China: The Next Superpower?


The Beijing Olympics to be held later this year is coming under a lot of intense scrutiny thanks to the political situation in Tibet. Which does make one wonder- Is the land of the sleeping dragon finally waking up for good?

One does not need to search very far for statistics to start realizing that the Chinese are already ahead of almost all countries in all fronts. Despite being a relatively closed government, they have amassed over a trillion on their forex reserves which itself is a major milestone. I was in London last summer and was watching a very interesting program where the US was believed to have sent a message (more of a plea) to the Chinese government not to change their monetary or fiscal policy suddenly as the dollar would be affected adversely. It is a indeed a matter of serious thought that an erstwhile communist country has made such rapid strides that now even the world’s most powerful capitalist nation is having to negotiate with them. True, the US economy is not in the best shape right now and is in recession. However, it may be even more adversely affected if China decides to shift policy on their foreign currency reserves.

Even on other fronts, the Chinese seem to be way ahead. They are already the world’s fastest developing nation. A lot of jobs in the controversial job shift to Asian countries from abroad, mainly BPO’s, have been shifted to China ahead of India. The government has even made English language mandatory for institutes so that they can receive the bulk of the jobs. And the Made-in-China stamp seems to have become a trademark on almost all goods all over the world.

However, politically China is under intense scrutiny and rightly so. Though always a bone of contention and even more so now after the recent protests, Tibet is beginning to hurt them. With the rapidly deteriorating situation is the small Buddhist dominated country, many people are beginning to ask a lot of awkward questions which the Chinese may not be willing to answer. Tibet was invaded by the Chinese in 1950 and a 17 point pact agreed upon which gave China sovereignty over the country even though the Dalai Lama remained the head of state. In recent years, however, the people have begun to protest saying that China is trying to control their culture and people. The Tibetan people in exile are bitter over the fact that most of the their human rights are being violated against – a fact that has been reported many times to the world by the Human Rights Watch and other such committees. The fourteenth Dalai Lama was willing to accept the Chinese authority over the country but refused to accept the major discrimination that has been going on for long. As a result, the Buddhist monks started a protest earlier this year which led to the shut down of many monasteries by the Chinese and sparked off huge protests, both inside and outside the country. The issue still rages on with tremendous pressure on China to find a solution to the problem. Many countries are threatening to boycott the Olympics as a mark of protest. And now the Tibetans seem to mean business with them having extinguished the flame of the Olympic torch so many times.

India faces a crucial period over the next five years. With China’s growing dominance, not just in south Asia but on the international scene, India will be the most affected. There have been a lot of issues raised over Arunachal Pradesh and other such border intrusions and also Chinese occupied Kashmir. We must remember that they are a mighty force to reckon with, especially now as they are making rapid strides. Their army is bigger than ours and much better equipped. Also traditionally, they have tended to side with Pakistan at times of crisis. Our only hope lies in the fact that the US would like to retain its edge and will probably support us in event of any crisis along with Russia. However, given the fact that Tibet is such a sensitive issue, India seems to be walking a tightrope. On the one hand we were the ones who spread Buddhism and have a large number of monasteries, especially near Tibet and the north-east. On the other hand, we have never doubted their Chinese rule. Baichung Bhutia’s refusal to carry the flame might be under flak from sportsmen and politicians but it is a purely personal choice and a correct one at that. The protest is not against the Chinese in general but against the situation in Tibet which is worsening day by day and slowly becoming what Iraq has become to the US – a major source of embarrassment. The Chinese government may be past masters at controlling information and censoring facts but the major fact still remains – Tibet might just prove to the biggest hurdle in their march to supremacy.

Budhadtiya Banerjee

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