China And India – 2 Books, Two Views, Take a 2ndlook

Posted in Current Affairs, Indo Pak Relations, Media, Uncategorized by Anuraag Sanghi on September 29, 2008

The India China Relationship

To most in India, China is possibly the biggest defence threat and is a ‘feared’ competitor.

However, the 2ndlook blog has discounted the ‘threat of the Chinese dragon’ based on an active engagement with China – and not benign neglect.

No less than Arun Shourie has weighed in on the ‘Chinese threat’ side of perception. This puts the 2ndlook blog in a minority. In the 2ndlook blog dated May 31st 2008, there was a significant analysis of the China-India face off. More on that later.

Two Books – Opposite Themes

In the meantime, Arun Shourie’s book has evoked scant interest – excerpted below.

… important parallels, as Shourie points out, between the situation pre-1962 and the situation now. Border talks are regressing, Chinese claims on Indian territories are becoming publicly assertive, Chinese cross-border incursions are rising, and India’s China policy is becoming feckless … India has always been on the defensive against a country that first moved its frontiers hundreds of miles south by annexing Tibet, then furtively nibbled at Indian territories before waging open war, and now lays claims to additional Indian territories. By contrast, on neuralgic subjects like Tibet, Beijing’s public language still matches the crudeness and callousness with which it sought in 1962, in Premier Zhou Enlai’s words, to “teach India a lesson”. (Stagecraft and Statecraft: Lessons for today’s India from the 1962 Chinese invasion).

The lack of coverage in Indian media for an important book like this is a matter of concern. At the same time, another book on a similar subject, from an American perspective is vastly different – and closer to the views of the 2ndlook blog.

This one, … (by) Ms Shirk (former deputy assistant secretary of state who dealt with China) … should become a must read for every Indian who cowers and cringes at the very mention of China. For, as Shirk shows, there is no reason to do so. The core of her message is that only one thing has changed over the last two decades: instead of being a paper tiger, China has become a cardboard tiger.

… recall how China responded to the Tibetan uprising just before the Olympics to get a sense of its vulnerabilities and the resultant paranoia. The Chinese embassy in New Delhi was surrounded by three rings of defence against attacks by Tibetan women. You don’t become a super power merely because you have some money and some guns.

the Chinese leadership no longer has to fear the foreign devil who speaks English; it has to fear the average Chinaman who does so. She also shows how there is no shortage in the variety of unrests in China: you name a type of discontent, and it is there. But unlike India, China has not had the sense to develop political outlets for the head of steam that is building up. The only way it knows of dealing with mass discontent is repression.

Shirk also deals with the aspect that the Chinese leadership is most anxious to hide: a split not in the ranks of the party, but in the highest echelons of the leadership. And the second- and third-level Chinese leadership knows this. The drive against corruption, for example, when mayors are hanged, is seen as just a tea leaf, a straw in the wind that the big boys are pulling in opposite directions.

contrary to popular belief, especially in India, China can’t get along with anyone. Japan, Taiwan, Korea, India all have difficulties with a neighbour whose word can’t be trusted and who tends to rely more on strong-arm tactics than diplomacy. This, too, seems to be a part of the Communist party repertoire, merely their way.

As we see in this book, when push comes to shove, China always backs down. Its leaders simply don’t have the stomach for a confrontation because they don’t know how it will turn out for them personally. That’s the key thing: the personal interests of the Chinese communist leaders. It now always comes before the country’s interests, or is at least seen as being coterminous with it. (Book Review of FRAGILE SUPERPOWER by Susan L Shirk).

The Chinese Paper Dragon

The Chinese success is similar story. Much like USSR’s break-up, the Chinese monolith is more fragile than apparent. Apart from the usual suspects of democracy, economic disparities, social upheavals, etc, there are 3 factors, which most Chinese analysts miss.

One, the Tibetan’s are held together by force – and no one imagines that this holding them together by force, can be in perpetuity. The Muslim provinces of Xinjiang (another one-third of China) is usually ignored. These issues are usually minimized by the current strength with which China holds these provinces together.

But possibly, the biggest issue is the share of revenues of the Chinese central governments.

Secondly, the Chinese Central Government commands less than 25% of the total tax revenues – and the 75% goes to provinces. This, possibly is why the Chinese Government cannot reduce cigarette usage in China. Most expenditures on health, education, pension, unemployment, housing etc. are borne by the local government – and hence there is patchwork of systems which run across China. Most of executions and imprisonments of bureaucrats (including the Mao’s Cultural Revolution) is to demonstrate central authority. The PLA is the only factor that keeps China together. A Chinese Lech Walesa or a Nelson Mandela could unwind China very quickly.

Significantly, and thirdly, the Chinese diaspora and Western MNCs are biggest investors in China – and also the main beneficiaries. This currently keeps resentments of the local Chinese under control – as the neighbour is not getting much richer. But at one stage the domestic Chinese will want to greater say and control over the Chinese economy. He may not be happy with just a well paying job and abundant, low quality goods.

India vs China

On these three counts India scores significantly better than China. India’s problems with Kashmir are a British legacy, an external creation – as is the North East problem, to a degree. India’s significant issue (probably temporary) is the Naxalite problem. India’s central Government has greater control and share over total revenues – than the Chinese. India’s recent economic and political successes are entirely home bred – with the exception of remittances from the expat workers in the Middle East.

2ndlook blog proposes a different way out of this India-China stalemate.

The Detritus

As various colonial powers were forced out of various colonies, left behind was the garbage of colonialism. This post-colonial debris has become the ballast, that is dragging down many newly de-colonized countries. And it is the stereotypes and images of each other that seem to be determining the relationships between the two countries.


