Top 7 Things India can learn from China

China has become a superpower, however, India is still an emerging nation. India has a lot to learn from China in terms of defence, politics, economics and long term strategic thinking.


Recently the world is facing the coronavirus upsurge. It has affected millions of people, destroyed the global economy, & threatens to unravel post-cold war global liberal order. Besides this, recently there have been tensions between India and China over the boundary.

Many western countries are accusing China of deliberately spreading the virus. China has shrugged off all criticism & instead it went offensive. It reminded the US of its role in spreading Spanish flu & sought compensation. This incident says a lot about Chinese behaviour, its use of statecraft to pursue its national interest. India can take one or two lessons from china.

The similarity between India and China

  1. Civilization – Both India & China have been the oldest civilizations in the world. However, after the arrival of communism in China, only India was able to maintain continuity of civilization. Both countries gave serious political-economic cultural, philosophical ideas to the world. These ideas have defined the course of mankind.
  2. Gift of Philosophy and knowledge to the mankind – Indian philosophy of Buddhism influenced whole East Asia. Yog and Ayurved have ensured healthy wellbeing for mankind. Similarly, Chinese philosopher Confucius’ thoughts have guided society and state to work for the benefit of mankind. Chinese silk route was one of the first instances of global trade & economics. In fact, the much-touted globalization which we take for granted today has its roots in the ancient silk trade route.
  3. Victim of colonization – Both India & China had been victims of colonization and got independence at almost the same time, with a difference of two years. One went for democracy and other adopted communist utopia.

However, if we carefully look at the journey of two nations, we find India being drawn away from its ancient ethos of statecraft while china acting in accordance with the same ethos & making rapid progress.

Let’s look at what ancient book Arthashastra suggests ”A king should befriend the enemy of the enemy & never allow its neighbour to become stronger”. In the 1950s newly independent India had much goodwill among the world, while China was facing western hostility. India was offered a permanent seat at UNSC. Nehru simply refused to accept it, saying China deserves it more than India. Now after 70 years we keep hankering for UNSC seat & china vetos our demand.

Similarly, India, by not acting to protect Tibet, allowed it to be swallowed by China in 1950. InfactTibetans have much cultural, geographical affinity with India than with China. Not only this in, 2003, but India also gave legitimacy to Chinese aggression by formally considering Tibet as undisputed Chinese territory.

Now Contrast this with Chinese behaviour against India. China has been following the expansionist policy since the 1950s. It cut our links with Tibet. Then it started taking away Indian territory bit by bit. It prepared its armed forces for future combat, while India was busy preaching non-alignment, third world solidarity, disarmament etc. The result, when china aggressively moved in the northern region, Indian armed forces lacked the ability to respond. This led to humiliating 1962 defeat & a national trauma. Taking a further cue from Chanakya, China started befriending Pakistan in the 50s.

In 1963 it reached an agreement with Pakistan, which allowed it to swallow northern Kashmir, strengthened its hold in xinjing& Tibet. Strategically China got a pet dog in the form of Pakistan to bark against INDIA. This strategy of China has been quite successful as it keeps India busy with Pakistan while allowing China to strengthen its position.

Similarly, China has supported North Korea against its rivals like South Korea & Japan. China increased  its influence in East Asia by  providing  support to North Korea

Chinese Disregard to international system vis a’ vis Indian compliance:

Similarly, if we look at the behaviour of both India & China, we find a stark difference. China has used every opportunity to break global regulations, flout it & get away with it. Take nuclear proliferation. China has been a member of both NPT & CTBT. However, that did not stop it to run a nuclear proliferation racket connecting North Korea & Pakistan via China. In fact, China actively helped both countries to develop & test nuclear weapons. Both North Korea & Pakistan are rouge nations & create problems for their neighbours. In this way, China kept an eye on India, Japan, South Korea.

India, on the other hand, has been following all protocols related to CTBT, NPT. It never participated in any proliferation activity. However, it could not become a member of Nuclear supplier’s group, due to objection from China.

Similarly, China, by becoming members of WTO, used free trade policies, currency manipulation,  to the hilt to flood global markets with Chinese goods. While it the denied market entry to others by imposing high import duty, keeping its market closed down. This has paid it huge dividends as it has made China the factory of the world. It has brought huge prosperity to the Chinese people.

Now contrast this with Indian behaviour. India has been following all the global trade policies, entering into free trade agreements with other nations. However, exports from India have remained dismal. Its trade deficit has gone up. It got a bad deal in FTA with EAST & South East nations. While these nations did not allow services to be included items of Indian expertise, India, on the other hand, allowed manufacturing items to be included in the FTA.

