Op-Ed Commentary: Chris Devonshire-Ellis
Oct. 25 – As India starts to replace China as the darling of the global investment community, we look at nine reasons that India has been able to turn itself from “has been” into “is becoming.”
English language usage
It’s partially a cliché, but it happens to be true – educated India speaks English to an extent that educated China does not. Furthermore, Chinese is so radically removed from the English language in a manner that say, Spanish, Italian, French and German are not, that it will remain regionally, rather than globally, spoken. As India opens up to the global investment community, its superior global language skills will help considerably.
Right to travel
Indians have the right to a passport, and are free to travel. Chinese nationals must apply for specific permits to travel overseas, issued by the local police based in their home town which, due to China’s hukou system, may not even be where they are living.
No government censorship
Indians would be incensed if anything was prohibited from them, and government cover-ups, if discovered, are ruthlessly punished. Politicians get jailed or hounded from office in disgrace for any wrongdoings. In China, any official caught doing wrong is disciplined by the Communist party itself, not the judiciary, as a member of the party doing wrong means the one party system itself is not entirely all it’s cracked up to be. In a democracy, officials can and do get fired.
From posting family reunion videos on group accounts, to watching old Led Zeppelin clips, to catching up on old archived movie scenes, to watching the latest zany Annoying Orange clip by Danebo, YouTube is accessible anywhere in India. In China, it’s banned.
Ditto Facebook. China has its own version, in Chinese, which is heavily monitored and registering an account involves identifying yourself with your personal ID, so you can be tracked. Apparently the thought of allowing the global Facebook community to be accessed by China’s population is a step too far. While Chinese can talk amongst themselves, Indians can socially network globally. The Great Firewall keeps Chinese nationals inside and secure from the barbarians outside the gates. China already lost one regional empire by retreating behind its walls; it is in potential danger of losing another.
Not permitted in China. Your truncated words and three sentences may be subversive.
It all gets intertwined in China, and all leads back to the one party state system. But without that, communications can flourish. Hence India’s media, which although varying from the sublime to the rabid, at least is free to anyone smart enough or stupid enough to take it all in. Plus, international editions of global newspapers such as the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune and a vast array of Indian media are all available. China regularly blocks the importation of newspapers even from Hong Kong, and there are no international newspapers available in China’s international airport departure lounges.
Governments mess up all the time, so it’s important that when they do something is done about it to correct the mistake to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again, and if anything illegal has occurred to punish those responsible. In India, you can sue the government. In fact, it’s commonplace. To do so, however, requires a judiciary independent from the state, and that means taking the rule of law away from government unless they can truly rule dependent upon the wishes of the people. Which India’s system is. It’s not the case in China.
It’s all about different systems. India is democratic; China has a one party state. To date, China’s development has been precisely because the one party has been able to dictate where and what development should be and place the collective need as the priority over individual need. The price has been each of the above issues, and can be summarized as censorship and a denial of individual rights. As China struggles to change course, and India becomes the ascendant power, the contrasts between the two systems will become more apparent. At present, the China model for reforming a vast country is winning. However, the true cost of that model may yet have to come home. Within the censorship and firewall issues, China denies its own people the social intercourse it really needs to stimulate academic thinking, intellect and drive ahead with new innovations. While China’s building blocks may well be in place, the cement has yet to be delivered. India has both the cement to hold the system together, and is now starting to put its own building blocks in place. Where this leads us in the next 20 years is going to be fascinating to observe.
Chris Devonshire-Ellis is the principal and founding partner of Dezan Shira & Associates, establishing the firm’s China practice in 1992 and the India practice in 2007. The firm now has ten offices in China and five in India. For advice over China-India strategy, trade, investment, legal and tax matters please contact the firm at [email protected]. The firm’s brochure may be downloaded here. Chris also contributes to Asia Briefing’s other titles, India Briefing, China Briefing and Vietnam Briefing.