Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

What can China and India learn from one another?




Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) during the opening of the BRICS summit meeting in Sanya, Hainan province, on April 14, 2011. (Nelson Ching/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao (R) during the opening of the BRICS summit meeting in Sanya, Hainan province, on April 14, 2011. (Nelson Ching/AFP/Getty Images)

Asia Society's first Asian Arts and Ideas Forum — called The Chindia Dialogues — kicks off this Thursday and runs through Sunday at Asia Society New York. The Chindia Dialogues brings together established and emerging writers, thinkers and performing artists from China and India to engage in a cultural dialogue.

The inaugural event features writers such as Amit Chaudhuri, Siddhartha Deb, Amitav Ghosh, Yu Hua, Ha Jin, Meena Kandasamy, Suketu Mehta, Jonathan Spence, Su Tong, Xu Xiaobin, and Murong Xuecun, and musicians such as Zhang Le, Dave Liang’s Shanghai Restoration Project, Gingger Shankar, The Amit Chaudhuri Band, Qian Yi, and Du Yun. For a complete list of participants, including their bios, click here.

Building up to Thursday's launch, a dialogue between Amitav Ghosh and Jonathan Spence, we asked participants to share their thoughts on a single question:

What can China and India learn from one another?

Here are their answers:

Jianying Zha, author of Tide Players and China Pop

Jianying Zha

For two great ancient civilizations who are neighbors, we know woefully little about one another. When I first visited India in 2006, I was as shocked by Mumbai’s giant slum and Indian style corruption and inequality as I was impressed by the vitality of its civil society and its cultural diversity. I think China can learn a great deal from India about democracy, how it evolves in an old hierarchical society and the challenges it faces in this volatile era of global economy and multiculturalism.
 

Murong Xuecun, author of Leave Me Alone: A Novel of Chengdu and Dancing Through Red Dust

Murong Xuecun

China and India may share a border, but they are alienated as if separated by an ocean. In China, people know about United States, Europe, even Ethiopia and Argentina. However, very few people know how our neighbors — the Indians — are doing.

China and India are the most populous countries in the world. We share a lot in history and culture. But over the past century, we have become "strangers next door." Between us, there are more barriers than understanding, more hostility than friendship.

In many ways, China should learn from India, especially its culture, education and political systems, especially the experience and lessons India has learned from its democratic reform. However, eliminating barriers and hostility has to be the first thing on the list before the two countries can really learn from each other. Neighbors, as we Chinese and Indians are, shouldn't see each other as stereotypes.

中国和印度紧紧相连,却如同远隔重洋。在中国,人们会用熟悉的语气谈起美国,谈起欧洲,谈起埃塞俄比亚和阿根廷,却很少有人知道咫尺之外的印度人在做什么、想什么。

这两个国家都是人口大国,有着相似的历史,在文化上有着紧密的联系,但到了近代,却成了“邻家的陌生人”,相互之间隔阂多于交流,敌意多于友善。

在许多领域,中国都应该向印度学习,特别是文化、教育以及政治体制方面,最应该学习印度在民主进程中的经验和教训。但在相互学习和借鉴之前,更重要的是消除隔阂和敌意,中国人和印度人本是邻居,不应该彼此歧视。

Su Tong, author of Rice and My Life as Emperor

Su Tong

China and India are two of the great ancient civilizations, but have a relatively distant relationship. There seems to be a lack of mutual understanding and trust. However, I believe the barriers will be lifted in the near future. There are many areas — industries like information technology, textiles, agriculture, irrigation, export-oriented manufacturing and, of course, politics and culture — China and India can find a lot to share and learn from each other.

中印两国都是文明古国,两国关系一直相对疏远,互相似乎缺乏了解和信任。隔阂应该会解除,其实,在it行业,在纺织业,农业水利,包括很多出口型经济领域,当然还有政治文化体制方面的问题,两国可以互相借鉴交流经验。

Allan Sealy, author of From Yukon to Yucatan and The Everest Hotel: A Calendar

Allan Sealy

India must borrow Confucius for a century; China needs to steal the Buddha all over again.

 

 

 

 

Ashis Nandy, Indian public intellectual

Ashis Nandy

As nation-states, China and India are both responding to their defeat and humiliation during the colonial times, and are using the same instrumentality and the same political categories that they have borrowed from the colonizing West. As a result, they are two 19th-century nation-states trying to "make it" in the 21st century. They feel they have nothing to learn from each other; they have only to learn from North America and West Europe. I am not concerned these days with that part of the story but with the disorderly, spontaneous, unofficial efforts — self-conscious or unwitting — of individuals and groups to restore the direct cultural exchanges between the two civilisations that have been going on for three millennia and were interrupted by colonialism. These unofficial, chaotic efforts can unleash new forms of creativity, intellectual and political, in both. Civilizations never learn from each other; they learn from within, from what they have internalized of another civilization by hosting the otherness of others, as the Zapatistas put it.

