Saturday 10 October 2009

Only India can Challenge China's Primacy in Asia (UPIASIA)

M.D. Nalapat 

Manipal, India — More than radical Islam, the threat to the primacy of the West will come from Sinic civilization, centered in the People’s Republic of China. Should China continue to grow at the pace of the last 20 years for the next two decades, by 2015 the backwash created by such progress will pull Japan and South Korea into its gravity field. This will later extend to Siberia and large swathes of Southeast and Central Asia.

As armed conflict would be a lose-lose proposition for all major players, the odds are that such an expansion of geopolitical space will take place peacefully. China’s strategy will be to make cooperation with it attractive while increasing the costs of conflict to Asian countries that may seek to present a challenge, principally India.

Obsessed as Germany is with ensuring the ethnic purity of Europe by blocking immigration even from established, English-speaking democracies outside the West, and France with the preservation of Franco-German primacy in Europe, the European Union is unlikely to adopt the only course that would enable it to retain its edge in the face of rising Sinic power. This is an alliance with India.

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, with his obsessive focus on Europe and neglect of Asian Russia, has been all but begging France and Germany to admit Moscow into the European Union as an equal of these two states. This course is likely to go the way of Turkey’s application to join the club; in other words, it will end up in the refuse bin. This is likely to push Russia further toward being a partner in the Sinic alliance that will be stitched together by Beijing in a decade.

Given this, the determination of France and Germany to preserve the post-1945 global status quo against all comers is impacting on relations not just with Russia but with a country crucial to the health of the Europe of the 2020s – India.

Since Hu Jintao took over the Chinese presidency from Jiang Zemin, the Chinese Communist Party core has focused on making China the equal of the United States and the European Union in technology. Helped by its intelligence and security agencies as much as by the brainpower of its scientists, China is within a decade of challenging the EU-U.S. monopoly in systems such as aircraft and machinery. Given the lower costs of production in China, this will mean the steady exclusion of the EU from markets in Africa, Asia and South America.

Although a German car may be 40 percent better than its Chinese competitor, it will no longer be able to command a price that is 150 percent that of the competition. Given such a lowering of prices, the need to source production platforms in India will become acute if European manufacturers are to avoid the downsizing now visible across the continent.

India is the right choice because the country has institutions and language of European origin; has a huge pool of skilled labor; and is geopolitically closer aligned to Western values and geopolitical needs.

However, Europe has not yet awoken to the centrality of India in its future. The just-concluded India-EU Summit in New Delhi ended on a sour note because of EU insistence that its consumers be denied the benefit of cheap drugs sourced from India, and a push to lock in place protectionist measures under the guise of "labor standards."

The EU – led in this regard by Germany, a country that seems to value ethnicity above all other human attributes – has been concentrating its attention and treasure on its eastern flank, although it is by now obvious that East Europe is not a sufficient platform to ensure primacy in global markets.

EU immigration policy is akin to the U.S. prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s. Shutting the door on immigration from countries with an ethnic composition considered unsuitable by Berlin has encouraged an increase in "bootleg" immigration, mainly from Africa and China.

EU market policy is geared toward straitjacketing production within Europe, when the outsourcing of some lines of production would expand overall output enough to create many more jobs for Europeans, although not all of them from within Europe.

Unfortunately, U.S. President Barack Obama seems to be moving in a similar direction in that he seems eager to protect the two major ethnicities of his country – those of European and African descent – against competition from South America and Asia. In fact the relatively easy (non-bootleg) flow of human resources has been one of the major reasons for the continued edge the United States enjoys in international markets.

India is unique in that it has nearly 600 million people with the social discipline needed to integrate into a global community. This ratio compares favorably with countries such as Albania, Bulgaria, Russia and Romania, all of which have a larger proportion than India of individuals unwilling or unable to accept the rule of law and the social conventions now regarded as standard by West and North Europeans.

A marriage between EU and Indian brainpower and muscle power could produce a fusion that would ensure primacy in international markets for decades to come. However, as yet the EU is looking more toward China – even though that country has clearly indicated its aim to wrest primacy from the United States and the EU, and is working in a sustained manner toward that outcome.

Judging by the talk in Washington of "strategic reassurance" toward China, it is clear that Beijing's single-minded quest has not yet triggered alarm bells in the Obama administration. China will never be a partner as India can be, because China is following a trajectory across the world that is increasingly pitting it in competition with the United States and the EU.

Those in the Obama administration who condescendingly expect China to "behave" by following the U.S. and EU lead are oblivious to the powerful dynamic that was unleashed by Mao Zedong in 1949, after decades of servitude to Europe, Japan, Russia and the United States. Beijing will "behave" only until it judges itself strong enough to no longer need such cover, which may occur as early as 2015.

Deep-rooted ties of civilization are likely to nudge Japan toward China in the coming years. For the same reason, links are likely to grow between the West and India. However, it will take a different generation of European leaders to understand such a change and to take the initiative in forging an India-EU partnership along the lines of the nascent India-U.S. partnership forged by former U.S. President George W. Bush.

-(Professor M.D. Nalapat is vice-chair of the Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair, and professor of geopolitics at Manipal University. ©Copyright M.D. Nalapat.)

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