Mahatma Gandhi not only inspired the people of India, but also left a precious spiritual legacy to the world, China has said, invoking his famous words that “China and India are fellow travellers sharing weal and woe in a common journey.”
October 2 has acquired special significance for Beijing ever since the statue of Gandhi, sculpted by China’s acclaimed sculptor and artist Yuan Xikun was installed at the famous Chaoyang park in 2005, providing an opportunity for his admirers in the Communist nation to pay homage to the apostle of peace.
Every year on Gandhi Jayanthi, the picturesque park resonates with recitation of Gandhi bhajans and his famous sayings.
“As the leader and pioneer of the Indian national liberation movement, Gandhi made outstanding contributions to the independence of India,” a senior Chinese official said.
“Known as the Mahatma, his spirit and deeds not only inspired the people of India, but also left a precious spiritual legacy to the world,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
Recalling Gandhi’s observation that “China and India are fellow travellers sharing weal and woe in a common journey”, Geng said China wants to enhance political mutual trust and cooperation with India.
“At present, both China and India are at an important stage of national development. China is ready to work with India to enhance political mutual trust, expand practical cooperation and jointly achieve national rejuvenation,” Geng said.
China is also willing to strengthen the strategic communication and constantly push forward the China-India relations, he said.
His comments came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping are set to meet in Mamallapuram near Chennai soon.
Modi and Xi according to unofficial reports would hold their second informal summit at Mamallapuram from October 11-13. Their first summit in the central Chinese city of Wuhan last year has contributed to the improvement relations between the two countries.
For decades Gandhi, a contemporary of Chairman Mao Zedong who led China’s national liberation movement, has remained an enigma in China as the two leaders professed contrasting political philosophies.
While Mao remained a firm advocate of violent liberation movements with his famous dictum that power flows out of barrel of the gun, Gandhi’s successful non-violent movement against British, in contrast struggled to catch the attention of Chinese.
But Gandhi’s first non-violent movement in Africa has a Chinese link. Over a thousand Chinese took part along with Indians in the protest led by Gandhi against the racist Asiatic ordinance brought about by the Zanzibar government in 1906.
This was Gandhi’s first movement based on the idea of non-violence as an alternative to armed violence to bring about political change, veteran Indian historian Ramachandra Guha said during his visit here in 2013.
For decades, Gandhi and his legacy stayed in the shadows as Mao remained at the helm till his death in 1976.
According to the survey carried out by state-run Global Times in 2009, about 60 most foreign leaders who influenced China, Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru figured from India while Gandhi’s name was conspicuously absent.
But Gandhi seems to be striking chord with modern China as his name now figures high among the “well known Indians in China”, according to an online survey carried out among the Chinese netizens by the state-run China Plus.
The name of Gandhi figured higher than Tagore, Nehru and Aamir Khan, who in recent years has become a household name after success of several of his films in China starting with Three Idiots.
The results of the survey were released at “China-India youth talks” programme conducted on Saturday here by China Plus and China Radio International.
The programme featured some of young Indian based in China and their counterparts working in India.
Yuan, who is the Curator of the Jin Tai Art Museum, organises the October 2 event every year in Beijing in coordination with the Indian Embassy.
“Gandhi stands tall among the tallest of the leaders. His multifaceted message combining spirituality with political movements of his time has inspired me to create this statue to pay my homage to him,” Yuan said in one of his addresses on Gandhi Jayanthi.
Gandhi’s ideology such as devotion, self-control and self-motivation have many similarities between the philosophies advocated by ancient Chinese thinkers like Confucius, Mengzi, Laozi and Zhuangzi, Yuan said.
Incidentally, the first Chinese version of a book on Gandhi’s outstanding leadership was launched in 2013 here with official sanction from the government.
The book written by former Indian diplomat-turned eminent Gandhian, Pascal Alan Nazareth was released at the Peking University’s, Centre for India Studies in the presence of the University’s faculty, students and the then Indian Ambassador to China and the present External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
“What has made Gandhi different from other similar figures is that with the passage of time, his message and example has acquired an increasingly universal relevance,” Jaishankar said while releasing the book.
Currently, China has one centre of Gandhian studies. The centre was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Fudan University in Shanghai during his visit on 2015.