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Most in China don’t even think of 1962: Noted Chinese historian

The 1962 India-China war may be a sore point for Indians.

Written by Anubhuti Vishnoi | New Delhi |
December 15, 2010 12:00:41 am

The 1962 India-China war may be a sore point for Indians but that’s not the case with the neighbouring country,Prof Wang Gungwu,who is a professor at the National University of Singapore and Chairman of East Asian Institute,told The Indian Express on Tuesday. “Most in China don’t even think about it. Still others won’t know about 1962 and what happened. Most people in China think it was misunderstanding between leaders…I do know though that in India that is not the case. This I think is the complexity of having a dialogue when one side does not think much of an issue which is quite a key one to the other,” Prof Wang Gungwu said along the sidelines of a talk he gave on “The Rise of China: A historian’s perspective” in New Delhi on the invitation of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations,ahead of Chinese Premier Wen Jia Bao’s visit on Wednesday.

India and China have much to discuss and share and “there should be no difficulty” in doing so,says noted the Chinese historian. Prof Wang Gungwu pointed out that the whole boundary issue between India and China along with the Tibet issue was a legacy of negotiations with a British India and so the need is felt at times for revisiting it. Tracing back civilizational ties between India and China to the early 4th-5th Century BC,he said these relations were always very cordial and peaceful.

“There are not many problems with India. In fact,China and India were isolated from each other for years. It was largely considered a saintly spiritual place by the Chinese. China,in fact,did not have much to do with India. Yes,there was trade but largely with the Indian Muslims — mostly Tamil Muslims. China did not really know much of India,” he observed.

Coming to the point of how China’s authoritarian set up is perceived as an ideological issue by most of the western world,Prof Wang Gungwu drew out in his lecture how China has throughout its history never had any system other than authoritarian,centrist and bureaucratic which it has come to trust and treat as its own. On the perception of a conflict brewing between the US and China,he pointed out that most Chinese have deep admiration for the entrepreneurship,business methods and science and technology advances made by the American people. “The Chinese want their entrepreneurship and technological advances but at the same time not their politics. There is now this ideological question on whether a centrist system can be economically successful or does it need to be politically liberal to do so?”,he asked.

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The question is being strongly debated in China as well and Prof Wang Gungwu said most of the Communist party leadership in China felt that the centrist,authoritarian,bureaucratic system was probably the best way for the country to adopt to an ‘anarchist’ world and was also the “secret for its success”.

Behind this strong opposition to a western construct of a liberal,democratic political system,was China’s history which saw the country ravaged by a series of invasions in which it lost a lot of its civilization heritage. Aware of how the Mongols,Central Asians and then Western onslaughts had weakened it before,China is interpreting itself as a modern nation-state against a seemingly anarchic international arena and the challenge to preserve its inherited political systems and heritage even as it wants to enrich its people and strengthen itself.

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