“Transitions: State, Society and Culture in China” An international conference in honour of Professor V.P. Dutt

5th – 6th Apr 2013
Delhi, India

A central feature of China’s modern experience has been a series of often rapid transitions. In fact, since the middle of the 20th century China’s history can be periodized by significant events as markers of transition. While there has been the obvious transition from a command economy to market socialism, there have been no less significant social, political/ideological and cultural transitions which have released new forces, created new styles of functioning, changed the locus of power and pressure within the state, transformed institutions and given rise to new subjects for the consideration of the state and the law in China. The conventional view is that most transitions have been a fallout, if at times unintended, of China’s economic reforms. However, this misses the fact that the modern Chinese state is a work in progress, it has been in transition since its inception in 1950 and the economic reform was but one event, albeit an important one, in this process of transition. 

The process of transition within China has also not been entirely state led, with non-state actors often encouraging or demanding critical changes in policy, institutional reform and political perspectives. As well, the process and objective of transition has seldom followed set objectives, leading to slippages of political authority which have created the space for state- society dialogues at crucial junctures in China’s contemporary experience. Clearly, if transitions are markers of China’s experience it would be worth our while to look at which transitions have had the greatest transformative consequences for China, what have been the negative and positive fall outs of specific transitions on state capacity, peoples livelihood, cultural creativity and production, development trajectories and regional and global influence. This conference will endeavor to do just this.

Department of East Asian Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences
Delhi University
Delhi, India
The China Centre
Dept. of Humanities, IIT-Madras,


Day One: 5th April 2013
Inaugural session: Keynote

Session One: Transition and modernity in Contemporary China: Nation to State
This session will explore the discourse on the transition from the Chinese nation to the modern Chinese state and its ongoing transformation. It will focus on how China negotiates history through the present and explore the transformation of the concepts of state, nation and citizenship in contemporary China. It will also look at the function of transition as a mode of understanding reality.
Session Two: Political Transitions- from revolution to state stability: Ideology, Leadership, Institutions and Law
This session will explore the concept and foundations of political legitimacy and its many transitions as related to epochal changes in China’s political discourse and reflected in state and party institutions in China. In this context it will also explore political transitions from the perspective of notions of pluralism, democracy, law and governance and the emphasis on stability vs radical change.

Day Two: 6th April 2013
Session Three: Economic Transitions: the state, the market and the world
This session will explore the relationship between political and economic change in China critically engaging with the process of transition from a revolutionary state to being a driver of the global economy under neo-liberal globalization. The session will focus on the institutions, both domestic and international, which shape and direct this transition and are also a result of it.
Session Four: Foreign and strategic policy:
This session will explore the domestic and external events, forces and discourses behind the transition of China’s foreign and strategic policy from its third world moorings to its recognition of itself as a regional and global power. It will focus on transition in notions of independence, dependency , power and global public goods within China’s foreign policy discourse.
Session Five: Social Transitions: Class and strata, rural-urban transmissions, generations
This session will explore State-Society transitions in China as reflected in major social transformations related to demography and social stratification. It will focus on institutions and forces of social change in China and, in turn, institutions produced by social transformation in China.
Session Six: Cultural Transitions: the production and consumption of culture in China.
This session will explore significant forms of cultural production which engage with the politics of transitions within China. It also focuses on the context of the discourses of cultural production and consumption which address questions of modernity and change in China.

For abstracts: 15th of January 2013.
For draft papers: 15th March 2013.
Revised papers: 15th July 2013

Travel Grants:
Limited economy class airfare is available for younger scholars


Conference Convener at : transitionschina.2013@gmail.com

Note: Professor V.P. Dutt was the founder of the China study programmes at Delhi University , Delhi and at the Indian School of International Studies which later became the School of International Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His career in China studies spanned almost the entire post-independence period in India beginning with his first visit to China as the youngest member of Mrs. Vijaylakshmi Pandit’s delegation to Beijing in the early 1950s. Until his death in 2010 he wrote consistently on India’s China policy and more broadly on Indian foreign policy, often providing a reference point for younger scholars in the field. In his later years he took on the task of mentor to many young researchers and persuaded his colleagues to take the necessary initiatives to revive China studies within the academy. This conference is funded by a grant from his family.


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