2008 June 05 Thursday
China And India Compete For Influence

The oil for India and China moves through sea lanes that both countries would like to control.

For decades the world relied on the powerful U.S. Navy to protect this vital sea lane. But as India and China gain economic heft, they are moving to expand their control of the waterway, sparking a new — and potentially dangerous — rivalry between Asia's emerging giants.

China has given massive aid to Indian Ocean nations, signing friendship pacts, building ports in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well as Sri Lanka, and reportedly setting up a listening post on one of Myanmar's islands near the strategic Strait of Malacca.

Now, India is trying to parry China's moves. It beat out China for a port project in Myanmar. And, flush with cash from its expanding economy, India is beefing up its military, with the expansion seemingly aimed at China. Washington and, to a lesser extent, Tokyo are encouraging India's role as a counterweight to growing Chinese power.

India's Navy probably won't be able to compete with the greater wealth that China will be able to invest in the Chinese Navy.

Pallavi Aiyar, a reporter from India who has recently written a book about China, says China's poor are on par with India's middle class.

Forever being asked, “Which is better, China or India?” Ms. Aiyar tackles the question. Though she says her perspective sometimes changes from day-to-day, in the main, she believes that society’s poorest are better off in China. In Ms. Aiyar’s experience, with respect to the availability of work, food, shelter, commodities, community and health-care, China’s poorest may rank alongside India’s middle-class. On the other hand, she writes that she found China to be an un-intellectual land, a place where the heated dissent that characterizes a pleasurable debate in India has been drilled out of the population’s repertoire of social interactions. For those lucky enough to count the demands of their intellect above those of their stomach, Ms. Aiyar thinks India provides a more comfortable environment.

China uses 9% of the world's oil while India uses only 3%. China is the more rapidly growing country and I expect Chinese affluence and influence to continue to grow faster than India's for decades to come.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 June 05 11:28 PM  China

Stewart W. said at June 6, 2008 7:01 AM:

Don't forget the IQ gap between the two nations. China's average is a shade above 100, while India's is in the mid-80s (I don't recall the exact values from "IQ and the Wealth of Nations"). In the long run, India has no chance to dominate, although it can provide a counterbalance.

Fools in the U.S. right now are easily impressed with how "smart" are the Indians, forgetting that we are only seeing the "smart fraction" of a population of over a billion. Even with a mean IQ of 85, that's still many millions of high IQ people.

The fun part is that the U.S. is headed in the direction of India, not China. Yay.

anonymous said at June 6, 2008 8:12 AM:

I'm betting on the Chinese. They beat up on India in the Border War in 1962. Their military is my my opinion tougher, better equipped, better led and more highly motivated. They are aspiring to a serious "blue water" navy including submarines. They have the advantage of being much more homogenous and intelligent on average than India. China is a serious nation and means business. That doesn't mean just having a large economy and selling the world lots of stuff. I have relatives who fought these people in the Korean War. They are willing to lose lots of people for their objectives, losses that I doubt India(or the US would accept).
But, as Stewart W. has noted, we are headed in the direction of india, not China. If we tangle with the PRC again, I have serious doubts of how things would turn out because they won't be playing nice. I'm willing to bet when they come for Taiwan, we are going to let them have it. Of course by then, the US may be so seriously fucked up that that will be the furthest thing from our minds.

mike said at June 6, 2008 2:40 PM:

India's biggest problem is overpopulation. While India's elites are doing nicely, too many working class Indians are lanquishing in poverty, since there is so little land to go round and not enough incentive for farmers and manufacturers to increase productivity.

India isn't really likely to take off until the population of China starts to age, and industrial countries start to see India as a more attractive option for low wage manufacturing.

And that's presuming it doesn't suffer some sort of malthusian crisis due to rising food prices and global warming.

Stephen said at June 6, 2008 8:57 PM:

Stewart said: "Don't forget the IQ gap between the two nations."

We're just seeing the first generation of Indians for whom famine is something only talked about by their parents - so I'd expect average IQ to start rapidly increasing due to improved environment.

Stephen said at June 6, 2008 9:13 PM:

Last year I revisited China and the difference is stark. I'm not referring to the economic growth, but to the increasing gender imbalance. There's a real change at a social level - men in cities will bend over backwards to be one of the lucky guys who have a girlfriend or wife, and an unmarried woman will quickly trade in an unsatisfactory man for one who is more accommodating. Its really clear who wears the pants (at least during the courtship phase).

I'm worried that China will end up with the same problem as exists in the middle-east - lots of frustrated men who haven't got a chance of meeting a girl and settling down. The end result being that the male tendency toward violence isn't sublimated into supporting their family, but instead they engage in violent risk-taking behavior. I have no idea how China plans to redirect that behavior - its not as if they can have a WW-1 style war of attrition that predominantly kills off the males.

Randall Parker said at June 6, 2008 10:31 PM:


The Indians living abroad who were selected for their engineering and science skills are smart. Those who live in other countries who came much sooner as a result of the colonial period are not so smart. Their performance suggests that India is not going to rise up to an average 100 IQ.

Kenelm Digby said at June 7, 2008 5:45 AM:

Apart from the software industry, India exports very little that the World actually wants, but on the other hand India has a rapacious appetite for gold (which is needed for Hindu wedding ceremonies).
Therefore India has a large trade deficit, which will only worsen as the general population enrichens and demands more oil, consumer goodies and foreign cars for example.
The trade deficit ( there is no sig that India will become a mass factory-industrial exporting nation like the East Asian 'tigers') will provide the brake to Indian economic expasion.
It's only a question of 'when' and how harsh the brake will be.
A similar thing happened in the early '90s.

Skot German said at June 8, 2008 5:07 PM:

"I have no idea how China plans to redirect that behavior - its not as if they can have a WW-1 style war of attrition that predominantly kills off the males."
Why not?

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