Saturday, December 31, 2011

Will India Challenge China? Not yet.

Last month my wife and I took our first ever trip to India. Since that time I have struggled to put into words what I learned on our trip – not only about India, but also about China. Since today is the last day of 2011, I have determined that my latest thinking on this topic, however crudely formed at this point, is going up on the blog today.

India Gate, Delhi

So what does China have to do with India? More importantly, you may be asking, how could one hope to learn anything about China by visiting a completely different country?

Why India?

Aside from the fact that I thought India would be an interesting place to visit, I had begun to notice over the past year news stories, blog posts and twitter discussions about whether India would ever challenge China economically, militarily and/or diplomatically.

One book I read earlier in 2011 was Robert Kaplan's Monsoon, a fascinating historical approach to explaining why the Indian Ocean will become the world's most contested region, and how China and India are already competing for influence. (Kaplan also leads the reader to wonder a.) whether the US understands the importance of this region and b.) even if the US gets it, whether the US will have either the will or the ability to maintain its influence.)

The question of whether China's influence in the region will increase is no longer contested, but many people – including some long-time China watchers such as me – see India as a potentially credible rival to China. India has a large land mass, the world's second largest population and an economy that has consistently turned in upper-single digit economic growth for most of the past two decades. India and China also share a long and contested border, with both countries occupying lands claimed by the other, and as a result, the level of trust between the two has always been fairly low.

Regardless of whether India could become a credible rival, it is easy to see that many of the necessary ingredients for a rivalry are there. And given what I know about China – that it fully intends to return to its historical role as regional (if not global) hegemon – I wanted to see for myself whether India might truly be on the cusp of challenging China's ambitions.

So why might I have expected to learn anything about China while in India? Perhaps it is because China is the first country in which I ever spent significant time abroad. Ever since the mid-'90s, every other country I have visited has further illuminated my view of China.

Since 2000, when my employer sent me to Japan for a couple of years, I have viewed China slightly differently. To give but one small example, having been a waiter in college, I had always thought that service in China was poor because no one tipped in restaurants. After my first dinner in Japan, not only was I amazed by the friendly and efficient service, but also by the fact that the Japanese don't tip in restaurants either. There was clearly a much deeper cultural or sociological explanation for the disparity in service levels between China and Japan.

Will India challenge China?

So, back to the first burning question that drove me to India, the question of whether India will be a credible rival to China. The short answer to this question, I am disappointed to admit, is no – certainly not in the near future, and not without China self-destructing from the inside.

As thrilled as we were to have arrived at the clean new terminal of Delhi Airport, my wife and I were simply dumbstruck by the the poverty, filth and chaos we witnessed during the hour-long ride to our hotel. Delhi makes Beijing look clean and orderly by comparison (a fact that cannot have been lost on any Chinese leaders who have visited India). And while I reserved judgment on that first day, the remainder of the two weeks we spent in India further confirmed that India is not quite ready for prime time.

Chandni Chowk Bazaar

This is not to say that India has no hope at all, but a lot of what I saw on the ground, combined with what one may easily learn about politics in India by reading the news, leaves me to believe that India has much further to go if it ever hopes to catch up with China. I simply never imagined India's overall development gap with China would be so wide.

I also came away from India with a new level of appreciation and respect for the accomplishments of China. While I don't believe China's accomplishments excuse the lack of personal freedoms and rampant abuses of human rights, one cannot help but admire the speed with which China has pulled itself out of a deep hole of poverty.

Traveling in India and China

Traveling in China, while having improved quite a bit over the past two decades is still a bit of a grind, and in some areas it has become worse. When there were fewer people traveling by air back in the '90s, there were also far fewer unexplained flight delays than there are now.

That said, we found traveling in India to be even more difficult. Travel agencies and airline ticket offices tend to close on Sundays so if an emergency arises (say, for example, one gets food poisoning – don't ask me how I know about this) and you need to change your travel plans, just be sure it doesn't happen on a Sunday. (Apparently the planes do still fly on Sunday.)

Also, trains in India are apparently affected by fog. The day we left Delhi for Agra, our train was two hours late, which actually wasn't bad considering many trains were as much as six or seven hours late that day.

