Ahead of the Second China-India Media Forum held in Beijing on February 1, Beijing Review conducted interviews with Chinese and Indian media professionals and academics to glean their perspectives on one another's country. Some respondents recalled personal accounts of travels through their neighboring country while others depended on the lens of the media, allowing us to see how media reports shape our understanding of the world. Excerpts of the survey are as follows:
Saibal Kumar Dasgupta, China correspondent of The Times of India
I was excited to go to China in the middle of economic transition.
It is a changing nation in terms of economic growth, infrastructure, and even people's lives. I am surprised Chinese people are able to manage and adjust to changes in their lives so well.
Peoples of the two countries share a warm friendship, and a sense of sharing common cultural ethics. But the governments of the two countries, meanwhile, are reluctant friends. Neighbors know there is no alternative to maintaining friendship.
Yuan Gang, associate professor at China University of Political Science and Law
I went to India twice in 2013 as a tourist and to attend an international seminar, and got to see New Delhi, Jaipur and Agra.
My favorite thing about India is their amazing food—especially curry. For 10 days straight, I ate nothing but rice and tandoori chicken. Apart from the spicy food, China and India have other differences, like the caste system, gender disparity, and a wide gap between rich and poor. Gorgeous downtown and luxury hotels are surrounded by slums in Indian cities. Children of rich families have better opportunities to enjoy higher education.
Unlike China, religion plays an important role in the daily lives of Indian people and shapes their perspective on life.
In my opinion, China and India should strengthen cooperation on higher education to better promote mutual understanding.
Usha Sankar, freelance copy editor
I was apprehensive to go to China (with my husband). I wasn't sure if we would feel welcome in the country. I worried about the language barrier and about vegetarian food options.
I lived and worked in Beijing for well over eight years. We enjoyed our stay there.
I had Chinese colleagues, who have since become friends. They were friendly, helpful, polite, and respectful. And also, they are very, very hardworking, humble, and disciplined. My Chinese colleagues don't, typically, question authority figures. But Indians do not always defer to hierarchy! While Indians tend to be more individualistic and idealistic, the Chinese are very practical and always mindful of the larger good.
Han Wenjie, freelancer living in Beijing
I visited India in November 2012 for 18 days, traveling to many places from the country's east to west. I especially wanted to see the influence of Buddhism in India.
During my trip, I found that India's development is unbalanced. In particular, rural India is still remarkably undeveloped. Local people use cow dung as their major fuel, for instance. Tourists might need time to get used to the smell of burning cow dung that is normal for the locals.
India is a mysterious land to me. Whereas most Chinese people are not religious, Indian life largely revolves around religions like Hinduism. They seem to have a faith in the afterlife that helps them cope with poverty and hardships.
Madhusudan Chaubey, PhD student studying in Beijing
I came to China to study and have had a mostly positive experience. While there can be some inconveniences, it is generally peaceful and people are friendly and nice.
My Chinese colleagues are not always open and direct, which can lead to misunderstandings. The work culture is hierarchical and while people are willing to hear another's thoughts, it is difficult to change the mind of superiors. There is not enough flexibility at the workplace, even when it could bring better results.
India lacks the kind of political implementation that China has. Things are generally done quickly in China while the process can be slow in India.
Rapid growth has created problems of both inclusive development and sustainable development. While China has been more egalitarian than India in the past, inequalities have risen fast and in that sense it is becoming more like India. Some people have too much, while many have little.
A lot more needs to be done to develop mutual trust and understanding. Exchanges between the two countries, especially in the economic field, have expanded dramatically and will create mutual interdependence that will benefit the relationship in the long term.
Zhang Hui, journalist of the Beijing-based monthly magazine China Today
Though I have not been to India, I have heard some interesting stories about the country.
The biggest first impression when it comes to India, in my mind, is the unique and colorful clothing that Indian women wear. I have also been struck by the passionate dance sequences of Bollywood movies. The world-famous Taj Mahal is another place of interest for me.
I have long intended to travel to India and experience their unique culture and customs for myself.
China and India share many things in common, such as their historical ties dating back to the spread of Buddhism. In the last centuries, the two nations both suffered from imperialism and colonialism. After independence, both sides have sought development and made great achievements. The differences between the two countries are also big, particularly in terms of society and culture. India is said to be strictly ordered by the social caste system, whereas China is more tolerant and open.
Zhang Xiaoli, copy editor of a Beijing-based newspaper
India is rich in wondrous cultural practices like yoga, which I practice to relax my body and mind. I am interested in traveling to India to experience the slow pace of life there. I want to know what India is really like, rather than just seeing it through media like the U.S. TV drama Outsourced.
China and India are both populous countries with diverse ethnic groups and cultures. The two states are also members of the emerging economic bloc BRICS. China and India work together in terms of the economy but are wary of one other politically and militarily. I think that besides high-level official visits, more people-to-people exchanges should be encouraged by the governments of the two sides.
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