Peregrination to China
My earlier recollections about China are that of nation of communist which is so deeply bogged into poverty,and thus Communism, that Mithun-movies still make a blockbusters over there. (aila, even Mithun has come out of his ‘gareeb chotta laug’ image to work in Guru and other neo-classics.) My experience particularly rest on one incident I had suffered at the tanker terminal in the port of Quindao where a local ‘mafia’(as Chinese goons fondly/lingo-challenged call themselves to foreigners) who put his knife on me and somehow managed to direct me that I should not do any shopping in his area lest he hit me! And then he even ensured that wherever I went the shop-keepers refused me whatever I wanted- an international phone call, an IP-card, etc.
This was in year 2003.
But the last four months in Xin Ya shipyard (in Zhou Shan)- anchorage and berth- formed the new picture in my mind which is what I think the world ‘fears’ about the growing economic-force of China.
I flew to the Sino-land on 09the Aug, actually the night of the opening of the great China-hosted world mega-festival-- the Olympics, in Beijing. By good fortune, my flight was too late in the night to allow me see the opening ceremony at-least on television if not in person. What impressed me more at the very first sight was that there was no sign of the famously-formidable Dragon anywhere in the entire ceremony. The Chinese focused more on their historical contributions to the world than ‘scaring’ the world and it’s incumbent economic powers with the dragon. The navigational map, (an area of my professional interest), the printing technology, the modern accomplishments depicted by space travel by an Astronaut, and the motto ‘One world one dream’ depicted by troop dance of small children were breathtakingly beautiful.
My ship was owned by a Taiwanese company, the TMT, which, as I heard, have a penchant for buying old ships-- getting them repaired in the shipyards of China at ‘affordable‘(read inexpensive, if not cheap)-- and then either operating or selling away making huge profits. The TMT seemed to some kind of super-rich in the business because they were affording to keep their ‘n’ number of ships laid-up, doing no business, and maintaining full compliment of officers and crew; the latter, who are giving services at the inflated price-tag, and virtually having no work to perform.
China and Taiwan, I am told are long time enemies. But what I found surprising is that their rivalry is not a dime bad as what our Indo-Pak rivalry is. Their’s is only a diplomatic case, to be fought only by the diplomats of their country, not a person-to-person, religion-to-religion, fight, unlike ours. There is no terrorism, no restriction on movement of people from either country, and the business, in my own seeing the conversion and repairs projects of TMT, happening in the Chinese Shipyards.
Chinese education system has started out with a good sketch out in my mind. I came to know that the Chinese are considered good at analytical reasoning whereas the Indians are suppose to be good at number-crunching. On my way when bon hommie (sometimes we say it to mean ‘Happy- being at home’) ,I got to pass by few of the colleges and the universities. The driver, who was playing my tour guide, told us that cost of living and doing studies in that area was about 8000 euros per annum, while the starting salary after the education was 400dollars a month. He perhaps intended to say that it was bad. However I never felt like it. The schools reminded me of one of our rare trips to cinema halls during when I was school going, a 12-year old. We were then taken to see this English dubbed Chinese movie, ‘My new teacher’ a delightful movie. The name of the protagonist teacher, a 20-something Chinese girl, was Miss Henn Miao Miao, I remembered.
The roads, the bridges, the houses, the flyovers, the buildings, -- everything I saw on my way talked about the excessive ‘development’ (the proverbial cement-development) happening over there. The guide-driver told me that people were still not happy, and perhaps they would want to return back to their villages and village life. (I think it’s that same story about this development thing happening through the ‘rapacious’ economics in all parts of the world.)
