- (april 2009)
India vs China: a story of waking-up giants.
The single most important act of the Condi Rice era may have been the nuclear
pact between India and the USA. It not only changed decades of hostility dating
to the years when India was allied with the Soviet Union and the USA was allied
with Pakistan, but it also greatly undermined China's supremacy in Asia.
India has as many people as China and its economy is growing as fast as
China's (and India's GDP figures are way more reliable than China's figures).
India has never signed a peace treaty with China over the bitter war they
fought in 1962 over a territory that is currently administered by India
(nor has India ever recognized the portion of Kashmir that Pakistan ceded
to China in return for military help). The world is very familiar with China's
claims on Taiwan, but China has a no less stubborn and aggressive attitude
towards an entire state of India that it claims its own. India has also been
annoyed by China's constant presence in its sphere of influence: India, after
all, does not mess with China's neighbors. The USA-India alliance has propelled
India to a higher status within Asia, while at the same time reducing
China's status within the continent.
The threat to China's interests is even more direct than a vague geopolitical
competition. The majority of China's trade with Africa and the Middle East
(where China gets most of its natural resources and has invested massively in
mining and drilling) travels through the Indian
Ocean, that is mainly controlled by the navies of the USA and India.
When China decided to fund a highway through Burma/Myanmar, it was meant
as a shortcut to avoid going through Western-controlled areas such as
Singapore and the Philippines. After the USA-India agreement, China decided
to fund a highway through Pakistan that will connect Kunming (China) with
the Indian Ocean bypassing not only Singapore but even the whole of India.
And China had already embarked in building the port of Gawdar for Pakistan.
China has studied history: Japan before World War II depended on natural
resources that were controlled by the Western powers along routes controlled
by Western powers. The Western powers were in a position to blackmail Japan.
To this day many Japanese analysts claim that Japan was "forced" to invade
Indonesia (oil) and other regions to counterbalance the Western control of
Asian natural resources and routes. Today China may find itself in a similar
position: a booming economy that needs to import resources along routes
controlled by rival powers.
When the government of Sri Lanka decided to double its efforts against the
Tamil Tigers, only China and Pakistan offered weapons: Sri Lanka is a
Western-leaning democracy, but it has long resented India's tacit support
for the Tamil Tigers, and China probably viewed this as a chance to create
a wedge in India's domination of the Indian seas.
In november 2008 Chinese president Hu Jintao visited Latin America to increase
trade with that continent. Maybe China has realized that, ironically, it's
the Americas that constitute a safer source of natural resources because no
country controls the Pacific Ocean the way the USA and Indian navy control the
Now the USA has another wild card to play: Japan. Japan has been demilitarized
since the end of World War II and its public opinion has little appetite for
an army. However, should Japan rearm, it would represent a colossal challenge
for China. As China flexes its muscles, it has to keep smiling at its neighbors
for fear that Japan may eventually decide to "defend" itself.
An arms race in that part of the world would probably not be in China's
interests because it would tighten the triple alliance of India, Japan and
China. India and Japan are Asia's oldest democracies (and for a long time were
the only democracies outside the West).
In 2004 India became the largest recipient of Japanese aid...
TM, ®, Copyright © 2007 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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