Have China and India ever been friends during any point in history?
Anil Bharadwaj, I eat Global Times for Breakfast
Before the mid-1940’s, neither China nor India existed as states we see and talk about today. So the question is kind of misplaced on one count.
India could get serious with the Westphalian order only after its independence from Great Britain in 1947. Without a Westphalian yardstick, it is hard to gauge the quality of relations and diplomacy between the two states by contemporary standards.
So I intend to specifically exclude the period of British Raj in India. If we were to count that, (British) India and China sat down as opposing belligerents in the Opium War. This again, is owing to the fact that India was not acting on its own agency and merely under a subjugated authority. The same is the case with the Boxer Rebellion.
But again, under the same British Raj, India and China fought against Japan in the Battle of Hong Kong. The euro-centric narrative celebrated the valour of British and Canadian forces conveniently ignoring the efforts of Indian and Chinese regiments. But India and China stood for each other in the battle. This was in the year 1941, 21 years in the run-up to the Sino-Indian war.
This piece of forgotten history has been very indicative of (and instrumental in) shaping up both the countries’ unanimous anti-imperialist and socialist stances leading up to Indian independence in 1947 and the Communist Revolution in China spanning 5 years in the mean time.
Rewinding back further into history, India and China had significant trade relations, with renewed zeal from time to time. This is a map of trade network that India was a part of. Notice how deep into the southern part of Indian subcontinent the trade route has permeated.
This was called the Ancient Silk Road. Does this remind you that history can repeat and is repeating?
Except that India of the 21st Century, being the big bitch that she is according to the Chinese media, does not want to participate.
India was an entrepot zone for Central Asian, Greek and Arab buyers of Chinese products, that mainly included Chinese Cloth and Bamboo products.
Ancient silk route was bustling with trade until the Mongol Empire started to fragment and disintegrate. Trade Emissaries from China to South Asia continued after that during the Ming Dynasty, but not in the way trade prospered when Silk Route was in vogue.
There exist records of Tamil Hindu Traders settling in Quangzhou during the reign of Yuan Dynasty.
Behind China’s Hindu temples, a forgotten history
Funnily, in those times, apart from the face, a person was recognised to be from South Asia, based on his vegetarian habits, a timeless legacy I am proud to carry it myself.
The Chola Dynasty in particular conducted a great deal of diplomacy with the Chinese. The maritime part of the Silk Road, stretching from Indonesia into the north of the China sea, was taken into control by conquering the Sri Vijaya Empire. By modern standards, a Navy projecting power through commerce into the China Seas could, in all fairness, be called a Blue Water Navy and the Cholas maintained one. Whatever it is, the Cholas of India and the Song Dynasty of China have had their priorities right.
Politically, the only empire the tried to foray into the Chinese territories was the Kushana Empire, extending as north and east into Central Asia as Kashgar, Xinjiang.
Till date, except for Jawaharlal Nehru insisting that India retains trading rights in Tibet be held by India with the newly form PRC, there is historically little evidence that any King or Emperor ever toyed with the idea of pushing the borders further north ruling from South Asia, including the British themselves.
Culturally, India was a net exporter of soft power into China, a very peculiar phenomenon for India/South Asia. So far in history, India is characterised by how it internalised elements of every other foreign culture, except for China. While the proselytisation of Buddhism along the Silk Route was a given, by far, it was only a one way street, for over two millenia.
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Sayan Dey, Indian | Blogger | Space Lover | Sports | Photography
Obviously, not friends if you are taking that term literally but that we had good relations with China from quite an early age is quite evident.
That Buddhism could spread to the greater parts of Asia was due to the acceptance of it by the Chinese, which could only be possible if there was mutual respect and trust between the people of the two nations (or kingdoms), so to speak.
Also another instance, I can readily recollect at this stage is Bodhdharma, the founder of Shaolin Kung Fu. He was an Indian from the southern part of the land (South India) who went there and taught the Chinese Shaolin. Apart from that, he was alos a Buddhist monk and he is credited with spreading the Chan Buddhism in China.
