The 6th Session of Liangxiang Forum | Theory and Practice: Area Studies and China’s Foreign Policy

On the afternoon of June 2nd, 2021, the sixth session of Liangxiang Forum organized by the Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU) in Spring 2021 was held at Conference Room 205 of the Central Main Building, with the theme of “Theory and Practice: Area Studies and China’s Foreign Policy”. The lecture was presented by Ye Hailin, Associate Professor and Deputy Director-General at the National Institute of International Strategy, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (NIIS, CASS), and hosted by Lei Dingkun, a doctorate candidate at IIAS. Other doctorate candidates and research professors at IIAS as well as external participants attended the event.

Prof. Ye started the lecture with how to view area and country studies and his own experience in the journey in this domain and explored the internal relationship between area studies and the theory and practice of China’s foreign policy through vivid cases. He pointed out that China’s area and country studies are closely related to China’s foreign policy at various stages, by illustrating the combination of China’s area studies and foreign policy in different periods and clearly demonstrating the internal relevance to the audience.

Prof. Ye explained that today China’s area studies has entered a stage of rapid development, which is closely related to the alignment of China’s overall foreign strategy. At present, from our own perspective and practice, China needs to deepen our understanding of neighboring countries and even the world, which has not only significantly driven the discipline of area and studies, but also led to fruitful findings.

However, Prof. Ye also stressed that while China’s area studies has achieved rapid development, there are also many practical problems and challenges that need to be solved urgently, including basic knowledge of areas and countries, research methodology, interdisciplinary research, fieldwork and middle-level theoretical construction. He elaborated on relevant issues and commented that China’s current area studies shows broad potentials and prospects and tends to thrive in the future. However, researchers of area studies need to keep patient, constantly explore, dare to innovate and take every step in a down-to-earth manner.

After the lecture, Prof. Ye had heated discussions with the audience, which actively raised various questions related to area studies, including how to look at interdisciplinary issues in area studies, the balance between fundamental research and think tanks in area studies, how to look at the role of historical studies in area and country studies, and the importance of target country’s position in the international community. Prof. Ye gave insightful answers to these questions.

Ye Hailin is Associate Professor and Deputy Director-General at the National Institute of International Strategy, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (NIIS, CASS). His research interest covers politics and international relations in South Asia and China’s foreign strategy. He is the author of Research on Contemporary Sino-Indian Relations: Theoretical Innovation and Strategic Choice and Pakistan: A Pure Country and the translator of Space War.

Text by: Wang Zijing
Typesetting by: Wang Zijing
Reviewed by: South Asia Group