The HPRS Department will host a talk by Ben Langley (Australian National University)

Elephants watching Dragons: The Changing perceptions of China in India from 1947 to the present day.

Tuesday 7 June 2016
room 8.307


Nehru, Zhou Enlai, and the Dalai Lama

India’s relationship with China is one of the key factors that will shape the direction of the twenty-first century. However, little work has been done on the nuances of Indian domestic opinion about China. Instead, the dominant focus has been on intergovernmental relations, to the neglect of the key role of civil society. My research seeks to help address this gap in the literature by examining how India’s perception of China has changed from the initial displays of warmth at independence to the ambivalent distrust of the present day. This research primarily consists of an in-depth review and subsequent analysis of the coverage of China in four newspapers during five key periods in Indian history: 1955 (the Bandung conference), 1962 (the Sino-Indian border war), 1974 (the first Indian nuclear test), 1993 (incorporation India’s economic crisis) and 1993 (The Signing of the Sino-Indian Bilateral Peace and Tranquillity Accords). This collated data set was then contextualized with secondary sources published both within, and outside, India. The combined print media survey was then compared to how the relationship has been portrayed in Indian policy statements and the academic literature.

The analysis of this contextualised data shows that Indian public’s perceptions of China are more complex than those portrayed by studies focused predominantly on Indian government policy. The findings of this study point to a weakness in using Indian government policy and rational actor theory, in isolation, to explain and extrapolate Sino-Indian relations. Instead, this thesis posits that India’s relations with China can be explained better though the lens of a conversation between various stakeholders in the Indian civil society. Reflecting not only differing views of China, but also anxieties over the path of domestic policies, often reflected in India’s portrayal of China.

On the speaker

Ben Langley is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Australian National University, Canberra. He holds a BA in Asia-Pacific Studies (First Class) from the ANU. His research primarily regards contemporary India and its modern history. In particular he has conducted research on the domestic perceptions of China in India in the post-independence period, and on the informal ways that foreign policy is made in contemporary India. The topic of his Ph.D. research is the formation of national identity in India in the immediate post-independence period.

*** The seminar is open to the public. Non-NU employees or students should bring their ID card and check in.***