Overtaking China – Indian middle class fantasy ?


Middle class or opinion forming class of our country have been afflicted with a particular malady over the last decade. The disease has got to do with competing with our giant neighbour across the Himalayas, in various international comparison lists in different spheres like economics, social indicators etc with GDP numbers being the clear favourite. However, does it serve any utility or is it just an exercise in chest thumping? For a long time, Pakistan was the main enemy or competitor in these lists by Indian public especially in Northern and Western India. But since 1980s India has marched ahead in almost all aspects and the name Pakistan has become synonymous with only negative aspects like terrorism. China is a different ball game altogether with the defeat of 1962 still a painful memory in the Indian psyche.


Both the countries share a number of similarities like huge population, vast land area, long history, spiritual past etc. Differences too galore. Chinese have adopted a socialist model of the economy with strong capitalist layer which seems to be getting deeper whereas India followed a mixed economy with capitalism gaining prominence only after 1990’s liberalisation. But the major difference is the one which is less highlighted but more emphatic at least according to me. This would be in ethnicity and resultant cultural differences spilling over to religion and language. India has been a melting pot of races through different waves of human migration after the early man left Africa around 2 lakh years back mainly via Khyber Pass in North West and to a lesser extent from east. The Chinese also have a similar historical trajectory with different waves of human migrations. However crucial difference arises when we examine the resultant impact of these migrations. India has welcomed all those who came in India with their language, customs and religion right up to Mughals save for British who never made India their homeland.



This process of assimilation has made India a unique nation with language, religion, culture, dialects changing every 50 km. No empire had been able to unite present Indian nation with the largest empires being in ancient period of Maurya and Gupta period.


The Middle Kingdom history is remarkably different with vast empires uniting and thriving as a single state with Han identity being forged across the landscape through these periods. Even though the Chinese language has both Mandarin and Cantonese dialects it’s the former which has gained prominence. Religion has singularly been absent or dormant among its population for the past 70 years, unlike India where it occupies the most important place in the identity of an individual.


China has leapt ahead with its double-digit economic growth over the period of past 40-50 years beginning with 1979 reforms. The economy has grown multiple times becoming a factory of the world, living standards have improved, literacy rate over 90 per cent, health care indices approaching Western standards. World Trade has come to be dominated by China with some estimates accounting it at a quarter of global commerce. Military might have also grown with it becoming a nuclear power in the 1960s, acquiring ICBM technology and now aiming for bases all across the planet and even space both physical and cyber. It has also become a sports superpower with its athletes leading Olympic medal tally and successful completion of Beijing Olympics in 2008. Think tanks and drawing rooms of the world is abuzz with talks of rising of a superpower.


 India the sleeping giant and elephant which is only just awakening from its slumber. Border disputes between the neighbours have made the Indian public demand aggressive response to Chinese aggression but the government seems hesitant to play the tough game. Reasons are not hard to understand, our economy is nowhere near China, militarily we are still focussed on settling scores with Pakistan and eastern front just not in the picture. Our army is bloated with poor supply and logistics support. From the reports coming in our air force is operating below its sanctioned squadron strength. Navy has just one aircraft carrier and that too of Soviet era. Majority of its planes are of the 1980s an older vintage.


We don’t have a list of companies to rival China like an Alibaba, Xiaomi or Huawei save for a Reliance and Tata. Most Indians like the rest of the world use Chinese manufactured electronic goods like phones and computers including the one is using to write this piece and most probably the one you are using to read it. Data privacy is an issue here.  Another sad part is the lack of focus on research and the poor quality of Indian educational institutions in general. While China has a number of its institutions in top 200 universities of the world in science and arts. We are nowhere in the picture with only IIM and IITs that too few in number. Statistics comparing a number of research papers published by Indian academia paint a sad picture while Chinese are going from strength to strength. Chinese have taken efforts to study their history in a logical manner whereas Indian scene has off late been interested in mythmaking with stories of the airport in ancient Ayodhya and plastic surgery, nuclear weapons etc in epics.


Aside from all these factors the point to be noted is regarding the requirement of competition in first place. India has far more pressing problems like the poor standard of living, illiteracy, child malnourishment etc. The solutions to these need to be found obviously and are more urgent than any imaginary throne for the ruling class to brag about. Wars are fought when resources are limited and there are competitors for the same piece of the pie. Most probably the trajectory of our growth points to the said scenario playing out eventually. But are we ready to face a tough competitor like China?  Africa is supposed to be the next frontier in resource race . India with its historical links has failed to capitalize on the goodwill. Considering all these factors it would be futile for Indian middle class to daydream of competing with China. Every Indian home in 2019 has at least one Chinese product but the same cannot be said in reverse. India needs to get its act together by raising the living standards of its people, reducing its obsession with its western neighbour and only then develop any superpower ambition of its own.



译文来源:三泰虎 http://www.sshxj.com/47377.html   译者:Jessica.Wu


Amohan-5 days ago -Follow

sir, we have taken off a lot since the past 30 years. economic progress in a large democracy takes time but it is bound to happen in the years to come.



sir, that's why i said " right political leadership etc. it is not day dreaming. once the chinese must have also had such dreams which they made come true. why can't we ? nothing is impossible.



5 days ago -Follow

there is nothing wrong in dreaming big to beat china as an economic superpower. with the right political leadership, policy making, ecosystem & with a huge talented youth power, knowledge & skills we can definitely do it & a day will certainly come when the chinese will be using our products in large numbers.



AMohan - Unknown - 5 days ago -Follow

dear mr. mohan, glad to see yr. optimism - that is what baffles progressive thinkers when a survey showed that we are highly sure of our future, without plans/steps in place..?there is huge difference between 'dreaming' & day-dreaming..? unless our politics reforms upgrades cleanses itself.. that is next to impossible by themselves in stagnated pools of political narrow banners...can we catch up with china lagging behind by few decades.. of course in movies we enjoy hero on a bullock cart chasing villain on a deluxe-car..?


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