The 16th All India Conference of China Studies (AICCS) was organized by the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad, and Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS) Delhi, in cooperation with Institution of Eminence Directorate, University of Hyderabad (UoH), in partnership with Council for Social Development, Hyderabad and Centre of Excellence for Himalayan Studies, Shiv Nadar University, Delhi-NCR, and supported by Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR).

To begin with, we have had a large number of individual abstracts submitted for presentation in the 16th AICCS. Many of these were excellent in terms of both contemporary and enduring relevance, methodology, content, and research focus. Of the 88 abstracts received, 48 were shortlisted, and a board of reviewers selected 16 for final presentation through a rigorous process based on the importance and singularity of theme, academic standard, feasibility, and comprehensive representation. This is to inform that the 16th AICCS saw a representation of 28 institutions. This conference brought together scholars we may not commonly find at the exact location while discussing China through well-established frameworks and sub-areas, especially in this year’s Special Theme, Social Dynamics and Political Responses in China. The exchange of perspectives under the aegis of AICCS usually grows into new research projects and institutional linkages.

The Inaugural Session was chaired by Prof. Jyotirmaya Sharma, Dean, School of Social Sciences, UoH, who began by extending a warm welcome to all participants and notably recognized the organizers’ efforts. He also read the congratulatory message of the Vice-Chancellor UoH, Prof. B. Jagadeeshwara Rao, as he could not be present due to personal preoccupation. In her welcome remarks, Honorary Director, ICS, Prof. Alka Acharya, traced the long journey of AICCS and how it has grown over the years while making important research contributions in the field of China studies. She explained how ICS is helping scholars in India push the boundaries of scholarly research on China, especially with the critical role played by the ICS-HYI Doctoral Fellowship program in enriching research on China in India. While welcoming everyone to the conference, Prof. M. Ghanashyam Krishna, Director, Institution of Eminence Directorate, IoE-UoH, underscored the need to know more about China. He briefly described the “Institutions of Eminence” initiative, which has helped universities achieve their full potential. He observed that China has dominated Science and Technology research in the last 20 years, just as China has dominated the global supply chain. Dr Sujit Kumar Mishra, while briefly introducing the Council for Social Development (CSD), spoke about how the CSD Special Panel in the 16th AICCS discusses the challenges faced in rural-urban linkages in both India and China. Dr Rajat Kathuria underscored the importance of researching China while noting China’s extensive and detailed scholarship on India. He emphasized the strategic importance of China and the need to invest in research on China. Dr K.K. Kailash, Head, Department of Political Science, School of Social Sciences, UoH, welcomed everyone to the conference and thanked the organizing team. He wished the conference to be fruitful and engaging. Prof. Sabaree Mitra, ICS-AICCS convenor, traced the long journey of AICCS and its institutionalization over the years while promoting interdisciplinary research on China in collaboration with universities and institutions across the country. She pointed out that the special theme of the conference is very relevant in unravelling China’s journey, especially since COVID.

Prof. Elizabeth J. Perry, Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University and Director, Harvard Yenching Institute, Cambridge, MA-USA, in the Keynote Address titled “Campaign Style Governance in the People’s Republic of China,” started by listing the primary mass campaigns in the history of China and mentioned that mass campaigns as a method of mobilizing people. Coming to the Patriotic Health Campaign, she said it was essential to study it because it is one of the earliest mass campaigns that has endured over time in China and allows us to see continuities from the Mao period to the decades after Mao. Chinese leaders from Mao to Xi have realized the political dimension of patriotic health campaigns. Attention to public health was a hallmark of Mao’s early writings, which linked public health with military preparedness. Mao’s pledge to fortify the Chinese nation by strengthening the health of the nation was an essential part of his campaign. While public health campaigns are prevalent worldwide, it was the Chinese leaders who have recognized the crucial political dimension of public health; they have realized that a leader’s success or failure in this area can play an essential role in regime legitimacy within China and internationally.

Dr. Bhim B. Subba, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, co-convenor, gave a Vote of Thanks, where he at length on the tireless efforts made by students in the role of rapporteurs and volunteers, expressed his gratitude to the University of Hyderabad, Vice-Chancellor, Institution of Eminence Directorate, Registrar, Dean-SSS, HoD-Dept. of Political Science, UoH, CSD, SNU, and ICS, and colleagues and senior scholars from partnering institutions, and above all, the presenters and participants, who made the 16th AICCS a successful academic exercise and a lively forum for animated debates and discussion.

