The Quintessential Difference between the Chinese and Indians

Life-changing Chinese education for a Malay businessman

"Due to the fact that I studied at a Chinese primary school before, speaking Mandarin and making Chinese friends are matters that come naturally to me.

"From there, I have also learned the spirit of going all out to achieve my goals as well as the entrepreneurial and business model of the Chinese people, which is to always try our best to look for all possible avenues if the road ahead of us is hindered.” source

Besides the above being a spot of cultural propaganda – given that we don’t have similar accounts with regards to Malay or Indian cultures – I will also have to say that that is one of the essential differences between the Chinese and the Indians. I’ve often thought that the quintessential difference between the Chinese, or more accurately, those Chinese who have been taught to abide by the traditions of thought that ensued from the Qin dynasty onward, and the Indian, or more accurately, the Indians from the subcontinent, is that the Qin-ese paradigm is quite adequately illustrated by the phrase many often use in singapore, ‘It’s like that one’ (that’s the way it is), as opposed to the Indian, ‘why must like that one!’.

I said to my mom once, when we were talking politics, Lee (Kuan Yew) doesn’t ‘look down’ on Indians and he isn’t a racist (as some people might be inclined to think) – though his methods might be described as such. Rather, he is wary of them because no political party can ever hope for political longevity when Indians are around because they are culturally-induced to think about things from a variety of angles and go a lot by logic and reason.

The Chinese are also a very logical and reasonable people. But the difference is, with the Indians, they use it not only to make the best of a bad situation, but to also get rid of the said bad situation. As for the Chinese, their focus is on the former, and not the latter. That is the difference between what I term, long-term or collective pragmatism vs. short-term or familial pragmatism. The Chinese version of ‘pragmatism’, in contrast to the Indian version, is a severely contracted one that generally includes only one’s family or group, whilst the latter can include all sentient life-forms (though quite, but not completely, compromised by the caste system) (i.e. Whilst the Chinese have all sorts of life-forms in their cuisine, Indians had hospitals for animals, and even before Jesus was born) Or putting it another way, familial pragmatism refers to getting one’s family through whatever the status quo, and the former refers to changing the status quo so that we can get our family through. The latter usually leads to the growth of greater empathy. The Indians seek to question after the foundations of the ‘here-and-now’, whilst the Qin-ese seek to renovate the structure despite the foundations.

That, I suppose, is why whilst I have never heard the Chinese criticising 'Chinese' culture for contributing to social problems, I have often heard Indians criticising their own culture in attempts to identify its root causes. The latter is to be expected when people attempt to be the masters of their destiny as opposed to being servants of the directives of some elite. If one was to peruse, say, Chinese philosophy, history, amongst others, one will find that the post-Qin Chinese have mainly been concerned not with ‘what ought to be’ in the face of ‘what is’, but ‘what ought to be’ after taking ‘what is’ for granted. That is, in essence, the Legalist/Confucian way.

I have often said to my Chinese friends, if you want democracy, get some chilli powder into your system – minus the ‘ghee’ as that just gives you too much blood pressure. ‘Be Indian’. And by ‘Indian’, I do not mean, ethnically, but perspectivally, for the true Indian realises that ‘to be Indian’ is to ‘not be Indian’ as far as ‘the way things are’ goes. ‘Indian’ basically means ‘multiculturalism’ – just as ‘British’ is gradually coming to mean in the past few decades (and they are certainly better at it in some respects). They do not see chaos in multicultural and multi-perspectival ‘disorder’, but the potential to exact various ingredients from its seemingly incongruent elements to dialectically advance the imaginative and logical mechanism so that more can be made out of that which one previously couldn’t discern. Thus, it was no surprise to me that they had invented the number ‘0’ or produced the concept of the ‘OM’ amongst a myriad of philosophical perspectives embedded in the meaning behind the identity and exploits of their numerous God/desses, or that it was India, and not China, that is a significant force in the logic-based IT industry.

That’s why, if Lee didn’t dilute the pot of curry with a gallon and a half of soya sauce, the PAP would either be in opposition, or would have evolved to cater to the interests of the masses as ‘servants’ as opposed to ‘trustees’ (which is what Goh Chok Tong stated on ‘Hardtalk’ some years ago).

I suppose it was quite simple to associate the Chinese of singapore with the post-Qin perspective since all that had to be done was to appeal to the Chinese people’s sense of cultural pride as this would not be possible with those whose recent biological ancestors did not originate in China. Along with this, the demonisation of difference, the quelling of counterpositional thought, the institution of both a siege mentality and monoculturalism worked well with that to deliver the ‘miracle’ that is the singapore, or more accurately, the Qin-gapore of today. In that, the PAP took the easy way. It is not much of achievement to take a big stick and tell everyone to do as they’re told ‘or else the ISD’s gonna whisk you away in the wee hours of the morn’. But it is far more difficult to manage contrasting perspectives and facilitate its dialectical fusion for the production of that which will always be far more than what the former strategy can ever produce. I thought people might learn something about the Indian way as opposed to the Qin way when India left to take over half the Silicon Valley whilst the Chinese took to the factories in China. But, I suppose, too much cultural pride doesn’t really help when it comes to an objective appreciation of things.

But the irony of it all is, if the Chinese ever become ‘more Indian’, they will eventually find their way back to Chou, (pre-Qin period) as Chou and Indian, amongst others, are, in quite some respects, interchangeable terms. But if not, all that will transpire, as it already has, is that the frog will marvel at the expanse of the sky from within the bowels of a well and take it for all of the sky for want of a personality to appreciate more. You see, no ‘road ahead of us’ can be ‘hindered’ unless we can prove that we cannot logically do something about it. But when we utilise our logic to get around it, it comes at the price of our transitioning from the movers of civilisation to its victims. For myself, given the choice of 'being Qin-ese' or 'being Indian', I'd certainly opt for the latter, because in that, I am able to be Chinese, whereas in the former, I am able to be nothing but.

At the end of the day, remember, mountains are not scaled by ‘trying our best to look for all possible avenues’ to get around it.



postscript: If various parties think it alright to blatantly promote Qin-ese culture over others, it falls upon us to dissect it for its value.


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