A good way to understand a culture is to read its folk tales, proverbs and adages. In countries like India and China there is an abundance of them. It is through these proverbs and tales that we can develop and understanding of these two giant neighbors of Asia are so near yet so far. I am an admirer of Chinese sayings. One such Chinese saying is, “There cannot be two Tigers on one mountain”. Another one is, “Neighbors can never be true friends.”, though the second one is not really about the countries but two people living next to each other. In contrast to these India believes in “Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam”, meaning whole earth is a family. It is not surprising that we have championed the art of mixing cultures over thousands of years and widely regarded as the most diverse country on earth, something which can find a parallel only in continent of Africa. India and China have been different in the way they see the world and their place in the world. Modi’s biggest challenge while dealing with China would be understand this. Vallabhbhai Patel once told Nehru that he needs to take an objective view of Chinese and their territorial ambitions. He said, China has been an imperialistic country and civilizations do not change their character overnight.

China has embarked on its journey to transform its Economy and is seeking markets untapped so far and is strengthening its security. When the China Pakistan Economic corridor was announced the India media reported it in a very skeptical way. It is indeed a serious development and needs to be watched cautiously. Modi’s China visit has come shortly after the Pakistan visit of the Chinese president. Just before Modi’s visit state owned Chinese newspaper People’s Daily and Global Times reported that Modi is a pragmatic person who is trying to change the ‘border scenario’ with his tactics.

Understanding the transformed and transforming China 

China is an economic giant with a 10 trillion dollar economy set to overtake USA by 2030. It has currency reserves to the tune of 4 trillion dollars. Moreover, China is also a recognized nuclear power, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and possesses a very strong military which is increasingly assertive, not only in its traditional region of influence but also regions unchartered by them so far. It has embarked on huge transformation journey of its economy and has come up with Belt and Road, earlier known as One Road one Belt, Maritime Silk Route, and BCIM corridor to increase its economic clout. Also it is part of big initiatives like AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Development Bank), The New Development Bank of BRICS, which are being seen as a signal to urgently address the need to reform IMF and World Bank and make them more reflective of the changed scenario.

China is discussed on every multinational international platform. Modi understands that any efforts on Indian side to contain or falling for containment of China policy would not be successful. On the contrary Modi has demonstrated to the Chinese that any efforts to containment India would meet the same fate. It is perhaps this that has led to China acknowledging that India-China relation are two ‘Major Power relations”.

This shift in Chinese stand on India is an acknowledgement of India’s rising status. China has often accused India of seeing the world through the eyes of west and has mocked India’s democracy for lacking foundation of a social democracy. This view is predominant among the ultra-nationalists.

However, there is now a significant section Chinese political discourse that India’s rise. Chinese are mostly very objective in their decision making. The ultra-nationalist of Mao’s time have now given way to those who take a more informed view of the world and are ready to accommodate the ideologies and trends which China has long considered ‘western’ . India has long been grouped into the same category mocking India for its democracy lacks social democracy in their opinion.

China believes that for democracy to work in a diverse country, there must to greater equality which India lacks and which is in fact true. However the India’s deeply rooted successful democracy is very perplexing to many Chinese. It gives India a significant edge over China in western countries. Western countries believe that India’s model of democracy is more suitable for long term growth as it is more participative unlike China where the communist government can ask you to settle in areas like Xing Xian and Tibet and where Western culture is still not very welcome. China allows only 20 Hollywood movies to be released in a year.

But the wealthy Chinese today want a ‘western’ lifestyle and the new Chinese leadership is acknowledging that too.

Why China is broadening its engagement with India 

Under Narendra Modi, India is pegged to grow at around 8% or more in years to come and China’s slowing economy and its huge manufacturing industry needs India. Modi is so far very successful in selling the idea of ‘Make in India” to China as is evident encouraging response by Chinese corporate honchos to his visit.

China needs India not only to sell Xiaomi but also looking enthusiastically to make it here. India’s young demography and China’s aging population is making India look very attractive to China.

Modi knows that the relatively newer corporates of China would be very eager to the “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiative. A fast growing, young and more prosperous India is very lucrative with its more than half a billion middle class which is going to grow by 180 million (18 crores) in next 15-20 years.


India and China both are Asian giants who have now begun the process to be develop a better understanding of each other. It is noteworthy that media reporting largely makes or break impression of a country in another country. We Indians see China as an adversary and Russia as an all-weather friend. Similarly Pakistanis view China as their all-weather friend as news of Chinese actions in Muslim dominated far western province of Xiangxiang Uyghur hardly make any news there.

This needs to be corrected. This is what Modi wants to establish with China, a deeper understanding of its largest neighbour as you need a true understanding before you tag someone friend or foe. In next article we will be taking a look at the developments of his China visit.



Contributor: Sachin Diwaker