Saturday, August 29, 2009

China and India agree on a common platform on climate change

Mr Jairam Ramesh, the Indian environment minister was in China last week for the first ever ministerial level talk on climate change. The Chinese side was led by Mr Xie Zhen Hua, vice chairman of China’s National Development Reforms Commission. The two sides explored common grounds as part of their preparation for the upcoming UNFCCC meeting in Copenhagen in December 2009. Here are the key points from the discussions.
  • The Indian minister confirmed that there is "total convergence" in the negotiating positions of the two countries. The two countries have agreed to coordinate their views on climate change before major international meeting.
  • Both countries are committed to the idea of "common but differentiated responsibilities" of developed and developing countries.
  • Neither side will agree to legally binding emission norms.
  • Both want to negotiate for higher levels financial assistance and technology transfer in return for promises to do their best to tackle climate change.
  • Both sides agreed to oppose trade barriers linked to climate change issues being prosed by developed countries.
  • The two delegations agreed to undertake jointly mitigation activities to reduce carbon emission.
Here are two of the many newspaper reports on this issue, here and here.

Meanwhile, the US has responded to the discussions between China and India on climate change.
Noting that India and China need to be part of the solution on climate change, the United States has said that it would like the two Asian giants to make significant investment in the success of a summit on climate change to be held in Copenhagen in December.

"What we want to see from India and China is a significant investment in the Copenhagen process," the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P J Crowley, told reporters yesterday at the daily State Department press briefing.

"They have to be part of the solution if we are going to make progress in dealing with greenhouse gases," Crowley said. He was responding to a question based on an interview given by the Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh to an Indian newspaper in which he said that India and China have agreed to work together on the issue of climate change to withstand the pressure from the west.

Reported in Business Standard, "India and China to be part of the solutions on climate change: US"

Need to improve on this climate change road map

If China and India work together, along with some other countries at the UNFCCC, they will pose formidable challenge to those who want these countries to take immediate action on account of climate change. But there are three areas of serious concerns about these key negotiating strategies being adopted by the Asian neighbours.
  1. They would have done well to note that the understanding of the science of climate is limited, and there are substantive flaws in the theories underlying predictions of global warming.
  2. While they have consistently refused to accept emission norms, they seem to have not equally strongly emphasized the role of economic development and competitive economic environment in stimulating greater energy efficiency.
  3. This may have led to commitment on mitigation, but not so much on adaptation. Although adaptation is likely to have a more immediate beneficial impact on the people, reducing their present vulnerabilities to vagaries of nature.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

China: Will economic progress paving the way for political reforms?

If one is to go by the experience of the Asian tigers, then economic progress did create the demand for political reforms as well. China so has bucked that trend. But this item in the New York Times, may be an early indication that the forces of economic growth may be paving the road for political reforms to follow.

Internet censorship: "Since late May, Beijing’s Industry and Information Technology Ministry had more or less insisted that so-called anti-pornography software, called Green Dam-Youth Escort, would eventually be packaged with every newly purchased computer. On Thursday, the ministry backed down, calling the requirement a “misunderstanding” spawned by badly written rules. Officials offered no other explanation, but the retreat followed weeks of protests by outsiders — from foreign computer makers to foreign governments to foreign corporate branch offices — that said the software stifled free speech, compromised corporate security and threatened computers’ stability."

Intellectual Property: "the World Trade Organization told Beijing that it could no longer force providers of American books, music and films to distribute their goods through a local partner. Foreign companies saw that rule as an impediment to reaching a broad Chinese audience with their products. The Chinese market is flooded with pirated CDs and DVDs whose contents’ creators receive no money."

"The Chinese government dropped explosive espionage charges against executives of a foreign mining giant, the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto, after a global corporate outcry... ... ... While the espionage allegations were not spelled out, they were apparently related to delicate commercial negotiations over the price of China’s imports of iron ore for its steel mills. Rio Tinto executives have strongly denied the accusations, and both the United States and Australia said China’s actions could have both business and diplomatic repercussions."

