New directions in China : time for the Dragon and the Elephant to dance together ?

I have been in Beijing for the last 3 days, attending and speaking at a conference on the creative industries. Now I will take a day off to go to spend the day at the Beijing Film Academy and the Institute of Fine arts. I really enjoy being in Beijing, and its not just the food ! Its the architecture, its the warmth of their people and the sheer pleasure of interacting with a culture that is as ancient and as mythical as our own.
On the point of culture, China has now decided the next area of economic growth is in the fields of culture and the creative industries. And as China is prone to do, it stops at nothing to implement its plans and all over China new townships are sprouting up dedicated to the development of art, design, animation, film, literature and publishing and encompassing all of what the new media has to offer such as video gaming etc. The thrust is now to extend this idea of creativity into pushing for originality to be created and owned internally in all fields, rather than become the worlds largest outsourcing economy and the supplier of manufacturing goods to the rest fo the world based on patents or technologies bought from the western nations. Thsi is exciting and exactly the vision I have for India. There is a wealth of imagination and creativity that is sitting in both nations waiting to explode and express itself.
I have said this often – that culture defines the way we live, what we consume, how we consume it, and how we interact with the rest of the world and do business. Culture defines and underpins economic growth and any economic growth that does not take into account the culture and mythology of the people will ultimately cause huge contradictions and friction in that society.
I think the collapse of the world financial systems have been a great lesson to all of us on how a culture we all so readily accepted has come collapsing down. It is time for us to understand that we need to flow with our own paths and not so blindly accept Western ways, nor allow ourselves to be judged by Western points of view or goal posts of development. For example – what does gross domestic product really mean ? Does that mean that Tansen singing in Akbar’s court was an unproductive activity if there was no means of actually measuring its value in monetary terms ? We must now redefine how we describe the rise in wealth of our people, their happiness in terms of our culture.
It is also time for the two great cultures to come together now……


We are defined by many common mythologies and philosophies. Buddhism came from India and most Chinese people are quick to point that out with a lot of warmth and respect for India. The Elephant and the Dragon is the phrase they use here, and it is time for us to finally bury our addiction to the West and to form cultural and creative bonds with China. It will be good for us economically too. The creative industries lead to the creation of intellectual property within our nations, so that the next great leaps in technology too in other fields arise from the imagination of our people. The exploration of art and culture has a great knock on effect.
It is what will lead us into the next generation of being truly great leading economies and cultures in world.

21 Responses to “New directions in China : time for the Dragon and the Elephant to dance together ?”

  1. Sir,
    Todays article has whacked the back of my Head!!
    Its such a long and overdue topic which needs a National Debate and with deep understanding.
    My concern in continuation of ELEPHANT AND DRAGON is that we are being forced to electronise and digitise our creativity be it Music, Handicraft, Folk dance sports etc.
    The shortage of resources and an urgent need to feed the stomach of overblown population has taken away our option of making choices.
    A PC or any electronic screen (mobile) has taken away our power of thinking and wisdom to an affordable and monetizing medium.
    We dont have public platforms for the Tansens and Amrapallis, the Akhadas and Sports field to channelise the energies of our Youth populaton.
    Our minds are constantly diverted to shoe throwing electronic video games to vent out our frustrations and anger.
    Real Estate Industry wants to build Multi storeyed Malls/Multiplexes BPO complexes, supported by Tax benefits to monetize money for the investors and government revenues.
    We need participation in building and raising our handicrafts (charkha), Music, folk dance, sports academy, painting and natural parks for these creative activities.
    Most of all we need forests for our Elephants Tigers and Lions to survive. We are challenging the very ecology our nature has provided us.
    Vinod Agarwal – Gets carried away culturally!!

  2. asif says:

    Shekhar bhai, Could you also tell us some stories of resentment towards India from China ? I mean, “The Elephant and The Dragon” is a very touching sentiment but the fact is the last time we trusted the Chinese, they almost invaded our country. Tibet is also a taboo word in China and a pain point between our relations. Why aren’t these issues raised ? Should India let go of it’s policy in Tibet for better relations with China, in effect acting in self-interest ? I have nothing against China, except Tienanmen Square , or the mind boggling hero-worship of Chairman Mao – but then again, I have respect for the Chinese people. The Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics declared to the world that China had arrived !
    But I hope you do understand this uncertainty and confusion I feel in accepting China as a gracious neighbour.

