Both China and India are vivid representatives of South Asia with their prosperous history, diverse culture, and ancient traditions. Apparently, these two surpassing countries have a lot in common, yet they are utterly different. Researchers note that, although throughout the whole history, there were some doubtful, even hostile, moments, the relations between China and India can mostly be considered as cooperative and positively bilateral.1
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In addition, their mutual religion, Buddhism, has been working as an utterly steady bridge since the very beginning of China-India (also called Sino-Indian) or Indo-China relations dated back as far as the 2nd century BCE. The history of these two countries is remarkably long and full of various events, and so are the relationships between China and India. Studying these two countries, their interaction and observing their differences and similarities seem to be significant for analyzing and comparing them.
To start with, it seems essential to delve into the history of India since it is one of the most ancient people’s living place. According to Khilnani, around 7,000 BCE in South Asia, a settled life began, including anatomically modern humans, farming and pastoralism.2
People were developing, studying new plants and animals and gaining and improving new skills. A settled life had become more widespread by 4,500 BCE, and the people living there eventually became the Indus Valley Civilization. This civilization, which was spreading and thriving on the Indian subcontinent, in the north-western part, from 3300 to 1300 BCE, was the first considerable civilization around South Asia.
India was united in a single State for the first time by the Maurya Empire around 150 BCE. Geographically, it was one of the largest Empires of that time. Impressively enough, that India was approximately 1,5 times larger than modern India, with a total population of around 50 million people.3 Then, as the eras were changing, India had its “ups and downs”. In other words, many Empires came and left, and India was continuously either fragmented or owned by an Empire.
Therefore, it is possible to note that India was a united and independent State only for a limited amount of time throughout history. Other Empires’ changes and movements utterly influenced that state of India. In addition, according to facts, India has become a united country only since gaining independence from England, which happened around 70 years ago. There is no doubt that this fact does not interfere with India’s being one of the most ancient nations and motherland of many sages.
It is also essential to consider wading more profoundly into Chinese history. Contrary to India, the history of China dates back as far as 1250 BCE, when the first studied written records are claimed to be created. These texts belonged to the first Chinese dynasty, the Shang dynasty, and it was the Shang writing that initiated the modern Chinese language. Most of the ancient civilizations began to emerge in the river valleys, and China was not an exception.
According to Rodzinski, the roots of the Chinese civilization were in the Huang‐huou River valley, which can be translated as the Yellow River.4 The Yellow River and nearby Yangtze civilizations emerged around 1000 years earlier than the Shang dynasty. Therefore, China can be considered as one of the world’s most ancient civilizations, taking into account its thousand years of history.
The next regime was the Zhou dynasty, which had been ruling for the longest time than any other governing house in Chinese history. Rodzinski notes that they were in control for almost 800 years and, in order to justify their rule, established the concept of the Mandate of Heaven.5
According to this belief, the ruling dynasty was connected with the Heaven and had its trust and support, and, therefore the ideas and decisions of a king or Emperor were claimed to be discussed with the Heaven and could not be argued with. The ending of the Zhou ruling was utterly controversial – it was known as the Warring States period, and, simultaneously, a huge part of traditional Chinese philosophy, literature, and culture was first developed through those uncertain times.
The Qin dynasty supplanted the Zhou dynasty in 221 BC by conquering the warring states. Qin Shi Huang named himself “emperor” and, therefore, founded imperial China. In spite of the short period of the ruling, the Qin dynasty is utterly significant in Chinese history as it was the first emperor dynasty in China. Among other accomplishments, when Qin Shi Huang conquered other provinces, he also united China for the first time. Qin Shi Huang also had an impact on the building of the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army. There is also a legend claiming it is possible that a modern word “China” originally comes from the word “Qin”, although it is utterly doubtful and disputable.
The Qin dynasty lasted for more than 2000 years and was the last dynasty to rule in China. Later it was displaced by the Republic of China, which was later changed to the People’s Republic of China as a result of the winning of the Kuomintang (or Chinese Nationalist Party) in the Chinese Civil War. Therefore, summing everything mentioned above up, conversely to the situation with India, there is no doubt that China is credibly considered as one of the most ancient united civilizations in history. However, it is almost impossible to determine the precise foundation date of this country.
