Why Indians hate China but love Chinese

Shivaji Dasgupta
New Update

Chinese community in Kolkata (Representative Image)

Kolkata: Ever since Nehru was betrayed by his brother Zhou Enlai in 1962, Indians have been suspicious of China. While the Chinese community in India remains a much-adored niche ethnicity, from the days of Tong Achew in the late 18th century.

On the suspicion narrative, there are many accounts of the 1962 War, but none more vivid than Brigadier J P Dalvi’s ‘Himalayan Blunder - The Curtain Raiser to the Sino-Indian War of 1962.’ The commander of the 7th Brigade and a POW, he candidly pinpointed the lack of military preparation, arguably an outcome of misplaced Nehruvian faith. This set the foundation for terminal mistrust, extending to the technology skirmishes of Huawei and augmented by the diabolical BRI ( Belt and Road Initiative), bankrupting SAARC neighbours in the guise of bankrolling.

On the lovability thread, the cuisine has certainly been a persuasive adhesive, especially in the theatre of Chinatown. The two that thrive in Calcutta are multi-sensorial delights, with the fabled Kali Temple serving noodles as prasad. Model citizens and prolific employers, beyond their legacy footwear and carpentry practices, it is rather difficult to dislike the Chinese, who have painstakingly built an identity disconnected from China. This was in spite of humiliating incarceration during and after the war, when civil rights were sufficiently eroded.

A key factor for loving or hating a nation is soft power, the vibrant symbols of pop culture that travel easily. Exactly why Educated Indians were consistently attracted to the USA even during the Cold War era when the USSR was the designated ally. We all aspired for American acquisitions, from chewing gum to movies to degrees, while every concerted Soviet effort courtesy Gorky Sadan fell sparklingly flat. Ironically, even vodka arrived in our worldview as an outcome of indigenous and subsequently US Marketing, backstabbing undeniable ethnicity.

Apart from low-price technology and scalable merchandise, the People’s Republic of China has inconsequential ‘content’ connectivity to Indians. We don’t understand the language and nor do creations attempt global penetration like K-Pop, content assuredly with a mammoth indigenous audience. Tourist groups confirm an air of unwelcome and this is no longer appreciated, given the monetizable heartiness of the erstwhile cold world, including Europe. Besides, the border turmoil does confirm that our geo-political threat is truthfully the Great Wall and not the Islamabad circus, verifiable by both Arnab Goswami and Ravish Kumar.

Rather predictably the truest association is with the food, whose IPR is steadfastly owned by the Indian Chinese, as the fares of the mainland are famously undesirable and unidentifiable. The interpretation of authenticity has evolved with the easy-goingTangra genre coexisting merrily with the stoic five-star fare claiming micro-regionality while scalability resides merrily in multiple popular interpretations. These are all, in various shades, locally inspired on a base of reasonable integrity, whether Mainland China or the streetside sis-and-bro noodle counter. Just as nobody thinks of France when consuming the Fries, images of Galwan rarely flash when gulping down noodles.

Unlike say the symbolism of the Tibetan Resistance Movement, momos and thukpa, which to date retain their immigrant roots, in spite of humongous integration and monstrous varianting. In Calcutta, we used to often visit the Lee Road refugee outpost whose passion for the perfect steaming was matched only by the perpetual roasting of China and the adulation of the Dalai Lama.  Over time, market dynamics insisted that familiar Chinese items be included in the originally sparse menu and many such outlets bear testimony to a rare Sino-Tibetan union.

The Chinese New Year celebrations check in on the 22nd of January and it is the designated Year of the Rabbit, suggesting prosperity, calm and hope. Hopefully, the borders with China will resonate as such while our bridges to the Chinese get fortified - for breakfast, lunch and dinner.