What were the stories of modern China-India relations in the age of empires? How did India and China engage with each other beyond pan-Asianist and anti-colonialist interactions?
In Beyond Pan-Asianism: Connecting China and India, 1840s-1960s (Oxford UP, 2020), fifteen diverse scholars attempt to answer these questions through analyses on literature, religion, diplomacy, intelligence, political activism, nationalism, and more. Together, the chapters of the book argue for a need to understand China-India relations in the period between 1840s to 1960s beyond idealist perceptions of Asian unity. They question the use of fixed periodization and geographically constrained understandings of China-India interactions, at the same time reminding us of the complexities of political transitions and the various roles of mediators.
This edited volume also actively engages with existing frameworks for understanding China-India relations, such as ‘Pan-Asianism’ and ‘China/India as method’ in different ways. Some contributors converge with these frameworks to show how thinkers from India and China tried to imagine alternatives to global imperialism and capitalism. Other contributors suggest that state-driven geopolitical designs and desires to overcome the nation-state system cannot be neatly demarcated.
Prasenjit Duara, in the epilogue of the volume, points out that “India-China studies of the modern period have been largely confined either to the study of ancient civilizational exchanges or to contemporary realpolitik competitions.” He argues, “…what is not mentioned in these formulations is the extent to which these obscuring strategies are themselves an effect of postcolonial Asian societies participating in and even dominating the capitalist nation-state system for control of global resources.” Utilizing new and diverse archival materials in various languages, Beyond Pan-Asianism attempts to address these issues and highlights that modern China-India ties indeed went beyond, if not challenged, the capitalist nation-state system but also reinforced it.