"Chindia" or Rivalry? Rising China, Rising India, and Contending Perspectives on India-China Relations

By Wang, Vincent Wei-cheng | Asian Perspective, July 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

"Chindia" or Rivalry? Rising China, Rising India, and Contending Perspectives on India-China Relations


Wang, Vincent Wei-cheng, Asian Perspective


Whether and how India and China manage their futures as rising powers will critically shape international relations in the twenty-first century. These two countries demonstrate sharp contrasts in terms of their political systems, economic models, and social structures, despite their common aspirations for greater stature on the world stage. They have also maintained a very complex relationship that is weighed down by history but also offers promising opportunities in an era of globalization. While the implications for the rise of China have been widely debated, scant scholarly attention has been devoted to the rise of India or to how these two Asian great powers perceive each other's ascendancy. This article examines the key factors influencing India-China relations, including territorial disputes, mutual threat perception and alignment patterns, and economic partnership and competition. It categorizes Indian elites' perspectives on the rise of China in three paradigms: geopolitical, geoeconomic, and geocivilizational. It ends with a discussion of the possible scenarios of future India-China relations. KEYWORDS: India, China, Chindia, rise of China, rise of India, geopolitics, geoeconomics, geocivilizations, comprehensive national power.

ONE IMPORTANT GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT IN THE FIRST DECADE OF THE twenty-first century is the shifting of power in the world economy, symbolized by the rise of several large developing countries- grouped as Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC), or Brazil, South Africa, India, and China (BASIC) (Wilson and Purushothaman 2003; Dasgupta 2009).1 Especially noteworthy is the rise of China and India, the two most populous nations on earth that together make up nearly two-fifths of mankind. The sheer magnitude of their ascendance led the former Singaporean ambassador to the United Nations, Kishore Mahbubani, to proclaim the "irresistible" shift of global power toAsia (Manbubani 2009).

Whether an "Asian century" will finally arrive after five centuries ofWestern dominance of world affairs depends importantly not only on whether India and China can continue their respective rises but also on how each of these twoAsian giants will deal with its own and the other nation's ascent. These two proud nations are keenly aware of the other country's rise and naturally make comparisons (more on the Indian side) with the other (Holstag 2010; Guruswamy and Singh 2010; Garver 2002). Yet despite their common aspirations to play larger global roles, India and China demonstrate sharp contrasts in terms of their political systems, economic models, and social structures. They have also maintained a very complex relationship that is overshadowed by history but also offers promising opportunities in an era of globalization.

While the implications for the rise of China have been debated in various contexts (global or systemic, regional, and bilateral), much less scholarly attention has been devoted to the rise of India and how these two Asian giants perceive each other's ascendancy. Yet how they view and behave toward each other will be important for scholarly interest and policymaking.

This article makes a contribution in this regard by examining the key factors influencing India-China relations and analyzing elite perspectives on this relationship in each nation. The article is divided into six parts. The first begins with an overview of China's assessment of its security environment and its evolving grand strategy. It sets the stage for examining Sino-Indian relations in the context of China's external grand strategy. To measure China's relative position in the world, Chinese security writers have developed the concept of "comprehensive national power" as a convenient way to frame the debates on China's security assessment and external strategy. The second part introduces this concept and elucidates the Chinese perspectives on the rise of their own country and potential peer competitors such as India.

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