Ever since India became independent, Indians have regarded China with a mixture of admiration, envy and apprehension. In the early years, admiration had predominated, albeit tinged with apprehension. Within days of the founding of the Peoples’ Republic on 1 October 1949, Beijing Radio had begun to broadcast the government’s intention to ‘liberate all Chinese territories, including Xinjiang and Tibet. On 7 October 1950, 40,000 Chinese troops invaded Tibet and claimed that it had liberated it from foreign dominion.
Just 12 days later, it sent 30 divisions, more than 300,000 soldiers into North Korea to help the Peoples’ Republic repel what it considered to be a UN-backed American invasion of North Korea and avert a possible threat to China. Over the next 3 years, it threw in another 200,000 soldiers into the battle and fought a grand coalition of forces, consisting of 360,000 men, 2,300 guns and mortars, up to 1,000 tanks and self-propelled artillery pieces, and 1,600 aircraft, and brought them to a standstill.
The apprehension deepened when China began to lay claim over 49,000 sq. miles of territory in the Himalayas that India regarded as its own, and turned into active animosity, underlined by fear, in 1962, after India’s defeat in the SinoIndian border war. Mr Vajpayee’s visit to Beijing in 1978, as foreign minister of the Janata government, Rajiv Gandhi’s visit 10 years later as prime minister, and the signature of the agreement on peace and tranquility in the border regions, during the visit of Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1993 restored normal relations. In the 1990s, as China’s growth rate skyrocketed and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) poured in, admiration returned, but now tinged with envy. Today the envy is in retreat. As China’s growth rate slowed from a dizzy 12 per cent between 1991 and 1995 to 8 per cent between 1996 and 2000, and as India’s growth rate accelerated to 6.5 per cent between 1993–94 and 2002–03, Indian economists began to ask themselves what it would take to equal, if not exceed China’s growth rate.
China is consuming between two to three times more of raw materials than any other country, for every dollar of GDP that it produces. But this raises several other questions; first, if its growth is both high and extremely wasteful, how long can it be sustained? And second, if despite the wastefulness of its production process China still manages to undercut all other countries in the international market for consumer goods, then who is paying the cost of the extra raw materials, energy and services being consumed in their manufacture?
Finally, if this ‘surplus’ is being forcibly sequestered from workers and peasants, as several writers have pointed out, what are the mechanisms being used and how long will people continue to accept them? Now that Indians have decided to treat everything that China has done as a beacon for their endeavours, it is all the more imperative to first understand the economic and social cost of the decisions it has taken before deciding whether a pluralist, democratic society can really afford to go down the same road.
Not doing so can land Indians in decisions that are both economically and politically unsustainable. These will, to say the least, lead to enormous waste. They could also strain the fabric of our society beyond its breaking point.
— (Reproduced from Managed Chaos- The Fragility of the Chinese Miracle by Prem Shankar Jha)