Report: China and India in the modern world: from (semi)colonies to nation-states 7-8 August 2014

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Just before he left CIW for a post at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, post-doctoral research fellow Dr Brian Tsui convened this workshop on Sino-Indian relations from the nineteenth century to the present. Open to the public, participants came from around the world, including Prof Tansen Sen of Baruch College who in addition to delivering a public lecture, also appeared on ABC news discussing the latest developments in Sino-Indian relations. Dr Tsui’s workshop was part of a larger three-year project (‘Beyond Pan-Asianism: China-India Connections, 1911-1949’ funded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange) that seeks to create a narrative about this important period in modern global history. Up to now, much of the scholarship on Sino-Indian relations has focussed on pre-modern religious exchanges or the buzz around a supposed shared destiny forged on geo-politics and trade. In shifting focus to the modern period, Dr Tsui found the workshop to be beneficial on a number of levels, least of all being alerted to the immense possibilities of archival research in India, as shared by his colleagues. An important consideration in the research of Sino-Indian interactions is the changing nature of India. The geo-political entity of India in 2014 is much different to the British India of colonial times, where not only did borders extend to include modern Pakistan and Bangladesh, but also Myanmar. Yi Li’s paper ‘‘Where China Meets India’, Face to Face: Interactions and Comparisons between Chinese and Indian Migrant Communities in Colonial Burma’ showed the importance of considering cross-cultural contact zones in peripheral areas as well as in major metropolises, such as Bombay or Nanking. The spatial politics of colonial history in Rangoon is an important part of the larger history of Sino-Indian interactions. Anne Reinhardt’s work on national capitalists in China and India showed how class harmony and cooperation was promoted through social reform and community construction. Examining the trends of that time in China and India showed the influence of other contemporary reform examples in places such as the Soviet Union, Japan and Germany. After this successful workshop Dr Tsui and his colleagues will reconvene in Taipei in 2015. There they will discuss the chapters they have prepared for an edited volume and also consider the annotated bibliography of archive materials that they intend to publish.

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