The last session at the two-day Hindustan Times Leadership Summit unravelled the many dimensions of one often asked question—what the rise and shine of China means for India.
On Saturday, three academicians of international repute delved deep into the issue — the economic, security and geo-political aspects of that question — and varying degrees of concerns and anxiety were discussed threadbare.
Setting the tone for the discussions, Kenneth Lieberthal, senior fellow of foreign policy studies at Brooking’s, said the rise of China had brought more “diplomatic room” for India, raised security concerns here, saw Beijing’s push for global resources going up, and had an adverse impact on climate change.
As the paradigm of discourse moves from “peaceful China to assertive China”, Lieberthal found the interests of the US growing in the region.
Making the opening remarks, Yasheng Huang from MIT’s Sloan School of Management was “optimistic of India’s economic growth”. He cited Brazil, which had double-digit growth and massive state investment and intervention decades earlier—the attributes one gives to China— but which faltered later. He said that unlike this model, India had a “dynamic private sector” playing a key role in its economic growth story.
Richard Rigby from Australian National University, who had spent some years in his country’s foreign ministry, said that in the Chinese scheme of things the US often figures because China wants to compare, compete with and rival it.
Saying that the rise of China will bring its share of national security issues in Indian minds, he said “competition and cooperation” was the way forward. “You need to know each other better” was his advice.
Rigby, with a fair amount of agreement from Lieberthal, said that Chinese interests in resources and sea routes were often seen as strategic moves, but that was not correct. Rigby didn’t see much sense in the much-talked-of pearl of strings theory — a strategic move that involves establishing a series of nodes of military power throughout a region—of China. He said ports like Hambantota in Sri Lanka, developed with Chinese assistance, can hardly be put to military use.
As moderator Raghav Bahl put it, the panelists didn’t see the quest for political freedom by the Chinese “as Indians understand it”.
Rigby said that the Chinese middle class, despite the ills of the Communist party rule of many years, was enjoying prosperity thanks to the same regime.