China in 2011: Through the Indian Looking Glass

Originally published: Jabin T. Jacob, “We are not that different, you and I,” DNA, 27 December 2011, p. 12.

With the exception of the 1962 conflict almost everything else about China is seen and understood in India through Western eyes. But, isn’t China, like India, a country of over a billion people? Why then suppose that anybody could understand the Chinese and their problems better than we Indians could? Who but Indians can really grasp the incredible complexities and myriad problems of a billion people living under one flag?

As Shakespeare’s Shylock might have continued asking, does China not have corruption and police brutality, unemployment and inflation, farmers committing suicide and migrant workers shivering in the cold? Does China not have a weak government and coalition politics, ethnic conflict and environmental protests?

“It does?”, you ask. Yes, it does. Read more

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Xi Jinping – China’s Leader-in-Waiting

Originally published: Jabin T. Jacob, “The man with a dragon tattoo,” DNA, 27 December 2011, p. 12.

Xi Jinping, currently Vice-President of China, is slated to take over as General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) at the 18th Party Congress in October 2012. He will thus be part of the ‘fifth generation’ of Chinese communist leaders to take power since 1949, following in the line of Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin and current CPC General Secretary and state President Hu Jintao. Read more

Q&A: The India-China Border Conflict

This interview was originally published by the World Politics Review‘s Global Insider on 23 November 2011.

WPR: What are the core unresolved issues regarding the India-China border?

Jabin T. Jacob: The main point of contention in the Sino-Indian boundary dispute was originally the Aksai Chin area in the Indian northwest. China had built a road to Lhasa through the area, setting off the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962. This area remains in Chinese possession. In the late-1980s, however, the core of the dispute shifted eastward to the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which the Chinese claim and call “Southern Tibet.” It is not clear what set off this new Chinese emphasis, but there seem to be at least two factors. First, Arunachal is rich in mineral, water and timber resources and is therefore important for the economically underdeveloped Tibet Autonomous Region. Second, Tawang, a Buddhist-majority town in Arunachal, is the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama and is believed to have paid taxes to the traditional Tibetan administration in Lhasa. The emphasis on Tawang — which has come to symbolize the dispute — appears to be part of a Chinese attempt to reinforce its legitimacy in Tibet and to be seen as capable of defending Tibetan interests better than the present Dalai Lama.

WPR: What is driving India’s decision to increase its security infrastructure and troop presence along the border?

WPR: What diplomatic avenues are being used to address the issue, and how effective have they been?

See the full interview World Politics Review – Q&A – Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute

Buddhism in India’s Soft Power Quiver

Originally published: Jabin T. Jacob, “A tale of two coalitions,” DNA (Mumbai), 8 December 2011.

The Special Representatives talks on the Sino-Indian boundary dispute slated for the end of November were called off after the Chinese objected to a Buddhist gathering in India that would have hosted the Dalai Lama. The incident has been viewed in different lights among New Delhi’s strategic community – as a diplomatic gaffe signifying lack of coordination within the government, as standing up to China by refusing to pressure the organizers of the Buddhist gathering, and as having meekly surrendered to China by cancelling plans to allow the Indian President and Prime Minister to address the gathering. Read more