Saturday, September 11, 2010

The enigma that China is - Part II

How much more about China do I know – let me see. I will record my thoughts as they occur.

The Chinese society is in a flux with more than a hundred million young men and women from the villages having migrated, in the past decade, to the cities and the special economic zones for taking up jobs, mostly in the export-oriented manufacturing. But the demand for manufacturing exports has been shrinking because of the western world suffering from the ill effects of the 2008-09 recession and this has already forced hundreds of thousands of industrial workers to go back to their villages to lead a life of explicit or concealed unemployment. Since the situation is showing signs of worsening, the government is finding it tough to deal with the disaffection and turmoil in the society. 

China  has been and still is absolutely ruthless in conquering nature. In the absence of a civil society and green parties, the government pays not even a lip service to sustainable development. It loves huge civil engineering feats, be it the Three Gorges Dam, be it the Beijing-Lhasa railway line over hundreds of kilometers of permafrost, and let the environment be damned. 

It is planning to divert the waters of the Brahmaputra, called Tsangpo in China, to serve the water-scarce northern plains and cities like Beijing. That lower riparian states of India and Bangladesh too have rights on the Brahmaputra is of hardly any concern to the over-confident China. 

China has the world’s highest number of mobile phone connections, it is next to the U.S. in broadband connections, it’s on road to dislodge the U.S.  as the biggest producer of automobiles and it is the biggest consumer of steel. 

It is the biggest trading partner of the U.S. and also of India. The annual China-India trade has touched 60 billion dollars and the trade balance is greatly in China’s favour which has flooded India with manufactured products and capital goods. About half of power generating machinery put up in India is of Chinese origin, and the Chinese are also well-positioned in supplying sophisticated telecom hardware to India  at extremely competitive prices. Unfortunately, even today the iron ore is the most important component of India’s exports to China. 

The Chinese society is aging fast. Though the present median age is 35, compared to 45 or so in the developed world, but the one child norm for the Chinese families could result into the Chinese becoming old before becoming rich. 

The Chinese economic miracle of the past three decades has got its roots in the massive investment of half of the GDP year in, year out. The government is now realising that consumption-driven growth is more durable even if it is comparatively lower. 

The people living in the central and western China are very poor compared to their eastern and coastal cousins. The government is conscious of this and working for making development opportunities available in the hinterland. It is also worried about the urban-rural divide and planning efforts to bridge it in some ways. 

The Chinese are a very proud people and have a long memory. They have been nursing wounds inflicted on them by the western countries and Japan in the 19th and 20th centuries, they wants their revenge but China still finds those countries too powerful to handle, particularly when they have the ultimate protection from the United States. It has, therefore, taken upon a relatively weak India, which it considers a surrogate for the west and Japan.

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