Nehru had proclaimed ‘Hindi Chini bhai bhai’ during the Panchsheel agreement. He later realized his folly during the military advances China made and subsequent forcible usurping of Indian territories. Since then both India and China have lived in mutual distrust, aggravated in recent years by the intense competition to become the next global superpower.
There is a growing perception (supported in many cases by facts and figures) that China has definitely stolen a march on us on this road, especially on the infrastructure and manufacturing fronts. Even on the individual consumption index, they are ahead of us. That is the reason why all global brands first foray into China and subsequently come into Indian shores.
But as they say seeing with your own eyes makes you believe everything fully, my recent visit to China proved to me that while much of what is being talked Chinese progress is true, not everything is so hunky dory. Yes, infrastructure in the major cities is very developed and the manufacturing hubs are much more in an advanced stage than whatever few of those are in India.
But even in India, the infrastructure in some of the major cities do match the Chinese ones, though you might say the developments happen there much faster bereft of the politics and the bureaucratic red tapes. However, delve a little deeper into the underbellies of the cities and you will find the social disparity is as awning there as in India.
There are beggars on the roads pushing and cajoling you for alms, many of the streets are not safe in the night, according to some of my friends crime against women is rising (though not in Indian proportions yet). At the same time you have swanky malls being visited by svelte, sexy, brand conscious girls dressed in designer hot fashion. There are swanky cars being driven around and plush apartments in fashionable neighborhoods set you back by millions.
Sounds familiar. This is the picture in most of urban India too and though I did not visit much of rural China, I am sure the divide there would be more obvious between the haves and have nots like in India. So, though manufacturing and infrastructure might be two steps ahead, on the social index China too is lagging, if not worse than India.
And while much of the developments there owe to the authoritarian regime, that in turn has led to a common aspiration amongst many Chinese to taste Indian democracy. Many of my hosts there wondered about the massive electoral process now undergoing in India and saluted us for our consistent commitment at the altar of democracy.
Therefore, while there is no doubt that China has gone few steps ahead of us and we should attempt a fast catch up, there is always no need to despair and indulge in self-pity. After all, the grass is always greener on the other side, or on the coasts of South China Sea or Bay of Bengal, from whatever direction you look at.