[chahy-nuh-muhn] The expression ‘Chinaman’ has got a bunch of meanings. At its most basic, it’s an offensive term used to refer to a Chinese or a person of Chinese descent. It’s also slang in a political sense used to talk about a protector or benefactor. For those of us in cricket-playing India, meanwhile, the word in the lower case is perhaps more familiar – a ball bowled by a left-handed bowler to a right-handed batsman that spins from off to leg. Whatever. I can’t quite understand that either. Not much of a cricketer. Football (also known somewhere, as ‘soccer’) has been more my game. But giving offense isn’t what this is about. Or about being Don Corelone. Or about explaining cricket. Nope.
My friends started calling me “ChinaMan” at university because I was always talking about China, well before ordinary Indians started obsessing about China. I could put a China spin – cricket, again! – to anything and everything. This interest in China however, began in school, in the long years before mobile telephones and the internet, when one read newspapers at leisure, made careful clippings and notes found their place in neatly marked (paper) files and (paper) folders. This is the 21st century though, and in the interests of keeping up with the times and to thank my friends for their encouragement, comes this blog about one Indian’s immodest plan to understand and explain China. One chap out of a billion plus, trying to figure out another billion plus. And occasionally both billions together.
Jabin T. Jacob Fellow (Associate Professor) Institute of Chinese Studies Delhi, India