  3. Rudra says:

    Shekhar,
    I am surprised at your ostritch like worldview vis-a-vis China. If your three days in upper crust Beijing can whitewash China’s un-pardonable misdeamanors in your Head – like : genocide in Tibet, cultural and territorial expansion into India , arming the rogue regimes in pakistan – even with nuke technology , and undermining India at every occasion possible – example :- obstructing India’s Oil field purchases in Central Asia , vetoeing Shashi Tharoroor’s nomination for the post of secretary general of UN , Vetoeing the banning of Jamat-Ud-Dawa three times before Mumbai attacks – the list is endless – then something must be surely wrong with your Head , Shekhar.
    This is the problem with wooly headed Indians who pose as educated statesmen – before becomming statesmen , we need to be realists – we know what Nehruvian ‘ Hindi Chini bhai bhai’ did to us.
    China is in an expansion mode – it is subverting India among its own Neighbours – we have a communist Nepal now providing the corridor cutting across into India from Bihar , Chattisgarh to the jungles of Warangal – if you want to trust the Dragon – good luck !
    I am with Sardar Patel’s and Napoleon’s assesssment of China – the former warned Nehru that the day China feels confident it will invade and undermine India, while the latter said ‘ let China sleep , for when it wakes up , the world will regret’.

  4. Paul says:

    Why is this person talking about Tibet, instead of about Kashmir?
    Hypocrite.

  5. Sanjay Bose says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Great post and it ties in to this new article I just read about you by PTI News that’s making headlines all over … Screen India, Zee News etc. and more pieces will be coming out soon I would expect (I’ve included the links below). It seems all 3 of your dreams are about to come true ie. Spiderman taking off his mask and revealing an Indian face; a Hollywood film to promote The Buddha and bringing India and China together as your post suggests.
    As the press article shows all this is due to the ambitious new epic “Robin Hood: The New Zen Warrior” which will make history by casting a Canadian born Indian origin actor Zen Duke in the lead as a sleek modern day Robin Hood updated to present day Obama era America and also filmed in France, UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Hungary, Thailand, India and Canada to show the era of globalization. Also, to bring together the best of East and West the film will update Robin Hood as the first Global Buddhist Superhero who follows the code of the Bodhisattva used by the great zen warriors from the Shaolin monks to the Japanese Samurai. The film will thus feature never-before-filmed martial arts including Kalaripayat and a major homage to the teachings of Buddha and Bodhi Dharma who founded Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism at the Shaolin Temple thus highlighting the historical connection between India and China.
    This is unbelievable news for every Indian for we are always portrayed in unflattering terms in English cinema and our only so called leading man Kal Penn either plays an embarrassing stereotype in Van Wilder or the crazy Islamic terrorist on 24 and so to see a really cool leading man like Zen Duke with his posh English accent and never-before-filmed martial arts moves represent India is the greatest gift any Indian can ask for this Christmas. I even saw on the film’s teaser that a major Canadian News Editor called it “a straight ten masterpiece that combines all the style of a Hollywood blockbuster with the substance of a Deepak Chopra novel”. The buzz is that some major studios are interested in the film but it would be great if yourself, Ronnie Screwvala, Anil Ambani and the like could release it instead of the Hollywood guys — Indians releasing the first global Buddhist Superhero with an Indian playing an English accented Robin Hood for a global audience — this is too good for words. You could even hold the Premiere at the Shaolin Temple in China where the film could be as big as the Passion of the Christ as it pays major homage to the Buddhist legacy and origins of the martial arts and would bring India and China together in a cultural event.
    Pardon my excitement but I am tired of always seeing the “color of cool” as anything but Indian — the African-Americans have Will Smith and Denzel; the Latinos Antonio Banderas and JLo; the Orientals Jet Li and Jackie Chan. If Zen Duke can be the first Indian on that list I’d be ecstatic. He already has the coolest websites anywhere online and if someone of your stature can back him or endorse him, the old boys club of Hollywood won’t dare short-change him on promotion. Anyway, I’ve added the links to the film and the articles that mention you in the same connection fyi.
    Think about it — Shekhar Kapur presents “Robin Hood: The New Zen Warrior” — wow! Maybe its my turn to dream lol
    Best wishes to you always the real Mr. India =)
    Sincerely
    Sanjay Bose.
    Citizen Journalist
    Links I found via google:
    Official film site: robinhoodfilm.com
    Official personal site: zenduke.com
    Press gallery with superb high res pictures : http://www.robinhoodfilm.com/pressgallery.swf
    PTI press links mentioning you and the film: http://www.spicezee.com/articles/story18629.htm
    http://www.screenindia.com/news/Indian-actor-as—Robin-Hood–/400088/