Sharmistha Mohanty, author of Book One, New Life and Sub-continent

Sharmistha Mohanty

One of the things clearly shared by the pasts of India and China are ideals that have emerged from a thousand years of reality, and an understanding of the eternal without denying the undertow of time.

What is, or has become recessive in a civilization, can often be among its most profound expressions. This is why they are the most battered and bent. But when the time comes, they may contribute to the rescue of that civilization. We seem to have met to exchange our recessive strains, to develop them.

— From Mountains and Rivers, a text on the ongoing Almost Island India-China Writers Dialogues, by Sharmistha Mohanty

Christopher Lydon, host of Radio Open Source

Christopher Lydon

I would love to hear Chinese and Indian voices speak about surviving "modernity," as the West has defined and practiced that idea. India and China have had separate but in many ways parallel experiences of Western power in commerce and culture over the last 400 years. How much do they want to re-balance the world's standards of civilization, pluralism, humanity, interaction? And how do they suppose we will go about applying more nearly universal rules of engagement — starting with our "Chindia" dialogues?

 

Amitava Kumar, author of A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Bomb

Amitava Kumar

I visited China some time back and spoke to Indian businessmen in different cities. I'd ask them a version of the question you've asked me. One of those men, a banker, pointed at the street outside the Indian restaurant in Beijing where we were eating and said that the next morning, if we came back, it was possible that the street would look very different. China was a country committed to change. This was because, unlike India, there weren't going to be any protests by people who owned land or homes there. There would be no protests by workers demanding better wages. According to the Indian banker, there was no obstacle to progress in China.

During a conversation in Guangzhou, another Indian businessman, who was quite open about the fact that his office there was a front for a jewelry trade centered in Hong Kong, told me that India would soon catch up with China. He believed that communism had taught the Chinese how to cooperate and be efficient at following orders; it was up to the Indians, he believed, to be creative and inventive. The Indians were here to benefit from the cheap Chinese factories lining Pearl River. The Indians in China just needed to use their brains to make a killing.

I told you that I would ask the Indian men a version of the question you have asked me. I'm not wholly sure of that. Certainly, their answers told me there was something wrong with what I was asking them.

Tan Chung, author of India and China and Tagore and China

Tan Chung

Confucius says: ‘If I walk along with two others, my teacher is there in the company. I can emulate the other’s good points, and avoid his mistakes.’ When we approach the topic with this Confucian spirit, what China and India can learn from one another will be innumerable. I can only highlight a couple of aspects.

Both China and India are very young modern states and societies with ancient civilizations. A civilization is like a great river made of tributary streams. In the case of Chinese civilization, the tributary streams seem to have disappeared and we see apparently only one great river. But, the tributary streams of the Indian civilization are prominently visible along with the main river. Here lies the sharp contrast of China’s unification, unity and homogeneity with India’s ‘unity in diversity’. China with her almighty centripetal force tends to embrace consensus and spurn differences, India is just the opposite. Indians feel homogeneity boring and undesirable to the extent of aiding and abating the centrifugal force and disunity. Many Indians seem to have forgotten the Brahmatmaikya (unity of Brahma and atma) tradition, and also the history that it was this tradition that had convinced the Chinese to submit their micro-self to the interest of the macro-self which has contributed immensely to China’s homogeneity and unification. If modern India emulates China, she can reinvigorate her own Brahmatmaikya tradition. China can share the Indian appreciation of Natural beauty, that a delightful garden is made of flowers and plants of great varieties, hence divergence and dissension must be accommodated, if not encouraged.

Development of exterior spatiality has become the order of our modern world of ‘nation states’, emphasizing on the importance of state power. But, no modern state can rise as a strong power without a vibrant interiority made of dynamic, creative and productive people. Mao Zedong described, in the 1950s, an ideal political situation ‘with both centralism and democracy, both discipline and freedom, and both solidarity of will power and individual ease and liveliness’. China and India seem to have partitioned this idealism with China clutching one end of ‘centralism’, ‘discipline’ and ‘solidarity of will power’ and India hanging on to the other of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘individual ease and liveliness’. When China and India learn from one another both will share the entirety of Mao’s idealism.

