Elephant versus Dragon

Elephant versus Dragon

As the fortunes of China have boomed and those of the West have waned, one explanation proffered for the reversal of fortunes has been that authoritarian rule is better suited than democracy to spark economic growth. Economist Yasheng Huang, in a TED video, compares autocratic China to democratic India, to answer the big question of whether democracy is actually holding China back.

Huang says that the answer is “more nuanced and subtle” than popularly supposed. China has become less authoritarian and more democratic over time, which has helped embed growth, while India – although always nominally a democracy – has experienced its greatest growth since it has implemented media and legal reforms to broaden democracy.

It seems to be a national obsession in India to measure the country’s economic development against China’s yardstick, reports The New York Times. Indian newspapers are filled with articles comparing the two countries and government officials cite Beijing variously “as a threat, partner or role model”.

“But if keeping up with the Wangs is India’s economic motive force, the rivalry seems to be largely one-sided … Most Chinese are unconcerned with how India is growing and changing, because they prefer to compare their country with the United States and Europe,” writes China-born economist Minxin Pei.

An analysis in The Sydney Morning Herald argues that China and India have more challenges in common than Beijing might want to admit – “huge and growing gaps between rich and poor, corruption, asset bubbles, the risk that piles of loans will go bad, regional disparities, environmental degradation, huge appetites for resources, gender inequalities that mean boys outnumber girls, and angst over their places in the world.”

A new RAND Corporation report looks ahead to 2025 and finds that as China and India grow in prominence, each has certain advantages, but neither is primed to have a clear edge over the other. And although China’s advantages over India are not to be sneezed at, “India’s advantages – a growing working-age population, and open and flexible political and economic systems – will be good things to have during the next 15 or so years.”

Although China was the last of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to recognise the new government in Tripoli, its ambivalent response to the rebels from the outset heralds a new chapter in China’s foreign policy, writes The Economist. This indicates how the recent upheaval in the Arab world has put stress on the country’s much-vaunted hands-off policy when it comes to others’ affairs.

“With growing economic interests and ever more citizens to worry about in far-flung regions, Chinese policymakers are tweaking their strategy … [although] China will remain extremely cautious. It does not want to send signals at home that rebellion can ever be justified.”

A more interventionist Chinese foreign policy can also be discerned in the increasing rivalry between Beijing and New Delhi in Asian waters. The Vancouver Sun reports that as India begins to establish its oil exploration presence in the South China Sea, China has responded that such actions are “illegal and invalid” and “constitute an infringement upon China’s sovereignty.”

Although India was not mentioned by name, the move came after news leaked that India’s state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation is negotiating with the Hanoi government to explore for and develop hydrocarbon deposits in blocks under the South China Sea that are held to be in Vietnam’s economic zone, but which are claimed by China.

The South China Sea is now widely seen as one of the region’s key strategic flashpoints, writes The Australian, with China’s territorial claims bringing it into dispute with five other countries in the region.

Most recently, an Indian naval vessel was confronted in international waters by a Chinese ship demanding that the Indians explain their presence. “The incident brings into the open India’s strategic ambitions in Southeast Asia and, it appears, China’s displeasure,” writes The Australian.

And as deteriorating relations between the United States and Pakistan have alienated the Pakistanis, “China will be waiting in the wings to capitalise on the spat”. The Indians should be worried argues The Diplomat. China “now stands as a clear rival” to Indian influence in Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, a circle of nations around the Indian sub-continent.

Addressing our Members and Associates in China and in India: do you agree with Prof. Binedell?

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