The UGC China Studies Centre at the MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islami (JMI) organised a two-day International Online Conference on the “Importance of China Studies in the Contemporary World” on the 13-14th October 2020. 28 scholars from India and abroad including from South Africa, Afghanistan, Taiwan, Bosnia, Brazil, Colombia, Cote D’Ivoire and from Indian Universities like JNU, BHU, Delhi University, IIT Delhi, Central University of Gujarat, Doon University, Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya, Shiv Nadar University, and Think Tanks like IDSA, ICWA, ORF, ICS presented papers in the conference.
Prof. Ajay Darshan Behera, Officiating Director, MMAJ AIS in his introductory remarks welcomed all the speakers from the diverse geographies all around the world and the Indian speakers and the eminent chairs. He underlined the importance of China in the global order and the importance of looking into the scholarship on China studies in the context of India and the world in the post-liberal and the pandemic world order.
Ms. Saheli Chattaraj, the convener of the conference and Assistant Professor, China Studies, elaborated on the significance of the theme of the conference emphasising on the historical origins of China Studies in the western world and in India and its evolution as a discipline in India under the framework of Area Studies in the post-Cold War period.
She expanded on the need to contribute and create a new body of knowledge to study China for India, parallel to the existing Euro-centric methodologies for studying China.The keynote speaker, Prof. B.R. Deepak, JNU, spoke on how Area Studies as a discipline has dealt with shared experiences along regions and has not developed any specific theories of its own and instead has borrowed theories from several social science disciplines.
Therefore, for Area Studies it is imperative to study the language and culture of that particular geography which would enhance our ability to analyse and study the region. In this context, he emphasised on India’s need to expand its knowledge base on China by rendering Chinese language texts from varied genres and disciplines into not only the English language but also the Indian languages.
Recognising China’s rise in the international system as a major player it was highlighted that there is a need to pay attention towards Chinese nationalism which is showing itself for the first time in Chinese history. Many speakers from across the world debated on China’s sphere of influence in their different regions and the reasons behind its expanse. There was agreement that there is a lot of misperception about China’s engagement with the world. Therefore, there is a need to have a historical and contemporary perspective about China.
The importance of revisiting the historical context of India and China relations in order to improve relations was highlighted. Scholars from Taiwan emphasised on the need of Taiwan to collaborate with India on China Studies and its significance for the various China-led initiatives in South Asia and its implications for the Indian subcontinent and the region at large.The two day Conference concluded with the Valedictory Lecture delivered by Prof. Alka Acharya , JNU, who summarised the major takeaways from the conference and the directions for rethinking area studies and how to bring in a balance between the social sciences, languages and policy studies.
Prof. Behera stressed that the contemporary context has made it imperative for India to make greater investment in China Studies in particular and Area studies in general.Ms. Chattaraj delivered the Vote of Thanks expressing her gratitude towards the Vice-Chancellor and the University for the platform to enable the success of the event and to all the participants and chairs for their valuable contribution.