The 16th AICCS had four Special Panels reflecting diverse interests and concerns, covering socio-cultural, economic, and political themes. Special Panel I on Rural-Urban Linkages: Emerging Trends in India and China was convened by the Centre for Social Development, Hyderabad, and was chaired by D. N. Reddy, Professor in Economics (Retd.) and former Dean, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad. This panel explored in the past few decades, India and China have witnessed rapid economic development which has impacted rural and urban linkages. While the increased interdependence led to diversified economic

opportunities by creating new forms of livelihoods for both the rural and urban populace and has led to new forms of poverty reduction strategies and economic development approaches, this relationship between rural and urban has failed to be a holistic development phenomenon across the spectrum of rural-urban spaces in both societies. In this context, the panel discussed the challenges of sustainable rural-urban linkages in India and China. The speakers explored the theoretical and conceptual contours of such linkages in the context of development paradigms; they used field and survey reports with policy studies to deliberate on the complex interactions between the rural and urban transformation in India and China.

Special Panel II on Surveillance and Control: How the Chinese Party-State Deploys Science & Technology in Tibet and Xinjiang was convened by the Centre of Excellence for Himalayan Studies, Shiv Nadar University, Delhi-NCR, and chaired by Dr. Jabin Jacob. This panel had four presentations on how the Chinese Party-state has used Science & Technology in different policy areas in its responses to social and political dynamics in Tibet and Xinjiang since 2008/2009. The studies sought to unravel key emerging patterns and tactics in the Chinese state’s governance strategies regarding long-term objectives and policy tools and the challenges and security threats it perceives in Tibet and Xinjiang. The presentations also reflected on larger debates on the emerging regime of China’s policies in the post-2008/09 period, when riots in Tibetan areas and Xinjiang took place.

Special Panel III on As the World Ages: Learnings from the East Asian Economies for Care of Older Persons was convened and chaired by Dr. Madhurima Nundy. The backdrop of the panel was that many Asian societies have already transitioned demographically, while many others are still transitioning. Among those that have transitioned are the East Asian economies of Japan, South Korea, China, and Hong Kong, while other South Asian and Southeast Asian societies are still transitioning and will age rapidly in the next two decades. All the economies have mixed financing and provisioning in health services. The diversity of socio-political contexts is also reflected in the scope and depth of welfare interventions. This panel brought together experts researching health and social care systems for the older population in the Asian context from a comparative perspective. The panelists reflected on some contexts within which health and social care systems for older persons have emerged in these economies.

Special Panel IV on State of China Studies in India: Scholarship on India-China Relations was chaired by ‘The state of the field,’ in which the panelists provide a critical analysis and appraisal of recent by Dr. Rityusha Mani Tiwary. In line with organizing panel discussions to explore scholarship on a particular theme, this panel focussed on China’s Foreign Policy and India-China Relations, categorizing the different approaches, perspectives, and dominant arguments. Of the three presentations, one tried to assess recent writings on the PRC’s foreign policy and international relations; the second presentation focussed on the literature devoted to China-South Asia and regional dynamics; and finally, the third presentation looked at recent writings on India-China relations, with a particular focus on the “diplomatic” genre.

Apart from the Special Panels, two other sessions — ICS-HYI PANEL DISCUSSION on Expanding the Horizons of China Research in India, held on Day One of the conference showcased the importance of the Institute of Chinese Studies-Harvard Yenching Institute (ICS-HYI) partnership and its contribution towards the expansion of the scope of research on China in India. Former and present awardees of this fellowship spoke about their individual experience, intellectual and academic, and how this fellowship has given them access to resources, enriched their vision, and strengthened their capability; the journey has made them understand how to contextualize themselves in terms of competition, collaboration, and networking.

The second was a Special Lecture on Day Two on “The Dilemma of Gender and Culture in China’s Soft Power in the Global South” by Prof. Govind Kelkar, a reputed scholar of China Studies with an in-depth understanding of Chinese society. She started by underscoring the role of soft power in China’s emergence as one of the biggest economies and the role of women in the economic emergence. She talked about President Xi Jinping’s emphasis on using soft power instead of hard power and how China uses it to persuade the world to respect other civilizations, different forms of democracy, and their modernization paths. Prof. Kelkar further noted that hard and soft power in China has fluid boundaries and a symbiotic relationship. China’s soft power combines Confucian historical values with a pursuit of modernization, prosperity, and harmony. In the last few years, CPC and President Xi emphasized the importance of telling the Chinese story well through media. Women’s empowerment has been a dominant policy concern of the CPC, but there are several barriers, and one of these barriers is the revival of the Confucian ideology. However, there is a silver line to this, as women are also trying to redefine Confucianism from a feminine perspective by including women’s rights, which can also be a feminist vision of systemic change.

 Future of India-China Economic Engagement– a roundtable discussion assessed the sharp deterioration in bilateral ties between India and China since May 2020. The Government of India has taken several steps to reduce dependency on China. Despite some stringent measures, India’s import from China has continued to grow, and the bilateral trade deficit reached an all-time high in 2022, though investment flows from China declined. The panelists discussed how India can manage its economic engagement with China to reduce excessive dependencies. The panel explored various questions, considering trends in the more significant relationship with China, its propensity to weaponize interdependence, and the evolving geopolitical environment. Overall, the question of how India should balance economic, geopolitical, and security considerations while forging a new paradigm of economic engagement with China was discussed.

There were six Thematic Panels on 1) Chinese Economy and its Socio-Political Ramifications, 2) Chinese State: Political Representation and Social Responses, 3) Chinese State: Political Control and Popular Responses, 4) China and the World: Cultural Interactions through History, 5) Party, State and Party Politics, AND, 6) China’s Strategic Policy and Internal Discourse. Of these, the first three panels were significant as they pertained to the Special Theme of the Conference and showcased a range of themes especially relevant to understanding the Chinese policy perspectives on various issues. In the last three panels, on the other hand, we saw some very enduring concerns and, at the same time, throwing up some exciting titles.

The 16 papers selected for presentation in the 16th AICCS indicated an extensive range of interest, discipline, and training of scholars; they cover an amazing spectrum by way of topics and reflect the new innovative interdisciplinary approach that has broken through conventional categories. We have had titles such as “The Paradox of Poverty Alleviation in China: A Case Study of Migrant Workers in Shanghai during the Covid-19 Pandemic”, “Social Organizations and State Control: The Case Study of Domestic Violence Network (DVN) in China,” “Sinicization in the People’s Republic of China: An Analysis of Language Policies,” “Indian Music: A New Tool in Reshaping The Dream of “Dragon and Elephant Dancing Together,” “Sino-Japanese Art Exchanges in the 20th Century and their Implications on Chinese Avant-Garde”, “Mao’s China and the First School Textbook Controversy in Contemporary India, circa 1949-1959”, “China’s Approach to the Global Commons: A Critical Analysis of China’s Outer Space Policy”, and many more that have captured the attention of the emerging scholars of China Studies in India.

The Valedictory Address titled “Rising to the China Challenge” by Ambassador Gautam Bambawale was a rich exposition of India-China relations, which is certainly beyond my competence to sum up. Suffice it to say that true to his style of holding the bull by the horns, Ambassador Bambawale has raised some very pertinent questions that the policymakers, practitioners, as well as academics, need to take note of and ponder about as we stakeholders look at the way forward. The session chair, Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, as a practitioner, policymaker, and academic, has provided an appropriate context to the questions raised in the Valedictory Address and has hinted at a possible methodology as we consider these questions.

Key Takeaways both for organizers and for the participants:

  • Participants were from the USA, China, Hong Kong, and India (25 institutions).
  • The importance and knowledge of Chinese have emerged as a recurring theme throughout the conference and have also been adequately underscored in the ICS-HYI Panel discussion. The lack of Chinese language skills and training has been detrimental to pursuing China Studies.
  • It is encouraging to note that there has been an enhanced “desire to know” China framework in recent years, leading to the knowledge creation of China in India. The presence of an India-specific context of reading China is a highly desirable additional dimension to knowledge building on China. India’s unique positioning as an Asian neighbour to China enhances the capacity to understand China beyond ethnocentric dichotomies.
  • Field works and visits were suggested. However, such visits rely on the availability of funds and fellowships. Prof. M. Ghanshyam Krishna’s advice to make some recommendations to the government could be one such mechanism.
  • Thematic papers will be reworked for publication.
  • A detailed report is being prepared to be shared with funding agencies and partner institutions.

Contributed by the Department of Political Science, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad