THE CHI­NESE CON­NEC­TION

India Today - - UPFRONTSUNANDA - SU­NANDA K. DATTA- RAY SAU­RABH SINGH/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com Su­nanda K. Datta- Ray, a for­mer edi­tor of The States­man, is a writer and colum­nist

A char­ac­ter in Chimerica, Lon­don’s “play of the year”, calls China “a na­tion that’s gone from famine to Slim­fast in one gen­er­a­tion”. Bri­tain and the US have prof­ited from even more dras­tic so­cial and po­lit­i­cal change, es­pe­cially in their re­sponse to China, in a much shorter time. Ob­serv­ing all three coun­tries, I would ex­pand Man­mo­han Singh’s mem­o­rable comment at the start of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer as fi­nance min­is­ter that “we need to show the same prag­ma­tism as China to drive the In­dian econ­omy” to “we need to show the same flex­i­bil­ity as China, Bri­tain and the US to res­cue In­dia from its fi­nan­cial woes”.

Take the Sino- Amer­i­can equa­tion. Last year saw a de­cline in Arab, Cana­dian and Euro­pean in­vest­ment in the US. China alone kept faith. Apart from US trea­sury bonds worth $ 2 tril­lion, Chi­nese in­vest­ment of more than $ 6.5 bil­lion marked a 12 per cent in­crease since 2010. China wanted to in­vest more. Wu Jial­ing, head of Rails Corp and China’s sixth rich­est man ac­cord­ing to Forbes, took Barack Obama to court for ve­to­ing his plan to set up a wind farm in Ore­gon. Obama’s ob­jec­tion was only be­cause of a nearby air force base. Oth­er­wise, his Vice- Pres­i­dent Joseph Bi­den spoke for both when he said, “We wel­come, en­cour­age and see noth­ing but pos­i­tive ben­e­fit from di­rect in­vest­ment from Chi­nese busi­nesses and Chi­nese en­ti­ties. It means jobs.”

The Bri­tish are equally en­thu­si­as­tic. Ex­tolling a ma­jor deal with China, Ge­orge Os­borne, the chan­cel­lor of the ex­che­quer, gushed, “It is a vote of con­fi­dence in Bri­tain as a place to in­vest and do busi­ness.”

The UK needs $ 325 bil­lion for in­fra­struc­ture by 2015. With $ 3.5 tril­lion re­serves and a $ 160 bil­lion R& D bud­get, China is the most likely part­ner. It al­ready owns 10 per cent of Heathrow air­port, onethird of Lon­don’s smart Ca­nary Wharf busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and a slice of Thames Wa­ter which serves 14 mil­lion Lon­don­ers. Mag­nates like Hong Kong­based Li Ka- shing, re­garded as Asia’s rich­est busi­ness­man, and Wang Jian­lin, China’s sec­ond rich­est man, have mopped up swathes of in­fra­struc­ture, power plants and wa­ter and sewage au­thor­i­ties all over the coun­try.

Be­lea­guered In­dia can learn much from all this. China at­tracted $ 253.4 bil­lion in FDI last year against In­dia’s pal­try $ 19.8 bil­lion. China is also the world’s sixth largest source of FDI. If man­aged prop­erly, Chi­nese cap­i­tal would give China a stake in In­dia’s po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic growth. The Chi­nese state’s two main props— the Com­mu­nist Party of China and the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army— would take care not to alien­ate an In­dia that con- trols China’s national sav­ings. More­over, the re­turns on in­vest­ing in In­dian man­u­fac­tur­ing could off­set the slow­down of China’s own man­u­fac­tur­ing and ex­port- led econ­omy.

In­dia’s Ambassador to China, Subrah­manyam Jais­hankar, had this in mind in Fe­bru­ary when know­ing China’s ap­petite for in­vest­ing abroad, he or­gan­ised a meet­ing to sell the idea of FDI for In­dia. Of course, in­vest­ment in In­dia must be dif­fer­ent in mo­ti­va­tion and struc­ture from China’s in­vest­ment in Africa. But Bri­tain and the US pro­vide ex­am­ples of rule- based co­op­er­a­tion with­out grab­bing nat­u­ral re­sources, en­dan­ger­ing se­cu­rity or ex­er­cis­ing un­due in­flu­ence once at­ti­tu­di­nal hur­dles are over­come.

Bri­tain shows the way. One shouldn’t be sur­prised if David Cameron apol­o­gises to China for the lapse at the re­cent Ed­in­burgh Fes­ti­val Fringe when the first prize for jokes went to “I heard a ru­mour that Cad­bury is bring­ing out an ori­en­tal choco­late bar. Could be a Chi­nese Whispa”. The English have purged their lan­guage of Con­fu­cius- he- say jokes and cracks about the Chi­nese and even in­vented ra­tio­nal ex­pla­na­tions for Prince Philip’s well- pub­li­cised “slitty- eyed” re­mark.

De­spite the mythol­ogy they weave about them­selves, the Bri­tish can be ac­com­mo­dat­ing… when ac­com­mo­da­tion pays. Cameron was at great pains af­ter meet­ing the Dalai Lama to as­sure the out­raged Chi­nese that his min­is­ters had strict or­ders not to break bread with the Ti­betan pon­tiff. Queen El­iz­a­beth’s 1986 visit to China was even more telling. Notic­ing the usu­ally chain- smok­ing Deng Xiaop­ing’s restive­ness at the state lunch, Her Majesty told an aide he could light up, though the English nor­mally se­verely for­bid smok­ing at ta­ble. Con­don­ing an­other breach, the queen did not move so much as a mus­cle when Deng ex­pec­to­rated nois­ily into a spit­toon a yard away.

I was re­minded of those so­cial sole­cisms at the first night of the Shang­hai Ballet’s per­for­mance of

Jane Eyre. Un­daunted by the red, white and gold grandeur of the Lon­don Coliseum, the young Chi­nese in the high- priced boxes on ei­ther side of the stage let out wolf whis­tles of ap­pre­ci­a­tion at the end of each set. The Bri­tish or­gan­is­ers didn’t bat an eyelid.

“Paris is worth a mass” as France’s 16th cen­tury king Henry IV, leader of the Protes­tant party, said when he con­verted to Catholi­cism to as­cend the throne. The ru­pee in free fall mer­its an equal ges­ture.

China at­tracted $ 253.4 bil­lion in FDI last year against In­dia’s pal­try $ 19.8 bil­lion. China is also the world’s sixth largest source of FDI.

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