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Mainstream, VOL LV No 23 New Delhi May 27, 2017

Engaging Narrative of Past and Present Sino-Indian Economic, Cultural, Social Milieu

Saturday 27 May 2017, by Bharti Chhibber


China and India: History, Culture, Cooperation and Competition edited by Paramita Mukherjee, Arnab K. Dev and Miao Pang; New Delhi: Sage; 2016; pp. 232; Rs 945.

In today’s globalised world in an age of information and communication technology, soft power is considered a more effective dimension of diplomacy going beyond the economic and military power. Soft power is ‘the ability to shape the preferences of others’. Havard Professor Joseph S. Nye, Jr. in Soft Power (2005) defines it as the ‘ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments. It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies.’ Culture is an important aspect of soft power and both India and China take pride in their ancient civilisation and different cultures.

India-China relations have seen their ups and downs from animosity in the 1960s and 1970s to warming up of relations in the 1980s to present times. India and China have major irritants like border issues, China-Pakistan relations, trade imbalance, and China’s opposition to Indian membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. At the same time their interests converge in various multilateral initiatives like BRICS, BCIM, apart from enhanced trade relations with mutual bilateral visits by the heads of state and govern-ment.

In order to fully grasp the present relationship between India and China it will be interesting to appreciate the historical, cultural, economic and social connection between the two states. It has been argued time and again that we are moving towards an Asian century with rising economies of the two Asian states.

The book under review is an attempt to present a holistic account of history, politics, economics and business relations between India and China from the past to the present. Scholars and academicians from India and China have collaborated in this venture with their diverse and comprehensive assessments of historical and cultural links between the two countries. China and India: History, Culture, Cooperation and Competition, edited by Paramita Mukherjee, Arnab K. Dev and Miao Pang, analyses the different economic graphs of the two states and contemporary politico-economic divergences and convergences between the two. It further suggests ways to augment tourism between the two Asian partners.

Chindia (a portmanteau word for India and China together) are gradually excelling in manufacturing and service industry in the world; they would further mutually benefit if they cooperate. With remarkable fiscal advancement, both are moving towards playing a more significant role in international relations. The volume traces culture and economic exchanges between the two states which started centuries ago. As the editors point out, the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, and the famous Arthashastra contain references of China. Historically, kings, diplomats, scholars, envoys, monks, pilgrims and traders have played a crucial role in bringing the two cultures in sync.

The work is divided into two broad parts. Part One entitled ‘History, Culture, and International Relations’ deals with subjects like Indus Civilisation, Sino-India cultural differences and tourism. It traces the genesis and evolution of ancient civilisations, Indus and ancient Shu. The first chapter by Zou Yiquing showcases varied aspects of the two civilisations. It compares water conservation projects, city construction and inter-national cultural exchanges in the two civilisations. Duan Lu highlights the commercial activities of Shu merchants in India. It further explores the usage of ‘Serindia’ which incorporates ‘Ser’, the abbreviation for ‘Seres’ meaning silk, and ‘Serindia’ stands for China and India. Chapter three by Xiang Baoyun specifically deals with the issue of tourism and suggests cultural exchange based on mutual respect as a path to enhancing bilateral tourism.

Sanjoy Mukherjee’s article is devoted to Rabindranath Tagore. The publication year of this volume marks the 90th anniversary of Tagore’s first visit to Shanghai. The author argues that Tagore’s holistic, modern management education was universally relevant, global in appeal, local in roots. Tagore’s leadership was inspirational and at the same time functional. It was inclusive thinking with an academic vision and welfare of the community. Tagore continuously worked for India-China relations through his visits to China in 1924 and 1929. China Bhavan was also created at Viswa Bharati in Santiniketan, West Bengal.

The next chapter by Huang Weimin deals with cultural and religious exchanges in the 15th century. Jian Lee’s chapter stresses on the importance of soft power in the form of culture in today’s times. He argues that diversified tradition and inclusiveness towards other cultures is the essence of India’s cultural values. India is industrialising cultural products but China lacks in this field. Other chapters in this section talk about international relations and political issues.

Coming to the contemporary issues of political economy, Li Jingfeng discusses in detail the rationale and constraints of the Bangladesh, China, the India, Myanmaar (BCIM) Economic Corridor as a part of the Chinese One Belt One Road initiative. Chapter eight by Chen Jixiang reflects on the politico-strategic issues of the US pivot to Asia and China-Pakistan relations and its impact on India-China relations. The next article by Xie Jing explores India-China cooperation in Afghanistan. China has increased its presence in Afghanistan with vast economic investments. India signed a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan in 2011 and has further emphasised on healthcare and education in Afghanistan. The exit of the US and NATO troops from Afghanistan provides a chance for India and China to collaborate on strategic issues.

Part two focusses on comparative analysis of economic and business issues in India and China. ‘Multiple Paths to Globalisation: The India-China Story’ by Sriparna Basu explains that from 1980 onwards, though China followed by India moved on the path of economic liberalisation, however they pursued different ways based on national specificities, values, pattern and institutional set-up. There do exist similarities like large population (though it is argued that India has more young population), vast labour force, huge markets and ample natural resources. Arindam Banik and Arnab K. Dev reflect on regional inequalities within the two states in a globalised world. They observe that China has been able to take more advantage of globalisation than India.

The following chapter by Prageet Aeron and B.A. Metri point out that China’s economic growth is due to the strong manufacturing base and India needs to restructure its manufacturing sector. Chapters thirteen and fifteen by Paramita Mukherjee and Rajashri Chatterjee and Tirthankar Nag et al. respectively interrogate the issue of Corporate Social Responsibility. India has done much better than China in this sector. Chapter fourteen by Paramita M. Nag compares and contrasts the health sectors of India and China. Owing to growing population, both face issues in the health delivery system. Agencies addressing health issues lack coordination affecting efficiency of the delivery system.

The book is supplemented by tables and figures ranging from issues like history to culture to business. The tables include the ‘world heritage sites in India and China, popular tourist destination for Chinese and Indian tourists, the number of tourists from India and China visiting the other country, Chinese envoys to the Indian kingdom, trend in GDP growth and human development index in select developing countries, performance of key health indicators in India and China, mortality from infections and non-communicable diseases and policy factors impacting the Chinese and Indian health systems’. The figures include the ‘share of China in world GDP and CSR report of China’. The list of abbreviations at the beginning and a useful index at the end add to the volume.

The volume presents an engaging comparative narrative of the past and present economic, cultural, social milieu of India and China critical for moving ahead together in a commonly favourable harmonious environment. The work would be of immense help to scholars, historians, economists and readers in general.

Dr Bharti Chhibber teaches Political Science in the University of Delhi and can be contacted at email: bharti.chhibber[at]gmail.com

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