One of the most important events of this decade, the Olympics, is being hosted by China from August 8. China wants to showcase itself to the world through the two-week event € ’· rightly so, and the developed world wants to assess the Chinese potential in the light of its economic growth.
Some sections of the developed world will of course try to disrupt the event citing “human rights violations,” etc to humiliate China. They perceive that Asia is replacing the West as the axis of global economic power and in that, China is going to play a very large role, which is not palatable to them.
India will send a contingent of nearly 60 competitors with more than€ ’·I guess € ’·seven hundred officials, their families, relatives and friends. Other than this, we will find some politicians and Bollywood stars and business tycoons gracing the occasion. But the important strategic issue which we are missing is the opportunity such events present to influence and destabilize the Communist system in China.
The major change taking place in China is not related to the country’s growth rate or the Three Gorges Dam, or the shopping malls and the Olympics stadia. That is a typical Western way of viewing China and we should first learn to stop looking at China with Western glasses. The significant change that is taking place in China is pertaining to religion.
The keynote speech by the communist party general secretary HuJintao to the 17th party congress in October last year devoted a paragraph to religion. He stressed that religious people including priests, monks and lay believers played a positive role in the social and economic development of China. Hence, religion is not any more the opium of the masses.
The state-controlled Xinhua stresses that there must be freedom of belief. It says religion can play an important role in realising a “harmonious society,” which is the new political role of the party [Asia times Online July 3, 2008].
That is the main issue we in India should be interested in. A study based on more than 4,500 people conducted by two professors of China Normal University in 2007 concluded that more than 300 million people, namely 31% of the population, were religious and more than 60% of them are in the 16-40 age group.
The number of followers of Christianity has increased to 12% from a low of less than 8% in the nineties. More importantly, China is opening what are called Confucius Institutes in more than 50 countries, which is similar to British Council efforts but more focused on China’s ancient wisdom.In this context, there is a need for us to be more proactive. To recall the words of Hu Shih, former Ambassador of China to the USA (1938-1942), “India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without having to send a single soldier across her borders.”
We should now be sending Sri Sri Ravishankar, Mata Amirtanandamayi, Swami Ramdev and Pramukh Swami Shankaracharyas Vaishnavite seers and other spiritual leaders, besides Bharatnatyam experts, musicians and other artistes in dozens to China to ” conquer and dominate” by our soft power.
We need to print millions of copies of Ramayana and Mahabharata and our Puranas and Gita in modern Chinese languages and make them widely available. The CDs of Mahabharata and Ramayana, etc can also be given free. We should create a fund of at least Rs 1,000 crore for this effort. This is the only way to destabilise our younger brother by de-legitimising Communism. Olympics is the best time to start it and, there is a need to continue the efforts relentlessly.
Actually, China needs this more than the USA even though all our soft power is currently on show in the US. Economic growth bereft of spiritual underpinnings in the context of the death of Marxism is going to be a great challenge for China. As an elder brother, India should facilitate orderly transformation based on our common shared ancient wisdom.
Let us remember that China is also a multi-cultural and multi-religious society but interested in our shared past. According to Prof Wang Zhicheng, who has translated and published on Swami Vivekananda, bian in Chinese means spiritual discrimination or viveka, while xi implies ananda or bliss and fashi means a monk – Vivekananda thus becomes Bian Xi Fashi to the Chinese (Sri Ramakrishna Math magazine, April, 2007 – interview by Alan Hunter).
There is a statue of Kalidasa in the Shanghai theatreway, unveiled by the theatre academy. I can’t think of any metro in India, including theso-called “culture capital” Kolkata,having a statue of Kalidasa. AtKolkata, the theatre road became Shakespeare Sarani and not Kalidasa Marg.China has a thriving underground church, which is also of concern to the government.
We should strategically recognise the weak point of China and also the need of its masses in the absence of Communism. Many a Chinese even today believe that their next birth should be in India to reach salvation. Culture and religion are not taboos any more.
But the South Korean way is not going to help China. In South Korea, the Christian President who wears his faith on his sleeves is not appreciated by the traditional Buddhists, who still think of Korea as a Buddhist country from the spiritual point of view.
There are other issues. Officially, China recognises or permits only five religions € ’·- Buddhism, Islam, Taoism, Protestantism and Catholicism (1997 government white paper quoted by The Economist, February 1, 2007]. Hence, we should take steps to include Hinduism as one of the permitted religions.
The Indian government should take steps since four other religions of India are permitted.The point is that our soft power in culture is interwoven in a tapestry form with the religion. Howsoever hard one might try, there is no separating the two. Carnatic music without bhakti is neither music nor art.
The second issue is related to our own mindset. We tend to look at China either through the Western spectacles or through local Marxist spectacles, which have thicker glasses. We need to come out of it. Even when invitations come to Indian spiritual leaders, the Government of India is unenthusiastic and indicates its disinterest in the false assumptions regarding China’s political orientation. The policy formulators are still living in the sixties and seventies at a time when China is undergoing a gigantic social crisis due to material prosperity and spiritual vacuum.
That is the opportunity to us since it is better to have a competitor and neighbour sharing the past cultural commonness. This will be very useful when the world has two super powers from Asia, unlike the conflict of the last century between two super powers who did not have any shared cultural roots.The strategy should be to encircle China with music, dance, art, yoga, ayurveda, spiritual texts, etc and capture the hearts of the middle classes as we have done for centuries. In the process, we should de-stabilise the current dispensation and de-legitimise the remnants of Communism.
Olympics is the best occasion to start doing it. And of course, the invasion should continue for many years. Many groups and sects from many a western country (with or without permission) are going to do the same – spread their influence and message – since this is an opportunity.