“China can say no”, a diplomatic rhetoric that India is emulating


Speech by Binod Singh Ajatshatru, Director of BRICS Institute (New Delhi) at the International Forum on Chinese Path to Modernization and Global Community of Shared Future


The reason I can speak Chinese fluently is because I studied in Beijing. I was enriched by Chinese universities as a beneficiary of China’s Reform and Opening-up.


When I first set foot in China, my mindset was completely different. Twenty years ago, I had this burning desire to become fluent in Chinese, which is spoken by more people than any other language in the world. I believed that by mastering Chinese, along with the English I had learned back in India, I would be able to engage in more meaningful exchanges with people from different cultures.


Chinese and Indus civilizations have a lot in common, with shared cultural influences from Buddhism, Confucianism, and Ruism. This is why I feel a strong sense of identity whenever I hear speeches and initiatives from Chinese leaders.


After living in China for many years, I have come to truly understand the reality of the country and the biased descriptions of China often presented by India. Being in Beijing, I have personally witnessed numerous remarkable changes. It is unfortunate that many foreign media outlets fail to provide an accurate and objective account of China's story, whether it pertains to its democracy, economy, or culture.


Let me share my own experience. When I was studying in China, I took on some part-time English teaching jobs during the lead-up to the Olympics. I suddenly discovered that all the students around me could speak English better than I could. 


That got me thinking about what I could do for China and India. It occurred to me that pursuing an IT job could be a fitting choice, considering the high regard Chinese people have for India's IT performance. Back then, when Chinese leaders visited India, they would fly directly to Bangalore to engage with local IT professionals.


I believed that China and India needed to strengthen IT cooperation, because this would enable us to reduce our dependence on the West. While it may have been the case that China's development and rise relied heavily on technological collaboration with Western countries, the situation is different today. After the 20th National Congress of the CPC, Chinese leaders and scholars all agree that unlike in the past, China does not need to rely on Western technologies, for China has achieved self-reliance.


But let's take a look at where India stands today. Why does the world continue to depict China-India relations as a mixture of jealousy, envy, and even animosity? In 2008, Mr. Zhang Weiwei, an expert in Chinese politics, visited India and shared his observations in his book "The China Wave: Rise Of A Civilizational State." What he wrote about India in his book reflects the ground realities accurately. 


However, after 2008, India woke up to the fact that resistance to reform would get the country nowhere. As a result, Indian leaders started to emulate China. They established their own version of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the provincial authorities followed China’s suit to implement investment attraction policies and organize roadshows.


In recent years, Indian officials who were previously sent to study at Harvard University are now pursuing their studies in China. Since my return to India, I have been eager to share China's practices and development model with them, which hold valuable insights for populous countries like India.


How is India doing these days? Ladies and gentlemen, India is not only emulating China's economic system but also taking inspiration from its political system.

我有不少案例可以证明,中国和印度的发展模式是非常相似的。中国过去有一句话——“中国可以说不”(China can say no),现在印度也模仿这个外交语言——印度可以说不。

I've got a few examples that show how remarkably similar our development models are. There used to be a rhetoric that goes "China can say no." And India is now picking up that diplomatic language too - "India can say no."


In fact, India's growth is intricately linked to China, and of course, to the US and other Western countries as well.


I'm here to learn from you because I'm not sure how to encapsulate China's development model. While I may not represent the entire population of India, consider this fact: after China downgraded its COVID management, more people from India have entered China than from any other country, and tens of thousands of Indian students have returned to study here.


Economically, everyone in India, from the government to the business community and even the younger generation, is absolutely convinced that the future belongs to China.


Today's chilly international and geopolitical landscape is indeed generating a great deal of uncertainty. In Delhi, there are about 100,000 Indian students studying Chinese. For the past three years, with no Chinese visitors in India, they've been facing tough times. No income, no job opportunities, and a whole lot of confusion about what to do next. Back in the day, there used to be over 10,000 Chinese working side by side with local Indians in New Delhi. But things have changed. India is now going through the same transformative phase that China experienced 20 years ago.


Returning to today’s theme, in a world dominated by the English language, many Chinese political terms suffer from mistranslations, making them difficult for foreigners to comprehend. Take the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), for example. Its English name is quite long, and it can be a mouthful for international students to pronounce and understand. Similarly, phrases like "Tai He" (Supreme Harmony) and the idea of "the rise of China" are deeply rooted in Chinese culture for ages, but they are often misconstrued as recent inventions.


In the eyes of foreigners who do not understand China, the country’s rise may indeed generate a sense of threat among neighboring countries. However, this perception stems from their lack of comprehension.


China's democracy differs significantly from that of India, which includes tumultuous incidents of microphone-throwing in the parliament. In contrast, China's democracy is peaceful, emphasizing mutual learning through attentive listening. In the post-pandemic era, exchanges are vital, and it is our hope that more opportunities can be provided to foreigners for a better understanding of China's political system. We would appreciate first-hand experiences at the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Two Sessions (annual plenary sessions of the NPC and the CPPCC), allowing us to truly grasp the essence of China's democracy.


Global peace hinges on the peace between China and India, so the two countries must resolve their disputes. I hope our guests and scholars can offer valuable insights for reinvigorating China-India relations. Thank you!