Ananth Krishnan

But majority of Chinese look at India either as threat or as a far less developed nation

The study found that Chinese viewed Pakistan as a better partner than India

It's important to focus on initiatives to further strengthen ties: Indian Ambassador

BEIJING: While Indians are beginning to increasingly view China as a land of economic opportunities, a majority of Chinese continue to look at India either as a threat or as a far less developed country, according to a survey conducted by a Beijing-based research group.

The survey, carried out between year 2000 and 2009 by Horizon Research, found that Chinese perceptions of India were beginning to slowly improve — 45 per cent now viewed India favourably. However, most Chinese still perceived India, along with the United States and Japan, as the countries that most posed a threat to China. The study also found that Chinese viewed Pakistan as a better partner than India.

Contrastingly, Indian perceptions of China were more positive. Only 23 per cent of 4,500 surveyed in India viewed China as an enemy.

“What we found was that Chinese people still have many misperceptions about India,” said Yuan Yue, chairman of Horizon Research. “Chinese people feel India is developing slowly, but the majority of Indian people feel China is an emerging country which will soon even replace the U.S.”

Almost half of those surveyed in India, he said, believed China would replace the U.S. as the world's dominant power.

Mr. Yuan did not comment on what role China's media, which are State-controlled, may have had on shaping attitudes towards India.

Consequently, Mr. Yuan noted, more Indians were willing to travel to China for business and tourism, while fewer people in China viewed India as an opportunity. India ranked below the U.S., Russia, Europe and South Korea as countries Chinese viewed as destinations for business or education.

Among other Chinese perceptions of India, the survey found Chinese viewed India as the “weakest” of the four BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The survey's findings, revealed at the start of a two-day forum examining relations between the two countries, served as a sobering reminder to both officials and scholars present of the wide perception gap that persists between the neighbours, even as they celebrate 60 years of bilateral ties this year.

“The survey shows we need to increase dialogue and exchanges,” Mr. Yuan said.

Indian Ambassador to China S. Jaishankar said the current period in bilateral relations, one of “blue skies” following the border-related tensions of last year, presented an opportunity to do so. “There is a Chinese saying that roofs are better repaired before it rains,” he said. “Clearly, that is done best when the sun is shining. Even as we acknowledge the progress in our ties, it is important that we focus on initiatives to further strengthen them.” Part of the initiative, he said, was “to put in place a broader engagement between our societies.”

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