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4 - The State of Southeast Asian Studies in China: An Institutional Interpretation

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 November 2017

Tang Shiping
Affiliation:
Senior Fellow in the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Zhang Jie
Affiliation:
Research Fellow at the Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

As a region that is historically deeply intertwined with China, Southeast Asia is a natural focus of the Chinese state and its scholarly community. Rather than a comprehensive historical survey of Southeast Asian Studies (hereafter SEAS) in China, our survey will seek to advance an institutional interpretation of it. By an institutional perspective, we mean that we view the pursuit of knowledge as being profoundly influenced by the institutional setting of a scholarly community and the society at large.

Thus, our survey does not intend to provide a comprehensive survey of the history and present status of SEAS in China. Rather, we are more interested in understanding how and why China's SEAS has been shaped by the overall institutional environment, and how its future will continue to be shaped by this institutional environment. More specifically, we seek to underscore that the evolution of Southeast Asian Studies in China has been profoundly shaped by three factors: The changing but steadily increasing demand of the Chinese state, the ever deepening inter-dependence between China and Southeast Asia (which partly and indirectly influences SEAS in China through influencing the demand from the state), and the rise of the mass media.

The chapter starts with a brief organizational overview of SEAS in China. Next, it briefly reviews the evolution of Southeast Asian Studies after the founding of the People's Republic of China, highlighting several important developments in its evolutionary path. It then connect these shifts with the three institutional factors. Finally, it explores the future of SEAS in China and what can be done to improve its prospect through institutional changes.

SEAS IN CHINA TODAY: THE ORGANIZATIONAL SETTING

The institutional setting of Southeast Asian Studies in China today can be first understood organizationally. It contains three explicit and implicit dimensions of division of labour. The first explicit division of labour is between institutions affiliated with universities and institutions affiliated with central or local Academy of Social Sciences (ASS) (for a brief introduction to these institutions, see Table 4.1). Institutions affiliated with universities have more responsibility for training new generations of scholars, and they usually maintain a graduate programme but also play a role in training undergraduates.

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Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2006

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