New Delhi Train Station

This connection between train travel and weather would not have occurred to me, but apparently train engineers in India need to have a certain distance of visibility before a train can travel. Having traveled on trains in China in all kinds of weather, I don't think this is the case there, though I could be wrong. I mean, if all trains follow their appointed schedules, and all trains are connected via radio to each other and to a central dispatch, avoiding collisions shouldn't be rocket science.

Of course, one can easily avoid the hassles of air and train travel by hiring a car and driver, but it can be quite expensive, particularly if it is arranged by your hotel, which (as we later realized) has no problem doubling the price of the car for their own profit.


And in terms of scams and general corruption, I used to think the Chinese were masters at cheating foreigners, but they have nothing on the Indians I encountered on the tourist track. By comparison, the Chinese are rank amateurs. At every turn – particularly in north India, but less so in the south – we encountered people who, on the pretense of being friendly and inquisitive, wanted nothing more than to separate us from our money while providing nothing of value in return.

A market in central New Delhi. Where were all the women?

In all fairness, I must emphasize that these people were gathered in massive numbers around the areas frequented by tourists. Because we did not really experience the everyday lives of average Indian citizens, I cannot comment on whether such corruption affects their lives to a similar degree. However, if the many Bollywood movies I have watched are any indication, perhaps the corruption for the average Indian is just as bad though taking on different forms.

But you should go to India anyway...

While my post thus far has focused on some of our negative experiences in India, the truth is that my wife and I loved India. The amazing sights we saw, the outstanding food we ate, and the smart and honest people whom we encountered along the way combined to make the whole experience worthwhile.

If you have ever considered traveling to India just to see the sights, we can attest that it is absolutely worth the effort. (And this comes from a couple who have seen many of the amazing sights that China, Vietnam, Japan and California have to offer.) Though we were disappointed to find our view of the Taj Mahal completely obscured by pea-soup fog, this in no way diminished our experiences in seeing the Qutb Minar, Humayun's Tomb, the Red Fort, Agra Fort and the Amber Fort near Jaipur, among others.

The Taj Mahal (It's back there somewhere.)

We also experienced fantastic service aboard a kettuvallam boat on the backwaters of Kerala while dining on outstanding Kerala cuisine and learning about the lives of the people who farm and fish in the area. And probably our best experience was at a farm homestay near Kochi where we enjoyed the warm hospitality of a world-wise Syrian Christian family and engaging conversation around the family dinner table.

The crew on our kettuvallam cruise, Lake Vembanad, Kerala

All of this should come as no surprise to anyone who has traveled to more than a handful of foreign countries. The world is a big place, and every country has both its pluses and minuses. While I still have yet to visit most of the world's countries, in every country I have visited, I have discovered uniquenesses that make my travels worthwhile. And though India did not live up to my (unreasonable) expectations, I have no regrets for having visited, and I will most certainly return. (While I was able to touch the Taj Mahal, I still have yet to see it!)

Evolving views on India vs China

This has been a difficult blog post for me to write, if for no other reason than that I really, really wanted India to be the credible rival that China needs to have in Asia. Also, since returning from India, my wife and I both have found that our views are evolving as we continue to ruminate over our experiences there and compare them to our experiences elsewhere.

And I must also emphasize that this does not arise from a desire to “keep China down” as China's media often likes to claim whenever foreigners disagree with China's government. As I stated before, I have an even greater appreciation for China's accomplishments to date. Yet at the same time, it is somewhat unnerving to the free world that a big, powerful country such as China may have figured out a way to build prosperity without personal freedoms (note the emphasis on “may”). It makes many people uncomfortable that this kind of government aspires to regional hegemony and world leadership.

I would argue that no one really has a desire to “keep China down,” but that many do have a desire to keep authoritarianism down. If China were to demonstrate its concern for human rights, few would have a problem with its asserting influence around the world. (Though one might argue the same for the United States.)

And this is precisely why my hopes for India were so high. I very much wanted to see for myself that a democratically-led government could provide for its citizens both freedom and economic prosperity, and act as a counterweight to the other big country in the region that only wants to provide the latter. But what I saw is that, similar to America, India's prosperity is limited to a small sliver at the very top of society. The middle class experience stagnation while the poor are just trying to keep their heads above water.

It would be easy to blame democracy for the disparity between China and India, but I believe that is too simplistic of an answer. (Naturally, this is the lesson that China's leaders will choose to take from their own comparisons with India.) There are many other differences between China and India that cannot be ruled out as factors affecting the countries' trajectories of development.