Except for the Indian sub-continent, I think the population of women is more than men in all parts of the world. In China, there is a huge toll of entertainment girls in all the ports. The one that I passed time with, told me about her rural natives. A family daughter which she still remained, she sends some 2000yuan to her aged, senility-marred parents every month. Chinese have great liking for us Indian men, unlike the Caucasian European whites. They like to see our body hair, our eyes in particular because they have the ‘slit-y’ eyes, and our black or a brown skin. The European females shrink their nose upon our sight-- I don’t know for what political, social or biological-aesthetical reason. It’s very heartfelt thought to learn how our social paradigm has changed and become ‘un-natural’ due to reversal of sex-ratio in our native land. I firmly believe that this factor is Islam-driven if not Islam-dictated.
Some History-arguments suggest that women began to be treated as liability by Indian masses when large attacks by Muslim rulers happened on their families only to take away the women folk. Slowly our society ‘evolved’ or distorted away to start dowry-system, child marriage, sati, jauhar, --and other Fire, Water -Deepa Mehta movie themes.
The Sino-India Relationship
When working on Salaria PVC in 2003, I would think re-gathering facts about the 1961 war. Major Dhan Singh Thapa PVC was our other sister vessel plying between China and Singapore. I would think to myself whether the Chinese Port people knew Major Thapa was the person who was given our highest gallantry award - the PVC, for killling 40 of ‘enemy’ soldiers in none other than the 1961 war! It would give me fun to tell the Chinese cargo-surveyors who Major Thapa was, and that if they didn’t work our cargo well, I would add one more to Thapa’s tally of 40. ;-). English-challenged Chinese would just smile away joke, even more when they thought it was some friend saying something incomprehensible to them and laughing to himself!.
I think that Indo-China relations today are more a media’s handiwork than citizens’ or statesmen. I can see all our Shipping Corporation’s vessel going to China for dry-docking; we Indians being warmly accepted by Chinese people otherwise, and even being looked up at.
Indeed it is the bad media which is still playing the old tunes of that lone war with China, and that ill-famous Bengali Communist relationship of “Communist carrying umbrella in Kolkata when it rained in Beijing.”, that most new-generation , younger Indians have also picked up a wont to see Chinese also with the same skeptical eyes that by which most foreigner from the developed nations are seen. The xenophobic projection of foreigners in most of our Hindi movies is that of someone worth being defeated. News media also garnishes on the same rhetoric.
The diplomatic stand of China during the Indo-US Nuke Deal and during the 26th Nov-Mumbai Carnage when India sought the UNSC ban on Pakistan’s JuD are perhaps China’s reciprocating act on India’s stand on the Tibetan affair and the border disputes at the J&K front.
The people in China appeared to be oblivious of most of the troubles between the two neighbours. Their business sense is larger than ours. In us, personal relations are almost always able to supersede the business relations between people. A fine balance of personal touch through hospitality in business impressed me lot in the Chinese. The market is China is far deep open to bargaining. The business-minded people there are more tolerant, patient, polite and tranquil.
Wikipedia search on China tells me about the ancient Chinese philosophies , like the Legalism( the principles of Fa, Shu, Shi) which have perhaps yielded the proverbial more law-abiding, compliant, “disciplined“ ,“non-talking and hard working” , peaceful citizen’s of China.
The Chinese Magnate
Before this trip, I visited China on two bulk-carriers- Pataliputra and Murshidabad- as well. There I carried some 45,000 tonnes of Iron ore on each of my China visits. In all, I must have made some 5 visits. Iron ore is/was the most regular cargo from India to China.. And in return sometime we bring back some low grade coal. The excessive bauxite export made me sit-up and think of that old lore of India being a ‘bird of gold’(aka Golden peacock). The ‘gold’ being stolen away by the British; -then the bird became that of steel; -and then the Indians’ themselves exported away all the steel to China; -that’s how today’s history will be remembered many years hence.
Thus I continued my thought chain.
In the end, a lots of toy-shopping for my 8-yr-old nephew, and tasty Tsingtao beer and wine, cool pleasant climate, and trip to the fabulous Hong Kong airport summarized my memorable tour of duty.
The Great Wall remains to be physically seen! I hope I do it next time.