It’s an understatement to say that there’s China-bashing in the Indian media. Occasionally, there are rational and insightful voices, but these, by and large, are often submerged by many a 24/7 news channel and the patriotism-trumpeting column inches in newspapers. China is always drawn in cartoons as the Fearsome Dragon with a fang, or an Ugly Big Brother with a shadow. Stereotyping is the name of the game.
Recently, an English daily devoted an entire Sunday page to asking prominent Indians: Would you choose to be Chinese or Indian? Really, would any sensible citizen, let alone those “prominent”, publicly opt for another nationality? Worse, the answers of prominent Indian citizens to the question ranged from “They dress like robots” to “Indian Chinese food trumps Chinese Chinese any day”, from “China’s success is overrated” to “We are the best Asian country”.
The crowning glory in stereotyping must go to the piece a fiction writer wrote titled We dream. Chinese don’t dare to, in which the author promptly pronounced, from her one trip to China, that people there didn’t even “know the difference between what the top bosses want them to know and what the truth is”. How did she arrive at such a dramatic conclusion? Answer: The three female guides assigned to her on her recent China trip turned out to be 30-year-olds, single and virgins!
For a moment, forget the Indian writer’s intemperate inquiry. Forget also the care the hosts took to choose suitable guides for her. But isn’t it ridiculous of her to draw conclusions about Chinese society based on the remarks of the three guides? The writer also failed to notice that all three hailed from rural China, managed to learn English and find jobs in cities. Their achievements not only demonstrate their ability to dream but also that dreams such as theirs do come true in China.
Such portrayals of China are indisputably wrong. China today is an open and dynamic society, boasting 360 million internet users. Hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in the last three decades. Obviously, not all Indians share the author’s perception of China. But hers is representative and inimical to Indo-China relations. It’s often claimed that India is a country where opinions are freely expressed, but this assertion doesn’t whitewash the fact that these so-called opinions are presumptuous and agenda-driven.
Indians deserve to know a China which has changed and continues to change. It’s open, thriving with robust development, and is a responsible international player. It’s in China’s interest to have friendly relations with India. Chinese people regard Indians with warm affection. Where are the articles reporting this reality? It’s about time the Indian media rethinks its China reportage. For the sake of India itself.
True, this argument applies as much to the Chinese mainstream media. Like China, India is changing rapidly. Phobia usually stems from ignorance. Looked at clearly, the looming large dragon depicted in India is nothing but an illusion, a figment of paranoia. Fortunately, since ten times more Indians visit China every year than vice versa, we now have increasingly sensible voices articulating the new Chinese reality, albeit outside the media. For building robust China-India relations, and nurturing friendship between the two peoples, it’s imperative the Indian media doesn’t remain stuck in a time warp.
(Wang is South Asia bureau chief of Wen Hui Daily, China, and has been based in New Delhi for the last eight years.)
I welcome Wang Yaodong’s article Here Be (No) Dragons. We must certainly have talks on the border issue; no one stands to gain through bitter relations. However, what’s been missing in these talks so far is the factor of empathy. How wonderful it would be to know each other more, without the blinkers our leaders and media impose on us because of what the Opposition is saying or for the sake of political posturing. Mamang Dai, Itanagar
Mr Wang should turn the mirror toward himself and see what image it reflects. Newspapers like The Hindu, Indian Express and Statesman have outstanding standards of journalism unlike in China where every line is possibly censored by the administration. Outlook should be discerning in the choice of people who write. If it doesn’t have anything, it can publish the weather report! Wang may well boast about his country’s 360 million internet users, but he should also remember it is a country which shot its own people with tanks at Tiananmen Square. Rajesh Chary, Mumbai
And to who exactly should we attribute the 50,000-odd deaths in Kashmir these last two decades alone, since the Indian state is flawless and pure at heart! In fact, we’re sending 70,000 troops to tribal Bastar to maintain peace! No shots will be fired, no one will be killed! We are saints, not Chinese! Dev Raya, Bangalore
What Indian democracy are we talking about? The one whose majority MPs are illiterate, unemployable thugs? Kashi Mallya, Bangalore
Wang no doubt raises some valid points about the Indian media’s paranoia about China, but one can’t ignore China’s policy of encircling India by supporting countries around us and even arming them. Wang also glosses over the fact that China indulges in a lot of censorship and suppression of freedoms, though the situation in India is hardly perfect, in spite of us being a democracy. As for the Chinese having high regard for India, it’s nothing but exaggeration. Frankly, the Chinese couldn’t care less, their competition is with America, not India. Prithjit Ray, Chicago
How ungrateful Wang is for failing to acknowledge the pro-Chinese Communist politicians in India who always consider China to be right. G. Vijayaraghavan, Chennai
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