  6. Sanjay Bose says:

    Dear Shekhar,
    Great post and it ties in to this new article I just read about you by PTI News that’s making headlines all over … Screen India, Zee News etc. and more pieces will be coming out soon I would expect (I’ve included the links below). It seems all 3 of your dreams are about to come true ie. Spiderman taking off his mask and revealing an Indian face; a Hollywood film to promote The Buddha and bringing India and China together as your post suggests.
    As the press article shows all this is due to the ambitious new epic “Robin Hood: The New Zen Warrior” which will make history by casting a Canadian born Indian origin actor Zen Duke in the lead as a sleek modern day Robin Hood updated to present day Obama era America and also filmed in France, UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Hungary, Thailand, India and Canada to show the era of globalization. Also, to bring together the best of East and West the film will update Robin Hood as the first Global Buddhist Superhero who follows the code of the Bodhisattva used by the great zen warriors from the Shaolin monks to the Japanese Samurai. The film will thus feature never-before-filmed martial arts including Kalaripayat and a major homage to the teachings of Buddha and Bodhi Dharma who founded Kung Fu and Zen Buddhism at the Shaolin Temple thus highlighting the historical connection between India and China.
    This is unbelievable news for every Indian for we are always portrayed in unflattering terms in English cinema and our only so called leading man Kal Penn either plays an embarrassing stereotype in Van Wilder or the crazy Islamic terrorist on 24 and so to see a really cool leading man like Zen Duke with his posh English accent and never-before-filmed martial arts moves represent India is the greatest gift any Indian can ask for this Christmas. I even saw on the film’s teaser that a major Canadian News Editor called it “a straight ten masterpiece that combines all the style of a Hollywood blockbuster with the substance of a Deepak Chopra novel”. The buzz is that some major studios are interested in the film but it would be great if yourself, Ronnie Screwvala, Anil Ambani and the like could release it instead of the Hollywood guys — Indians releasing the first global Buddhist Superhero with an Indian playing an English accented Robin Hood for a global audience — this is too good for words. You could even hold the Premiere at the Shaolin Temple in China where the film could be as big as the Passion of the Christ as it pays major homage to the Buddhist legacy and origins of the martial arts and would bring India and China together in a cultural event.
    Pardon my excitement but I am tired of always seeing the “color of cool” as anything but Indian — the African-Americans have Will Smith and Denzel; the Latinos Antonio Banderas and JLo; the Orientals Jet Li and Jackie Chan. If Zen Duke can be the first Indian on that list I’d be ecstatic. He already has the coolest websites anywhere online and if someone of your stature can back him or endorse him, the old boys club of Hollywood won’t dare short-change him on promotion. Anyway, I’ve added the links to the film and the articles that mention you in the same connection fyi.
    Think about it — Shekhar Kapur presents “Robin Hood: The New Zen Warrior” — wow! Maybe its my turn to dream lol
    Best wishes to you always the real Mr. India =)
    Sincerely
    Sanjay Bose.
    Citizen Journalist
    Links I found via google:
    Official film site: robinhoodfilm.com
    Official personal site: zenduke.com
    Press gallery with superb high res pictures : http://www.robinhoodfilm.com/pressgallery.swf
    PTI press links mentioning you and the film: http://www.spicezee.com/articles/story18629.htm
    http://www.screenindia.com/news/Indian-actor-as—Robin-Hood–/400088/

  7. antibrahmastra says:

    I agree with you completely Shekhar jee. India and China can help and learn from each other.
    I have always found Chinese respectful towards Indian culture and achievements..yes, we had/have issues with them, but then, both of us have been guilty..
    Rudra, are you a friend or alter ego of brahmastra?..because I smell same hatred and jingoism from your comments as my great friend brahmastra..you are quoting patel and napolean..somebody here can quote from thousand other sources proving our closeness to chinese..
    Dont play with words..this world will become a better place only when we all can live together despite our differences..

