The Chinese Disdain for India

Glad to finally be checking this box off.   I’ve spoken abt it before, and now I feel the time is right to put my thoughts on this subject to paper.  

India is a vast country.  Old. Ancient.  Over a billion people.   They worship The Cow and when you die, send you to the Ganges River.    It is a deeply fragmented society.  Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist.  Indeed, India is believed to have introduced Buddhism to China.  They give shelter to the Dalai Lama. 
India is a mess.  Anyway you slice, dice, dissect…examine…study it.    Chinese look at India and say to themselves, “this is what we do not wish to become.”   It is a country still terrorized by an undeclared war with Pakistan, and terrorism still lurks about.

Now….I have never been to India.   And…..I have no wish to go to India, unless it’s a direct flight to the Taj Mahal.  India is not my cup of tea.   But as of yet, I have heard not one good thing about the place.  Not one.  Zero, from any of the colleagues, friends that I have that have been there.  But if your argument is “you haven’t been there so shut up”, save it.  It’s a specious argument, at best. 
In 2014 China had 56 million visitors.  India had…..8 million.  And I’ve rounded up. 

India historically has not been a nation as much as a mosaic of rulers, easily conquered by “Little Ol’ Britain”.   India basically was ruled by Britain from the time of the American Revolution to the end of WWII.   India at the time included both Pakistan and Bangladesh.  (England at one time had Australia, Canada, India, and had just lost the USA…wow!)

It’s hard to understand how a small population of white guys could’ve so easily dominated India until you see how the Japanese just ran all over China(and would still be there if not for the US Marines).

India has a population of at least 1.2 billion, compared to China’s 1.4 billion.  Within 15 years it will pass China.  (China’s population will actually start a slow decline).  US-Sino trade is 7 times larger than America’s trade with India.  I would dare to guess the readers I have in other countries probably have the same ratio.   India’s GDP is less than half China’s.   When will India economically surpass America? No idea, (and neither do you).  I’ve read within 50 years.  I’ve read not until the next century.   

In essence, India has been and remains historically weak.  It is the true “paper tiger” Mao alluded to when everyone thought he was talking about America.  Militarily, India is a joke.  It even lost a brief war with China. Economically, India is a poorly run country, wasting the potential of its own people on a daily basis.   (Much of its manufacturing is still reliant upon China.)    Regulations, corruption, are enormous. 

What’s that great big sucking sound you hear?  Oh, it must be India’s best and brightest going off to America….and Australia….and England….and everywhere else where there is a great demand for solving the world’s problems.

Let’s have a quick visual:  We’ve all seen the news broadcasts of Indians riding on trains, the roof, the back, holding on happily for dear life.  Well….when’s the last time we saw that in China? 

When is the last time you saw Chinese piled on top of a train cruising down the tracks? Since the Age of Deng, China has brought around 600 million people out of poverty.  (India claims over a 100 million, albeit within the last decade.)

China is the Abbot to India’s Costello.   China is what you want in a nation:  focused, determined.  A “damn the torpedoes” type nation.  They have the world’s biggest dam, almost all of the world’s tallest buildings.  According to Bill Gates’ blog, it has used more concrete over the past three years than America has since 1900.  What does India have?  While China has 6 of the 10 tallest buildings on the planet, India doesn’t clock in until number 72 on a list of the top 100.  (Both Taiwan and Malaysia have taller buildings.) 

In short, India’s infrastructure, for a country so vast, leaves more than a lot to be desired.  Shameful, actually.    Has there been a major country more woefully mismanaged over the past fifty years than India?  (Ok, maybe up until 1979…..China.) 

Yes, I know, India has a cricket team.  Let’s move on.

No one is afraid of India. 

How can two countries be so different?  If China is Horatio Alger than India is the poor, little rich boy ignored by his daddy, bereft of both ambition and a will to succeed.  Overachiever versus underachiever.  One is a country on the make…another seems so…content with itself.  As if having 
Ambition would keep one from entering Nirvana.

Pretty negative stuff, eh? 

So for the love of God  it should be pretty obvious to all which nation is healthier?  Which nation has the brighter prospects?  Which nation may very well stand the test of time?

Well, India of course.

Dare I say it will be India that outlasts China, on the stage of world history?

In the very grand scheme of things,(the VERY BIG PICTURE VIEW) it is India, not China, that is prepared to move forward.   Why is that?

Simple:  India is more comfortable in its own skin.   It has no illusions as to who it is, nor does it have any illusions as to where it stands on the world stage. 

In short, India lives the path of least resistance.  It simply hums along.  It’s not bragging about its newest stealth fighter, nor is it building islands in the middle of the sea, pissing everyone off.   Its Navy doesn’t shadow American warships.  It has no master plan of turning Africa into a 19th century style colony.   

There are no “nine dash lines” with India.   No one in India is looking for a fight.   There is no nationalistic paper screaming out daily tirades about foreigners and their designs on “keeping India down”.

