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If India Wants to Decipher China, Learning Chinese Is the Way

We need to realise that we are dealing with a mature nation who survived communism and one-party rule.

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We need to realise that we are dealing with a mature nation who survived  communism and one-party rule.

Doklam, 1962 conflict, noodles, inexpensive electronic goods, smartphones, Diwali lights, etc. One word that sums it all up is China. The mere mention of this word evokes an emotional stir rather than a neutral approach.

It cannot be denied that India has had its fair share of rivalry with its neighbour beyond the mountains. This, along with China joining hands with Pakistan in an all-weather friendship, especially after CPEC, has convinced many Indians, that (to put it mildly) India does not share bonhomie with China.

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Dealing with a Mature Nation

Nations provide citizenship, a sense of belonging, which is often reciprocated by its citizens through a sense of patriotism and love for the country. Indians are no exception and as members of our nation, we are naturally inclined to treat the problems of the country as of our own.

For a sustained period, India and China have been meeting on various strategic dialogues to solve their border problems and other diplomatic issues.

Yet the results have been far from satisfactory. Today’s India is exuberant and enthusiastic and individuals want to contribute to addressing the macro problems of the country. This was in evidence last year when the ‘boycott Chinese goods’ kick managed to create quite a stir in the lighting industry through the Diwali period.

However, such incidents happen, soon to fade away from public memory and people fall back into their normal routines. While we often claim that the Indian public has a short memory, the reality is that India has often had a reactionary stand to diplomatic issues rather than providing a responsive solution.

Boycotting Chinese goods, posting #banChina hashtags on Twitter or Facebook or WhatsApp might inflame our jingoistic passions for a while, but they cannot provide a sustainable solution to send a ‘no-nonsense’ message to our large neighbour. 

We need to realise that we are dealing with a mature nation who survived communism and one-party rule despite the harping of democracy from all global quarters – and has managed to bail out, not only her own economy, but after 2008, also the developed nations who were assumed to be the natural leaders of the world, from the clutches of poverty.

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Roots of the Chinese Psyche Lie in Her Language

The moot point here is how an ordinary individual can contribute to solving the problems of his/her country. In order to understand a nation, her psyche has to be understood and the roots of the Chinese psyche lies in her language.

While the world has been gripped in a fever to learn Chinese, often referred to as ‘Hanyu re’, India has been slow in picking up on the momentum. It is only over the last 15 years that Chinese has emerged as a desired language to learn, yet its growth has been restricted to metropolitan areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.

It is not unknown that businesses are growing up with China both at the public and private level and people are needed to bridge the language barrier. If this gap is filled only by one side (read: China) then India shall lose not only the opportunity to provide gainful employment to its citizens, but also in understanding the nuances of terms of business when working with the Chinese.

This is especially true when most business documents are published bilingually for the benefit of both parties.

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Business is just one aspect. Given our relations with China, a lot of language experts are required in various intelligence services, like RAW, Cabinet Secretariat, etc. The media is another important area where this lack is fest, as Chinese-speaking journalists are sorely lacking.

While there are a handful of Chinese journalists working in Indian media houses, there are hardly any Indian journalists working for Chinese media.

Knowing Chinese language is an asset as it benefits all; not only individuals, but also the nation. This is why most nations who view Chinese with suspicion began learning Chinese languages at a large scale. Mixing profit with patriotism is both plausible and pragmatic. India might have certain limitations in doing so, but Indians definitely don’t.

(The author is the Head of Department and Assistant Professor in Department of Chinese language at Sanchi University of Buddhist Indic Studies. The views expressed are the author’s own and The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

(We all love to express ourselves, but how often do we do it in our mother tongue? Here's your chance! This Independence Day, khul ke bol with BOL – Love your Bhasha. Sing, write, perform, spew poetry – whatever you like – in your mother tongue. Send us your BOL at bol@thequint.com or WhatsApp it to 9910181818.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  china   India   Media 

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