The China Syndrome


The two-day literary festival, ‘Symbiosis Lit Fest’ began on 20th November 2021 with a welcome address by Dr. Vidya Yeravdekar [Pro-chancellor, Symbiosis International University (SIU)]. Dr. Yeravdekar emphasized the difficulties faced by the students in the past year and how important it is to embrace technology. This was followed by SIU Chancellor, Dr. S.B Majumdar, welcoming the Chief guest, Dr. Javed Akhtar, to the annual literary festival.

Dr. Javed Akhtar, an eminent lyricist and writer, reminisced about his family of writers and intellectuals. He stressed the importance of literature in today’s generation, and how we develop empathy for people who do not think like us through novels and short stories. Dr. Rajani Gupte (VC-SIU) closed the inaugural session.

The panel discussion started with Ambassador Gautam Bambawale, Ambassador Vijay Gokhale and Mr. Ganesh Natarajan discussing Decoding China: From Tiananmen to Galwan, with the session being moderated by Prof. Shivani Lavale.  Prof .Lavale began the discussion with an intriguing question – What Does Strategic Patience Mean?

According to Ambassador Bambawale, India has to grow at 8-9% to compete with China economically. Dr. Natarajan said, “Strategic patience is not a war to fight and win.” India must compete industrially too in all the other sectors. The gap between China and India is so large that India cannot afford to lose any time. Ambassador Gokhale mentioned how Deng Xiaoping used the hide and bide method to fuel China’s growth. He also said that India shouldn’t make any tall claims and projections that it cannot meet. While India has redefined strategic patience in 2017 and 2020, it also has to learn from China’s experience.

Chief Guest Dr. Javed Akhtar‘s address note

The discussion then moved on to juxtaposing both India’s and China’s models to understand similarities and differences.. China’s advantages are that it has a vast labour force, it is consciously rebranding its economy, promoting domestic carriers, moving away from exports, coal, mining, and leaning towards cleaner sectors such as IT and semiconductors. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has also amended rules to keep its leader in power forever. Ambassador Gokhale stressed the need for India to play a long game with a long view. He was confident that India’s system would never catastrophically collapse, unlike China’s. Ambassador Bambawale said, “It is you guys (India) who could stop these guys (China).” India can outcompete China, and its future is very bright with improving and reliable supply chains.

The next burning question is the future in the next six months. Ambassador Gokhale was blunt that it would be difficult as India and China have moved into armed coexistence. But the message from India is evident. Mr. Natarajan said that India must be thoughtful, strategic, and Atmanirbhar. Productivity-linked schemes are successful; development of telecom and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sectors is crucial. Ambassador Bambawale stressed the need for armaments, technology for industries, and more coalitions such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) to counter China’s hegemony. Though India is at a disadvantage, it can leverage itself with other countries and reap benefits. Sagacity is crucial, just like China’s approach in the 70s. But in India’s case, India cannot be dependent on the US as it has its problems.

China is India’s most formidable adversary in 75 years. India is educated, sharp, and flexible to change. The country’s system is highly brittle, but is on the path to substantial growth with no significant political upheaval soon. Near the end of the panel discussion, the floor was opened for questions. An important question was what Indian universities could do to tackle China. Possible solutions suggested were establishing China centres, encouraging Indian students to go to China, and vice versa, while also reforming the pharmaceutical sector and reducing India’s dependence on China. The digital economy and Unified Payments Interface (UPI) can drive India towards a five trillion-dollar economy. Ambassador Gokhale concluded the session by saying that this decade will reveal if India regains its place on the world stage or remains confined for the next few decades.

Sharaj R
(Batch 2024)

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