Friday 30 January 1998

China's Emerging Fault Lines Spell Trouble

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

That the tune is called by the individual paying the piper is
demonstrated by the chorus of voices across the world defending
the Communist party’s rule in China. In the US, several former
secretaries of State are now on Beijing's payroll, usually through
Chinese or Southeast Asian companies linked to the Communist
party of China and its powerful offshoot, the People's Liberation
Army. While CCP-PLA fronts are rare in Singapore and Taiwan,
in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia many overseas Chinese
business persons have allowed themselves to enter into profitable
arrangements with CCP-PLA fronts.

Those involved in operations such as trafficking in drugs or
weapons are increasing. Entire governmental structures—such
as in China’s allies Myanmar and Pakistan—have developed
networks to ensure cultivation, processing and transport of
narcotics, with the profits being shared between them and their
hidden principals. It is one of life's ironies that a country that
suffered the most at the hands of opium traders now hosts
several individuals who are active in sending this and other
noxious substances to the US and the EU, the most lucrative

Thanks to the reality that in Pakistan, China and Myanmar,
the defence forces are above what little law exists, there are no
checks on the army vehicles used for transporting narcotics to
the China-Pakistan, Myanmar-Thailand and the China-Myanmar

The China lobby has cleverly equated the regime in Beijing
with the Chinese people, when the reality is that Jiang's men
have about as much sanction from the second as Mobutu had
from the people of Zaire. China is home to one of the great
cultures of the world, and despite the hell the country has gone
through, that tradition has remained. In interaction with the
Chinese people, whether in Singapore or in Shanghai, their
warmth and humanity are patent.

However, the years of Communist rule have created fault
lines, not within the Chinese people as such but within the ruling
structures. It is ·these fault lines that may trigger unstable
behaviour in the Chinese state. Even today, the leaders of the
CCP and the PLA who are in their 60s or 70s or even the late
50s—are much more moderate towards the external world than
some of their rhetoric would suggest.

It is no accident that the 1970s witnessed the emergence of
a policy of engagement with the capitalist world, chiefly the US.
The cadres who were in their 20s and 30s when the People's
Republic of China got established in 1949 were by the l970s in
their 40s and 50s. These cadres had seen the turmoil between
1949 and 1970, and wanted stable relations with the outside
world. They were in no mood for crusades, unlike cadres who
had spent their own formative years witnessing the "impossible"
feat of defeating Chiang Kai-Shek's armies, and who consequently
were in favour of "bolder" policies, as seen during the Korean
war or the conflict with India.

The post-1949 cadres got control in the 1970s over most of the
echelons that determine the chemistry and direction of policy. By
2001, cadres who were in their formative years during the 1960s
will begin to dominate the ruling structures in China. These are
likely to have attitudes vastly different from the present top
leadership, for two reasons. The first is the fact that they would
have cut their attitudinal teeth in the turmoil of the Great
Proletarian Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. The second is that
they would be the offspring of the One Child policy.

The Cultural Revolution cadres ran riot over established
structures, humiliating elders and peers with impunity. This
upheaval engendered in its participants a contempt for formal
laws and structures that has got manifested in today’s China,
where the "law" is often what the local party boss wants it to be.
Once such a regulatory vacuum gets established, it is difficult to
shake off in the absence of democracy. And unless laws are
placed above the persons who administer them, there is likely to
grow an arrogance of power among those in high office.

This lack of protection by laws—as distinct from individuals—
is what makes investment in China an act of faith. In certain
circumstances, of economic slowdown affecting investment and
exports, the cadres may regard expropriation to be more profitable
than forbearance. In the "Cultural Revolution" psychology, even
unreasonable blows against an opponent are justified.
Apart from such a mindset, bred in the turmoil of the 1960s,
another factor that merits attention in China is the psychology
generated by the One Child policy. Many of these single
children—especially males—have grown into overconfident
adults intent on getting their own way, and liable to get nasty
when they don’t. Today such individuals have begun to permeate
the ruling structures in China, with their aggressive attitudes

So long as the going is profitable business-wise, such cadres
will remain in line. However, two tendencies are operating that
may bring hard times for the Chinese Communist party's Red
czars. The first is the battering of stocks in the region. Many of
the shares that have seen their values plummet are those in
which the top cadres have, directly or through fronts, made
major investments. The cadres may view this not as a market
reaction, but as a conspiracy against them, and move closer to
the retaliation mode.

The second downpull factor for Beijing is the emergence of
India. The China lobby in New Delhi has been working hard to
make the subcontinent an unattractive destination for investment,
by pushing for restrictive laws and by encouraging PILs and
agitations against major projects. However, the fact remains that
India is almost as big a market as China, and indeed a much
better one for the skills needed to compete internationally.

Just as China has been cutting away at lower-value producers
in Southeast Asia, soon India may take away markets from
Beijing. This will see fresh roiling within the cadres. The fault
lines sketched above—the emergence to high office of cadres
having a combination of the One Child and the Cultural
Revolution mindset—may in future generate more adventurist
policies from Beijing. Such policies will find a fertile atmosphere
in the incestuous intrigue characteristic of non—democratic
bureaucracies. It is not the present top leadership of China that
India and South—east Asia need to worry about, but the generation
that in the coming decade will replace them, If the 1970s
represented a fire-break in the psychology of the cadres that ruled
the People's Republic, the next decade may see another, this time
not so benign.