Don’t get me wrong.  India is a train wreck.  Imagine a dam with many small leaks.   While the tension may have been greatest when the first leak occurred, the people have now gotten used to the dam with the many small leaks, and as such, the dam is much more manageable than before.  Dangerous, yes, buckling at the seams….no.  Another small leak springs….and people move on.  Life doesn’t come crashing to a halt.  Society faces no upheaval.

My point is India is comfortable with its place in the world.   And the world is better for it.

Now look at China.  Its dam is pristine, strong, awe inspiring.  There are no leaks.  Yet everyone can see the pressure building.  The dam itself bulging.  Everyone knows what will happen if the dam actually breaks.   Yet nothing is done to lessen the pressure.  They just assume because it is strong it will not burst.  Thus it is never discussed.  Its vulnerability simply remains an open secret.   Yet all hope the unthinkable will not happen.  For as we all know with China, one small leak and the whole damn thing may come down.  

Meanwhile India is nothing but a chaotic stew of people that bitch all day.  Democracy run amok.   Too many opinions, too many points of view.  Too much arguing.  And simply not enough getting done.   Never a consensus.   The poor Indian people are forever stuck in the middle.  Yet, unlike China, India has learned to live with this chaos.  It doesn’t feel threatened by it.  Reporters don’t get assassinated.   Facebook, and Twitter are alive and well.  People don’t get arrested in the middle of the night.  The free flow of ideas keeps the Indian Nation strong and alive.  No one lives in Fear.   And a society can only survive if it’s people do not fear that latenight knock at the door.

India, while comically weaker than China, has a far stronger society.  Healthy and vibrant.   Papers print what they want.  Dissent is the norm, not the exception.  There is no Big Brother like what exists in China.   In short, India is better equipped to handle change.  Better equipped to deal with a leaky dam.  China is not.  

And yet while India saunters about at its own pace, content with its role on the world stage, China continues to raise the bar….success after success, some very real, some simply an illusion(More high growth!  The same as last year!  Yeah….we rock!)

All this publicly touted success meanwhile continues to increase the internal expectations of its own People.  And the scary part is the Chinese People are Drinking the Kool-Aid.   China is no North Korea, with a blind and ignorant populace.  No.  Peasantry aside, it has a well educated People with a very sensitive understanding of its Place in the World, historically and many thanks to unrelenting propaganda, in the future as well.  Dangerous stuff.

It has become increasingly clear that the one accomplishment the CCP has brought about is the ability to make the Chinese People feel good about themselves again.    This is important because unlike India’s people, the Chinese have previously not felt good about themselves since the time of The Macartney Embassy in 1793.

And unlike India, the Chinese simply do not feel comfortable in their own skin.  Thus the passion to do more, the untiring drive to impress.  The tendency after each accomplishment to look around and say 

“look at me!”.

Alas, because of the inflexibility of China’s society, the rigidity of its government institutions, the inability to handle change, much less dissent, this may someday prove fatal.  When the energy of the upward trajectory runs its course the fall will be all the harder.   The trillions China has in the bank will only be able to do so much.  

The Chinese know their land is poisoned.  They know the gap between rich and poor is widening.  Yet the Chinese could only wish they had the ability to speak out and be heard like the Indians can and do every day.

China’s fear of chaos compared with India can be seen in one silly statistic:  Indians are allowed to take $75000 out of the country.  (It was once $200,000) Chinese only $50,000. (Btw China has ten times the foreign currency reserves of India).  Despite China’s vastly greater wealth, it still insists on greatly micromanaging the flow of foreign currency, to the benefit of the State as opposed to the Individual.  (Where else can China get all that money to spend on overseas infrastructure projects…modern day dollar diplomacy.)

As long as India places the Individual above the State, it will never be “strong” like China.   And that’s ok.

China likes to conveniently look to Russia as a case study in “what can go wrong” with sudden democracy and liberalization.   What it conveniently does is ignore India.  While the Chinese look at India with more than a mild form of disapproval and shake their heads, they continue to fail to recognize that India is who China should emulate.  However, Chinese Pride at it’s own glowing accomplishments and disdain for India’s probably make that quite the distant dream.  China is simply incapable of admitting that it can learn from a country it so openly looks down upon.

Seriously, if India the great morass of chaos that it is, can be free and democratic, why cannot China?   
Make no mistake, it would be silly to make China democratic in my or my children’s lifetime.  All my readers know this.  The transition to democracy in China would take 3 generations to complete.  And I’m not at all sure The World could survive the attempt.  In the interim all of Asia would probably go up in flames before China “got it right”.   Democracy is best left to nascent nations, not to societies as neurotic and prone to hold a grievance as China. 

And that is India’s greatest strength.  Can  you “blame” it on the British? Maybe.  Churchill once said that India wasn’t ready for independence.  He famously claimed “grass would grow in the streets”, and he was damn near right.   But in my view India has made it and come through to the other side.   China has yet to take the journey itself, and despite its wealth and power, people that have lived there for long periods of time understand that China is all the worse for it.