Please read the original item in the New York Times here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

China India rumble

Over the last few weeks there have been a lot of reports in the Indian media about a report from the strategic community in China, on how to deal with India. These reports primarily noted how some Chinese experts look at India's social, ethnic diversities, and propose that China may want to consider leverage the various tensions within and weaken India, or even contributing to fragmenting the country.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in this column in Indian Express, notes that China's growing belligerence may be a reflection not of its inherent strength, but its own internal weaknesses. And that perhaps more than any security challenge, the growing perception of India's potential and rise, as a diverse and vibrant democracy, may be seen as a more direct threat to the model of development that China has showcased in the past three decades.
The simple fact of the matter is that India’s success poses a challenge for the Chinese regime. So far it was easy to sustain an argument that if you are a large developing democracy, you will end up in a pathetic position like India. India still has huge challenges, but there is a sense in which it now genuinely offers a different path to development. The interesting thing about the two pieces of anti-India writing quoted in the Indian press was not their belligerence. It was the fact that they spend so much time impugning the India story — India is economically weak and backward, it cannot cope with diversity, it is artificial and so forth. The message was more to throw cold water on the Indian model, than belligerence in a classical security sense. In a strange way this confirms what some Chinese academics have been saying informally: India may pose a threat to some sections of the regime, not by its power but by its success.

The India-China relationship was always complicated. Here are two civilisations trying to get all the trappings of a nation state, each dealing in its own way with colonial legacies on borders, and with little domestic room for manoeuvre. On top of that there is an overlay of differing perceptions of geo-politics, in part made more complicated by a China that is more edgy in the last few months than ever before. A robust economic relationship was supposed to be an antidote to these tensions. But that has its limitations. Although Indian industry is more confident, the fear of Chinese over-capacity and pricing mechanisms remains. Cooperation in other multilateral forums, while it has immense possibilities, will be hampered by bilateral suspicions. India and China’s discourses about each other are complicated, because they are tied to their complex processes of self-discovery. There is not going to be an easy way to allay the trust deficit. While vigilance is important, it is equally important to throw some cold water on the paranoia building up.
Please read the complete analysis here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

China Should break up the Indian Union, suggests Chinese strategic expert

Following analysis from a think tank in Chennai, is based on a publication authored by Chinese strategic experts who seem to believe that India's social and ethnic diversity is anachronistic, and could be exploited to break up India, as India never really existed in history. Is this line of thought mere rationalisation for China to justify intervention in India, in the hope of neutralising any possible threat India might pose as she builds its economy on the foundation of its political success? Or is it another rationalisation to buttress the official Chinese view of itself, as a homogeneous civilisation, to justify its own existence, and point to India's apparent internal contradictions and fault lines to nullify India's belief in unity in diversity?

China Should break up the Indian Union, suggests a Chinese Strategist

D.S.Rajan, C3S Paper No.325 dated August 9, 2009

Almost coinciding with the 13th round of Sino-Indian border talks (New Delhi, August 7-8, 2009), an article (in Chinese language) has appeared in China captioned “If China takes a little action, the so-called Great Indian Federation can be broken up” ( Zhong Guo Zhan Lue Gang, , Chinese,8 August 2009). Interestingly, it has been reproduced in several other strategic and military websites of the country and by all means, targets the domestic audience. The authoritative host site is located in Beijing and is the new edition of one, which so far represented the China International Institute for Strategic Studies (

Claiming that Beijing’s ‘China-Centric’ Asian strategy, provides for splitting India, the writer of the article, Zhan Lue (strategy), has found that New Delhi’s corresponding ‘India-Centric’ policy in Asia, is in reality a ‘Hindustan centric’ one. Stating that on the other hand ‘local centres’ exist in several of the country’s provinces (excepting for the U.P and certain Northern regions), Zhan Lue has felt that in the face of such local characteristics, the ‘so-called’ Indian nation cannot be considered as one having existed in history.

According to the article, if India today relies on any thing for unity, it is the Hindu religion. The partition of the country was based on religion. Stating that today nation states are the main current in the world, it has said that India could only be termed now as a “Hindu Religious state’. Adding that Hinduism is a decadent religion as it allows caste exploitation and is unhelpful to the country’s modernization, it described the Indian government as one in a dilemma with regard to eradication of the caste system as it realizes that the process to do away with castes may shake the foundation of the consciousness of the Indian nation.

The writer has argued that in view of the above, China in its own interest and the progress of whole Asia, should join forces with different nationalities like Assamese, Tamils, and Kashmiris and support the latter in establishing independent nation-states of their own, out of India. In particular, the ULFA in Assam, a territory neighboring China, can be helped by China so that Assam realizes its national independence.

