Perception of China and their China Complex’, Dr. Jia Haitao, Director, Institute for Chindian Studies, Jinan University, China remarked that India’s suspicious and cautious approach to China will change with the deepening of mutual exchanges. He emphasized that Chinese like Indians.

Academic Session III (3.30 pm to 5.00 pm): Dr. Srikanth Kondapalli chaired the session. Dr. V. Suryanarayan spoke on ‘Understanding Chinese Culture’ and said that the remarkable transformation of China in the post-revolutionary period and the process of historical change, deserves understanding and interpretation by Indian scholars. Dr. D. S. Rajan, Distinguished Fellow ,Chennai Centre for China Studies presented a paper on ‘China’s Territorial Disputes’ and focused on the continuing impact of China’s territorial assertiveness on the geopolitics of Asian region. He said that in any study of China’s territorial disputes, what should not be missed is the country’s tendency to put its modern borders in a psychological comparison with those existed prior to ‘historical losses’. The last presentation of the session and the day was made by Dr. T.G. Suresh, Associate Professor at Centre for Political Studies, JNU, on ‘Shanghai in Global City Theory: Capitalism & Hyper-Urbanism in China’. The paper illustrated how urban processes in Shanghai has primarily been a production process towards a hyper urbanism to capture the large scale nature, high density and accelerated pace at which the processes are carried out and their social consequences.

Day II- 28th February 2015

Academic Session IV (9.30 am to 11.00 am): The session was chaired by Commodore. R.S. Vasan, Director, Chennai Centre for China Studies. Col. R. Hariharan, Former Chief of Military Intelligence, Govt. of India, began the session with the paper on ‘Chinese Challenges in Sri Lanka after Regime Change’ and pointed out that China’s ambitious progress in Sri Lanka has suffered a setback after Maithripala Sirisena was elected as President in January 2015. Dr. Madhu Balla spoke on ‘China’s Global Footprint: Changing the World as it was’. She brought forth the point that much of the global footprint by China has been a consequence of the growth of the Chinese economy but the effects are being felt globally in the political and strategic levels as well. The session concluded with the presentation by Dr. Ashik Bonofer, Lecturer at madras Christian College, Chennai on the topic ‘China in Sri Lanka: Prospects & Challenges’.  The paper analyzed Sri Lanka’s importance for China and China’s economic & strategic involvement in Sri Lanka.

Academic Session V (11.15 am to 1.00 pm): The session was chaired by Dr. T. G. Suresh. The first presentation was made by Mr. K. Subrahmaniam, Former Joint Secretary, Dept. of Economic Affairs, Govt. of India, on ‘China: Indian Perspectives- Economic Imperatives. He remarked that the idea behind Transfer Pacific Partnership (TPP) is to exclude China form the Asian region and the aim behind China’s Regional Comprehensive Partnership is to exclude the US from Asia. The second paper was by Mr. Muraleedharan Nair, Formerly Consul at the Indian Consulate General in Guangzhou, China, spoke on ‘Prospects for Democracy in China’. He said that China never subscribed to the western notions of democratic structure. The third presentation was made by G. Thanga Rajesh, Lobzang Dorji, Pondicherry University and Vithiyapathy P., Research Officer, Chennai Centre for China Studies. The paper ‘Chinese projects on Brahmaputra and their Downstream effects in India’, highlighted the cultural significance of this transnational river and the need for close scrutiny of Chinese attempts to divert the water upstream.

Academic Session VI (2.00 pm to 3.15 pm): Col. R. Hariharan, Former Chief of Military Intelligence, Government of India chaired the session. Commodore. R.S. Vasan, Director C3S made the first presentation of the session titled ‘India and China: The Dynamics of Power play in the Indian Ocean’. He pointed out in the wake of recent events that China is acutely aware of its vulnerability along its energy and trade routes as they pass under the watchful eyes of Indian Maritime Security Agencies in both the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.He also discussed the emerging power play in the IOR between the two Asian powers.  The second paper was presented by Dr. Joshy M. Paul, Assistant Professor, Christ University, Bangalore and he spoke on ‘China’s Maritime Strategy: An Assessment’. He said that China has recently increased its attention to the maritime domain in its foreign and security policy and China’s recent activism in the maritime domain is the product of a co-ordinated national grand strategy.

Academic Session VII (3.30 pm to 5.00 pm): Mr. K. Subrahmaniam chaired the final session of the seminar. Mrs. G. Geethika, Assistant Professor, U.C. College, Aluwa and Teacher Fellow at SIRP along with Mr. Basil Mathew, Research Scholar, SIRP presented the first paper titled ‘Intellectual Property Rights in China with Special Reference to Institutional Initiatives’. The paper highlighted the Chinese initiatives in Intellectual Property protection in the wake of the TRIPS agreement and the new IPR regime. Dr. Jia Haitao presented a paper on ‘Sino-Indian Relations: Present Scenario’. He said it is wrong to observe that Sino-Indian relations are strained in terms of the border dispute and on the other hand both the countries maintain peaceful and normal relations in spite of sharing a long distance border. The final presentation of the session and the two day seminar was made by Dr. Pramod. C.R., Assistant Professor of Political Science, Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur. He spoke on ‘Understanding China’s Rise: Various Chinese Perspectives’ and pointed out that the substitution of the term ‘rise’ with ‘development’ has to be learnt as the present nature of internal debate that is happening in PRC.

The two day national seminar had turned out to be a very successful one organized in such a short time. The insights of the presentations are immensely valuable in the point of view of academic as well as policy analysis. We are sure that this will eventually result in a major volume adding to the literature of China. We thank all the delegates and participants for being with us in the two days National Seminar.

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