China in South Asia: Influence and Feedback

Presentation made at the British High Commission, New Delhi, 22 August 2013.


A. Developing countries, Duo

–          ideological connect

  • non-Western
    • genuine Marxist feeling in the unity of the Third World
    • minus the Maoist “you’re either with us or against us”
  • coalition building

–          common national interests

  • anti-Western / non-Western
  • international organizations
  • trade
  • energy security

B. China Solo

  • economic interests
    • ‘going out’ strategy
      • South Asia/Africa as a stepping stone to Western markets
      • Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar
        • lives expendable
          • Chinese engineers in Pakistan
          • buying out insurgents
            • Taliban, Kachins, Wa
    • Bangladesh
      • rising labour costs in China
        • ready-made garment sector
    • infrastructure development
      • overcapacity in China
      • security implications in India
  • Western Development Strategy
    • Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan
    • BCIM (Kunming Initiative)
      • the Northeast focus of India’s Look East Policy is an afterthought, perhaps even inspired by China’s Western Development Strategy 
  • consequences for countries where China is invested
    • a Chinese approach to environmental issues
    • a replication of Chinese labour standards
    • corruption
  • geostrategic interests
    • Pakistan
      • balancing India
      • Pakistan’s historical role as mediator in Sino-US rapprochement
      • arms sales
      • nuclear weapons/technology
      • terrorism
      • Karakoram Highway
  • Myanmar
    • energy pipelines
    • UNSC veto

C. China Numero Uno

–          ideological

  • Beijing model – political and economic
    • not so much anti-Western as just Chinese
  • support for an alternative Chinese universe?
    • Chinese exceptionalism
    • Confucius Institutes
from a Beijing bookstore
from a Beijing bookstore

–          resources

  • hydrocarbons
    • competitive bidding
      • despite CNPC-OVL MoUs
      • water
        • reluctance to share information
          • Brahmaputra, Sutlej
  • Indian positions can sometimes be hysterical, and needlessly so

–          military

  • modernization is inevitable and so is an equivalent Indian response
  • assertiveness on the LAC is to be expected – but it is not as if the Indians are sitting back and doing nothing
  • the ‘string of pearls’ is rubbish

D. Feedback – How does South Asia influence China?

–          Indian democracy

  • chaos?
    • Indian democracy has often been referred to by Chinese elite as being chaotic but that has not stopped the CPC has relationships with several South Asian political parties, including the Congress (I) and the BJP
    • ordinary Chinese are learning from Indian experiences
      • during the height of the Anna Hazare anti-corruption campaign, many Chinese paid close attention
      • there were Chinese equivalents of the Indian website which were soon taken down by the authorities
  • constitutionalism?
    • Chinese delegations have visited India (including, the ICS) to study about electoral systems and other legal affairs
    • the Chinese are well aware of the regulatory strengths of the Indian economic system
      • stock exchanges
      • statistical system (post-1949)
    • with increasing demands from within Chinese civil society and human rights activists for the state to actually implement the provisions of its own constitution, one can be sure that rule of law and the Indian political system will receive increasing attention in China

–          religion

  • Buddhism
    • cooperation – Nalanda University however, does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, despite several official MoUs
    • competition – rival Buddhist conferences have been held by both countries
  • Tibet factor
    • Dalai Lama’s succession and its consequences are likely to increase tensions between the two sides
  • Islam
    • is China the next Islamist terror frontier?
      • Xinjiang radicalization
      • Hui Muslims
  • the relationship of the Chinese state with its religious communities is slowly but surely changing

Published by Jabin T. Jacob

China analysis from an Indian perspective

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