With a samosa in hand, the online journalist recalled his first tour of India.
Xiaohui Wang was amazed to see first-hand the demographic dividend spilling on the streets and the 'growth potential' in the neighbouring economy China has long neglected. However, he seemed most astounded by a journey he could cover in two hours in his country.
"The Taj Mahal is your national treasure,'' said Xiaohui, deputy director of the China Internet Information Centre. "We spent six hours on the road from Delhi to Agra and five hours on the way back! We were exhausted.''
I replied that I used to spend 90 minutes commuting one-way to work in Mumbai.
"Do you mean 19 minutes?'' he asked hopefully.We were chatting in a meeting with Chinese journalists back from a weeklong tour of New Delhi and Bangalore.
The state media's coverage of India is slowly on the rise, but reporting trips by Chinese journalists to India are still rare.
This media dialogue was unusual compared to past interactions in Beijing that fixated on complaints that the Indian media is 'negative' on China.
The group came back stunned that the economy is growing despite its lack of quality infrastructure.
A journalist said she observed that the Indian public is more 'optimistic' and 'confident' than the Chinese.
Gao Jiquan from the PLA Daily wrote that Bangalore is 'a city almost the same as Shenzhen'.
His 6,000-word piece on India concluded that India will not achieve its 'dream' of overtaking the Chinese economy without fixing its infrastructure, social imbalances and education system.
"In Bangalore, the environment is better than Shenzhen but the infrastructure is the big difference,'' Gao told HT. "Bangalore is similar to Shenzhen only within its economic zone.''
"Population is not productivity,'' remarked Gao, pausing to give an example. "The highway from your capital to Agra…it's just unbelievable."
Five times as many Indians visit China every year as compared to the estimated one lakh Chinese travellers to India. The numbers won't grow until the tales of Indian infrastructure continue to scare away potential Chinese tourists.
Gao said his friends in Beijing were 'startled' to hear the hours he spent on the road from Delhi to Agra. "Isn't the Taj Mahal like your Great Wall?''