T P Sreenivasan, former diplomat and vice chairman, Kerala State Higher Education Council, has stressed the need to be cautious about China, not only because of the nation has unsettled border disputes with that country, but also in the context of China’s behavior in multilateral forums.

Inaugurating the on-day colloquium on ‘China and emerging World Order: Is Peaceful Rise Possible ?’ , organised by KPS Menon Chair at School of International Relations and Politics (SIRP) at MG University in association with DC Books here on Thursday, Mr Sreenivasan said the prevailing notion that China was the champion of the third world countries was contestable given its double face on crucial global issues. “The latest case was the Durban summit on global climate change where Chinese position amounted to hiding behind India,” he said and pointed out that it had only helped to harden the West’s position.

A similar position existed in the case of expansion of UN Security Council where on the one hand China supported the case of expansion, it did not appear to be favoring the entry of India on the other.

Rajan Gurukkal, vice chancellor, said that the increasing spatialisation within the country in the name of faster industrialisation had resulted in serious dislocations within the country, which might not help peaceful rise of China possible in the years to come.

According to T V Paul, director, McGill University Centre for International Peace and Security Studies (CIPSS), Canada and honorary chairman of KPS Menon Chair, the rise of China was occurring without an active ‘balance of power coalition’ being formed against it. China has been rapidly emerging as lead economic power and it is also modernizing its military strength, he said “While China has touted its policy as ‘peaceful rise’ it is unclear why affected regional States in Asia Pacific have not yet formed active balancing coalitions in response to it,” Prof Paul said.

Speaking on China’s use of education as a soft power tool, Jane Knight, Ontario Institute of Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada said that higher education in China was becoming an important political actor in the knowledge based society. Referring to the functioning of the Confucius Institutes located around the world, she pointed out that they were dedicated to increasing appreciation of Chinese language and culture, academic ability and development of a regional Asian identity.

“It is prudent to acknowledge China’s potential to use higher education research and culture as soft power strategies,” she said.

Disagreeing with the thesis that peaceful rise of China was not possible, Venu Rajamony, joint secretary, Multilateral Institutions, Ministry of Finance, said that both India and China have shown tremendous collective capacity to address their bilateral issues, though the number of issues might have multiplied over years, in a given international context. Both the countries are now engaging each other on a practical mode of interdependence in a globalised world and hence the chances of a war between the two were remote, he said. We can however, “keep our powder dry” Mr Venu said.

V Suryanarayana, senior research fellow, Centre for Asian Studies, Chennai, Vice Adm.(Rtd.) Vijay Shanker, former Commander in Chief Strategic Forces, Raju Thadikkaran, director SIRP, K M Seethi, and Biju Mathew also spoke.