New Delhi: India's role in a future world order in which China is likely to lead from the front depends a lot on what happens on this country's growth front, says Martin Jacques, the best-selling author of "When China Rules the World".
"A lot has been happening to China's economic growth. It does not matter if India is behind China by 1 or 2 percent; the main thing is India must carry on growing at a reasonably fast rate. India has to find ways to sustain the growth rate. It will open possibilities for India," Jacques told a news agency in an interview.
Jacques said the great advantage of China is that "it is a competent state and is endlessly reforming". The Chinese state has "great legitimacy among the Chinese people" as an embodiment of Chinese civilization, the writer said.
Jacques observed that as China was growing rapidly, the country was looking more inward to connect to its history.
Jacques, a senior visiting fellow at the London School of Economics and a columnist for The Guardian and the New Statesman, is in India to promote an expanded edition of the "When China Rules the World (Penguin Books India)".
"It is not possible for India to copy the Chinese state. Instead of India angsting against China, the country must find out how it can strategically engage with China. India can have a much better relationship with China if it sorts out the unresolved border issue. China has sorted out its border with every country (like Russia and Vietnam) except India," Jacques said.
"We must not live in the past; it is time to let go."
Jacques argues in his book that as China's powerful civilisation re-asserts itself, the western domination of the world will end. The impact of an ascendant China will be not only be economic but also cultural. In this context, India needs "much more exchanges with China and study what is happening in China," Jacques said.
"Now the Chinese do not think about India (as a threat), India is not on their map at all. China now thinks with the west. It doesn't think India is a serious player," the writer said, explaining that the onus was now on India to "engage with China".
He said the two countries must have more tourist exchanges and the Chinese must be allowed to "enjoy and appreciate the colours and rich cultures of India" to create better understanding.
Jacques pointed out that India has not played its hand very well in South Asia - especially in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal - while China has strong relations with these countries.
"Pakistan hedges with China against India while India has been a big brother to the countries in the South Asian region," Jacques said.
The analyst said in the last 10 years, there has been an extraordinary shift in Southeast Asia with nearly 25 percent of the exports in the region going to China. For countries like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, barring Indonesia, China is the largest trading partner, Jacques pointed out.
"East Asia has seen major re-alignment of economic powers in the last decade when China emerged as a more economically powerful country. The country that suffered is Japan. The country (Japan)'s economic growth has declined in the last 10 years with almost zero growth. China has opened its economy with lower tariffs while Japanese economy is closed. Trade with foreigners is much more restricted compared to China," he said.
China's growth is dramatic because it is happening very quickly, Jacques said.
"The country of 1.3 billion people is growing by nearly 10 per cent a year. But it is still a poor country," Jacques said.
He said in keeping with the country's economic disparities, China's foreign policy was still "essentially an extension of Deng Xiaoping's policies of economic growth and poverty reduction - everything was secondary to that".
"However, China now has influence in several regions like East Asia, South Asia, Africa and Latin America," the writer said, adding that China's relationship with the world will take "at least a decade to develop".
Martin Jacques is also the author of "The Rise of the Middle Kingdom" and the "End of the Western World".
First Published: Friday, July 20, 2012, 14:52