The most obvious difference is demographic. Whereas China is quite homogeneous, India is a patchwork of ethnicities, religions and languages. Without going into too much detail, I can only say that it is a surprise to me that India has remained a cohesive unit since 1947. The fact that it didn't break into dozens of rival states is a testament of the determination of independent India's first leader Jawaharlal Nehru. Love him or hate him, one cannot deny that he laid the foundation for modern India – both good and bad.

Since this blog post is already far longer than most people will bother to read, I will end it here and simply note that my thinking on this topic is far from complete. Scholars far more brilliant than I have tackled this topic of comparative modernization, and have yet to produce anything more than hypotheses (some more plausible than others).

The one thing I know, however, is that I will most certainly spend time in both India and China again in the future. I see great value in understanding both countries and how their political systems affect the lives of real people.

Happy 2012, everyone!

EDIT (4 Jan 2012)
Dan Harris at ChinaLawBlog, one of my favorite China blogs, linked to my India-China post and had some interesting comments of his own -- some of them way too kind, but also some valid criticism. Since his site generates a lot more traffic than mine, his post generated a lot more comments than mine (although I believe this post sets the all-time record for comments at ChinaBizGov.)

Check out Dan's post and also the comments that follow. Some people are critical of the fact that we would even compare China and India, but I think the fact that so many people took issue with this post tells me that there really is no consensus answer on this topic. There are a lot of great ideas and food for thought in the comments (along with the usual anonymous sniping from the sidelines).

If you're really interested, here's another related post on this topic that I came across today. It's written by someone with a great deal more experience in both China and India than me, and he includes a lot of facts and figures to back up his assertions.


  1. Looking forward to your take on the new foreign investment decision - downgrading investment in autos.

  2. Anonymous, I think you're right. That topic deserves a blog post. Maybe next year... :)

  3. Ok, I'll be looking for it in 7 hours based on your timestamp!

  4. wonderful post ...

    reminded me that i went to china in order to understand india after so many years there.

  5. @gregory, Thanks!

    @anonymous, You may have to wait a few days, but I promise I'll have something to say on that this week. (Actually, I've already written it; I'm just giving a newspaper op-ed page a chance to reject it first. ;-)

  6. just finished reading your travalogue the one thing that stood out is that India has remained a cohesive unit respecting freedom and diversity
    China is nowhere close -human values are the corner stone of growth and development to visit India and create an impression is like taking a dip in the Ocean and making a judgment about its depth ..cummon this is puerile way of jugding a juggernaut

  7. Dear Anonymous who doesn't use punctuation:

    Thanks for bringing up a very interesting and important argument. Would you care to support it?

    Your analogy about the ocean seems a little out of place in this context. We already know precisely how deep the oceans are. One need not go anywhere near the ocean to look up this fact on wikipedia.

    On the other hand, an argument about whether "development" should include "human values" seems to rely more on a normative bias. (I probably share your bias, but that's beside the point; I'm very interested in how to measure this with more objective criteria.)

    I am very eager to hear your arguments because, as I made clear in my post above, my thinking on this topic is "evolving" and "far from complete."

    While you're at it, please reveal your identity so we may have a proper debate.

    Thanks! And thanks for commenting.

  8. A very perceptive and truthful view about India which as an Indian I feel sad to accept.We kill our girl child in womb itself, our big fat cats do not give to poor but some will like to give to Harward where their father's money (not merit) sent them.As you very correctly observed we are a mixture and so exhibit our colours in our own way.The real problem is neo colonism of america which subverts Indian political class to sell its arms instead of selling civilian planes of quality as well as computers like DELL or Apple.This Democracy, freedom of speach etc and putting down china for human rights violations etc donot cut much ice with Chinese( it makes Indians knees weak) who are steadfatly are putting their wealth in proper place and improving quality of life for its people.

  9. Give some time for India.. Mr Anderson.She will clean her mess. Besides Rome was not built in a day neither English men got civilized in a Jify. One has to remember India was colonized for 150 years and got Independent in 1947 with Rule law and Democracy (Demon- crazy in India) Pun intended.But you have forgot to mention all the positive developments she has made in the last 63 years.Instead you have focused on the poor image of beaten down path of India. One can't get a view of country in visits. Shining malls and Freeways are not a good comparison for India. Besides Indians have the will power for that too if she is in a competition. All I can say India is a enigma which the west will always fail to understand. People like many Anderson's yet to come India will always have that impression by visiting a country.
    BTW, I will be more worried about the state of USA economy and the role of dollar in the coming decades than worrying about India.