Vietnam suffered from a prolonged war (1956-1976) – and finally peace had a chance after 20 years of war. Korea remains divided. The Cyprus problem between Turkey, Greece and the Cypriots has been simmering for nearly 100 years. The role of the Anglo Saxon Bloc, in Indonesia, the overthrow of Sukarno, installation of Suharto and finally the secession of East Timor is another excellent example. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict (1935 onwards) will soon enter its 75th year. The entire Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a creation of the Anglo-French-American axis. The many other issues in the West Asia and Africa are living testimony of the Western gift to the modern world.

Closer home is the Kashmir problem. After 60 years of negotiations, India-Pakistan relations have remained hostage to the Kashmir issue. Similarly, between China and India, the border issues remain 60 years after the eviction of Britain from India.

We Hereby Resolve

Let us (India and China) decide that for the next 60 years, these legacy border issues will remain in cold storage! There are far more pressing issues that need our attention. Let us focus on those issues. We have a lot of catching up to do.

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Galeo Rhinus said, on September 30, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Your analysis is premised on a strong foundation, however, it is incomplete.

    For example there is one theme that is common in Arun Shourie and Susan Shirk’s commentary – that you don’t acknowledge, is that the Chinese have repeatedly violated trust.

    While the wisdom in an Indo-China partnership might be obvious to you and you might see a win-win outcome, the Chinese might not share that same sentiment.

    Your analysis does not consider the prisoner’s dilemma which will, in all likelihood, prevent from this partnership from coming to fruition.

    Any unilateral attempt by India to extend a hand of friends will be viewed as a sign of weakness, thereby pushing India into the wrong quadrant of the prisoner’s dilemma.

    “We hereby resolve” is eerily similar to what your hero, Chacha Nehru, used to say – perhaps the lessons have not been learnt.

    India walks alone. It must.

  2. Anuraag Sanghi said, on September 30, 2008 at 12:27 pm


    The Chinese have violated trust. The Indians have never done that.

    But does it occur to any Indian, that the Chinese believe the same about India; and the trust that the USA has betrayed from the Bretton Woods is enough not to trust them again. So, mistrust or distrust is not the answer. Confidence building measures are and so is taking demonstrable actions – from both sides.

    Chinese don’t share the sentiment of Indo-China partnership – So, let us retire to the Himalayas and do nothing! Let us pray that the Chinese see sense. The answer, Sir, is in active engagement with the Chinese.

    Chacha Nehru, poor man, was led down the garden path, by the CIA and US, which while espousing the Tibetan cause, and egging on India, was desperate to build an anti-USSR alliance with China. Hence, an unprepared India, was left alone – to face the music!

    And no one, walks alone. Even the ‘Super power USA’, builds consensus with other countries. Partnerships never hurt. Fear of broken relationships cannot stop relationships from happening.

    ‘Ekla chaalo’ slogan was meant to be a bugle call for leadership – and not abdication of relationships and engagement.

  3. Galeo Rhinus said, on September 30, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    >>”The Indians have never done that…”

    to who? in general or specifically the chinese? Let’s specifically address the Indo-Chinese relationship.

    I would love to hear examples of how India has failed China’s trust… all the examples of how India has deceived China… India the betrayer of a trusting China… let’s hear it…

  4. Anuraag Sanghi said, on October 1, 2008 at 8:11 am

    For China, West is actually, India. Traditional and classical Chinese texts refer to India as the West. When you read this following paragraph, the Chinese perceptions become clearer. Don’t defend or question the validity of these perceptions – because that is defeatist.

    From China, Li Changchun, a high chief in the Chinese Communist Party ideologue “has been sounding the alarm against alleged “Westernization and splittism” attempts by capitalistic demons. At a symposium to study the theories of Deng Xiaoping, the deceased paramount CCP leader, he called upon all communist comrades to strengthen the Marxist convictions, “Guard against foreign hostile machinations to Westernize and split China

  5. ags said, on January 17, 2009 at 10:32 pm

    i totally disagree with the point that india is better than china…..

    since india is in total chaoes and china is competing with all major countries in the world in all aspects. but india on the other hand is run by corrput politicians who will only try tu blame others instaed of solving a problem on hand.

    also, indian policy makers are becoming copycats. i mean to say that instead of using the brain that we have, we tend to follow what others do….. till this is done, i dont see any hope on india improving

  6. Anuraag Sanghi said, on January 18, 2009 at 7:40 am

    the point that india is better than china

    This is too vague a statement – without meaning and this blog does not say that. India has some advantages – as does China. These successes will play out differently over a period of time.

    india is in total chaoes

    Indian ‘chaos’ is favorite Western and indeed global, too. The ‘modern’ concept is that we need and any nation can only be successful if there is a ‘unity’ of One God, One Book, One Holy Day, One Prophet (Messiah), One Set of Festivals, One Race, One People, One Country, One Authority leading to One Law, One Currency is a fallacious syllogism. Once you accept One, you will accept all others. India is the only country through history not too follow this. Hence, this perception of ‘chaos’.

    india on the other hand is run by corrput politicians

    China ‘executes’ more than a 1000 politicians and bureaucrats every year for corruption – and corruption in China has not decreased, if executions are any indications. Corruption is a global phenomenon – and our breast beating is completely misplaced.

    indian policy makers are becoming copycats

    Right and wrong. India has pioneered some brilliant pieces of original policy – and has copied some pathetic piece of policy from other countries – especially the West.

    But anyway, these are popular perceptions – and this blog is about taking a 2ndlook. Do take a 2ndlook.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: