15 January, 2008

"Chindia" - a strategic partnership


As a portmanteau term for China and India considered together, this word has been around in the Western press since 2004, though it may have been used earlier in the Far East. The blend of the two names is intended to suggest that they are becoming a powerful economic force whose global influence may change the pattern of the world’s trade over the next couple of decades.

The credit of coining the now popular term goes to leading Indian economist and politician Jairam Ramesh.

While the 20th century was driven by political ideology of advanced countries, the 21st century will be driven by markets of emerging nations.

No matter what ideology one follows to uplift growth of emerging economies, whether Communism, foreign aid, or access to markets, it is not sustainable due to several reasons. First, all advanced countries are aging and aging fast. They have low to no domestic growth as exemplified by Japan, Germany and France. Thus market access in exchange for geopolitical alignment is also not sustainable. Outsourcing of work such as manufacturing or services will increasingly result in domestic political turmoil.

Second, political leaders of all advanced nations have realized that what matters most to people in elections across national and cultural boundaries, is hardcore realities of economic growth as manifested in jobs and wealth creation for the masses.

A third factor for the rise of market forces is the dramatic and sudden collapse of Communism as an ideological counterbalance to capitalism. Economic bankruptcy of Communist nations forced them to embrace capitalism. Despite all its ills, Communism created two key resource-based advantages for the nation. First, they made primary and secondary education mandatory and further invested in post secondary technical and vocational education to produce skilled workers for the factories and the military. Second, they made gender a non-issue. It did not matter whether you were a man or a woman; both had to go to school or work for the state. This resulted in an enormously large pool of talented and skilled people, both men and women, even in small countries, let alone China and Russia. If, in addition, the nation also has natural resources—especially industrial raw materials like coal, oil, gas and copper—it will provide additional resource advantages to these ex-Communist or ex-socialist countries. The final reason for the growth of emerging economies is easier access to global capital and technology...(read more)

China + India = Chindia, a strategic partnership

IN THEIR talks this week in Beijing, the visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao hope to unveil a new phase in bilateral relations.

After the unreal idealism of the 1950s, war and conflict during the 1960s and 1970s, and a wary normalisation of ties during the 1980s and 1990s, India and China are seeking to inject real strategic content into their relationship.

Both countries are today acutely aware of their own changing positions in the global power hierarchy. Self-assurance in both the capitals has begun translating into a new engagement that promises to transcend the traditional emphasis on contentious bilateral issues.

Although much of the world has been animated by the rise of China and the emergence of India, and their potential impact on the world - from global warming to the Asian balance of power - Beijing and New Delhi were burdened for long by a narrow bilateral framework.

To be sure, the idea of 'Chindia' - of China and India taking on the world - was invented a few years ago in New Delhi. On its part, China in recent years has repeatedly reaffirmed its desire for a genuine friendship with India.

Despite their aspirations for a strategic partnership, mutual suspicion over Tibet, an intractable boundary dispute, and differences over Pakistan were among the many issues that limited the scope of the relationship in the past.

It is only now, amidst a grudging acceptance of each other's rise, that China and India have begun to explore a broader agenda of regional and international cooperation.

Until recently, China used to view India as a mere regional power within the subcontinent. Worse still, the Chinese establishment was convinced that India, with its internal chaos, would never get its act together.

Over the last decade, India has surprised China in many ways. India not only defied the international system by conducting nuclear tests in May 1998, but it has also successfully negotiated its entry into the nuclear club by cultivating a special relationship with the Bush administration. India's unprecedented high growth rates in recent years have also made it clear to Beijing that the economic momentum behind New Delhi's rise is now real and consequential.

New Delhi's successful big power diplomacy - including a rapprochement with Washington and Tokyo - has made Beijing aware of India's potential to constrict China's room for manoeuvre. As India pulls away from its dispirited sibling Pakistan, China's traditional policy of balancing India within the subcontinent has become unsustainable.

India, too, has steadily come to terms with the implications of China's rise. The Indian industry, which initially feared economic competition from Beijing, now sees China as a huge economic opportunity. Trade between the two nations has increased about a hundredfold - from a measly $300US million ($430S million) a decade ago to nearly $38US billion in 2007. The Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese President are now expected to set more ambitious targets for bilateral trade.

India, which in the past was anxious about China's ties with its smaller neighbours, is now reconciled to the inevitability of Beijing's rising profile in and around the subcontinent. For the Indian strategic establishment, the answer lies not in a perennial gripe but in emulating China's forward-looking economic policies towards the neighbours.

Amidst its growing economic and military capabilities, India is now more confident of raising its own profile in the presumed backyard of China - East and South-east Asia.

Given the burden of the past, Dr Singh and Mr Hu are bound to pay some attention to the old bilateral agenda. In their joint declaration, the two sides are likely to review the progress made so far on the boundary dispute and reaffirm their political commitment to its early resolution.

Thanks to a reasonably stable frontier and the new breadth of the bilateral ties, the two leaders are expected to focus on the construction of a partnership that looks at a wider regional and global agenda.

One element of the putative strategic partnership lies in mutual political reassurance that they do not pose a security threat to each other. On the eve of his three-day visit to Beijing, Dr Singh had once again reaffirmed that India will not join any alliance aimed at containing China. Beijing, in turn, has recognised the dangers of pushing India into the arms of the United States and the importance of encouraging New Delhi to take a more relaxed view of China's rise.

Second, India and China are likely to emphasise their shared interest in regional stability in different sub-regions of Asia. The effect that a failed state in Pakistan would have on their own security is likely to nudge Dr Singh and Mr Hu to exchange views on the deepening structural crisis in India's very important western neighbour. While it is premature to talk of Sino-Indian cooperation in stabilising Pakistan, New Delhi's vastly improved relations with Islamabad have begun to alter the old triangular dynamic between India, China and Pakistan.

Beyond the subcontinent, India and China will have to work hard to harmonise their positions in the Central, South-east and East Asian regions. All indications are that there is a new political will in both the capitals to begin a serious conversation about their common neighbourhood.

Third, as their national interests turn global, India and China are beginning to bump into each other in different regions of the world.

Dr Singh and Mr Hu now recognise the importance of minimising the potential for future conflict, and maximising the prospect for greater cooperation on a range of issues - from global trade talks to international terrorism, and from African development to energy security.

As the two leaders work on a significant regional and global agenda, sceptics around the world will be looking for any movement on an issue that has cast a shadow over the future of Sino-Indian relations - China's ambiguity regarding India's nuclear deal with the United States.

An explicit signal from the Chinese leadership during Dr Singh's visit that Beijing will not oppose the implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear initiative, and might even be prepared to embark on atomic energy cooperation with India, could fundamentally alter the popular Indian misgivings about China and pave the way for a real strategic partnership between the two Asian giants.


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao now recognise the importance of minimising the potential for future conflict, and maximising the prospect for greater cooperation on a range of issues - from global trade talks to international terrorism, and from African development to energy security.

BY: C.Raja Mohan

C. Raja Mohan is a professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


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