  8. Neeta says:

    I notice when we talk of a country, we are either talking of it’s government or the people and we need to make that distinction because even though the government represents the people of a country, many a times it’s policies are contrary to the interests of it’s people. And when it comes to the people there are similarities in all cultures that are human in nature and therefore independent of geographical happenstance.
    I’ve met the most heartwarming and genuine people in the US. The occassional unsavoury incident I’ve come across may be disrespectful at worst but never downright humiliating. Their communication is largely civil, open and clear and is a challenge to the less analytical or verbose, but also fosters free expression, transparency and open mindedness. I haven’t been to many countries but I’m sure every people bring their own uniqueness and enrich our world in some way. Hope you continue to enjoy the rest of your stay in China.

  9. mohmaya says:

    u are so right abt culture and its weight or depth or measurement+ the fact that if nt addressed nothing can be understood

  10. harpreet says:

    Shekhar,
    Please be kind enough to read once again post no.18 pt no.2 on your “A New Beginning” blog.
    May be I was one and a half years too early then.
    A beautiful biopic on Hueng Tsang- the 7th Century traveller who laid the foundations of friendly relations between the two great civilisations is the need of the hour.
    Buddha is fine but Hueng Tsang is more close to an ordinary person trying to be (or build) a bridge between two peoples.
    Prempurushottama

  11. harpreet says:

    Shekhar,
    Please be kind enough to read once again post no.18 pt no.2 on your “A New Beginning” blog.
    May be I was one and a half years too early then.
    A beautiful biopic on Hueng Tsang- the 7th Century traveller who laid the foundations of friendly relations between the two great civilisations is the need of the hour.
    Buddha is fine but Hueng Tsang is more close to an ordinary person trying to be (or build) a bridge between two peoples.
    Prempurushottama

  12. Rudra says:

    antibrahmastra,
    I am no one’s alter-ego , except of the true spirit of India . Indian spirit is universal and acknowledges all paths as valid – but we have a responsibility as the world’s most profound and ancient culture , to the rest of humanity – something India has been in denial of.
    A responsibility towards people that look up to us and to our own heritage is the calling upon India and we have been letting down not just ourselves but our friends alike.
    Part of the problem with India’s inttellectuals is a denial of threats India faces and seeing truth clearly.
    I hope this changes well in time before India’s enemies win and India is incapacitated by its own irreverant children .

  13. James Phelan says:

    Hi Shekhar,
    I enjoy reading your isights into new media and developing cultural activity around the world. This piece was particularly interesting.
    While we know that China has some appalling acts of human rights abuse, it is through embracing their arts that they will come to terms with what they have done and what they do – we in the West have done this for the past 200 years or so, and that is why our own government and legal systems are as “good” as they are now. I’m not saying that we are perfect, but it’s through a collective awareness of what is going on in our society that will make a shift in consciousness among the masses that will see effective change. If China opens up and encourages it’s artists and citizens to start creating and start consuming art, it will be the beginning of something special, something that will one day blossom and evolve into a tuned-in, listened-to, engaged system of government. Because their population will be aware, an with that awareness will come their voice. Every nation, like with every individual, has it’s own unique path to humanity (France, Australia, the US, England – we’ve all persecuted our people and not that long ago), and China will soon be back to a inhabiting the special place it was a long time ago. A beacon of humanity it may not be now, but any encouragement of the arts is vital to one day achieving that.
    Cheers,
    James Phelan.

  14. brahmastra says:

    Rudra,
    Most of these new breed of pseudo-secular Indians are newer immature souls probably reincarnated from other lands..hence they are not so rooted in the ancient wisdom. They will learn when they go through the fire of half-truth ideologies that they are so passionately stroking..they’ll learn from experience.
    It is one thing to understand reality and the depth of unity consciousness, and another to live in a deluded domain of morality and harmony which stems from a lack thereof in other areas. And people like antibrahmastra are internal viral cells..a wasteful citizen of India..it is the negative side of democracies to allow such peasants to voice their opinions. Such people have probably never seen the world or read anymore than a few pages on Indian heritage, and they do not understand that India is growing like a giant worldwide primarily because of its ancient cultural appeal, grounded mannerism and unparalleled intellectual abilities, a genetically propagated blessing from the ancient Hindu ways of life.
    Instead of harnessing and cultivating a fertile ground for the rise of such ascensional benevolent ancient ways for the betterment of mankind as a whole, these ignorant fools live in their small-minded communal cocoons without a thorough grasp of the context whilst assisting the spread of lower fanatic religions. The people on the outside have a much better valuation of the potential of India than many Indians.
    But, as you mentioned, at some point there will be “visible” divine intervention to brighten the light of the Vedas to illumine the growing darkness..how low does the world need to fall for that to happen..remains to be seen.
    As far as China is concerned..their leadership would have shot the Buddha if he was around..so that sums it all up. A smoke screen they have created while they feed the Pakistani cancer. Those sneaky commis have even trained a sniffer lama to identify a Dalai of their choice after the death of current one. The advanced souls and true Buddhists there are being held captive as well by a low-level strata. Such is the nature of Kali Yuga..domination by lower beings.

