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Relations between China and its neighbors after COVID-19: South Asia

Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused catastrophic losses to countries around the world, and it has also profoundly affected the development of the global political and economic structure. For China, the pandemic not only exerts influence on public safety, health and economic and social development, but also reshapes the surrounding environment to a large extent. To this end, the Institute of Area Studies, Peking University (PKUIAS) held a series of New Buds Salons on the “Relations between China and its Neighbors since COVID-19,” inviting young scholars in related fields at home and abroad to discuss this topic.

On July 12, 2020, the online seminar “Relations between China and its neighbors since COVID-19: South Asia” came to a successful conclusion. This salon invited six young research fellows from Peking University, Wuhan University, East China Normal University, Jawaharlal Nehru University in India and other domestic and foreign institutes to give presentations. Ye Hailin, a research fellow at the National Institute of International Strategy, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and Hu Shisheng, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations made comments. Xu Chuanbo, a postdoctoral fellow of PKUIAS moderated the salon.

Zhang Jing, a postdoctoral fellow of PKUIAS, believes that Hindu nationalism is an important reason for the deterioration of Sino-Indian relations in recent years. From the perspectives of the Kashmir issue, Indian economic development and social reforms, she analyzed the deep cultural importance and political logic in Hindu nationalism as well as its impact on Sino-India relations. In addition, raising both theoretical and realistic concerns, she made a thorough analysis of the factors restricting the future development of bilateral relations in the pandemic.

Zhu Xiaochao, a doctoral student at the China Institute of Boundary and Ocean Studies at Wuhan University, compared many of the actions taken by India on the border dispute in recent years. He believes that the Indian government’s actions were aimed at diverting domestic public attention, while also catering to the need of the US to contain China. Nevertheless, on the whole, normal diplomatic relations between China and India will continue to develop.

Duan Bin, a doctoral student in the History Department of East China Normal University, summarized the history of Indian road construction in border areas. He pointed out that since the turn of the new century, India has no longer been satisfied with defending the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but has built roads in border areas to meet its need for strategic material logistics, while using superior forces in border areas to deter China on a small scale. In addition, a large number of strategic highways have been built by India to create favorable conditions for future border delimitation negotiations.

Tong Yutao, a doctoral student at the School of International Studies at PKU, said that based on the conflicts on the Sino-Indian border in recent years, it can be seen that the Sino-Indian border issue is undergoing changes. First, the balance of power between China and India in the border area has changed, and India is becoming more powerful. Second, India is shedding the constraints of existing border treaties, a trend that China should stay vigilant about. Finally, the border issue might be the core of China-India relations in the future, and both sides need to consider how to deal with its impact on bilateral relations.

Sui Xuemeng, a doctoral student at the School of International Studies at PKU, said that because of the impact of the pandemic and changes in the Sino-US-India trilateral relationship, the US has the tendency and ability to intervene more in Sino-Indian border disputes, and the US is more inclined to favor India. In the future, China-India relations may enter a period of coldness, and India-US relations may develop in a more positive direction, something China should prepare for.

Zhang Yang, a doctoral student at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, started with manthan, an important concept in the Hindu worldview, and analyzed India’s foreign policy.

Ye Hailin and Hu Shisheng stated in their comments that discussions at the salon reflected concerns in current academia about Sino-Indian relations, especially China-India border issues. Sino-Indian relations are no less complicated than Sino-US relations. When analyzing specific events in bilateral relations, they must be comprehensively examined along the vertical axis of time and the horizontal axis of the domestic and international environment. Then Ye and Hu also raised questions for the speakers on different topics.

The salon also attracted more than 70 teachers and students from different universities and institutions. The series “Relations between China and its neighbors since COVID-19” will continue to hold online seminars on the development of relations between China and Southeast Asia, Russia, South Korea, Central Asia and other countries and regions.