What is more interesting, throughout its long history, China was considerably diverse not only from European countries but also from the rest of Asia. According to Rodzinski, “Chinese society was in some fundamental way different from the societies of the West.”6 Indeed, if we look at Chinese rich history, remarkable inventions, renowned sages, and so on, it is apparent that China was, and is a unique country. However, Rodzinski also claims that in spite of its “differentness”, China was in many respects not so fundamentally contrasting to the other nations. All in all, people all around the world are similar in their core.
As for comparing and contrasting China and India, these two countries are both essential parts of South Asia. According to Deb, Pang, and Mukherjee, China and India are bound by various ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious ties.7 The religion shared by the countries, Buddhism provoked mutual international communications and exchange of knowledge in the past, which also helped the two cultures to thrive in an early period. Although, some conflicts appeared from time to time, which caused India’s nowadays state of cautious admiration. The last one is the most recent phase that is observed today and over the past 25 years. This phase of their relationships can be characterized by China’s developmental accomplishments being admired by India.
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What is more, according to Wagner, “politically, China is regarded as a ‘neutral’ player in South Asia and enjoys a comfortable position.”8 Therefore, it is undeniable that China and India, despite sharing many cultural and religious traits, are utterly diverse in their mentality and political position and actions. It is possible to claim that their nowadays relationships reflect those from the past – China was always the one to start some political activity, even a conflict.
In spite of political differences, some politicians and diplomats admit that China and India are linked crucially by their mutual past. According to Kumar, Bayar, and Kumar, “many speeches by Chinese and Indian politicians have stressed the historical, cultural linkages between the two countries, through their having been neighbouring Buddhist countries for centuries”.9 Therefore, it is possible to note that both China and India are politically remarkable countries with long profound history, including their same one. However, each country lives following its ideology and, consequently, they perform different results and actions. China seems to be more organized and confident in terms of politics, while India prefers to avoid risks.
All in all, China appears to be a unique country – different from Europe and even from the rest of Asia. In this case, India is not an exception – the two countries are entirely diverse regarding almost all the aspects, starting from their origin and to their political actions. However, it is undeniable that both China and India can share a remarkable knowledge of such areas as art, culture, religion, and so on. It affects the two countries positively and helps them to co-prosper.
Deb, Arnab K., Miao Pang, and Paramita Mukherjee, eds. China and India: History, Culture, Cooperation, and Competition. New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 2016.
Khilnani, Sunil. Incarnations: India in 50 Lives. London: Penguin Books Limited, 2016.
Kumar, Raushan, Nasan Bayar, and Ravindra Kumar. “Buddhism: An Ancient Point in the China-India Synergy.” Pacific International Journal 2, no. 1 (2019): 44-48.
Rodzinski, Witold. A History of China. New York: Pergamon Press, 2017.
Wagner, Christian. ” The Role of India and China in South Asia.” Strategic Analysis 40, no. 4 (2016): 307-320.
- Arnab K. Deb, Miao Pang, and Paramita Mukherjee, eds., China and India: History, Culture, Cooperation, and Competition (New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 2016), 10.
- Sunil Khilnani, Incarnations: India in 50 Lives (New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 2016), 18.
- Khilnani, Incarnations: India in 50 Lives, 35.
- Witold Rodzinski, A History of China (New York: Pergamon Press, 2017), 31.
- Rodzinski, A History of China, 102.
- Rodzinski, A History of China, 13.
- Deb, Pang, and Mukherjee, eds., China and India: History, Culture, Cooperation, and Competition, 20.
- Christian Wagner, “The Role of India and China in South Asia,” Strategic Analysis 40, no. 4 (2016): 318.
- Raushan Kumar, Nasan Bayar, and Ravindra Kumar, “Buddhism: An Ancient Point in the China-India Synergy,” Pacific International Journal 2, no. 1 (2019): 45.