  15. austere says:

    I guess I’d advocate a wait and watch approach.
    While an openness to ideas and innovation is to be admired/ envied, one wonders if these ideas would be allowed if they deviated from the dictated official line.
    Also, in certain other industries such as dyestuffs and drug intermediates, for example, the Chinese have a set a precedent of learning technology from others, and then pricing everyone else out of the market.

  16. Prempurushottama says:

    I,m sure the picture on dec13-19 Economist provoked you to(as it did me) reassure that China indeed was the great Dragon and India an Elephant to counter the economist’s provocative cover showing China as a small Panda standing near a big yet vulnerable elephant that is India.
    Well the panda could have been shown big but ultimately dragon is not a real being but only a myth. Shouldn’t China be allowed to project itself(and be percieved the world over) as the cute Panda.

  17. Rudra says:

    brahmastra,
    the truth of the matter cannot possibly be put better than what you’ve written..I hope the effort of supra-mental beings to create a better conduit to this afflicted planet does become an astral super-highway for spiritually evolved souls to incarnate , populate and in turn save the sacred space of this planet.
    peace.

  18. KM Rakesh says:

    Dear Sir,
    You are bang on! It’s a pity I didn’t get to read this blog earlier. But this is the thinking that we need to develop in India. Why is a Tansen concert, or Thygaraja’s rendition of his new raaga any different from XYZ Corporation making X amount of money in terms of value? As a people, it’s time we understood the worth of our culture, artistes, writers, poets, singers, musicians and actors. Why can’t a new India be one that is built on its cultural elements, as much as a technology-driven modern economy that is neither West nor East, capitalist or socialist? Why don’t Indians like us begin to recognise the larger contribution made by our creative people, and with that encourage more creativity? It’s masters like you who must take the lead for people like us to follow. While it’s fine to have a multi-million dollar cricket team, and a film industry (not just Bollywood), that generates huge wealth and employment, we have to dig up the inherent wealth of our artistic talent. Whether fine arts or performing arts, India has them all. The other day I was reading about AR Rahman’s new school where western classical music is taught. Why can’t we have one in every major city or even some of the bigger towns? Let the corporations pitch in with their might and let music reverberate from every corner of India. And by music, I mean all genres. Let’s continue with India’s folkloric openness to alien cultures. While China has always had a headstart in everything between our two countries, it’s never too late for India to start off. Let’s at least be in the race. Only that’ll throw up a winner.

  19. Shekhar adaab!
    I am raaja jaffrey, entertainment–advertising professional, creative strategist & a versatile writer. I am a huge fan of your sense of cinema & i do identify an ideological connection to write you!
    I am prepared to begin a much needed, nation-wide integrated cultural movement and culminate this into India’s 1st culture corporate house! This functionally big idea has all the potentials to build & establish India as a ‘cultural supper brand’!
    I am looking out for an ideologically driven corporate, organisation, individual back-up, support, venture partner(s). I am open to mail the facts & briefs. I wish to have some of your precious time to discuss the same, whenever you visit India(Mumbai) next!
    Please find my work profile attached. I am looking forward for an early response.
    Warm regards
    Raaja Jaffrey
    09322087479
    09867643849
    senseandcinema@gmail.com
    indiajaneman@aol.com

  20. Shekhar adaab
    as an entertainment brand strategist & a versatile writer, i have innitiated a movement to form a like minded panel of cinema professionals. the aim is to brake away from star crippled bollywood system & create a professional working model for sensible breed of makers world wide. its a brand new idium of a fresh wave cinema which is missing on the world wide screen since ages. you are precious & an important person for the movement.i invite you to join the panel.pls connect soon.
    warm regard
    raaja jaffrey
    senseandcinema@gmail.com

  21. Ravi says:

    Sir,
    I am Ravi from Kanpur. My friend is a writer and has written a story for a film.We think that this story can become a great film under your direction. Please give us an opportunity to discuss the story with you and make our dream come true.
    Looking forward to hear from you soon.
    Best Regards,
    Ravi
    ravi.psc@rediffmail.com

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