1950s China-India Chronology

1950s China-India Chronology: A Resource for Research and Teaching

by Arunabh Ghosh


Welcome to the chronological database of 1950s China-India history! Here you can find information about a range of China-India activity during a dynamic and dramatic time in the histories of both countries.

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The Republic of India and the People’s Republic of China both emerged as newly established nation-states at the end of the 1940s, putting behind them decades of prolonged strife and struggle. Endowed with huge, predominantly agrarian populations, burdened with widespread poverty, and possessing economies with underdeveloped and tiny industrial sectors, they faced daunting challenges to governance and development. Both countries were also multi-ethnic, multi-cultural societies that had inherited a variety of border problems and suffered some degree of territorial dismemberment. How these challenges were going to be met was of great interest to observers the world over, many of whom were only too keen to pass judgment on each country’s prospects.

The 1950s were also a time when Chinese and Indians from different walks of life interacted enthusiastically. They were frequent visitors in each other’s lands, eager to share and learn from each other’s experiences. Today, however, our knowledge of this vibrant period of engagement is overshadowed by the legacy of the war they fought in 1962. In the years that followed, the bonhomie of the 1950s was soon forgotten. In India, defeat led to a deep and enduring suspicion of anything Chinese and a greater engagement with the Soviet Union. In China, victory meant a strategic tilt toward Pakistan and a gentle but pervasive erasure from the public consciousness of anything about India. Within the academy, the impact of 1962 was just as drastic, resulting in an overwhelming emphasis on diplomatic and political history. Mutual ignorance about 1950s China and India is the norm in both countries today.

This chronological database has been created to begin countering some of that ignorance. It complements the article “Before 1962: The Case for 1950s China-India History,” [link] published in the August 2017 issue of The Journal of Asian Studies (Vol. 76, No. 3), and offers information not included there. As you browse through the database, you will discover a range of activities spanning science, academia, education, art and culture, economics, trade, industry, sports, and much else. These activities can help us recognize that an approach that takes seriously cultural, scientific, and economic life leads to different sources and different historical arguments from an approach focused on political (and especially high political) life.

There is much still left to discover, learn, and research. In the coming months, we will invite contributions from readers who in the course of their own work (re)discover other important moments of contact, cooperation, competition, and yes, even conflict! It is our hope that the database will continue to grow.

For now, welcome again and enjoy your time making new discoveries!

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