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.Please read the complete analysis here.
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.