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The Dragon's Rumble


Mar 8, 2009
Guys this is an article I picked up from the Indian Express. The author seems to have taken pains to analyse the situation from an Indian perspective. I would request you to endorse your views. And yes, trollers and flamers please excuse.

By Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Posted: Friday , Aug 14, 2009 at 0006 hrs

Despite the commitment of Manmohan Singh and President Hu Jintao to keep the India-China relationship on track, there is a widespread acknowledgment in both countries that the relationship is becoming increasingly contentious. The border issue is unlikely to yield any significant breakthrough in the near future. The economic relationship is also fraught: the rising number of anti-dumping cases, charges of a Chinese conspiracy to falsely implicate Indian companies in a fake drugs scam and China’s attempts to block a loan to India at the ADB are adding fuel to anxieties in some quarters in India about how to deal with China. The level of vitriol in the public sphere in both countries is reaching unprecedented levels. In India great concern has been expressed about an editorial in the People’s Daily castigating India, and arguments emanating from a Chinese think tank about strategies to dismember it. The trust deficit seems to be widening.

It is important to contextualise public discourse. Even in China opinion is not as monolithic as we assume, and it is important not to over-interpret articles. Most China observers agree on three propositions. There seems to be a more general hardening of China’s posture towards most other powers in recent months, whether it is Canada or the European Union or other Asia-Pacific nations. India is not an exception to this trend. Second, a more hardline external posture is directly related to China’s sense of internal vulnerabilities. Paradoxically, the world probably has less to fear from a strong China than a weak one. China had witnessed, over the years, a relative degree of internal intellectual openness. There are signs that there might be greater clamping down on internal debate. The events in Xinjiang and Tibet have created a greater sense of vulnerability. It is very important for the self-identity of Chinese elites that the trigger for these events is always projected as emanating from abroad. There is often a belief that Xinjiang, Tibet, in addition to Taiwan, will be fishing ground for anti-China foreign powers. For all the immense power China has, including leverage over the United States, it still has not got over the idea that it remains a target for outsiders. Third, there is in all likelihood also more intra-elite uncertainty about the direction China should take. Chinese policy may not be as nimble as we often assume; certainly on ****** and North Korea it is more likely that the Chinese persist with the status quo because they don’t know quite how to move, rather than because they have a supremely well-thought-out policy. Its hardline may be a default way of coping with hesitation.

But in the case of India there are three other complicating factors. The first, perhaps minor, one is simply that there is no incentive for China to settle the border issue quickly. But in part this is fuelled by a perception that the domestic political economy constraints on both sides will not allow for an easy settlement. Arguably, the Tibet issue is only likely to become more potent in coming months. As an aside, it will be interesting to see if President Obama grants the Dalai Lama an audience and what the consequences of that might be. China is certainly not going to give up any claims in a hurry.

But there is also a perception in China that no Indian leadership will be able to politically deliver on a border settlement. The dominant narrative of China as an aggressor in 1962 is still so ingrained that when it comes down to the wire no Indian government will be able to make a credible offer.

The second is that the Indo-US relationship is perceived to be explicitly some part of a design to contain China. India can argue with some justification that the China-US relationship is much closer and more consequential, that improving relations with the US and China is not a zero sum game, and the possibility of serious Sino-US conflict is remote. But this argument does not seem as compelling to many Chinese for two reasons. First, many of them rate the possibility of Sino-US tensions increasing higher than what Indians normally do. So whose side you are on matters to them. Second, while they are happy with bilateral relationships, placing the relationship with the US in a broader quadrilateral arrangement involving Japan and Australia has not exactly gone down well. It has fed into their encirclement syndrome.

But the final and perhaps most important issue is this. The simple fact of the matter is that India’s success poses a challenge for the Chinese regime. So far it was easy to sustain an argument that if you are a large developing democracy, you will end up in a pathetic position like India. India still has huge challenges, but there is a sense in which it now genuinely offers a different path to development. The interesting thing about the two pieces of anti-India writing quoted in the Indian press was not their belligerence. It was the fact that they spend so much time impugning the India story — India is economically weak and backward, it cannot cope with diversity, it is artificial and so forth. The message was more to throw cold water on the Indian model, than belligerence in a classical security sense. In a strange way this confirms what some Chinese academics have been saying informally: India may pose a threat to some sections of the regime, not by its power but by its success.

