How the Chineseview India
Abhik Roy 24 May, 2015
As an academic, I have had the opportunity to travel to China several times.During my visits to several major cities, including Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu,Shanghai and Xiamen, I talked with many academic and non-academic people whowere quite candid about sharing their views on Sino-Indian relations. I havealso been engaged in online conversations with several Chinese scholars on thistopic. A majority of the people I talked with felt that there was stilllingering mistrust on both sides.
ManyChinese unabashedly told me that they were skeptical about Modi’s intentionsabout resolving the border issues with China. On the one hand, Modi indicatedhis serious intent on establishing a close partnership with China. On the otherhand, Modi seemed very keen on having close ties with Japan, Vietnam andTaiwan, which are now regarded as “enemy” countries by many Chinese.
The majority of the Chinese people expressed their displeasure at Modi’smeeting with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in Tokyo right after hetook over as India’s Prime Minister. Some even thought it was Modi’s way tohumiliate China because he went to meet Abe just before President Xi Jinpingwas scheduled to arrive in New Delhi.
Although several Chinese appreciated Modi’s rhetoric about the shared valuesbetween the two nations, there were others who thought he was a glib talker whoplayed to the gallery. Some of these folks expressed their doubtabout Modi actually walking the walk. Furthermore, many viewedModi’s close alliance with the United States and joining President Obama incriticising China’s policy on the disputed Diaoyu islands to be problematic.While some Chinese deemed the Indian Government’s complaints about China’sendeavours to woo India’s neighbours Sri Lanka and Nepal to be petty andunbecoming of a superpower, others thought India often came across as a“victim” and not as a strong, assertive nation as compared to China. A majorityof them indicated that there seemed to be a lack of openness and sincerity onboth sides to listen genuinely to each other’s respective positions regardingthe disputed areas and that both countries’ position on the border issueappeared to be inflexible, which is probably why the border issue has neverbeen resolved.
The Chinese people were quite vocal in their criticism of the Indian media forperpetuating negative stereotypes and biased reporting on China. They werequick to point out that instead of depicting China in a positive light, manyIndian media outlets seemed all too keen on portraying China as an “evil”nation or an “enemy of India.” According to them, Indian media reports wouldfrequently be filled with stories about Chinese border incursions withoutgiving both sides of the conflict, the dumping of Chinese goods on the Indianmarket, the inferior quality of Chinese products, abuse of human rights,corruption and scandals among government officials, and ethnic conflict inXinjian, to name a few.
Many lamented the fact that the Indian press did not educate the Indian peoplesufficiently about all the Chinese accomplishments in the areas of arts,literature, music, sports, science, and technology. Some were quick to pointout how disappointed they were to find out that some Indian media even gloatedover the Indian government beating the Chinese in the relief efforts in Nepalafter the recent earthquake as if it was some kind of a competition. Theythought it was in bad taste on the part of Indian media to exploit a humantragedy to show India’s rivalry with China. They seemed quite delighted inpointing out that Nepal had distanced themselves from India due to this kind ofunprofessional coverage by the Indian media.
The Chinese were unanimous in saying that media in both countries played acritical role in shaping public opinion. They opined that if the media in bothcountries were to focus more on positive news then people in both nations wouldhave a better awareness and knowledge of each other that is devoid ofstereotypes.
In all these conversations the Chinese mentioned their profound appreciation ofthe Indian culture and their veneration of Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore and Dr.Dwarkanath Kotnis who provided invaluable medical assistance during the SecondSino-Japanese War in 1938. In fact, I met several scholars whoshowed me their copies of Tagore’s Gitanjali in Mandarin. They also pointed tothe rich history of China and India having close ties that went back tothousands of years and how they had influenced each other in the fields ofarts, music, literature, philosophy and religion. Chinese scholars frequentlymentioned the names of Faxian who visited India in the early fifth century AD,and Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) who came to India around 631 AD, both of whom wereinstrumental in bringing Buddhism to China.
Several people I talked with expressed their admiration for Bollywood moviesand Hindi film songs. During my travels, I also happened to see many oldChinese folk dancing in a park in a very small town to “Jai Ho,” a song fromthe movie Slumdog Millionaire. Even to this day, Raj Kapoor and his film Awaraare household names. I have lost count of how many Chinese, both young and old,would sing “Awara hoon” in Hindi to me. I also remember the long line of peoplewaiting just to catch a glimpse of the black and white portrait of Raj Kapoorin the Indian pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010.
跟我聊过天的一些人还表达了他们对宝莱坞电影和印地语电影歌曲的赞赏。在我旅行中，我也碰巧在一个非常小的城镇里的公园中，看到过许多中国老大妈在跳“Jai Ho”——电影《贫民窟的百万富翁》中的一首歌。即使是到了现在，拉兹·卡普尔和他的电影《流浪者》也依然家喻户晓。我已经记不清有多少个中国人用印地语对我唱过“Awara hoon”了。我也还记得那条长长的队，那条就为了在2010年的上海世博会的印度馆里看一眼拉兹·卡普尔的黑白肖像而排起的长长的队。
In all my conversations with the Chinese they evinced a strong interest inhaving some kind of a regular exchange of scholars, artists, writers,musicians, dancers, and filmmakers so that they could enrich each other’s livesin important ways. Many of them also expressed their desire to visit India butthey felt that the Indian government did not seem too keen on promoting tourismto the Chinese for some reason.
There seemed to be a general consensus that the people of both countries mustbe engaged in conversations to learn and appreciate each other’s cultures. Theystated that the leaders and officials in both countries needed to learn tocommunicate more effectively with each other where they are not guided bystereotypes, biases, or prejudices. They agreed that it would be naive toassume that simply understanding the issues of intercultural communicationwould resolve all the differences confronting the two nations, but they alsoindicated that, ultimately, people, and not governments, negotiate and signpeace treaties.
It was a true learning experience for me to hear first-hand what the Chinesehad to say about Sino-Indian relations. Every Chinese person I talked withreiterated that they had nothing against India; all they wanted was peace andwarm, cordial relations with their neighbour. Some even requested me to sharewith my friends in India that they have an abiding love and respect for India.
I conclude this piece with a comment that a Chinese academic friend made veryrecently concerning the ongoing border issues between the two countries, whichpretty much captures the sentiments of many Chinese I have talked with: “peopleare the same everywhere. They just want to be happy and live in peace.Unfortunately, it’s always the government that screws up everything. I blameboth the Chinese and the Indian government for their inability to resolve theborder issues in a timely manner and in a way that’s a win/win for all.”
Thewriter is a Professor of Communication Studies at Loyola Marymount University,Los Angeles. He can be reached at Aroy2@lmu.edu