You may read the full article here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

China India border talk resumes again. How to resolve the vexing problem?

The two are also expected to talk the language of partnership, highlighted by a burgeoning trade and a common position on climate change and global trade talks. Yet a recent spike in geopolitical tensions as well as muscle flexing along the border, particularly in the Indian north eastern province Arunachal Pradesh. China claims a large part of this province.
Of late, Chinese patrolling of the 3,500-km (2,200-mile) border, particularly along Arunachal Pradesh state, which Beijing claims as its territory, has also been markedly assertive, Indian officials said.

Twelve rounds of talks have been held before... ... ... Yet, traditional mistrust since a bloody 1962 war and sparring in recent months over what New Delhi says is China’s interference in India’s strategic matters could cloud the talks.

Feathers were ruffled two months ago when China objected to a $60 million Asian Development Bank loan for a project in northeast India in territory that is claimed by Beijing.
India, China resume border talks amid rising tension, in the Mint. 7 August 2009

Given the long standing nature of the border dispute between China and India, a historical perspective may help resolve the issue. Here is an analysis by Srinath Raghavan, that tries to break the 28 year log jam on the question of border.

When talks on the dispute were revived in the 1980s, New Delhi stuck to the position of sector-wise negotiations. The assumption was that once China acceded to India’s position in the east, it would politically be easier for the Indian government to make concessions in the west. Domestic politics also mandated that India should secure China’s withdrawal from the 3,000 sq. miles (around 7,770 sq. km) annexed in Ladakh in 1962, as the government could not afford to be seen as acquiescing to the gains of war.

China agreed to this approach, but began emphasizing its claims over Arunachal Pradesh—particularly the Tawang area. Beijing’s calculations were straightforward. If concessions in one sector would not be linked to gains in another, it made sense to adopt a maximalist negotiating position on each sector... ... ...

The negotiations that began in 2003 departed from the previous attempts in important respects. India assented to the idea of a comprehensive settlement, encompassing all the sectors. The parameters of the 2005 talks took into account the positions of both parties and sought to reconcile them. New Delhi needed a Chinese withdrawal by at least 3,000 sq. miles in the west; Beijing sought some concessions in the east. India has repeatedly stated that uprooting settled populations would be unacceptable.

Territorial considerations apart, the Chinese evidently want India to provide tangible reassurance vis-à-vis Tibet. Indeed, China’s hardening stance on Tawang has mirrored its increasing concern about Tibet... ... ...

But the dispute can be resolved if both sides are willing to make compromises. India has space to make concessions in the unpopulated areas in the east; China can relinquish some territory in the west. Similarly, New Delhi can provide robust reassurances on Tibet without having to entirely fulfil Beijing’s desires.

Striking an accord on these lines will take time. Furthermore, selling the agreement in India’s domestic political market is unlikely to be simple. A boundary agreement will require a constitutional amendment, which will have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament and by at least half the state legislatures.

Settling Sino-Indian borders, in the Mint. 30 July 2009.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

China's one-child policy, price of success, and possibility of change

Is there a new realisation in China that the price it may be paying for successfully implementing the one-child policy over the past three decades? Of course, it is estimated that well over half the population, those in rural areas, and other minorities, were generally granted some relaxation to this policy. Yet, it is becoming quite evident that China is likely to become the first country in the history of mankind, which will become old before it becomes rich. Thanks largely to the one-child policy. Here is an analysis by Nimmi Kurian,
China may be taking its first tentative baby steps to change its landmark one-child policy. In particular, Shanghai has indicated a relaxation in the policy by encouraging couples to have two children. This year marks the 30th year of its implementation: Why could China be having second thoughts? ... ... ...
It is ironic that China is rethinking the policy not because it has failed. It is doing so because it succeeded. In fact its success is China’s biggest problem today. Rigorous implementation has seen China’s average fertility rate falling below replacement levels. As a result, China as a whole may be having around 1.4 to 1.5 births per woman, with Shanghai registering a low of 0.96. Official estimates claim that the policy has prevented more than 400 million births since its inception. But this has brought in its wake several disturbing social and economic challenges. As it braces to wrestle with these, the question is, can China retrofit the demographic architecture of the country?... .... ....
China's one-child success, in the Indian Express. 1 Aug 2009