China, India and a bit on how I see them both

I am on my way to China. I am not going on any work assignment. I am going to accompany my wife, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew, ( who has work in the Guangzhou Photo Biennial. The hosts at the museum (and the University of Rhode Island) have been especially generous in making her trip possible. Our abundance of frequent flier miles has made it possible for me to go also. I am going to see China, obviously, but I am also going to see if I can get any perspective on what has changed in China since I went there back in 1986.

For someone who goes to India as much as I do, China is of special interest. China and India are seen as the major Asian rivals vying for power and prestige on the international stage. In this competition, only time will tell who will “win.” This is not a blog entry about the power politics of Asia. But, I am pretty sure by the time the competition ends, if it ever really does, the definition of “winning” will have changed many times.

I see India having a long-term advantage over China because it is a democracy (as unwieldy as the democracy may be.) Also, population demographics favor India, where the average working person’s age is in the twenties vs. China, where the average working person’s age is in the forties. Many things are similar in both countries and equally as many are different. In this trip to China, as a veteran traveler to India, I will be looking at China closely to see differences, similarities, strengths and weaknesses.

Here are a couple photos that I made in 1986.

Here are a couple photos of me in China in 1986.

I was there in the winter, when it was cold and indoor heating was limited. We are now expecting hot weather. I was lucky enough to see China in 1986, with a friend who speaks Chinese and was working there. Mark Avery ( went on to become a Staff Photographer for the Associated Press, in Beijing. Encountering China through his eyes has much in common with the way I encounter India through my wife and her family. This trip is shorter and yet I am hoping that our hosts in Guangzhou will enable me to see China at least partly through their eyes and experiences.

2 responses to “China, India and a bit on how I see them both”

  1. For your sake I hope the food is a hell of a lot better then it was in the 80’s!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.