In recent times, China’s interests and actions in Southeast Asia have become increasingly representative of a global economic and political agenda, interwoven with economic campaigns in Africa, and diplomatic relations with Europe and the United States. In this complicated negotiation, Vietnam has emerged as a crucial pivot between the modern Sinosphere and the ASEAN nations, while the area around Vietnam and the South China Sea has emerged as a cultural, political, economic, and military fault-line between China and Southeast Asia. This is seen not only in the hot contestation of the Trường Sa/Hoàng Sa islands of the South China Sea but also in the recent eruption of protests over “special economic zones” reserved for Chinese investors in various parts of Vietnam. Furthermore, Vietnam’s membership in the ASEAN counterbalance to China is also complicated by the ongoing and complex relationship between the Communist parties of the SRV and PRC—a relationship that has evolved rapidly, as each government negotiates normalized international relations and the opening up of markets in a post-Cold War global arena.
To address these issues, the symposium examines the dynamic relationship between China and Vietnam, beginning in the imperial period and culminating in a special panel on contemporary Sino-Vietnamese affairs. It seeks to interrogate the influence of modern nation-state paradigms on our understanding of the ancient, medieval, early modern, and recent past, as well as scrutinize the nature of “China” and “Vietnam” throughout this long history. The symposium's goal is not only to examine what cultural, political, economic, or social tissue may connect various stages of history to the present, but also to determine what disconnections, disruptions, and discontinuities we may discover within that long history.
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Hosted by Columbia University Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Weatherhead East Asian Institute.