Listening in to what China has to say: Asian Bank, MSR, strategy and blue skies

17modi_with_china_pres1India and China are walking together in a spirit of ‘competitive cooperation’ that can bring about prosperity not only to Asia, but can give a sense of hope to most of the developing and under-developed world.

Banking on new order

Recently, when a delegation of Indian journalists was landing in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang had left for Brussels to push the idea of setting up of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in which India will be the second largest shareholder after China. China has received a 30.34 percent stake in the bank’s share, followed by India at 8.52 percent and Russia at 7.5 percent respectively. Would it mean China will have a veto power? The answer by a Chinese scholar was: “as the stakes of other nations rise, there will be gradual dilution of such power.”

According to an MOU signed by 57 nations, the authorized capital of the AIIB is USD 100 billion. The AIIB as well as the new BRICS-led New Development Bank are likely to reduce dependence of Asia on the World Bank and the IMF. ”Premier Li is our best salesman,” quipped one Chinese official. Meanwhile, the appointment of Indian Banker K.V. Kamath as president of the BRICS bank is being widely welcomed in China.

Forging Military-to-Military equations

It is evident that China is opening up, as our delegation was given a rare opportunity to visit the Academy of Armored Force Engineering Institute of PLA to interact with Deputy Commandant Sr. Col. Mr. Liu Degang and get a closer look at the Chinese main battle tanks and other army vehicles. A meeting with the spokesman of the ministry of Defence, Sr.Col. Mr.Yang Yujun, and his colleagues from the air force and navy was rewarding. Discussions with Mr. Wie Xiodong, Chief Officer of Shanghai Naval Garrison and a visit to Tongling frigate, were a bonus. While India’s participation in the annual Malabar naval exercises with the US and Japan continue to create concerns in China, there is a growing appreciation in Beijing about its bilateral military to military and naval cooperation with New Delhi.

china-india-militaryThe first ever joint military exercise between China and India was held in Kunming in Kunming in 2007. Later in 2008, a joint anti-terrorist training was held near Belgaum in Karnataka, which included performance of the Chinese Tai Chi and Indian martial arts. Since then, both sides have exchanged visits of high level military officials. However, the issues relating to stapled visas, Chinese moves in Aksai Chin, the long-standing boundary dispute, visits of Chinese submarines to Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and adverse trade balance continue to be sour spots. Although intrusions continue to be a matter of concern, a mechanism has been set up to deal with them in right earnest. According to Sr.Col. Yang Yujun, ”direct links between militaries of China and India will be established to manage crisis and misjudgment.” Chinese officials were eager to state that the border has remained tranquil and peaceful all along.

Naval cooperation is forging ahead – this is a sign that both countries are desirous of peace in the Indian and Pacific oceans. Mr. Wie remembered an Indian stealth frigate Shivalik taking part in joint naval exercises in Qingdao port in 2009 and later in 2013 when it was joined by three other naval ships on a goodwill tour.

Security and Strategy

The White Paper ‘China’s Military Strategy ‘ published in May, 2015 does not mention India, but makes an oblique reference when it says, ”Certain disputes over land territory are still smoldering.” However, it mentions, “The Korean Peninsula and North East Asia are shrouded in instability and uncertainty. In recent years, cross-Strait relations have sustained a sound momentum of peaceful development, but the root cause of instability has not been removed and the ”Taiwan independence” separatist forces and their activities are still the biggest threat to the peaceful development of cross-straits relations.” On this count, Chinese worries may increase if Ms. Tsai Ing-wen, head of Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party and the front runner in the island’s forthcoming presidential race, wins the elections.

The White Paper also mentions that the separatist forces for “East Turkistan independence” and “Tibet independence” have inflicted serious damage, particularly with escalating violent terrorist activities by “East Turkistan independence” forces. Besides, anti-China forces have never given up their attempt to instigate a “color revolution” in this country. The keywords in the White Paper are “stability and security,” but the word “strategy,” mentioned 52 times, shows its centrality in Chinese security lexicon.

Silk Road and India

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping has invited India to join its new ‘Road and Belt and Maritime Silk Road’ initiatives. India is yet to make a positive response. Mr. Huang Xilian, Deputy Director- General, department of Asian affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was appreciative of the fact that the Kunming initiative, also called the BCIM corridor, is on the right track. This will increase connectivity and open trade routes for China (Yunan), Yangon (Myanmar), Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) in not too distant future. ” Make in India and Made in China,” should combine for closer developmental partnership,” he added.

Climate is changing! Blue Sky Index

china-pollutionWhen we were landing in Beijing, the sky was overcast. The impact of the now famous smog was evident over the city. We were barely able to see the skyscrapers due to the haze. Beijing had not seen a clear sky for over four days. Some officials did ask us whether India had a ‘blue sky index’, which is a popular way of measuring the degree of pollution in Chinese cities.

Locals are used to checking pollution advisories on their smart phones before leaving for work. The famous Wangfujing street in Beijing displayed pictures of air and water contamination in the cities and rivers. They cautioned people about the eminent dangers to the climate around.

China, which is called the factory of the world, is also described as a ‘hot economy’. It has indeed been experiencing ill-effects of rampant industrialization. The leadership remains resolute to overcome all odds, as one is reminded of the famous Chinese saying ”ren xin qi tai shan yi”. It means, ”When people work with one mind, they can remove even mount Taishan.” It is indeed true about China, which has worked relentlessly to create world class super infrastructure, which has allowed its economy to race ahead of many advanced countries and compete with the US, Japan and Germany.

On Fast-track: What India can learn

china-trainA visit to China’s show case city ‘Pudong ‘, a walk on the famous Nanjing Gu avenue in Shanghai, glimpses of ever glittering skyscrapers on the banks of river Hangpu and a travel by bullet train running at the speed of 304 km per hour from Shanghai to Beijing, were proof enough of China’s robust achievements that India has much to learn from. The bullet train covered a distance of 1207 km in exactly 5 hours and 5 minutes. According to the latest reports in Fortune magazine, ”China has built 6900 miles of tracks for bullet trains. The ridership has gone up from 237,000 (2007) to 2.5 million last year. China is investing more than $128 billion dollars in domestic railway construction in 2015. Food for thought indeed for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu!

(Vijay Naik is Consulting Editor, Sakal Papers and Convener of Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents. This article, written for India Writes Network, is based on his recent visit to China. The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author)




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