  10. Human rights is a bundle of rights. In some rights India excels and in others it is weak.

    There is freedom of expression in India but none in China.

    There is weak due process in China (arbitrary party controlled decisions, police abuses, suspected murdered while interrogated by police). In India due process is also highly flawed (many suspects die in custody).

    The Indian state has not protected minority citizens. In 2002 following a Muslim extremist terrorist attack in Godhra on Hindu pilgrims, Hindu nationalists unleashed a pogrom on Muslims throughout Gujarat and officials did nothing to stop it. In 2009, Uighurs in Urumqi went on a rampage killing scores of Han/Hui civilians in one night. Thousands of Han/Hui civilians amassed the next day day looking for blood but the state deployed paramilitary to prevent a retaliatory massacre.

    There are many wrinkles in making a human rights comparison. Democracy does not ensure all aspects of human rights. And an authoritarian police state is at times better equipped to protect rights.

    (You might think I've made numerous distortions but I believe I'm being fair by straying from a conventional take on China and human rights. If you want to read more here is an interesting take from a foreign correspondent of the Daily Telegraph who served in both China and India: )

  11. Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to comment. Let me stress that I don't expect a two-week trip to India to have given me any great insight about the country. I have been living in or traveling to China for nearly two decades, and have only begun to scratch the surface there.

    The message of this short post (and it could have been much, much longer) is that I found India to be far less developed than I expected. While pockets of poverty and poor infrastructure in the countryside would not have been a surprise, I did expect that India's capital city would be a showcase of modernity and efficiency. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it *should* be, and India's leaders (of both parties) should be ashamed that it isn't.

    A number of the India commenters (I'm assuming most of the "anonymous" are Indian) seem to take me to task for not appreciating India's democracy or human rights. If you re-read my article, you will see that I criticize China for its shortcomings in that area, and you will also see that I don't believe India's democracy is to blame for its difficulty with development. India was already a democracy before Singh's 1991 reforms.

    One argument I do not buy, and will never buy, is that India is "too complicated" for a foreigner to understand. Chinese love to make that argument about China too, but I have at times found that my simple view, uncluttered by years of personal history, helps me to see things that locals cannot. Indeed, I am always eager to hear the impressions of foreigners who visit America. They can often see things that I cannot see.

  12. As some of the commenters above have pointed out, it hasn't been much time for India up to this point, only since 1947. You could of course say China has had the same amount of time and come farther (if not in an even shorter amount of time if you count only from the "opening up" in the late 1970s), however, I would say that the nature of an authoritarian government would be that the progress would come faster though at a cost- personal liberties and misallocation of resources. Due to these problems, India's growth may thus be less in the short run though more sustainable in the long run as China will have to continue to subdue internal rebellions and protests, spend millions on internet monitoring (this blog was unfortunately blocked for me because it is hosted on blogspot), and nurse its own housing bubble many times the size the one that burst in the U.S. (caused by almost identical problems as those behind the American bubble).

    The point on the trains was interesting one as well as it makes one think that maybe China too should be more cautious about when they run their trains and in what weather given the number of recent train accidents and scandals suffered by the Chinese railroads. This again relates to the point above- faster growth at what cost? However I definitely agree that India has a lot to learn about the benefits of infrastructure investment, lessons that both the U.S. in the early 20th century and China in the past 2 decades have learned (a white paper that compares infrastructure growth and contributions in China and India:

    Finally, I am not sure how I feel about this line from the post: "But what I saw is that, similar to America, India's prosperity is limited to a small sliver at the very top of society." Is this limited to India and America though? China suffers a great deal from this disparity as well particularly as you move away from the coastal regions, and will only likely get worse as the country continues to grow in this authoritarian environment where personal and political connections can be given more weight than merit.

    Full disclosure, I am an American that has been living in China for about a year and a half now and in and out of China since 2006. Though this by no means makes me an expert, far from it in fact, maybe a view uncluttered with even fewer years of experience could be of some value :) In any case this is certainly a good topic for discussion and debate, and indeed relevant. I totally agree with the point about how most other countries visited after having spent time in China are visited with a view of what you can learn about China. Even when I go back home (or read about it in the news), I can't help but make the comparisons.

  13. @Buck,

    Thanks for your comments. I learn a lot from people who take the time to comment. In fact, I am certain that there are important points in my PhD dissertation that arose from discussions with commenters to my blog. It's a great place to throw out ideas and have people tell you you're wrong. :-)

    I especially like your hypothesis that, because India's growth has been accompanied by political liberalism, maybe it is more sustainable for the long term. I think many of us from the West have this gut feeling.

    As for my comment comparing the disparity in India with that of the US, I think it is valid all by itself, but you are right, China suffers from significant disparity as well. I think I saw an article recently suggesting that China's GINI may now be higher than that of the US.

    Much of this article was about what I expected to see, and how, in some areas, India didn't measure up. However, I do mention parenthetically that my expectations were probably unreasonable. Then again, they were shaped by the news that I read, so perhaps many others who haven't visited India yet also have unreasonable expectations.

  14. Mr Anderson, you have valid points in your observation of India while comparing with china in certain aspects ( Education, Economics, Infrastructure , speediness in which China implements core national projects ) Hands down China beats India in that count, since the post liberalisation of Chinese economy. India is sort of in a snail pace but it’s gathering momentum in the last decade and fixing it’s Infrastructure, is doing feasibility study for High speed trains, is doing last mile connectivity of Broadband, is trying to integrate India with the world economy. Besides, India is doing a Bio-metric census of her Population. (The first country in the world) and giving a number to its billion citizen which is currently a national mission. Through this number the govt can allocate funds for the needy citizens directly to her citizen bank accounts who are in below poverty line with estimates of 650 million. Yes, More Indians will be joining the ranks of middle class in the coming decades, poverty will be cut short. Corruption is a big problem in India,again her citizens are debating in a national basis for Jan Lokpal bill to end the menace of corruption. Yes, corruption is a bane in Indian society probably you may not aware of tools the Indians have now to fight corruption in the country with news tools like RTI ( Right to information and central vigilance commission ( Well, these are the tools which India enjoys because of her democratic snail setup while compared to china. I would consider India a tortoise slow but steady with her developments. It may not be catchy for western eyes, (who come from a developed country and expect things to fall in place like in West, That’s why I mentioned India is a enigma and would take a while to figure out her intentions. Unlike, china she can impress with all her Infrastructure and roaring economy.

  15. Seventy percent illiteracy? Seventy percent of people hungry? Cruel, medieval caste system? Full scale internal wars?
    Read Amartya Sen's writings on India, with which I have seen no serious argument. India seems to be slightly ahead of Africa on average, with some bright spots here and there. Not a serious contender in any sphere of human endeavour since it decided to ditch its incomparable spiritual heritage.
    It is praised by the West because it's people vote to see which corrupt buffoons will sit in congress. What that has to do with real democracy is a mystery to me.

  16. The good news is India is growing in spite of all the problems you have mentioned from quoting Amartya Sen’s writings. She is a trillion dollar economy, is self sufficient in food, is sending indigenous satellites and planning for a Indian manned mission by 2015,is building its own fighter Jets (Tejas ) and collaborates with Russia on the 5th Generation aircraft (T-50) Has taken the world by surprise by her IT prowess ( shock and awe). I don’t know if these things could be slightly ahead of Africa and perhaps not a serious contender in any human developments.

  17. @G. E. Anderson

    Totally agree about learning from comments, and I appreciate you taking the time to respond! Usually when I read articles online I try and take the time to read some of the comments too since, as it tends to be the place to get a more complete and objective picture of a situation. I'm always interested to hear the dissenting arguments.

  18. Regarding you being surprised at India remaining a cohesive unit despite all the religious, ethnic and cultural differences.. the reason is not Nehru, but Gandhi, or more specifically the non-violent independence approach championed by Gandhi.

    Growing up in India, I used to idolize people like Simon Bolivar and other revolutionaries who had achieved independence in shorter timeframes thru violent rebellion. But I have come to realize that all violent independence movements (Africa, Mujahideen in Afghanistan) have led to civil war when the proponents turn on each other for absolute power. They have the guns and the militias to wage civil war. The only exception is the US after fighting King George's red coats (US civil war was for something different).

    India being a single country 60 years after independence, that is Gandhi's biggest achievement. And all because he didnt allow people to get guns to fight the british.

