China and India in the Modern World


The Australian National University, Canberra, 7-8 August 2014

This two-day workshop examines the shared experiences that shaped modern China and India. As continental-sized entities with diverse populations, rich cultural traditions and highly developed bureaucratic structures, both China and India were inducted into the global capitalist order as objects of imperialist expansion in the nineteenth century. Accompanying European (semi)colonialism were developments that defined the version of modernity to which present-day China and India are still indebted: demarcation of national borders, emergence of urban centres as culturally and economically distinct communities, movement of peoples between colonial possessions, and creation of institutions that laid the foundation for the emergence of Asia’s largest nation-states in the twentieth century.

While European imperialism connected China and India through trade, diasporic communities and empire-building initiatives, resistance against foreign domination tied the two countries together in alternative networks that extended across Asia and beyond. Since the turn of the twentieth century, nationalism as intellectual current and organised politics intersected with transnational ideals such as Pan-Asianism, anarchism and communism. Ties forged between prominent intellectuals like Liang Qichao and Rabindranath Tagore co-existed with the entanglements between institutionalised nationalist movements in China and India. These movements were in turn embedded in competing global trends inspired by communist internationalism, inter-imperialist rivalries, and the rise of Japan as the regional hegemon during the interwar period. As China and India adopted the nation-state form, issues engendered by British imperialist expansion – the status of Tibet and other frontier regions, Chinese and Indian diasporic communities in each other’s home countries and in Southeast Asia, etc. – combined with incipient Cold War rivalries to dent what many hoped to be a new order of Third World or Pan-Asianist solidarity after the end of the Second World War.

We look forward to receiving paper proposals which consider aspects of China-India connections from the nineteenth century until the mid-twentieth century. Connections are not confined to bilateral interactions between China and India, let alone diplomatic exchanges between states. Instead, we are interested in studies that draw attention to the circulation of ideas, peoples, capital and political norms with which India and China (including regions within the two nation-states) were entangled. These connections could be centred around Chinese or Indian institutions, political movements, individuals that operated across national boundaries or entities that were multinational in nature. We also welcome comparative studies of Chinese and Indian society in the colonial/late Qing and Republican and early post-independence/socialist periods.

Please send abstracts of no longer than 300 words by email to Brian Tsui ( by 15 April 2014. Participants will be provided with lodging in Canberra during the conference.