Result: While India was flooded with East Asian manufactured goods, Indian engineers, doctors did not get the opportunity to work there.

Water: India’s benign approach vis a’ vis china’s aggressive one

As the world is facing twin pressure of global warming & population explosion, Water is going to be the most precious commodity in future. In fact, some have said third world war is going to be caused by Water.  India, thanks to the presence of numerous glaciers, in the Himalayas is blessed with adequate water supply. However, instead of using it as a leverage against Pakistan, Indian leaders gifted it away for nothing. The 1960 Indus water treaty, allowed Pakistan to use 80% of Water of indus& its tributary while allowing India to use only 20% water. However, instead of getting goodwill, India got four wars &numerous deadly terrorist attacks like 26/11 &pulwama etc.

Now contrast this with Chinese behaviour. China though Tibetan plateau controls the water supply to the whole of south-east Asia. Thus it has powerful leverage against 650 million population of the world & it does not shy away from using it. China has consistently built massive dams over Brahmaputra, Mekong. This has seriously jeopardized water supply in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand. This has seriously affected its agricultural dependent nations. China makes erring nations fall in line by controlling water supply.

India’s belief in failed ideals vis a’ vis china’s use of real politick:

India has been following an ideal policy which has caused it immense harm. In 1997 when indrakumarGujaral was Indian PM, he gave Gujaral doctrine. This essentially meant India being the biggest nation in South Asia. Hence it has more responsibility to bring peace & prosperity in this region. India unilaterally gave concessions to its neighbours in disputes. If it had been limited to some trade or economic policy, it would not have caused much of a harm. However, I K Gujaral, unilaterally took away all the intelligence assets India had in Pakistan. This seriously weakened India’s intelligence capability & compromised its war against terror. Due to this, India continuously faced terrorist attacks losing many innocent lives.

Similarly, Gujaral doctrine also compromised Indian interests in the border dispute between India & Nepal. Today’s Indo-Nepal border row over the road in Lipulekh can be traced to that.

Another example of this failed ideal approach can be seen in defence. India during the cold war era had been dependent on USSR for defence platforms. After the break up of USSR in 1991, its defence industry was in shatters. USSR defence scientists were looking for greener pastures abroad. Many of them wanted to come to India as they had previous experience in working here. However, instead of acquiring the talents, India frittered away this opportunity, as it did not want to stab a friend when it was weak. Other nations had no such dilemma. South Korea went on a talent hunt & recruited many of these talented scientists. Today India buys K9 artillery guns with technology coming from south Korea at high prices. Fact is India could have easily developed this weapon platform at a fraction of cost, had India recruited Erstwhile USSR scientists.

Contrast this with the Chinese approach. Both China and USSR were friends in 1950s. China got the technology, food from USSR. Later on, there was a dispute between the two. Even there was a clash in the Ussuri River. USSR simply denied aid. However, China used this as an opportunity. It improved its relationships with the USA during NIXON era. It got large US investment in china and made rapid progress.

Further, after the disintegration of USSR, it took away many defence scientists & started developing its indigenous weapons. Today China is a major global exporter of defence weapons.

Similarly, it used industrial espionage to gather intelligence about various industrial products, reverse engineered them & started selling them at lower prices.

Internal Conflict Resolution: India vis a’ vis China:

Both India & China have many domestic issues to resolve. However, both have adopted different approaches. While China believes in an iron fist approach, this can be seen in Tibet wherein it has resorted to crude instruments like demographic changes, suppression, economic integration to root out any kind of dissent.

In direct contrast to this, India has resorted to appeasement of anti-nationals in Kashmir. Not only this, but it has also systematically tried to disown the nationalist voices in J&K. The genocide of Kashmiri Pandits due to the abdication of responsibility by the Indian state is an apt example of this. Similarly, failure to prosecute YaseenMallik, accused of killing Indian security personnel shows the soft approach of Indian state vis a’ vis separatists.

Chinese long term Vision vs Indian short term sighting:

Chinese have a very long term vision for their country & they act accordingly to achieve it. The “Great Chinese Dream “encapsulates to take the Chinese nation to great heights, least it faces humiliation in future. Accordingly, China has made economic, trade, defence policies to further this vision. Take AI, for instance. Western internet platforms like Twitter, Amazon, Google dominate the whole world, but they faced a complete rout in china. Instead, China developed its own Baidu, Weibo, Ali Baba, to dominate the Chinese market. All of them are CCP owned companies, & revenue earned from them fills the coffers of China, instead of going to Uncle Sam. This has also allowed China to protect data of its own citizens, reduce chances of espionage, & stop meddling in its internal affairs by the west. It’s a complete win-win situation for China & CCP while it prevents dissent among citizens & brings economic remuneration for the nation.