  19. Mr God free Roberts, The 300 years of western aberration of world history is coming to an end. I admit , West had a jump start with Industrial Revolution and the rise of machines with the innovation of modern Technology, and the six killer apps of western prosperity namely science, medicine, protestant work ethic, competition, property rights, consumer society. The east particularly India, is following that path. It might look chaotic and messy from far and may not be measured by visits and reading books. What are the odds that India may not come out of poverty successfully in the coming decades. It’s very less. Since Poverty is a main national problem for the Govt of India and for the new Govt’s yet to come in future. It is a core national important project and it is in a war footing to eradicate and the civil society is already doing its part.
    When comparing with west of today. It is day by day is facing problems of bail outs, closure of business and economic slowdown with huge debt to GDP. Wars that have no end in sight and exhausting the surplus of nations and bankrupting them one by one and sending millions to poverty. The crisis have left nearly 50 millions Americans into poverty and millions losing homes and seeking shelters. Some of the western countries haven’t come out of the woods yet. And, I am basically worried about the future of America when it is living on borrowed money and printing crispy new fiat dollars. I have yet to see that kind of problem in India. And India with china are probably the new bright spots in the world now.

  20. Is the past 300 years really an aberration? It depends on how far back in history you want to look. One study (Ian Morris, Why the West Rules--For Now) looks back 16,000 years and develops an index of social development.

    According to this index, which has withstood rigorous peer review, the "West" led the "East" by, on average 300-400 years up until around the time of the Tang Dynasty. Then for about 500 years, the East led. Then the Industrial Revolution happened.

    By this measure, the aberration was the 500 years that the world was led by China beginning with the Tang Dynasty.

    We can argue about what will happen in the future, but I have yet to meet anyone who can prove what will happen in the future.

    Anyway, let's keep this on topic, which is about India and China. If you want to discuss America, there are plenty of other blogs for that.

    So that this doesn't turn into a shouting match, from this point forward, no more anonymous posting will be allowed.

    If you have something to say, identify yourself.

  21. Smart Huh Mr Anderson, I meant from the economics point of view when I mentioned about the aberration of West having the lead through British colonialism on India.Perhaps British wouldn't have come to India for trade if it isn't for her wealth and was considered the Golden sparrow. But at the end of 20th century she was left dry mote economically.The Golden sparrow indeed was a clean shaved sparrow when British left India. Here is a quote from Our prime Minister Man MohanSingh ''There is no doubt that our grievances against the British Empire had a sound basis. As the painstaking statistical work of the Cambridge historian Angus Maddison has shown, India's share of world income collapsed from 22.6% in 1700, almost equal to Europe's share of 23.3% at that time, to as low as 3.8% in 1952. Indeed, at the beginning of the 20th century, "the brightest jewel in the British Crown" was the poorest country in the world in terms of per capita income. One don't have to go further than reading British Historian Angus Maddison who did a research on Past GDP of all nations.
    This is the story of India which is arising from dust and claiming back its destiny as an Economic power,But this time we make sure we are protected and trade with our eyes closed.

  22. Thank you, Ankash. I am familiar with Maddison's statistics as I have used them in my own research. I don't want to step into the India-British issue as I have no stake in that particular fight.

    And while there is no doubt that Britain made use of the Indian economy to enrich itself, it is probably misleading to use percentages of world income as a measure. What you really want to look at is India's absolute income in constant dollars over time. (Maddison's data are based on 1990 Geary-Khamis dollars, so this is entirely possible.)

    After 1700, not only did Great Britain begin to experience the Industrial Revolution, but Germany, the United States and Japan soon followed (the latter three, of course, having no connection with India).

    The world as a whole saw a gigantic increase in global income (the denominator of your percentages above), so unless India's income grew at a similar rate, naturally it would have shrunk as a percentage of world income.

    I admire your optimism about India's future, but I can guarantee you that, as long as India remains "protected and trade with our eyes closed" it will always be poor. This is not how the rich countries got rich, and it is certainly not how China managed to achieve its level of growth.

    Dr. Singh is an economist, and he already understands this. Unfortunately for India, Dr. Singh does not get to decide policy. He is a victim of a struggle for power between the Gandhi dynasty and the BJP.

