Chinese people’s impression of India, however, is not always that upbeat. After the hit in the Doklam faceoff, China is now impressed with India and its traditions. Overwhelmed by negative news about rapes, slums and sewage, the Chinese used to see India as a dirty, disorderly and backward third-world nation. But the situation is dramatically changing now, more and more reforms by PM Modi Government winning the hearts of Chinese audiences and erase some misunderstandings, presenting a more wholesome glimpse into modern India.
Yoga clubs have, over the past two years, been popping up in Chinese cities like mushrooms after a rainy day as India continues to heavily promote the ancient art at a global level. Following Indian Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China in May of 2015, the Chinese and Indian governments have also been cooperating on joint Yoga-Taichi events.
Yoga has in fact been popularized in China for more than a decade, becoming well-known even in fourth- and fifth-tier cities, Lin Xiaohai, founder of Chan Yoga, the first professional yoga club in China. It even has entered the public school system in some cities across China. For example, a primary school in Shenyang, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, has included yoga in their morning exercise routines.
The Indian government aims to promote yoga as a non-religious activity globally and encourage more people to get to know India by practicing yoga, Lin, who is also director of the China-India Friendship Association, noted. Yoga was prioritized to the highest level after PM Modi suggested it as an international event.
In 2014, the UN proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga. Modi himself led a group of 35,000 people from 84 countries at a public group yoga event in New Delhi on June 21, 2015.
During PM Modi’s visit to China in 2015, he and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang jointly attended a Yoga-Taichi event in Beijing, with PM Modi saying that the “disciplines are a unique medium to connect the cultural heritage of the two countries,” the Economic Times reported.
Lin also mentioned that the Chinese market for yoga-related businesses has enjoyed a rapid rise in recent years, which has created more than one million jobs in the industry. “Many Indian Yoga teachers have come to China since 2003, and the number will keep increasing in the future,” said Lin.
In an effort to promote yoga in China as well as encourage further bilateral cultural exchanges, Yunnan Minzu University, in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) co-founded in 2015 the first specialized Chinese yoga school. Lang Gongxun, vice president of the India-China Yoga College, told that ICCR dispatched teaching faculty to Yunnan Minzu University, including professors with doctoral degrees in Indian Yoga.
“As two bright pearls of the Oriental civilization, Chinese and Indian cultures share common ground… our school is a new platform for bilateral exchanges. Aside from yoga, students can also know more about Indian history, culture and its languages,” Lang said. He added that the university offers majors for Hindi languages and also launched personnel exchanges with institutes, enterprises and universities in India.
The Indian Embassy in China has also taken active measures to promote yoga in China. According to an email sent to the Global Times by the Embassy of India to China, it organized week-long celebrations in June of 2017 to commemorate the 3rd International Day of Yoga, during which around 300 Chinese yoga enthusiasts came together at the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall in Beijing to practice various styles of Yoga.
“To carry forward the success” of previous yoga events, the Indian Embassy is scheduled to organize more events, festivals and movies, and is also working with various Chinese universities to hold Indian Cultural Weeks to further popularize Indian art among Chinese youth.
“Despite the tense military and political situation along the border, India has done better work in stretching its soft power, which is partly because of their pride in their culture and their efforts in protecting their traditions,” Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
The graceful gesture of yoga will help burnish India’s friendly, harmonious and inoffensive image. When ‘Asian Century’ is becoming trendy nowadays and India’s economic growth rate has surpassed China, PM Modi wants to display India’s resolution by promoting yoga-related events.
But China should still learn from India, as its ways of showing off its soft power are more acceptable than some of China’s government-support programs overseas. Our Prime Minister wants to spread his thoughts and ideologies all over the world to attract more investment, technologies and assistance… and this stretching of soft power also aims to make up for the shortage of India’s hard power.