Take another example of defence platforms. China in the 20th century used to be heavily dependent on USSR weaponry. It was one of the biggest defence importers. However, it adopted a long term approach of indigenization of weapons. It used every means available in the book varying from espionage to reverse engineering. Today China is a major player in the global defence market. It has a large captive client base in the form of Pakistan.

Now contrast this with India. In the field of internet, the Indian market is dominated by Google, Amazon, Facebook, twitter. The only internet giant it made was Flipkart, which was later on sold to Walmart, another of Uncle Sam’s child. This shows a lack of strategic thinking to achieve economic independence.

Similarly, take weapon platforms. India had not been able to indigenize its weaponry. It was the first country in Asia to have its own indigenous fighter plane in the form of “ Marut”. It showed its mental during the 1971 Indo Pak war. However, its production was  1973 for MIG 21. Now if India could have brought incremental changes, it would have developed a world-class weapon platform in the 21st century. It would not have to be dependent on Rafale, paying billions of precious dollars to France.


India has suffered a lot in the last century due to misguided ideas, lack of realpolitik, the short-sightedness of its leaders. However, With the coming of Narendra Modi, many things have changed. However, much more needs to be done. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Develop own think tanks to study major countries. They should do a SWOT analysis of India vis a’ vis major countries. Their recommendations should be followed.
  2. India needs to go back to ancient Indian book on statecraft “ Arthashastra” & needs to leave its failed ideal world approach. Instead, it should adopt realpolitik in its approach in dealing with its enemies.
  3. In economic & trade sphere, it should promote indigenous homegrown platforms to replace foreign ones. There is no reason why India can’t develop its own Facebook, youtube, Google, TikTok etc. India has had its own success stories in the form of Rupay, and BHIM. These need to be replicated in other spheres.
  4. In the defence arena, India needs to promote indigenization. A nation that aspires to be a superpower can not rely on the strength of imported weapons system. India needs to undertake large reforms in the defence sector. A beginning can be made by selecting top 100 bright minds from top 10 educational institutions, giving them a high package, full autonomy in working. This process should be continued for many years. This will allow India to develop homegrown scientists. Besides this, an indigenous weapon system like LCA should be preferred over foreign ones. This will ensure Indian weapons getting assured clientele, reduction in prices over a period of time.
  5. Be rule-maker Instead of rule-follower: India needs to be rule-maker instead of being a follower. India has made a beginning by emphasizing on data localization. This has become a model for many developing countries.
  6. Better to be a bad boy than a good one.: India need not follow global laws every time. It must disregard them whenever they harm its national interest. Take Pakistan, for instance. It has disregarded every global rule – be it support for terrorism, resorted to nuclear blackmailing, money laundering to augment its interest. India should also selectively break the rules to secure national interests. A beginning can be made by walking out of the Indus Water Treaty. This will help in bringing Pakistan to its knees. In fact, with actions like Uri surgical strike & Balakot Air Strike, India moved away from the conventional western advice of silently tolerating terrorist attacks for the sake of peace & prosperity. Instead, it moved towards Chanakyan principle of offensive defence.
  7. The end justifies the means not the other way round: Indian policymakers have been following Gandhian Philosophy that means to achieve a particular End should be pure. This is a piece of good saintly advice, which is suitable for an ideal world. However, Geopolitics does not work in that manner. Due to this India lost UNSC seat to CHINA, took Kashmir matter to UNSC, withdrew intelligence assets from Pakistan. However, the real world does not work in that manner. According to Chanakya, every means varying from “Saam, Daam, Bhed, Dand “ should be used to secure the nation’s interest. India should do the same. A beginning can be made by revamping India’s intelligence agencies on the lines of Mossad, CIA etc. Use their expertise for generating trade, corporate, military, political intelligence & Secure national interests.

In essence, India, in spite of producing great works like Arthashastra, Mahabharat, etc., has not applied them adequately. This has cost India dearly on political, economic, military fronts. China, on the other, has actually deployed these lessons very well & used them to secure its national interests. The world is getting competitive day by day. Here real politics instead of ideals matter more. India should keep this thing in mind. It should not give up ideals, but it should not be blinded by them. Otherwise, India will face one more bout of colonization. This time Indian civilization will not be so lucky to survive this onslaught.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here