  23. Related to this post, here's an article from the New York Times' Nick Kristof about traveling to India and China. He says:

    "If you want to understand the world, you need to understand Asia. That, in turn, means setting foot in China and India.Together, those two countries account for one-third of humanity and much of the world’s recent economic growth. They reflect two of our richest civilizations, two broad religious traditions and a vast share of the world’s artistic heritage — and its future."

    Check out the full article:

  24. Hi Mr. Anderson, at the beginning of your blog you touched upon that China intend to return to its regional (if not global) hegemon and that you would like to see India step up to the plate as a credible rival to China but is disappointed from what you saw in your recent trip. I have some good news for you. China will not be a hegemon and your concern are unfounded. Both the Communist China and independent India has existed for 60 plus years now and if you really look into the past Communist China has not exhibit hegemonic behaviour, but India has.

    Here is a comprehensive study on China's past border settlements with its various neighbors and you will probably be surprised at what you will find out:

    On the other hand, India exhibit classic hegemonic behaviour since pretty much day one of its existence as an independent republic, having put Bhutan as its protectorate, an act that is most eye brow raising in this post-colonial world. It seized the Tibetan town of Tawang, something that even the British Raj were reluctant to do:

    It works for years to annex the independent kingdom of Sikkim, a transgression that is all but forgotten:

    And its border dispute with China cannot be interpreted other than naked aggression against its neighbor.

    Yes India is a democracy and China is authoritarian and China human rights record still have a far way to go compare to Scandinavian countries. But these has no relevancy to China's hegemonic ambition, or lack thereof, and the links I provided will hopefully help you to rethink your basic assumption.

    1. Thank you, Mantou, for taking the time to write your comment.

      1. You seem to be ignorant of China's recent history. You may want to look into PLA incursions into the territories of neighboring states in 1950, 1962, 1969, 1974 and 1979. For this exercise I suggest you find a history book that wasn't printed in China.

      2. You seem to be ignorant of China's older history. Throughout most of China's recorded history (even its own history -- feel free to look this up in Communist textbooks) China's weaker neighbors were forced to pay tribute to China.

      3. Bringing this forward to the present, which country in Asia has been threatening its neighbors who disagree with its irredentist claims? I'll give you a hint, it's also the country whose neighbors are now balancing against with the United States.

      No one can claim that India has been completely innocent, but India isn't laying claim to other countries that have their own democratically elected governments, nor is it laying claim to vast swathes of open ocean that fall into the territories of its neighbors.

    2. Hi Mr. Anderson,

      The sources I cited are all non Chinese sources. The first link is from a study by a professor in the MIT political science department. This study has been peer reviewed by many including academics from Harvard, Cornell, Brandeis, Tufts, and many others.

      To dismiss it as some kind of Chinese Communist propaganda will be laughable. The second link is from a site in India's north east. The third link is a Nepal's newspaper site. The fourth link is from a Australian diplomat who is now a chancellor of a Japan university. The fifth link is from a Oxford historian now affiliated with the Australian National University.

      So I really don't understand why you suggested me not to read a history book not printed in China. For the record I have never read any history book in printed in China. I do however, read some history book printed in Hong Kong, including many anti Chinese communist book, not that it matters with you.

      With regards to the irredentist claims, again please read the study by Fravel Taylor at MIT.

      With regard to India, true India hasn't lay claim or annex any territories that don't have their own democratically elected government. But India shouldn't lay claim or annex any territories, period, whether the territories has government that is democratically elected is really irrelevant.

      Going back to point 1 you made, can you be more explicit at what you are alluding to? My mind are always open and my opinion are subject to persuasion if given credible evidence.


    3. Mantou, thank you for your reply.

      First, let me apologize for guessing you might be from the 50 cent party. Your English, while quite good, contains common mistakes made by non-native speakers. (That's not a criticism; it's just an observation. Your English is much better than my Chinese.) And the positions you have adopted are very clearly in line with the party line in mainland China. If I have guessed wrong, I'm sorry.

      (It is also for this reason that I did not click on your links. I don't know you -- your profile contains no identifying information -- and I don't want my computer riddled with viruses or spyware. Please don't take it personally.)

      I am acquainted with Taylor Fravel, and though I haven't read his recent work, I understand that it presents new information about China's border disputes (which there seem to be an awful lot of -- why is that?). I hope to read it sometime, but it is not at the top of my list.