The India-China relationship was always complicated. Here are two civilisations trying to get all the trappings of a nation state, each dealing in its own way with colonial legacies on borders, and with little domestic room for manoeuvre. On top of that there is an overlay of differing perceptions of geo-politics, in part made more complicated by a China that is more edgy in the last few months than ever before. A robust economic relationship was supposed to be an antidote to these tensions. But that has its limitations. Although Indian industry is more confident, the fear of Chinese over-capacity and pricing mechanisms remains. Cooperation in other multilateral forums, while it has immense possibilities, will be hampered by bilateral suspicions. India and China’s discourses about each other are complicated, because they are tied to their complex processes of self-discovery. There is not going to be an easy way to allay the trust deficit. While vigilance is important, it is equally important to throw some cold water on the paranoia building up.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
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Jun 9, 2009
United States
though i dont agree with everything that is written here, this article seems to be better than most other trash that people post when taking about china-india


Mar 8, 2009
Guys and ladies,
Here is my take on the article I have qouted above. Comments (constructive ones) are welcome please.

1. Even if "In China opinion is not as monolithic as we assume", it would be fair to assume that not taking into account discredited (by China) voices emanating from pro Tibetan, pro KMT or pro Falun gong and other anti Chinese , other authors belonging to the main stream official media in China, would need at least a wink if not a vigorous nod before publishing such radical thoughts about a neighbour with which China shares a long and volatile border. I am talking about the 'Dismembering India" article of course. In that way the Indian government is absolutely correct in taking the writing seriously. We have seen a series of similar inflamatory articles emanating from China recently. Now we all know that there is only one world view in China that matters to China, that is the Communist Party's. Contrarian views and opinions are not encouraged in China and therefore they dont exist. Which brings us to the perhaps correct impression that these inflamatory writings are being deliberately published in leading Chinese media to build up public opinion and perhaps prepare the Chinese public for what the Chinese government considers inevitable in the near future (while at the same time leaving with the Chinese leadership the option of distancing themselves from the writings in future if the need arises). This may sound ominous but we have had similar indications in the Indian media as well with a war being predicted in 2012 and 2017 by some keen China watching foreign affairs specialists. If you add to this the increasing border incursions by the Chinese in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh and consequent strengthening of borders by India's military, the whole story starts making sense. I hope like hell that I am wrong in my analysis, but I dont see any other interpretation.

2. There is no doubt that outsiders (mainly the west) are blamed for all China's ills. For Tibet it is India and the CIA. For XinJiang it is Rebiya Kadeer and the US. Incidently very recently Rebiya Kadeer was refused Indian visa. Maybe the foreign ministry thought that Dalai Lama is about all they could handle.

3. I dont know about the hardening of Chinese stance vis-a vis Canada or EU, but there is absolutely no doubt that China has not yet reconciled to the Indo-US 123 Nuclear Agreement (which China tried to veto) or the talk of 'strategic ties' between US and India. It has gone down very badly in China. The anti Indian media articles, increased border incursions and the attempted vetoing of the ADB loan were clear outcomes of improved Indo-US relations. For that matter, these developments have not gone down too well in Moscow either. The sudden warming of Sino-Russian relations (between historical rivals) are a witness. Ofcourse, Russia has the added bitterness of possibly losing its lifeline defense contracts from India to the US and the West.

4. Yes, the success of the Indian model is indeed a threat to China's one party totalitarisnism. But that threat is more ideological than existential and as long as China can keep its rebelling extremities in line through brute force, it really does not matter. The biggest and most valuable tool in the hands of the Chinese leadership is the PLA and as long as the PLA stays in line, all is well. So far as one can learn of these things, the higher leadership of the PLA and the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party have been synonymous thus far.

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