The India-China Race: Who will Emerge Victorious?

From problematic human rights situation in its territory and Indian-border incursions, to its fierce economic policies, China has been quite a newsmaker for past a few years. India, being its immediate neighbour and a tough rival in the race of becoming the next global superpower, is now in its constant scrutiny. Although there has not been any serious attack on India from China since 1962, there has been continued suspicion of China’s geo-political motives in the country. This is the reason why the much touted concept of Russia- India- China strategic triangle could not go beyond theory. China not supporting India’s ambition of acquiring a United Security Council membership is another reason for bitterness in the relationship. If we leave the broader issues of conflict, we have several other issues which mark the soured relation between the countries, be it China’s claim on Arunachal and Sikkim, its constant millitary support to Pakistan or, India’s shelter to the Tibetans. But now, as both the Asian giants are projected to grow rapidly in the period of 2010-50 and, with the fact of shifting balance of power from the West to the East, we have to see how the two countries manage both cooperation and competition in the coming years.

Both India and China are populous countries and have been among the ancient civilisations. Despite few similarities, they are considered as world’s most diverse nations. Although both the countries are the front runners of global economy and are on the verge of becoming great powers, there are stark differences between the two.

If we only consider economical facts, China seems to be far superior to India. In terms of exchange rates, China holds the third position in world as compared to India’s 12th position. China’s GDP is six times larger than that of India. Even in terms of per capital GDP, India lags far behind. The other factors like unemployment, inflation, health care, sanitation, water management, education etc. are not as prominent an issue as they are in India.

Infrastructure in China, undoubtedly, is above par as compared to that of India. Infrastructure is instrumental in building a middle class, a stable middle class builds a stable nation which, in terms, becomes capable of holding the super-power status. Given its authoritarian regime, China doesn’t face any hurdles such as; public debate, property rights or legal actions while decision making. It’s capable of exploiting its political and economic resources to create impressive economic feats. But authoritarian regimes don’t have the history of holding their power for long. China might achieve the global power status earlier than India but, with its gagged press and ever degenerating human-rights situations, how long it’ll be capable of holding it, is a matter of question.

After the economic reforms of 1991, India quadrupled its GDP, achieving a whopping 9 per cent growth rate. But China having pre-empted the process a decade earlier, made a great profit and thus, has achieved a higher growth rate. Unlike a drained out country like India which, was under British control for almost two centuries, China doesn’t have any colonial past and hence had enough resources at its disposal for development. India, also with its democratic institution supported by its civil society, faces several obstacles in any single policy decision making. The coalition politics is playing a spoiler on the other hand. Apart from the chaotic democracy, loud public discourse, vocal press, stubborn land owners and a huge population to feed, India has a shoddy infrastructure which has to evolve a lot in order to catch up with China.

Despite all the negative points against China, if we go by the trends, India has strong chances to give the world a reliable and long lasting superpower. A country’s superpower status can be determined by factors such as; its population, productive economic order, infrastructure, defense mechanisms, technological potentialities, trend manpower resources and political stability. All the countries which achieved its superpower status in the later half of the 20th century, had all the mentioned characteristics and, the most important thing is that they all were democracies. What gives India an advantage over China is its democratic set up and openness to external cultures. Despite the caste and communal politics being played inside the country and various separatist and secessionist groups raising their heads, India has an open and vibrant society which is ready for the change. India is ready to take on the world stage as the first large multiethnic, multireligeous, economically powerful and culturally vibrant democracy. It also has the potential to play a key role in the great political struggles in the world of future.

If India focuses on some of the shortcomings, such as; national health programme and public education, internal security problems, political stability, scientific and technological capacities, cooperation with neighbouring countries and the wider aspect of globalisation, the goal cannot be far behind.

Where China is supposed to achieve its superpower status by 2010; given its advantage in many fields as compared to India, India is said to have it by 2050. But in terms of ideological, geo-strategic, demographic and socio-cultural characteristics, India can be clearly seen as the legitimate and logical contender of the status which, it could be able to hold firmly, for long.
Sangya Supatra

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