Bridging ‘New China’ and postcolonial India: Indian narratives of the Chinese revolution

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Abstract

This paper examines the basis of Asianist sympathy for ‘New China’, as the People’s Republic was often styled, in the early 1950s by examining the writings of Indian diplomats, journalists and academics. These elite Indians either visited China as part of a 1951 delegation, making them witnesses to the ongoing New Democracy experiment. Since their experiences of China were definitely not comprehensive and hinged on the Chinese state’s goodwill, the interesting question to ask is not whether these first-hand accounts of ‘New China’ were accurate but in what ways the Chinese revolution was made comprehensible in light of the Indian elite’s own priorities as nation builders and social activists. This paper reconstructs major tropes of the Chinese revolution that appealed to Indian observers–self-sufficiency, empowerment of workers and peasants, a palpable sense of social vitality–and underscored their enthusiasm for Beijing. Most significantly, communism was subsumed in favourable accounts of ‘New China’ as a nation and society-building project. The Chinese revolution, the nature of which was still in flux, was absorbed into and understood through India and Asia’s long struggle against Euro-American domination. In addition, the Chinese revolution was deployed as an example with which Indian observers assessed contemporary developments in their own country. The celebratory reception of ‘New China’ in India suggests that the subsequent rapport between the Chinese and Indian states was a result of not only high-level diplomatic manoeuvres but also pan-Asian epistemological bridging between socialist revolution and decolonization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-316
Number of pages22
JournalCultural Studies
Volume34
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • China
  • decolonization
  • goodwill mission
  • India
  • nation-building
  • New Democracy
  • revolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Social Sciences(all)

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