Friday, May 9, 2008



(Based on the writer's visit to Shanghai from May 6 to 9,2008, for adiscussion on the "Beijing Olympics & Security" )

This was my second visit to Shanghai. The first was in May,2002, to attend an Asia-Pacific conference on terrorism in the aftermath ofthe 9/11 terrorist strikes. The latest visit was to attend a localdiscussion on terrorism ahead of the forthcoming Olympics at Bejingin August,2008.

2. Growing, growing, growing and still growing. That is the only wayof describing this city of which the Chinese are rightly proud.Shanghai of May,2008, is unrecognisable from the Shanghai ofMay,2002. It has developed horizontally and vertically and continuesto develop.

3. Statistics are irrelevant with regard to Shanghai. The statisticsof today will become outdated next week and so on. That is the paceof its development. Shanghai is proud that every important country ofthe world is represented there--- in its industries, in its businessworld, in its financial centres, in its architecture and in its artsand culture.

4. Shanghai is a miracle within a miracle. If China is rapidlyovertaking the rest of Asia----even the rest of the world---in itseconomic development and modernisation, Shanghai has alreadyovertaken the rest of China many times over in every aspect.

5. The Chinese without any exception and without any hesitation givethe credit to the late Deng Xiao-ping, the father of modern China, forthe economic miracle achieved within a short period of three decadesin the country as whole and even a shorter period of 16 years inShanghai.

6. He not only liberated the Chinese economy from the stranglehold ofthe State, but more important, also simultaneously liberated theChinese mind-set from the stranglehold of past prejudices, suspicionsand outmoded thinking. He made the Chinese overcome their traditionalsuspicions of foreigners and welcome everybody----whatever be his orher nationality--- who wanted to contribute to China's development.Without the liberation of the mind-set, the liberation of the economyalone may not have achieved the kind of miracle, which the world haswitnessed. That is the point which is stressed repeatedly by one'slocal interlocutors.

7. Another point which is equally stressed is that India is still farfrom achieving a similar miracle because the liberation of its economyhas not been accompanied by a similar liberation of the Indianmind-set from the stranglehold of its past prejudices, suspicions andways of thinking. As an example, a reference is made to its inabilityto get over the memories of the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and move aheadin developing co-operation with China much more rapidly than has beenpossible so far.

8. At the same time, one finds an inability even in the Chinese mindto rid itself of its ancient thinking in matters such as recovery ofterritory, which they look upon as rightfully belonging to China.Arunachal Pradesh---particularly Tawang--- is a glaring example. Whysuch rigidity on Tawang?

9. "Because our Tibetan people would not let us accept Indian controlof Tawang," one is told. Why the Tibetans would not agree? In responseto this question, one is told: ' Because Tawang is of religious andemotional importance to them. Tawang is as sacred to the TibetanBuddhists as Jerusalem is to the Jewish people. One of the pastDalai Lamas was born in Tawang. Recognising Tawang as Indian territorywould amount to recognising that he was an Indian citizen. How can the Tibetans do it? "

10.It is recognised that the sensitivities of both the countries areinvolved in Tawang. India cannot agree to a change of the status quo.China, it is said, cannot accept the status quo. A possible solutioncould be status quo plus with both the countries sharing theresponsibility for the administration and development of this area, itis said. It is pointed out that China and Japan are attempting asimilar solution towards the East China Sea islands, which both claim.

11.What strikes one during a short stay of four days is the tremendousnational pride of the Chinese people----pride over their past, prideover their present, pride over their achievements,and pride over thepolicies of their leadership, which have produced the miracle. One candiscern this pride everywhere and in everyone---young or old, man orwoman.

12. One cannot dismiss this pride by calling it simplistically as narrow nationalism, as many sections of the Western media try to do.China's greatest strength is not its military power or economic muscle, but this national pride. This pride has been hurt by what is perceived as the attempts made by some sections of the internationalcommunity to tarnish China's image on the eve of the Olympics. Next to this national pride, the emotion which strikes one is a mixture of anger, sorrow and suspicion due to the recent events in Tibet and insome Western cities during the passage of the Olympic flame.(10-5--08) To be continued
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.of India, New Delh, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre ForChina Studies. E-mail: )

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