So basically, I can see two examples, one from the northern part and the other from the southern part, influencing the Chinese in a big way and you can definitely make up without good contact between the two civilizations, this really wouldn’t have been possible.
Gabriel Chan, well-read
"India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border"
— Hu Shih, Former Ambassador of (Republic of) China to USA
Mr. Hu was referring to Buddhism and how Chinese saw the West (India) as a heaven or holy place. It's not friendship but India was highly regarded in China.
Thanos, Software Engineer (2017-present)
India and China don’t share a real border. Himalayas separate each of them. So, people to people contact never happened.
North East of India, which shares a small border and cultural similarities with China, is actually not the real India. We got them from British and still think they are like us.
Some south Indian states had some influence in south East Asia. But, the contact between India and China was never very close. You can find Tamils in Indonesia and Singapore. But unlike ethnic Chinese, they are not so influential or could not act as a bridge.
However, Buddhism started in North India and it spread to China. But, in India Buddhism never became a mainstream religion and many Buddhists disappeared after Islam arrived. You can say there is some similarity in religion.
If you look at history of India, India never had any friends. Invaders came from west with a strange religion and never returned back. Middle east got some food from us, central Asia used to be place for our trade.
Deepak S Fernandes, Born in Bahrain, ex-Indian citizen, now a Polish citizen
Both “China” and “India” in the modern sense are very new countries — The Republic of India dates from 1947 and the People’s Republic of China from 1949.
Until that point in time, there was no large border between the lands.
What you are referring to in your question is between the two civilizations.
The two civilizations have been “friends” since Ashoka’s time when Emperor Ashoka sent Buddhist missionaries to China.
For most of the time, the two civilizations never “touched” each other directly — always separated by Kushans, Turkics, Mongols, Tokharians, Bactrians, Sogdians, Tibetans, sea, mountains.
Sunny Lyngdoh, former Research Manager at IMRB International (2012-2014)
Firstly, two nations can never be friends in the true sense of the term, simply because they can never trust each other the way friends do. Yes, they can be allies or partners and have friendly relations.
Coming to India and China: political, economic and cultural relations have existed between the two regions for over 2000 years (although not as much as one would expect between two neighbours) and in general the atmosphere has been one of mutual interest and cooperation. Even today, despite the China-Pakistan axis, the 1962 war, the border disputes, China is India’s largest trading partner.
There is not much to say with regard to military cooperation: the only instance that comes to mind is WWII, when the Allied Powers used India as a base in supporting China against Japan.
Kuntal Sarma, The Purpose of History is a better world
Even though Indian and the Chinese civilizations existed alongside for thousands of years, it had a very little to do with each other. Reason being the existence of the Himalayan range, which forms a natural border, as seen in the satellite image.
The cultural and linguistic influence was limited too. Some examples would be, ancient India used to import sugar from China, that is why the Hindi word for sugar is ‘Chini’. An alternate word for Sugar is ‘Shakkar’, as used by some north Indians. It is derived from Persian word ‘Shekar’ which means sugar.
On the other hand, Buddhism which originated in India was accepted by the Chinese more. Chinese Buddhist pilgrims used to visit Bodh Gaya (Birth place of Gautama Buddha) and also to learn different forms of meditation techniques in Nalanda (ancient Indian university).
Trade relations were narrow. The main export of China was Silk for which there was a little demand in India because India had its own thriving textile industry. India exported spices, which were not popular in China.
British India was hostile to China. As Great Britain allied with the French fought two wars with China (Opium war 1 & 2) during 19th century in which they occupied Hong Kong and south Kowloon Peninsula.
During WWII, even though British India and the Chinese were on the same side against imperial Japan, a faction of Indian nationalists sided with Japan with the hope of overthrowing the British with a little help from the Japanese. I am talking about Subhash Ch Bose, who also went to Germany to persuade Hitler to help his cause.
