What China Forgets, and What it Tries To

While China is trying to forget about a specific New York Times article which exposes outgoing Premier Wen, Jia-Bao’s family fortunes to be estimated at 2.7BillionUSD –or rather, blocks access to the Chinese language version of the New York Times– it has been successful at letting its people forget about a war from the past: The Sino-Indian War.

The Sino-Indian War is bitterly remembered in India. China’s quick tactical victory and subsequent implementation of a unilateral cease-fire remain a humiliating memory for India’s political classes. This month the Indian press has featured many detailed stories and poignant editorials addressing the legacy of the war.

Meanwhile, the war has been largely forgotten in China. A recent poll by the Chinese Global Times found only 15% of urban Chinese adults who took part in their survey knew about the war. [2] Ma Li of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations offered the following explanation for this striking memory gap: “Compared to Indians who have a deep impression of the war because they were defeated, few Chinese know about the war.” [3]

There are still games being played over the Sino-Indian border, but I suppose it’s all in good fun. You have some land, and then give it away to them, only to contest other portions.

Then of course, how is it that China can forget the Sino-Indian war?

The reason for the dearth of memory on the Chinese side may have other explanations besides victory. A victorious war against a fellow Asian victim of Western imperialism may not resonate well with China’s self-image. Also, the Chinese people are currently focused on domestic and economic concerns. Finally, the collective Chinese consciousness remains preoccupied with vivid memories of the war of resistance against Japan.

I’m not even going to go further into the Japan issue.


13=阝12=口 J=丁 (阿)
L=氵 Z=工 (江)
–1312JLZ (阿江)
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