Thousands of Chinese, given a choice, would want to move farther away from India and to have Pakistan as a closer neighbour, according to a new survey that asked respondents to “play God” and rearrange neighbours.
More than 200,000 netizens participated in the online survey conducted by the nationalistic Global Times newspaper that asked three questions: “What do you think a neighbour country should be like?”, “Which neighbour country do you want to move away the most and which you want to stay?” and “Which country do you want to put beside China?”
The questions were then divided into choices for the reason behind the response.
The verdict, as it turned out, was clear: Japan, with more than 13000 votes, won the poll as the “least popular” neighbour that respondents wanted to move away from.
India, with 10,416 votes, ranked fifth among the countries that were moved away by respondents.
India was in the company of disliked – and “please move away” – neighbours such as the Philippines, Vietnam, North Korea, Afghanistan and Indonesia.
“Net users used their votes to show the bond shared by China and Pakistan, with 11,831 people wanting the country to ‘stay as a neighbour’,” the newspaper said.
It probably helped that China and Pakistan do not have a territorial dispute either on land or at sea.
According to Sun Lizhou, deputy director of the Academy of the World and China Agendas at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law, the border dispute with China marred India’s chances in the poll.
“China and India have disputes over 120,000 sq km of land and the two have not signed a treaty to settle border disputes,” Sun told the newspaper. He added the second reason behind India being disliked was that “some overseas Tibetan separatists are under India’s protection”.
Politicians and diplomats from India and China have in recent times spoken in often-glowing terms about how ties are being mended and expanded.
But it was clear from the survey that in certain sections of Chinese society, the long-running border problem and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s base in India remain problem areas – and that despite many Chinese revering Buddhism.
The perception of Japan in the eyes of the Chinese had similar kinks.
“Net users choose to ‘move away Japan’ because the Japanese government has not apologised over historical issues and the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands has soured China-Japan relations,” Sun said, adding the popularity of anti-Japanese TV series too contribute to Japan’s “negative image”.
Sweden, with 9,776 votes, emerged as the country that respondents wanted as a close neighbour. Other such countries were New Zealand, Germany, the Maldives, Singapore, Norway and Thailand.