Because in the end, the way things are currently progressing, it may very well be India shoveling the ashes of China onto the dust heap of “has beens, could’ve beens, should’ve beens”. 


  1. If you think India is any less neurotic than China, you are sorely mistaken.

    China settled its land borders with 12 different nations over the course of 40 years. India JUST settled its border dispute with Bangladesh, and is so insecure about China that it still refuses to settle its border dispute even when China has offered the status quo as a settlement option 15 times over the last 12 years.

    The Indian media constantly harps about threats to the nation. China, the US ("Amreeka"), Pakistan/Islam, Sri Lanka, "Banglas" - the list goes on and on. India just banned porn. India just banned beef consumption in several states. India just banned gold imports and raised an additional 120,000 troops on the Sino-Indian border while China's troop numbers have remained constant. This is not the mark of a secure country.

    1. Well said on all points. I would like to think that India's Free Press will go a long way towards keeping the country intact. In China, its too late for a Free Press. It's past the point of no return.

  2. oh yeah, India is a shithole. No doubt about that. Would that there was a non-stop flight to the Taj Mahal. So far out of the way. Ok, big picture, Real Politic, cold-hearted thinking here: India may actually be China's only way to save itself. Or should I say, the CCP's way to save itself. Right now China is picking all sorts of micro-fights over islands in the, well let's just say western Pacific Ocean. (And why do Chinese people use the word "micro" so much? What is a micro-blog anyways?) These fights seem to be based first on potential economic and natural resource gains. Whatever. To me, these are not the fights it should be picking. China seems to want these fights, but the fight it needs is with India. Fortunately, India may also need this fight. And it's all about having too many single males. Both countries have a warped gender ratio for the same reason: parents want boys. Focusing just on China, there is a growing understanding that the 剩女 are not the problem, instead it is the 剩男. No one causes more trouble for society than horny men with access to alcohol. So all this current simmering is going to come to boiling. So what China needs is not some stupid aircraft based war, but a land war with an India that has the same looming problem. How does this save the CCP? Well, in numerous ways. The populace always rallies around the flag during a war. It allows more crackdowns on civil society. And it eliminates a source of domestic disruption. Surely the CCP will see this as a win-win-win situation.

    And the rest of the world is not really going to care. It will be fought in the boonies by two willing participants who won't take it nuclear because they both know the goal is to kill off a specific demographic. What a crazy war: fighting not to win anything or defeat anyone, but instead going to war as a way to reduce your own population.

    And don't kid yourself: political leaders have forever been willing to use the deaths of their young men to stay in power. It's the fight that the CCP needs and I wouldn't doubt if it soon wants. And when a nation's wants and needs align, it'll happen.

  3. Well, Mike, your thinking is out of the box. The only thing I would question is whether the Chinese themselves would find any "glory" or "honor" fighting a nation they so look down upon? I think the Chinese government is looking for a bigger stage. Someone to impress the People. I'm just not so sure India would fit the bill anymore.

  4. OK. point taken about "honor", but I would disagree for three reasons. One is the fact that they already feel superior to the Indians makes it easier to sell to the people because the battle to de-humanize the opponent is already accomplished. If you can de-humanize a group, it becomes pretty easy to justify the elimination of that group. Pick a war and you'll find the dehumanization rampant on both sides. It is actually much much harder to sell a war against a people you respect. Second, war is war. People get excited about any little fight. When the US invaded the teeny tiny island of Grenada! "patriotism" shot way up here. War is war and the populace always rallies around the flag/government. Enthusiasm might fade if things go badly, but information and enthusiasm can be controlled and/or inflated by the government through control of the media and ensuring lots of pro-China rallies take place. People love a war (from a distance), they love it even more when they dislike the opponent, even more when they don't lose, and if they don't like it, I have full faith in the CCP to make them like it!

    This war would be extremely orchestrated by both countries, with each allowing each other to claim victory. Each will be able to say that it stood up to the bully. The outcome is already determined: status quo ante. The goal is understood: maintenance of state control by current regimes. The means to accomplish this goal is accepted by both sets of leaders: the elimination of surplus male population.

    I'm not saying it's probable. But, to me, it's quite plausible.

  5. As an Indian, I agree with a lot of what you have written. Very few have realize how "comfortable Indians are in their own skin". We are noisy, argumentative, corrupt, can't really put our house in order....but are so smug that we are ever ready to preach others.

    I lived in Singapore 2007-2008, and I was quite surprised at the deference shown to White people. In India, you can find a person,say an employee of a US/European corporation, munching McDonalds burger with a Coke by side, driving a Volkswagen and carrying a Nokia cell phone, WITHOUT irony lecturing White folks about Indian cultural superiority.

    Not for nothing that Indians got under the skin of JFK, LBJ, Nixon and Kissenger.


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