India’s China Challenge By Ananth Krishnan
India’s China challenge is one of those books where the author directly apprised not only the Kumbhkarans of India, about one of its most important and mighty neighbours. But, it also presented to the reader an incredible story of a country whose civilization is as old as India’s. A must read book.
A nation whose presence can be easily seen in any Indian household. In fact, even from a toddler to an old age person. None can escape from its omnipresent gaze. And here, I’m not talking about the favorite pastime of Indian citizens and its media i.e Pakistan. But, a state whose products and services became a part of Indian lifestyle. And that country is none other than the, People’s Republic of China (PRC).
In India, you will find people on every nook and corner who are more than eager to share with you about their too much of thoughts about, Pakistan. But, at the same time if you’ll ask them what they think about China. Then, there are high chances that majority of them will remain mum. The latter country is not only remain an engima for the general public but at the same time Indian politicians, journalists and bureaucrats are also find themselves in the same league with their compatriots.
Although, these two ancient civilizations had fought a war in 1962. Not only this, but the border dispute between these two Asian giants remain unresolved to date. And with all of this in mind let’s see what, India’s China challenge tells us about this nation, its history, people and the various challenges it poses to India.
What is India’s China Challenge by Ananth Krishnan?
India’s China challenge, A journey through China’s rise and what it means for India, tells us the real story of a nation which became not only the world’s second largest economy. But, at the same time trying to displace the United States of America as a global leader through their own model i.e. the ‘Chinese model’.
And this rise of PRC, put India in a difficult situation. The challenges are manifold be it political, economic, diplomatic and military. In fact, as the saying goes, An elephant has two sets of teeth. One to show, and the other one to eat. The author presented to the reader both the sides of China. Although, we often mesmerize by the outer layer rather than what happens inside.
The author of this book spent a decade in China. And that’s rare for an Indian journalist. In fact, he travelled to places as far as Xinjiang to the roof of the world, Tibet. He interacted with people of all shades while living there.
In a layman’s language he presented the story. That’s the best part of this book. I strongly recommend this book to those Indians who wanna remove their ignorance about China and its people.
A chaotic beginning –
After fighting a brutal civil war, in October 1949, The leader of the Communist Party of China (CCP), Mao Zedong, announced the formation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) . Two years after India gained its independence in August 1947.
Although, within a few years of its formation, Chairman Mao announced the policy of the Great Leap Forward (1958-62). People were ordered to build furnaces to produce steel. Farmers left their farms, workers left their jobs, and the whole nation started producing steel in the hope that they will become the world’s largest steel producing nation.
In fact, from farm tools to hairpin, everything that contain an iota of metal was burnt to produce metal. And this proved disastrous not only for the people but also for the nation as a whole. The steel they produced was of unusable quality. And because farmers left their farms untended, this gave rise to another unforseen disaster.
The Great Leap Forward, gave rise to the Great Famine of China (1962-66). In this famine millions of Chinese were starved to death. In fact, there were reports of people who survived by consuming dead bodies of humans.
Although, even after committing these avoidable blunders, Mao decided to shake the Chinese society once more. He started the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). And in this revolution there is nothing that can be qualified as culture. In fact, it gave rise to something unexpected. Students of schools and universities were at the forefront of the cultural revolution. They came to be known as the infamous ‘Red Guards’.
During the time of cultural revolution, students not only humiliated their teachers but they were also beaten up. Some of them were tortured to death. The ancient manuscripts and artefacts of the Chinese Buddhist past were burnt and destroyed. All of this continued unabated until the death of Chairman Mao in 1976.
Some of you might be thinking that even after all of this chaos how can PRC became the second largest economy of the world and a global manufacturing hub, isn’t it. The man who made all of this possible will be discussed too.
But, during this chaos, The Communist Party of China under the leadership of Chairman Mao also initiated several land reforms. And they also worked on the education and health care of the people of China’s countryside which later proved as a boon for the rise of this nation.
In fact, the Indian economy and the Chinese economy were almost at the same level until the 1980s. But, within a few decades the Chinese economy rise to an unprecedented level. And the gap between the two became too large.The man who was behind this Chinese success was Deng Xiaoping, Mao’s successor.
And before we discuss about Deng, we need to understand the most important difference between the Chinese political system and its counterpart, India.
An Authoritarian one-party communist state Vs A Multiparty Chaotic Democracy-
In 1921, Communist Party of China (CCP) came into its being. Almost three decades before the founding of People’s Republic of China in 1949. In fact, one of the most important arms of CCP is People’s Liberation Army ( PLA).
And PLA is very different from the armies of other nations. Because, other than safeguarding the territorial integrity and Sovereignty of China, the another objective of this army is to protect the CCP. Unlike armies of other states which are loyal towards their respective countries, PLA is the army of CCP. The survival of the latter is the top most priority of the former.
Now, let’s look at India, A multiparty democracy. Although, after the Indian independence the Indian National Congress (INC) dominated the politics and policies of India for almost five decades, both in the centre as well as in several Indian States. But, because of the presence of several different political parties a one-party system never appeared as a remote possibility in India.
Other than this, the Indian Army is the arm of the Indian nation. They doesn’t represent any Indian political party be it the INC or its ideological rival, The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). The survival, the safety and the territorial integrity of India and its people is the only objective of the Indian Armed Forces.
In a nutshell, In China, the Communist Party is the only God, who’s not only omnipotent but also omnipresent. And in India, there are too many political voices. That’s why it’s known as a chaotic democracy.
The Chinese Roar –
Mao Zedong ruled over China with an iron fist. The total control over the mind of its people was one of his top most priorities. And he did that ruthlessly. Although, this one man show ended with his death in 1976. The man who replaced him was Deng Xiaoping. And the latter realised the gravity of the situation.