In ancient times, eminent Indian monks demonstrated the Indian ethos of ‘simple living, high thinking’ on the soil of China which the intellectuals of Tang and Song dynasties tried to emulate. While high thinking was somewhat attainable, they found it difficult to curtail their desires for the allure of material life. Tagore addressed the students of Tsinghua University in May, 1924 with his admiration for the Chinese ‘attractiveness in the things of everyday use’ without the evil of a materialistic culture. He repeatedly urged Indians to learn this Chinese virtue later. Today, India can provide the cure for China which is increasingly surrendering to the lure of materialism, mammonism and consumerism at the expense of spiritualism and morality. In India, spiritual religiosity prevents the occurrence of inhuman practices that multiply merrily in China to the extent of faking milk powder, meat, bread, medicine, and what not for profit. Again, Indian culture can help China in rectifying such moral irresponsibility and crime.

Chinese civilization has endured enormous obstacles and disasters during historical times, and Chinese have been hardened by circumstances to persevere and break through. Mao Zedong ‘can’t wait for ten thousand years, in every morning and evening there lies our life-long struggle’ which has a profound impact on China’s rhythm of development. Only the disastrous train accidents this year have cooled down a little the Chinese craze for breathtaking speed. India, on the other hand, likes to move normally with the changing times, yet her slow and steady development is universally admirable. China can learn a good deal from the Indian temperament and obedience to the Law of Nature. India, on the other hand, can diminish her forbearance with lethargy, inaction and mediocrity by invoking the Chinese dynamism and innovative spirit.

孔子说:“三人行必有我师焉,择其善者而从之,其不善者而改之。”我们以孔子这种精神来探讨这个课题就会感到中国和印度相互学习和借鉴的地方是无穷无尽的。我只能突出几个方面。

中国和印度都是拥有古老文明的年轻国家社会。文明就像许多支流汇合的大河。那些形成中国文明大河的支流似乎消失,人们只看见大河了。可是形成印度文明的支流仍和主河同样令人注目。这就造成中国统一、团结、同质性与印度“多样性的统一”的鲜明对照。中国向心力强而勤于求同、厌恶异议,印度正相反。印度人认为同质性枯燥乏味而对它摒弃,不惜倾向于离心与涣散。许多印度人忘记自己的“Brahmatmaikya/梵我一如”传统,忘记这一传统曾经使得中国人懂得“小我”服从“大我”而对中国统一与同质性做出巨大贡献的那段历史。如果现代印度学习中国可以振兴自己的“Brahmatmaikya/梵我一如”传统。中国可以与印度分享对自然美丽的欣赏,认识到花园是由不同的花树形成,因此而容忍、甚至鼓励异议。

向外扩展空间是我们这个“民族国”的现代世界的国际秩序,强调国家威力。可是,一个现代国家没有能动性、创造性、生产性强的人民的生气蓬勃内部是不能成为强国的。五十年代,毛泽东曾经憧憬一种“又有集中又有民主,又有纪律又有自由,又有统一意志、又有个人心情舒畅、生动活泼”的理想政治状况。中国和印度似乎把这一理想一分为二。中国执“集中”、“纪律”、“统一意志”这一端,印度执“民主”、“自由”、“个人心情舒畅、生动活泼”那一端。中印相互学习就共同享受毛泽东的政治理想了。

古代印度高僧到中国展示印度“生活俭朴、精神高尚”的民间气质。唐宋知识分子试图学习,精神高尚还做得到,却难克制物质生活的欲望。1924年5月泰戈尔在北京清华大学讲演时称赞中国“日常事物的魅力”却超越物质主义文明的劣质。他后来不断勉励印度人效法中国这一优点。今天,印度可以帮助中国克服日益沉溺于物质主义、拜金主义、消费主义而摒弃精神与道德的堕落。印度民间的宗教信仰与精神气质使国内免除在中国日益泛滥的为了私利而不惜制造假奶粉、瘦肉精、彩色馒头、伪药甚至无所不假的非人道行为。印度文化可以帮助中国消除这些道德上的不负责任与犯罪。

中国文明在历史上克服了巨大的障碍与灾难,中国人民被环境锻炼成坚持不渝与勇往直前。毛泽东“一万年太久,只争朝夕”对中国发展旋律有巨大影响。只有今年发生的特大车祸才使得中国从追求快速的狂热中稍微冷静下来。另一方面,印度乐于与时代的变化并进,却也能稳重发展而引得世界赞赏。中国可以从印度的性格与对自然发展规律尊重中学到许多有益的东西。印度也可以从中国的能动与推陈出新精神中求得克服惰性、无为与庸碌的缺陷。

comments powered by Disqus