A few years after India got independence, the China fall under the communists in 1950. After which, there was a span of 7–8 years when India and China had good relations as both had anti western sentiments. The friendship didn't last long since India gave refuge to Dalai Lama & his followers upon the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
Then, 1962 Indo-China war happened and the animosity prevailed until 1988, when Indian Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi went to China on a diplomatic visit.
Abhinav Mittal, works at Ministry of Magic
India and china have been friend’s for decades until Nehru destroyed them.India had influenced china without sending a single soldier to there land through Buddhism and our innovation in maths,astrology,science and art.Both the nations have rich history and civilizations.Indians and chinese are considered of superior accent.I believe both the nations would be on the same page once again leaving behind mistakes made by some fool politicians.
Sumit Dev, studied History
China and India friends ??? No, never, not at all.
China and India were twin brothers and jointly accounted for around 50 % of the world G.D.P. for more than a thousand years.
Faraz Yusuf Khan, ECE student, Indian,Communist, Freelance Nerd
After India’s independence Prime Minister Nehru initiated the ‘ Hindi-Chini bhai bhai ‘ policy which obviously backfired in 1962.
Even when China took over Aksai Chin from Kashmir, Nehru gave an impotent answer in the Indian Parliament saying that not even a grain of rice can grow in Aksai Chin so why defend it ?
Vikas Shelke, Sr MKT Man
India and China were never enemies either . India was always rich compared to China for major part of history . Himalyas isolated both nations to greater extent . Infact both nations were not nations as we know it . India was never one until British tookover .
In todays global and business oriented world order , China is also not direct enemy like 1962 war . China and India needs each other very much and a war is not a option with nukes in hand .China , India will be major forces to rekon in the future and would threaten western dominance. West is already restless and would like China to be isolated politically , they also want Indian subcontinent to be unstable
Anil Pratap Adhikari, History Buff
I am assuming OP is an Indian - because based on my experience so far most Chinese do not care much about India-China relations or think of India as a rival.
Ever heard of the slogan Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai (Indians and Chinese are brothers)?
Then WW2 happened. Both India and China fought on the same side (though both countries had factions that allied with the Japanese). Japan had been a beacon of hope for all Asian nationalists ever since it beat the Russians in the war of 1905 - as it showed that Asian nations too could rise up to match and then beat European powers. This included Indian leaders as well. Yet they declared moral support for the Chinese and condemned Japan’s interventions into China in the 1930s. During WW2, Chinese and Indian soldiers fought side by side in several of the fiercest battles in Asian theatre.
It was the Indian nationalist leaders during the era of independence struggle who coined the slogan Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai. They sympathized with the Chinese struggles against western powers (as well as later against Japan) in maintaining their independence as they themselves were trying to achieve independence for India. During the war years, the Indian leaders (though opposing India’s participation in the war) were continually communicating with both the Kuomintang government and the Communist rebels and expressing their moral support while the Chinese leaders expressed their own moral support to Indian independence movement. Several of these letters from those years survive to this day.
This feeling of fraternity continued into the 1950s when both Nehru and Mao had risen to power in their respective countries. A hypothesis of Asian revival as world’s center-stage through India-China partnership in development was popularized in India.
Ever since, the loss in the war of 1962 has remained as a bitter memory in Indian psychology. Every time the question of relation with China appears in Indian media, it is almost always associated directly or implicitly with that memory. The result has been a deeply suspicious Indian approach to the Chinese that frequently borders on paranoia. Meanwhile in China, the war of 1962 seems to have been just a sidenote to history. Their bitter memories are associated more with Japanese occupation than with the border skirmishes in the 1960s.
Jovi George, M.Sc Chemistry
Ancient China and peninsular India has strong trade relations. Heard of Chinese fishing nets and China clay? You can still see the nets in Kerala. Also the glazed porcelain is called China. We have Chinese urns and Chinese frying pans. All these indicates a strong trade relation.
We have the writings of travelers like Hiring Tsang and Faxian who traveled across the sub continent. Their writings does show a friendly region to them. Considering the geography, only a sea route was possible between the two and the trade happened through the sea.
Things got sour may be after the British declared war on the Chinese.