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China-India Influence: So Near, Yet So Far
BRIC is overhyped. Even India is overhyped. China is the main player
Ranjit Goswami (ranjit)     Print Article 
Published 2007-05-28 15:28 (KST)   
China isn't hype. It's a hard reality for the rest of the world powers to readjust their respective positions unwillingly in order to let this growing power take up more and more room in the limited global arena.

And many powers, realizing the potential and reality of China shrank their respective space to accommodate China, only to rediscover within days that the space they vacated was occupied by this octopus-dragon within days, and that it asking for even more sooner than anyone expected.

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Enough has been written on rising China; however the actual impact of China can't be gauged with Western-style measures of economic power (read GDP). That only understates China's power, helping China to further strengthen itself without drawing adverse attention. In terms of GDP, it still is 1/4th that of the U.S. or the EU.

Still many joined the hype when it came to focus on future growth drivers of the world economy, and influencing geopolitics through a combination of economic and military measures. And unfortunately, hype has followers everywhere.

The biggest of that hype is proven by the coinage of the "BRIC" acronym, encompassing the obvious four of the largest eight populous countries.

The four not included in that Goldman Sachs creation are the U.S. itself, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

One scale does not fit all. It's high time that the world rewrites that Brazil-Russia-India-China by beginning and ending with China alone, and still it would be an understatement for China. If one wants to add another important meaningful growth destination that can influence the world economically and militarily, it's Russia.

On the other hand, India is all hype. As time moves, more and more of the hype is falling part, compared to China.

It's either propaganda or stupidity that often compares India and China as running side by side in the same race of economic growth, accompanied with influencing world opinion (read Asia-Pacific/South Asia). Their similarities are few, whereas the differences stand like the Himalayas in between these two neighboring nations.

Many miss those high mountains of differences between India and China in an apparently "flat world" on two-dimensional maps. Policymakers in the West, in spite of knowing fully well how naive the Indo-China comparisons are, are only too happy to go along, as it apparently reduces the pressure on their assumed superpower status.

Talking about two smaller rising competing neighborly stars in the single superpower world are much more comforting than facing a rapidly rising economic monster. India has been used in that propaganda as a pawn, and a few in India have fallen for the short-term glamor of that comparative propaganda without considering the long-term potential loss when the time comes for the scorecards to be read out wide in the open.

The similarities are obvious, and can't be missed. To repeat the obvious, these are:

(1) Both India and China have population of 1 billion-plus, India at 1.1 billion and China at 1.3 billion. However with present trends, India will exceed China between 2030 and 2050, maybe even earlier. And the next country in population (the U.S.) is only one-quarter the size of these two. Even when 57 countries from Africa (933 million) or 52 European countries or regions (809 million) are taken as a whole, each of them fall short of the billion mark. That's how India and China compare in population to the rest of the world! Therefore when one feels that it demands an Indian eye to understand the "real" China, the feeling may not be discarded easily.

(2) Short-term economic growth rates for last couple of years, irrespective of the bases and the long term historical data, had these two nations at the top of the world list, and caused the hype to be fed by ignoring the longer-term trends and other trademarks of these two societies; and finally:

(3) Both India and China have had rich cultural and economic prosperity in the past. Both have histories of 5,000 years or even older, and for nearly the two millennia preceding the industrial revolution, these two nations were what the U.S. and Europe is to present world. India and China contributed 20 percent or even more to global GDP for close to 2,000 years.

The long-term past is never an indicator of the short-term future. And the short-term pasts for India and China have almost nothing in common beyond the obvious to indicate that they would have similar results in short-term future.

India and China have more differences that would critically determine what roles they play in near-term global affairs. And their global roles are likely to be different, one with the voice of 1.3 billion demanding more with every passing day; and the other struggling to identify the common voice from its caste-based, religion-based, language-based, party-based fragmented 1.1 billion.

The only commonality here again is the sharp division these two nations have created along the economic lines of prosperity -- with a small number of haves and a significant majority of have-nots. India has come on top of the Asian billionaires list with 36 billionaires having combined net-wealth of $191 billion; China has 20 billionaires with combined wealth of $29.4 billion. Indian billionaires control wealth nearly three times the government's annual budget; in China, the annual budget exceeds by five times the billionaires' combined wealth.
You can find part 2 of this article by clicking here.
©2007 OhmyNews
Ranjit Goswami is a research scholar with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, India; and is the author of the book "Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d'".
Other articles by reporter Ranjit Goswami

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