Despite the efforts of successive Governments to make India a superpower, we are still lagging behind our neighbour China.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping of China scheduled to meet for the fourth time this year on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina next month, the focus on Sino-Indian ties and the two major competitors for regional and/or global power status is in focus again. The relationship between the two Asian giants has proven to be resilient enough to put the tensions of Doklam 2017 behind it, but it is still, realistically, an unequal one with the balance of power very decidedly in favour of Beijing. While everybody and their uncle has an opinion on what India has, or has not, done right, there is relatively less attention paid to how China has over the past two decades risen.
Clues can be found when you drive past the Hongqiao hub on the western outskirts of Shanghai and where you might just notice the massive train yard beside the highway. But the trains parked there aren’t your regular locomotive and coaches; all the trains are high-speed trainsets, each capable and regularly achieving speeds of 350 kilometers per hour on a daily basis.
Unlike France and Japan, where high-speed rail was developed in the 1960s, there was no concept of a high-speed rail in China until the mid-2000s. Indeed, one could argue that at the turn of the millennium, India’s rail network was far superior to anything in China. But in a decade-and-a-half, China has laid down 30,000 kilometers of high-speed track. Not only is that a multiple of all the high-speed rail track elsewhere in the world, we in India, to put it perspective, get excited over the concept of even ‘semi-high-speed’ tracks where our trains manage around 160 kilometers per hour. While we have started work on a high-speed track, povertarian politicians say we can’t afford it. But a supposedly socialist society can. How?
The answer to that question can be found in the factories where Chinese work 11-hour shifts in industrial units which is why they have become the factory to the world whereas in our outposts of communism in India ‘workers’ demand to be paid even to watch others work because it is their ‘right’.
Ratan Tata once famously cribbed about the work ethic of Western workers compared to Indians to the former’s detriment. But the fact is that we have nothing on the Chinese. Which is why every single year they’re pulling further ahead of us and we will just keep fighting amongst ourselves. Yes, but we have a democracy and Facebook of which we are definitely in favour of retaining the former. But is democracy and rule of law not being undermined each day as kids die of malnourishment, inequality grows, jobs are hard to find, growth looks as though it may stall, investment is drying up, social media campaigns occupy the minds of the urban elite, social tensions are rising?
Modi is doing his best as have other Prime Ministers before him. But unless there is a resolution to our perennial internal crises, parity with China in any meaningful way is distant dream.
Courtesy: The Pioneer