Deng initiated the economic reforms and he opened the Chinese economy for the world. In fact, rather than the top-led approach it was a bottom up approach. The state provided the necessary capital and the Chinese farmers grabbed that with both hands. A communist country started working with the capital. And they did it through thick and thin.
Manufacturing industries started mushrooming in the coastal areas of China, especially in the eastern and the southern parts of China. The village level entrepreneurs gave more fillip to this approach.
In fact, various provinces of China started competing amongst themselves for the investment. They all offered good deals to the investors. And the latter enjoyed that. And the results of this approach is in front of us, At present, China is a 14 trillion US dollars economy. The Chinese economy is five times larger than that of Indian economy. It uplifted millions of Chinese citizens out of poverty. It ended the absolute poverty in China. That’s why today they are roaring like a tiger.
Although, In 1991, the then Prime Minister of India, P. V. Narasimha Rao. also opened up the Indian economy. And it showed results too. Today, India is the sixth largest economy. But, it was a top led approach. The Indian system where files keep moving for years makes life too difficult for the investors and entrepreneurs alike.
In fact, the blunder which India committed while opening up its economy is that it directly jumped from agriculture to services. In between we missed the most important part i.e. the manufacturing. Even today we are repeating the same mistakes which we did decades ago.
Although, in China no one can challenge the writ of the Party. And in India, it’s like a puzzle. The priorities and the goals are not clear. And by invoking jingoism the Indian political parties are making sure that the life will remain same for the multitudes of Indian citizens.
In fact, it’s an irony that the Indian rigid system are making sure that the, Poor will remain poor, and the rich will become Super-rich. And this needs to be challenged. Especially, when we see our northern neighbour.
The border dispute between the elephant and the dragon –
The contentious issue which acts like a thorn between India and China, is the border dispute. Although, this is the legacy of the history which both the countries inherited from the British imperialists.
This border dispute can be divided into three sectors, the western sector, the middle sector and the eastern sector.
The western sector comprises the dispute in Ladakh, where India claims Aksai China as its inalienable part.
The middle sector is in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand, this is the most less disputed between these two countries.
The eastern sector comprises the dispute around the McMahon Line, precisely in and the around the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as theirs, as an extension of Tibet. In fact, the Chinese term it as the Southern Tibet.
Although, because of the border dispute, India and China had fought a war in 1962. Other than this the recent clash between the Soldiers of the both the states in June 2020, in the Galwan valley, where India lost its twenty brave soldiers and the Chinese soldiers suffered casualties too but their numbers are still unclear.
And in today’s China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, the era of one man show comes back again. Like Mao, he is not only in full control over the CCP and PLA. But, he also believes in flexing the Chinese power. That’s what he’s doing. And the incidents like Galwan is just the tip of the iceberg.
In fact, Deng Xiaoping believed in the maxim of, Hide your strength and bide your time. While Xi Jinping believe that it’s the right time when China, Shows its strength and says to the world that it’s their time.
Although, if we look at the history there was a time when the Chinese leadership offered to swap the territory. In the 1960s and 1980s, the then Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping offered to accept the status quo in the eastern sector if India gave up its claim in the western sector in toto. But, the first PM of India, Jawaharlal Nehru rejected this proposal outrightly. And neither the first woman PM of India, Indira Gandhi accepted this proposal of Deng Xiaoping. And the issue still persist to date. In fact, giving up even an inch of Indian territory would be tantamount to political harakiri in today’s India.
Although, it requires strong will power and a realistic approach from the leadership of the both the nations if they wanna resolve this border dispute. The more we prolong this issue the consequences of this would proves to be too bitter for the people of India and China.
The way forward –
How can India tackle a rising China, that’s the most important question which should be the top priority of not only the Union Government of India but also the responsibility of the Indian states.
And the answer of this query is multilayered. First and foremost we need to understand about China and its history. In fact, in China reading Rabindranath Tagore is part of the curriculum of Chinese schools. And in India, do we read about any Chinese philosophers? The answer is No. So, we need to fix the basics first. Introducing the Chinese history in Indian schools and later in universities should become a part of our education system. Better late than never.
Second, Indian needs to work on the human capital. Imparting skills to the Indian students should be compulsory. A student with a degree but no skills is just like a human without a compass in the ocean. Sooner than later he or she will find themself lost in the vastness of the ocean.
Third, the Union Government and the hyper active people of India, needs to understand that in today’s era of social media and internet penetration, rhetoric won’t help. Instead of doing hyperbole on Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, we need to make our lethargic and unaccountable bureaucracy accountable. Especially, our UPSC valas IAS and IPS officials who after passing this exam consider themselves as a demigod. Our motto should be, Fix the system first, rest afterwards!
Fourth, Union government should encourage the people to people contact between these two nations. The more we visits and travel to the length and breadth of China, the more we apprise ourselves with the people of this country which is as diverse as India.
Fifth, there should be collaboration between the Indian and the Chinese universities. Although, language is a barrier but that can be managed too.
Sixth, The Central Government should encourage the various Indian state governments to visit China and bring investment and setup manufacturing industries in their respective states. Made in India and Made by Indians should be our goal.
Seventh, after completing the graduation there should be an option in front of the Indian students to serve in the various arms of the Indian Armed Forces. A three to five years work in the army will not only help the students in developing a resilient attitude, but it will also prove to be a boon for the nation during unforseen circumstances.
And most importantly the Indian Government needs to ensure that wherever and whenever India signs a contract of developmental work with another nation, especially in our neighbourhood. Then, that project should be finished on time.
Let me conclude with this bon mot,
Less rhetoric, More work. For India and Indians no challenge is too big. Because, Sky is the limit!
I hope you like this, Thanks for reading, Jai Hind.
My Ratings: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)
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