Thursday 22 January 1998

Indutva-Moderation the Key to Harmony

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

Balasaheb Thackeray, who has asked for a national monument to be built at Ayodhya, has moved closer to the country's ethos than those who seek to set up a house of worship there that would exclude 15 per cent of the population. Just as Indian epics are watched on television by people of different faiths, so should the birth—place of Lord Ram follow the “Palayam” example. This is the locality in Trivandrum where a mosque, church and temple coexist in close proximity with each other. The Nehruvians despised Indian epics as unworthy of attention in school curricula. They relegated Lord Ram to a religious ghetto, forgetting that his example was relevant to all. If the universality of his teachings is accepted, then a national monument will have greater empathy with his example than one which admits only a part of the population of his beloved land. While the invaders from Persia, Turkey and Central Asia who colonised India a millennium ago were aliens, those from here who converted to the new religion were not. These individuals have as much claim to the ethos of Lord Ram as do the rest. The Nehruvians followed the British example of distrusting the majority community, hemming it in with restrictions. As a reaction, many Hindu organisations fall into the error of abandoning the country's traditions in favour of the Pakistan model, where only one creed is regarded as superior, and the others are discriminated against judicially, socially and electorally. Indeed, it is not just non-Muslims who suffer in Pakistan. So do Shias, Ahmediyas and those Sunnis who do not come from Punjab province.

Economic Progress
By their agenda of seeking to demolish two more houses of worship and replacing them with temples, certain organisations here are copying the Pakistanis or the south Afghans in their exclusivism. Thackeray is spot on: what the country needs is economic progress. This can take place only in an atmosphere of social harmony, where no segment feels discriminated against.
Apart from a 25—year freeze on the Kashi and Mathura disputes, even in Ayodhya care should be taken to work out a solution that has the consent of all major groups. The events of December 6, 1992 damaged social stability and affected the country's equity in regions such as the Gulf and South-east Asia. It was no accident that the pace of reforms slowed soon after the bitter harvest of the Babri demolition.

Greater attention to the precepts of Lord Ram would have reinforced the trueism that two wrongs do not make a right. Even should the Babri Masjid have been built on the ruins of a demolished temple, that is no justification for repeating the crime of the invaders by a second pulldown. The virus of religious exclusivism needs to be exorcised from Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Hindu organisations, so that the composite culture of this land is celebrated rather than mourned. Such a development is one of the two pre-conditions for rapid economic growth. The other is the evolution of a post—Nehruvian governmental structure that frees Indians from the restrictions of the colonial period. 

Basic Tenets
By, in effect, belittling the Indian ethos articulated by Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Abu] Kalam Azad in favour of an outlandish amalgam of Fabian socialism, Marxism and European royalty, Nehruism, in fact, nourished communalism rather than weakened it. In particular, it drove many within the majority community o believe that the new regime regarded them with as jaundiced an eye as the Mughals and the British did. Also, during the Nehru era the Mughal-British restrictions were added on to Mahatma Gandhi had pointed out to the AICC in 1947 itself that "Controls are responsible for much of the corruption that is rampant today". Fortunately, he was not alive to witness the extent of his mistake in assuming that "After me, Jawaharlal will speak my language". Restrictions proliferated, and as a result by 1997 a Swiss diplomat estimated that $ 80 billion were held in Swiss banks by Indian nationals. While other countries have recovered some of the loot taken abroad by their citizens, in India W. N. Chaddha and Ottavio Quatrocchi have so far been able to escape.

That, of course, is Nehruism. Tough laws on paper and zero enforcement, except on the politically inconvenient. Such people are hounded even if they are innocent. An example is Haryana, where a graduate of the Nehru school is bankrupting his state by pretending that alcohol does not exist. Of course, this policy puts cash into the pockets of officials and politicians, rather than into the exchequer the way "immoral" schemes such as the VDIS or the legalisation of liquor will. Another example of the continuation of the Mughal-British—Nehru policies comes from Kerala, where the CPM government has proposed legislation to take over all major Hindu temples. Quite apart from the CPM's claim to being an atheist organisation, it is difficult to see the logic in singling out one community’s religious places for state control when churches and mosques have (correctly) been left free. It is this anti—majoritarian definition of "secularism" that has fuelled an inflow into Hindu exclusivist organisations. Sadly, the religious exclusivists, the Nehru school graduates and the Left have many basic tenets in common. All shy away from the catholicity of outlook that is needed to create the medium in which growth can thrive. Instead, they accept the Afghan-Pakistan model of intolerance. In its place, they need to heed the new reasonableness of Thackeray, or the words of Atal Behari Vajpayee, who understand the centrality of social harmony to this country’s progress. Respect for India will not flow from a repeat of past barbarity but from the rise of national income to a reasonable level.

Core Traditions
Hopefully, the government that emerges out of the 1998 polls will continue the shift away from Nehruism and fashion a system that regards Indians as mature enough to take their own decisions. If those belonging to this subcontinental race can be considered mature in countries such as the United States or the United Kingdom (where they have outperformed the rest), then why not in their homeland? As a part of such a 21st century focus, the new government needs to actualise India’s nuclear weapons potential. True, there will be sanctions and protests from followers of Neville Chamberlain in the US and the EU. However, in a few years these countries will realise that the Indian Ekalavya is no longer willing to cut off the nuclear thumb, and will take its place as the equal of the other five nuclear states. Only then will India be able to give a significant contribution to its future democratic allies in a possible future confrontation against fundamentalist or hegemonist states.

Rather than follow Afghanistan, Pakistan and other exclusivist states in their fanaticism, India should remain true to its core traditions and stress the Indutva that make this land of Mother Teresa, Abdul Kalam and Baba Amte unique. To do otherwise would be to besmirch the memory of Lord Ram.