Thirty years ago, when Jiang Xiaoyan was a little girl in China’s Sichuan province, she watched an Indian woman with sindoor living a miserable life with a man she did not love — before her lover salvaged her.
Like millions of others across the world, Jiang’s first Bollywood memory was also her first introduction to India.
The 36-year-old now works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing and is headed for a career as a diplomat. She hasn’t watched a Bollywood movie in ages, but also hasn’t lost track of India — referred to as “Indu” in her country.
“Many people believe India has great potential. The GDP growth is very high, it has a great advantage in software development, and many businesses are outsourced to India,” she said.
“Many people are also fascinated with the history and culture of India — with Gandhi, the Taj Mahal, the colonial history,” she said.
Jiang moved to Beijing from the southwest 17 years ago for university education, then got through a nationwide selection test that chooses China’s future diplomats. Bollywood movies have not been screened in China for years, but she believes it is India’s biggest goodwill tool in her country.
“Thirty years ago, everyone in China was watching Bollywood films. Now it has changed,” she said.
Across the country, young urban Chinese like her know far more about India — and have an opinion. And all of it is not flattering.
“Some well-educated people believe that India is heavily influenced by the Western media,” she said. “They feel Indians don’t have a positive attitude towards China. The border dispute and the refuge to the Dalai Lama… I think there are still suspicions between the two countries."