Member Book, Datta-Ray, Bridging Two Worlds: Comparing Classical Political Though and Statecraft in India and China

Deep K Datta-Ray's picture

Dear Members,

Please allow me to note the publication of what is possibly the first collaborative volume between Western, Chinese, Indian, and immigrant, scholars, and also open-access thanks to the University of California Press and the Berggruen Institute, which published the volume, and funded the project:

Bridging Two Worlds: Comparing Classical Political Though and Statecraft in India and China, ed., Acharya, A., Bell, D. A., Bhargava, R., and Xuetong, Y. (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2023). 313 pages.

ISBN 9780520390980 (paperback)

ISBN 9780520390997 (ebook)

Under the able guidance of project-leader and organiser, Daniel A. Bell, encouraged was the cross-pollination of ideas. This makes for perspectives, on occasion no less illuminating for being at a tangent to dominant understandings of key aspects of contemporary life.

An instance is the Datta-Ray chapter, "India’s Diplomacy in Absentia: Violence, Defense, Offense". It begins with India's nuclear diplomacy and the current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership's use of strategic airpower against Pakistan to mount an anti-terrorism strike against Pakistan in 2019. Both are presented in practitioner's terms. Doing so shows that despite the BJP's attempts to make policy a function of interest, India's diplomacy is in absentia for still being beyond interest and so the discipline of International Relations (IR). Nevertheless, India's disinterested diplomacy does have the Chinese covalents of the anti-interest concept of “brightness” (明) and ritualisation. The project not only allowed such connections to be made, but also enabled combinations such as that of China's covalents with India's practice. Doing so reveals that in addition to not being able to account for international politics, the widespread and entrusted notion of interest cannot even maintain national sovereignty. It can, however, be realised by disinterested diplomacy, but this is only a byproduct of what is really on offer: freedom itself.

Table of Contents




Setting the Stage, Part 1: Overview of the Project

Daniel A. Bell


Setting the Stage, Part 2: Why Compare the Classical Political Thought of China and India?

Amitav Acharya


Theme I: Methodology



1. Mining the Past to Construct the Present: Some Methodological Considerations from India

Patrick Olivelle



2. Some Methodological Reflections: In Defense of Philosophy of Culture and Thick Generalizations

Roger T. Ames



Theme II: Political Leadership



3. How do Xunzi and Kautilya Ponder Interstate Politics?

Yan Xuetong


4. Ashoka’s Dhamma as a Project of Expansive Moral Hegemony

Rajeev Bhargava


Theme III: Amoral Realism



5. A Comparative Study on the International Political Thoughts of Han Feizi and Kautilya (Chanakya)

Xu Jin


6. The Spectre of “Amoral Realism” in International Relations: A Classical Indian Overview

Deepshikha Shahi


Theme IV: Empire



7. The Particularity of Ancient China as an Empire

Zhou Fangyin


8. Ideas of Empire in Ancient India in a Comparative Frame

Upinder Singh


Theme V: Just War



9. The Mahābhārata, Mencius, and the Modern World: Reflections on Dharmayuddha and Ānśasya

Kanad Sinha


10. Mencius on Just War: A Comparison with Political Thought in Ancient India

Daniel A. Bell


Theme VI: Diplomacy



11. India’s Diplomacy in Absentia: Violence, Defense, Offense

Deep K. Datta-Ray


12. From Ancient Silk Road to Modern Belt and Road Initiative: A Signaling Approach to Trust-Building across Narratives

Zhao Yujia


Theme VII: Balancing, Hegemony, and Mandalas



13. Balancing in Ancient China

Qi Haixia


14. International Order in Ancient India

Manjeet S. Pardesi


The book may be downloaded for free here:

Editors: A. Acharya, D.A. Bell, R. Bhargava, and Y. Xuetong