      As for the others, I am well aware of these minority views, and I have no doubt that there may be some truth to their claims.

      The point I am trying to make is that, no matter how much you (or China, or anyone else) may claim that China's aims are benevolent, there are enough incidents in history (both recent and ancient) that belie those claims.

      If you really don't know what happened in the years I listed, I am quite surprised because you seem to be well-read in China's recent history. So here they are: Korean War, India border war, Russia border war, Paracel Islands, and "teaching Vietnam a lesson."

      Realizing that any of the above can be spun either for or against China, my point is not that each of these must necessarily be spun against China. My point is that China has a history of violence with its neighbors -- a recent history. Furthermore, China's language has grown more threatening and less diplomatic in recent years.

      (I just saw the news this morning that China has now added the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands to its "core interests." If this is not a country preparing to return to its historical, self-appointed position of "Central Kingdom" then what is it?)

      No one really wants the US throwing its weight around in the South China Sea right now. The Philippines, if you remember, even kicked the US out of its bases in 1992. Yet all of China's neighbors are now welcoming the US back with open arms. They are welcoming back a country that has recently taken out two governments and killed hundreds of thousand of innocent civilians. Why? They're scared of China.

      Even if you could prove to me that China is not a hegemon, and even if I were to completely believe you, China's neighbors, who have been on the receiving end of China's wrath and condescension in both recent and ancient history, will not be so easily convinced.

      If everyone around you thinks you're a hegemon, you're a hegemon.

      But I am also open to new information that proves me wrong. Is there a group of countries coming together to balance against India?

      I really don't have much more to add to this issue, so I will let you have the last word.

      Thanks again for replying.

    4. Hi Mr. Anderson, now that I know the reason you don't go to those links, it is very understandable. Nobody wants to have virus in their computer. I can't help you there, but may be you can read them in a public library or in a Starbuck?

      The two links I really want you to read on are

      The second link is a discussion between Oxford historian Neville Maxwell and an Indian professor sponsored by the Australia National University. It provides a very good overview of the border conflict between India and China and touches upon also the conflict between China and the then Soviet Union.

      Neville Maxwell is considered to be the preeminent scholar in the India China border dispute, having written the now classic "India China War"

      and he has since written extensively on this issue. The link is a podcast so you can listen to it while driving.

      I am not a member of the Fifty cents party, if it ever exist. But that doesn't mean I don't have an agenda, I do. My intention is to share some of the findings I have with you so you will have a broader perspective on it. I don't know whether you will agree, disagree, or simply intrigued by it. But I hope at least you do find a chance to read them (and listen to it for the podcast).

      Thanks very much for replying to me also.

  25. A new book that is very pertinent to this subject has come out. It is called "Chinese and Indian Strategic Behavior: Growing Power and Alarm" by George J. Gilboy, Eric Heginbotham. Here are the advance praise, from

    "Advance praise: 'This fascinating book provides a needed corrective to the all-too-common view in Washington that China is simply a threat and India a reliable ally. Gilboy and Heginbotham show that both states pose security challenges, albeit of different kinds. A realistic understanding of Chinese and Indian international strategic behavior has to be the starting point for a wise U.S. policy towards Asia.' Robert J. Art, Brandeis University and Director of the Seminar XXI Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology 'At last we have a rigorous and systematic comparison of modern Chinese and Indian defense and security policies and structures. As such, it is an invaluable resource for understanding Asia's strategic destiny.' Stephen P. Cohen, Brookings Institution 'This is a well-written, thoroughly researched, and erudite comparison of Indian and Chinese security doctrine and practice. The book shows that the growing view in the United States of China as an implacable adversary and India as a natural ally is simplistic and naive. One can only hope that U.S. policy makers are willing to make the effort to read through this very enlightening book.' Alistair Ian Johnston, Harvard University 'Chinese and Indian Strategic Behavior is a seminal comparative treatment of the international behavior of Asia's rising powers, China and India, and their implications for the United States. This book provides a solid foundation for objective assessment of the strategic role to be played by Beijing and New Delhi.' Admiral Timothy J. Keating, Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command 'This systematic and well-researched analysis makes a major contribution to American foreign policy discourse, bringing an insightful comparative perspective to bear in the perennial U.S. controversy about China's rise and at the same time providing a welcome stimulus to the debate the United States should have about India's growing power.' Alice Lyman Miller, Stanford University "


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